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How To Fall Asleep When Your Mind Won't Shut Off

Adelma Lilliston
mbg Contributor By Adelma Lilliston
mbg Contributor
Adelma Lilliston helps women create careers and lives that fit who they really are. Before training as a life coach, Adelma spent 15 years in research and management in both corporations and non-profits. She holds an MBA from Yale and a BA from Barnard.

Do you ever lie awake in bed, wanting to sleep, but your mind just won’t shut off?

That was me for about seven years. I got five hours of sleep a night — if I was lucky. Sometimes it felt like I didn't sleep a wink! This was the case until I saw a medicine man in Bali. He finally gave me a tip about how to get about seven hours of sleep a night. It's bliss, and I've added a few extra techniques of my own that will help you reach a sweet, peaceful slumber.

If you can't sleep, don’t get frustrated; get smart. Ask yourself: Why can’t I sleep? Here are a few questions that will help you arrive at the answer:

Were you racing around all day and haven’t had a moment of down time?

Your mind needs time to process the day and relax before you hit the hay.

Try this: Build in one hour of down time with no technology before you go to sleep. Develop a ritual that you enjoy. Read a book, spend time with loved ones, straighten up or prepare for the next day.

Did you have caffeine or an energy drink in the afternoon?

If you're reading this at 2am, drink water to flush your body and have something that makes you sleepy. For some, this is dairy or bread. Chicken, which has tryptophan, can also make you sleepy. In the future, try not having caffeine or energy drinks after 11 am, or skip them all together

Are you stressed about all you have to do tomorrow?

Try this: Keep a pad of paper by your bed and write out a list of everything that needs to be done. Put it in order of importance and plan it out over the week. This will set your mind at ease so you can sleep.

Is your mind is going over a situation, trying to figure out a solution?

Try this: Whatever it is, you can’t do anything about it in the middle of the night. If you're trying to prepare for a conversation or an event, it will always go differently than you expect. The best thing you can do is be present and open, and for that, you need your sleep. If you're trying to understand the past, remember that you can’t change it. All you can do is accept it. So let it go. Let it float out of your mind.

Are you feeling anxious?

Do a gratitude list. Write out five things you're grateful for each night before you turn out the lights. This also creates a more peaceful slumber and great dreams.

Are you so excited about your life that you can’t sleep?

This is what happens to me most these days. Try getting up and doing something grounding and a bit boring. Read a book, organize something or do your finances. That should do it.

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