Monday, November 10, 2008


I used to be a dreadful insomniac. But once I got Sophie, and started walking regularly, the bedtime insomnia disappeared. Maybe age has something to do with that, too.

The main reason I might have trouble falling asleep now is having too much on my mind. (It's also what gets me up most mornings.) But my own version of counting sheep has proven fairly effective.

The idea behind counting sheep is simply that you create some kind of mental busywork, enough to keep your brain occupied but kind of bored. Reciting mantras in meditation works the same way. (How do you not fall asleep while meditating, I want to know.)

Since I'm more language-oriented than math-oriented, counting doesn't really work for me. Instead, I go through the alphabet in one way or another. I name all the states in alphabetical order, or try to think of all the countries that start with each letter. Or animals. Or trees. Or cars. Categories that are broad enough that I'm not going to struggle too hard.

If I'm busy thinking, "Austria, Australia, Andorra, Argentina, Angola ..." I'm not thinking about whatever it is that's bugging me. And next thing I know, I'm asleep.

Maybe that seems really weird to you, but I know at least one other person who mentally reviews the states alphabetically, too.

What do you do to fall asleep?


  1. I try to remember every shirt hanging in my husbands closet... green and white stripes, blue and white stripes, blue and red stripes, light olive green. He must have about 50 shirts but I rarely get 20 before I'm asleep.

  2. Okay, I'm divulging a deep, dark secret. When I have a hard time falling asleep, I find that replaying the Brady Kids singing "Keep on singing and Dancing all through the ngiht" from the talent show episode helps me fall asleep. I have to watch the awful dancing as well. No, I don't know why, but it's been my go to for years. It's probably the tassled outfits that do it.

  3. I do a variation of your alphabet game. I recite that silly rhyme:

    "A, my name is Anna,
    My husband's name is Albert,
    We live in Anchorage,
    And we sell avocados."

    And so forth through the alphabet...inserting, of course, your own names, places, merchandise. On really sleepless nights I expand it with

    "My favorite food is almonds,
    My favorite color's apricot,
    My favorite author's Alcott,
    My favorite plant is anise."

    Something about the rhythm of the rhyme helps me get to sleep.

  4. wow - I close my eyes and imagine deep space and the endless stars - works like a charm.

  5. Did you know there are no states that start with the letter E?

    I think of what ever is bothering me and then try to imagine the happiest possible ending. Call me an optimist, but imagining my happy endings helps me to resolve stress and concentrate on the positives.

  6. Believe it or not, I really do think of nothing, not don't think of anything, think of nothing. Sometimes I have to lay there and lecture myself on the subject for awhile but eventually that's what does it because no matter what else I might be thinking of (counting or reciting) the stuff that keeps me up sneaks in.

  7. I use my mp3 player, or more accurately the FM radio built into the player. I plug in one earbud, tune in C-Span (unfortunately on the radio only in the DC area) or NPR, and I'm asleep in about 3 or 4 minutes. Unless there's a panel discussion on Al Qaeda, about which I'm weirdly obsessed. There's one downside: I'm now addicted to this sleep aid, and I HAVE to use it to sleep.

  8. Got married to a devoted husband and good man and my nightmares stopped. That always makes for a good night's kip! Working hard also helps.

  9. Wow, this is interesting.
    I think about what to do the next day, what cook or what to bake or where to go. If I still can't fall asleep yet, I will think of the details of what I will do or plan to do.... hopefully I will have a delicious dream.

  10. I love both math and languages (I guess that's why I got a chemistry degree), but sleeping always eluded me until: I tense and relax all the muscle groups in my body, from my feet to my head, 3 seconds tense, 3 seconds relaxed, move on to the next. I rarely make it to my head. Now that I think about it, it's really just a complicated way of counting sheep...

  11. Well, you guys make me feel less weird now.

    Betts, that's a lot of shirts. I can't remember what's in my own closet.

    Denise, that's hilarious. I have to go find a YouTube clip now.

    Rooie, that's really similar to my method!

    db, I'll have to try that one. (Probably trying to remember all the constellations, too.)

    Mary, no E, and no B, J, Q, X, Y or Z. Optimism is good!

    Alecto, I don't think I'm capable of thinking of nothingness for any length of time.

    Pam, the radio's a huge help to me in the morning when I really want to sleep longer. Listening to it takes my mind off whatever anxiety is trying to force me out of bed.

    MOB, that's sweet.

    Blue, thinking of cooking is a good idea. Though I fear it will make me want to get up for a snack.

    Vicki, I've tried that in the past, concentrating on relaxing each body part. Works well when I'm feeling physically tensed up.

  12. I read - usually something light and fluffy like "Anne of Green Gables"

  13. Getting up and eating some cereal usually makes it easier for me to get back to sleep.

    Deneph, I think I know the song you mean and that is hilarious!

  14. Anon, glad it works for you! I can only read if it's a short book. Otherwise I'll keep reading until the sun comes up.

    JGH, a glass of warmed milk with a little vanilla and sugar is my bedtime treat.

  15. Interesting. I really had no idea how many of us insomniacs there were out there!

    I recite the one or two longish poems I can actually remember to myself. Sometimes a couple times. If that doesn't do it, I get up and journal. (It defeats the sleeping thing, but I try to think of it as a gift of time....) If things are rattling around my mind that insistently, the journalling often helps me work things out - I call such entries my "data dumps".