When I was a kid, I went through a “having trouble sleeping” stage—I’d lie awake until three in the morning before hysterical crying for my parents to comfort me. This happened every night for probably several months. Let me just say, it’s my least favorite memory (and my parents’).
But one of the things that stuck out from that time was one trick my mom taught me to help calm me down. She’d tell me to close my eyes and picture a treasure chest. Then, she’d tell me to take all of my thoughts, one by one, and put them in that chest—and when I was done, lock it up.
I’m not saying this is the ultimate solution to falling asleep (although I’ll admit I occasionally still use it when I’m homesick). But I know how hard it can be to struggle with rest when you’re stressed, anxious, or worried what tomorrow will bring for you.
So, when you just can’t seem to turn off, it’s always best to have a back-up strategy—and I’ve got 19 options for you to try right now (unless you’re reading this at the office, in that case, do not try to fall asleep).
1. Think Positive
It’s that easy—according to science, ridding your mind of those negative thoughts (“It’s so late, I’ll never get to sleep at this rate,” “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow at work,” “This stinks”) calms you down and makes you more likely to fall asleep.
2. Pick One Thing to Focus On
You know how they always say to try counting sheep? Well, focusing on something specific (like filling a treasure chest) could be just what you need to get sleepy. Choose to focus on your breath, or repeat a calming mantra over in your head—as long as it’s not “I can’t sleep,” because see above.
3. Pretend to Be Tired
Trick your brain into thinking you’re exhausted by, well, pretending you are. Concentrate on the kinds of things you would feel if you were tired, like drooping eyes, the room darkening, or the sensation of sinking into your bed—and before you know it, you just might experience them!
4. Adjust Your Temperature
What’s your ideal sleeping environment? Even if you can’t completely control the heating and cooling system in your home, you can control your body. So, put the fan closer to your face when you’re too hot or bundle up when you’re too cold. Science says the ideal sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so best to shoot for that!