What story do you tell yourself to fall asleep? What do you think of to drift off? Does language keep you awake?
Typically I try think about a problematic part of something I'm working on so it will run in the background as I'm drifting off. If I think of something in the middle of the night I will either scribble something down or add something in the notes app on my phone.
I actually listen to old time radio shows at night. I think that they are one of the purest forms of entertainment. Something really special about them.
I fall asleep to YouTube. YouTube chatter drowns out my internal monologue which keeps me awake. Zopiclone and melatonin help, too.
I hope you aren’t close friends with Neil Gaiman and he never knows this, but I often read Sandman comics before bed. They have a sort of slow but peaceful tone (and it doesn’t help they’re about dreams) that just really help me drift off.
Language keeps me well awake. Books are the anti christ of sleep. Nirvana’s ‘unplugged’ gets me to sleep. (Unless I think of the story behind it.)
This topic is one of my favorites. For years I've asked people their methods for falling asleep. Many people churn through the same sexual fantasy. Some people have to imagine their loved ones dead, and force themselves into crying jags that exhaust them. Others have to fight and win, or fight and lose some battle in their imagination -- science supports the theory that losing a fight dampens your physiology and helps sleep. Others have to exhaust themselves with fear.
How does it work for you?
I often think of fashion design and sometimes I think in terms of fantasy. Words and great concepts keep me awake. Mediocre ones do as well. I will work on a design for hours. Fall asleep. Come back and then I find that the precious project I was working on is absolutely horrible. "What was I thinking!?" Sometimes I just thinking about making out with the person of my choice that week...
I've written a bit about insomnia and I've come to accept that I'll never top this description: "with insomnia, you're never really asleep and you're never really awake."
Fall asleep to audio books which often results in dreams utilizing the book's setting. Book on the Stoics - I'm in ancient Greece. Noir mystery with Sam Spade - I'm on the run for murder.
I had a self hypnosis cassette I used to listen to in the early 90s that had a countdown from 10 -> 0 as each number directed a relaxation of a different area of the body.
when I want to sleep I chant that countdown in my head, just the numbers. I cannot even remember what each number corresponded to, but when I hit zero I can feel just a rush of tension flow out the top of my head and a calmness that lends itself to falling asleep quickly.
people talking would keep me awake but I can fall asleep to music.
or most recorded media. I guess if the language is predictable it wouldn’t prevent my sleep, but an actual conversation would be too distracting.
I listen to calm or headspace and meditate to sleep. It always works
I think about myself in a different life than of the one I'm living in. I guess you can say I tell myself a story to fall asleep. And it works every time. It's been stories of being homicide detective just getting a new case, a garbage man who found a duffle bag full of money, or a Ivy League college professor sitting at a diner who meets Death over midnight coffee, etc. It starts out super mundane and then right before I fall asleep, it gets a little wild. I never have been able to finish any of these stories I tell myself because it gets relaxed enough to fall asleep.
How about this...? On flights, as the airplane approaches for a landing and decreases speed very quickly, during that "pulling backward" feeling, that "lagging" feeling, I usually nod off for a minute. Is there science behind that?
The thought that seems to work best for me is to picture myself on a whaling vessel. Though I don’t condone whaling itself, I find a romanticism about that world. It might be the excitement of adventure; the opportunity to test one’s mettle and discover what I’m truly made of; or maybe it’s the thought that I may never return that sets me at peace. I like to picture myself swinging in a hammock as the songs of whales penetrate the boards of wood separating me and the vast depths of the ocean. I suppose I wish I were Ishmael on his first night on the Pequod.
Words on my mind tend to keep me too excited to sleep. Always reaching back to the nightstand to jot down ideas in a notebook. What works for me? I’ll queue up an old episode of Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting and let his warm blanket of a voice lull me to dreamland. And if secret trees and happy accidents don’t do it—then Benadryl.
I think about what I aim to do the next day. I tell myself that the world isn't as bad as the news points it out to be. I read a book and I usually put it down after it bounces off my nose, twice. I turn off the light.
I listen to sleep meditations. I’m typically out within 5-10 minutes. Rarely do I need to to restart one. Have been doing this for over a year and it works wonders to fall asleep. Staying asleep, however, is a different story altogether…
I don’t lay down until I’m tired enough to sleep. I grew up without a bedtime. I was never forced to make my body sleep when it didn’t want to. So I don’t think about anything. Sometimes I’ll watch some funny shows like Letterkenny or New Girl before I go to sleep but that’s not what puts me to sleep. I just live until I need some zzzz’s and hit the hay… ❤️🔥
I used to have trouble falling asleep; I'd lie there for what seemed hours, then I learned a few tricks to get myself into slumber. The best one is keeping my eyes open and pretending that I'm listening to a boring professor ramble on while I allow my eyes to slowly close, then snap them open as if I'm trying to stay awake (repeat) and this somehow worked for me.
Now I will put on a record (usually a cast album with a through-line) and I'm almost always deep asleep before it ends.
My house is in a bad state. It has termites. The balcony is one solid step away from falling apart. There is no cold water in two of the restrooms. I put myself to sleep fixing my house. Remodeling it. Once I went through the entire night fixing it in my mind. But that usually works.
During the months when I have insomnia there is no point in trying to sleep so I stay up writing, drawing tattoos, or making jewelry instead. When I feel like attempting sleep I grab a book to read while listening to paranormal shows to drift off. Ghost hunting shows have hushed tones, that soft green lighting from the night vision cameras, it knocks me right out if the brain is willing. When I know I won't be able to fully fall asleep I find cryptid hunting shows instead (Destination Truth a favorite) and sometimes I get lucky and fall into lucid dreaming about whatever the're looking for. The best is reading a great book to the point where my eyes won't focus anymore and I wake up with the book still in my hands holding my place. For the last couple hours I usually keep the bookmark in place just in case I pass out and drop it. 2mg of Clonazepam once or twice a night and an edible later sometimes I run out of book and just lay there imagining scenarios in my head of what happens to the characters next. Sleep is a rare treat for me. When all else fails I just put on headphones and listen to metal. It at least relaxes my brain enough to feel rested the next day even if I don't sleep.
I pretty much go through a check list in my head of things I’m preparing to do the next day.. it gets oddly specific in details like what pair of compression shorts I’m going to wear for the workout I have planned, what time I’m going to eat to maximize my carb intake then sporadic as my mind starts to drift into other areas those details bring up. Then boom I’m asleep.
I tend towards insomnia, so I definitely wake up to language. Falling asleep though? I don't know.
My wife listens to books, usually Tana French, that kind of thing. I am usually prepping my dreams, working into ideas of the day. But I have that sad ability to wake up a second after I have dozed off, only to be temporarily refreshed.
Whether or not I drift off depends entirely on two things:
1) The balance in my business checking account. I own a small construction company with my husband, and cash flow is on me. So, every night, I lie in bed adding the upcoming draws and deducting the upcoming payroll and bills due. If I end on a positive number, I can sleep. If I'm in the red, I don't.
2) When I was a kid, I thought my mom was the loudest snorer on earth. She'd regularly fall asleep on the couch and my sis and I could crank the volume to max and she'd still snore over it. Never in a million years did I think my own husband would be her match. He's got her tied at least, maybe even beat, so if I don't fall before he starts sawing logs, I'm doomed.
When business and kids are going well, leaving room for imagination (and sleep), then I like to play out scenarios for my current WIP or other potential stories. But these thoughts having to do with words, stories, language, keep me awake. And then I have to scribble something down or type a new note and piece things together later. I like it though, and gladly sacrifice the sleep.
Here's a guilty pleasure of mine. Sometimes I imagine running into one (or all) of my ex-boyfriends--if you can even call them that, they were never very committal--and fantasize them kicking themselves for dumping me. I expect this fantasy to be even better when I am a real, published author someday, hehe.
I had insomnia my entire life from early elementary school until my late 40s. Books on tape and, later, podcasts only made it more difficult to drift off. Then, sort of suddenly, I had a few years of relative ease in falling asleep and actually getting a restful night’s sleep. I thought I was cured. Now, 5ish years later, falling asleep is still easy but staying asleep has become impossible. I know this lifelong problem has contributed to physical and mental health issues and will most likely also contribute to an early death. C’est la vie.
Language keeps me awake. I think about my pets or the memory of playing a sport—anything physical.
I almost forgot! I do listen to language to fall asleep! Jordan Peterson's Harvard lectures and biblical series. It's completely enthralling but I fall asleep after about a half hour or so . I don't know if it's the sound of his voice or the subject matter... His voice is quite calming. Never fails. Especially if I'm having a particularly bad day and lots of terrible thoughts are in my head.
For the past year & a half I’ve fallen asleep - most nights - to the audiobook of To Kill a Mockingbird. Sissy Spacek performs it. Every once in a while I switch to Christopher Moore (usually Lamb), but Mockingbird is it for me for sleepytime.
For some strange reason sometimes I play the audiobook of The Hunger Games in the Czech language (not my mother tongue!) which I have already listened to awake, and have read in my native language (Serbian) and in the original before. For a while I have to focus on the words (and the actress' voice is really soothing) as I am still learning the language, but when the tiredness takes over, it just turns into relaxing background noise and many times I do not remember the moment I stopped paying attention to the words. It is a weird mixture of novelty and familiarity, effort and relaxation, it takes your mind off other things and immerses you in the story itself. So your own language might not do the trick, but a foreign one just might:)
Usually, the floorplan, furniture layout and decor of any future home that isn't here. We need to move, things are getting in the way of that, and I am soothed by planning for when shit stops being so fucking annoying.
Also, being a person with a CPAP and a casual attitude about its upkeep, my mask has a new random smell every night. So if the neighbors have been smoking outside my window, nightmares of staying with my mother as a child. Random dinner spices, or burnt popcorn, I dream of office work. If I've at least sanitized the mask, I dream of hospitals. Smells like pickles or Strawberry Shortcake's breath, things that haven't been in this room at all, all bets are off because then I'm just too confused and wide awake.
Language will keep me awake if I've not finished an argument or anticipate one.
First, I take a Lunesta. Then I eventually tumble my way to my room after brushing my teeth and all of that. Once my head hits the pillow I close my eyes and take myself to my room when I was 12.
It’s upstairs and with the attic fan blitzing air in from my window with my door cracked. The door is always too damp from humidity and never shuts. Sticky, every spring it jams in the frame. And when I travel there in my mind, it still jams. The fan is right outside my room door. It’s a big box in the ceiling that my parents paid extra for to get one of those lifetime warranty industrial motors. It really wallops the entire house when you turn it on.
Anyway, the door is shut and I’m looking though my window with the blinds halfway drawn down. Just outside my room is a bradford pear covered in white blooms and swaying from side to side in the sun and wind. Then I hear my blinds. I focus completely on the sound coming from the wind rattling them. It’s that aluminum rattle, like the same kind you hear from a tape measure. They rattle against each other in a random, but steady beat.
With the blind rattle in my ear, I think about how this is the house that was supposed to be perfect. It was the place we were supposed to be a family, but instead mom’s in her room and dad is gone. And I wonder if he’d still think showing Mrs. Doubtfire to an eight year old to explain you’re getting divorced is still a good idea. And I think about how he couldn’t have known that mom would become a hoarder and he’d become Mr. American Beauty House with callous rules and unachievable expectations and a merged family I’d never fit in with. And how I’d go back and forth between his perfect executive household and mom’s pit of despair.
This house, where you can barely find a clean dish in the mold-soup sink or get clean clothes or find the keys to the car under the stacks of ten year old mail and unopened junk from Walmart. I think about her house. Her trashy, fast food stained, rusted out let-down. The house she thought would be a dream come true, where she’d be a stay at home mother instead of being alone and losing her mind and flushing all her inheritance and alimony down the drain and getting scammed by every door-to-door salesman who knocked.
I think about how she doesn’t realize that she’ll end up penniless in public housing without a car after squandering a million dollars. I remind myself that she should have been a bead weaver in a native tribe. That she was not built in a way that she could contribute to this century. And I think about all the garbage and debris and how funny it is that that house is still more comforting to me than my dad’s live-in work cubicle. And I still hear the rattle of the blinds.
This is my sleep mantra and I repeat it until I’m gone riding my Lunesta butterfly across the cosmos.
Alas, Mike says it's time to wrap things up. I must sign off. For now, good night.
I also like the simple meditation technique of not allowing your mind to chase every thought …
but as it arises, just see it and let it go.
Realizing the day is done and it’s time to stop chasing your tail.
Just let it go you don’t have to engage with every thought that enters your mind.
For me it’s remembering what I need to do tomorrow, and accepting that the sooner I sleep the sooner I’m awake.
You are so sneaky! Substack is the perfect way to crowd seed. And you don't even have to leave your house.
But I am one of those who churns through the same sexual fantasy. Kinda boring but it works. When I am in bed, and it seems like when I'm only in bed, my thoughts are nothing but sexual. It's a problem. Makes me go back to OCD. I'd rather not go into too much detail because it's pretty rough and disturbing. But while I'm churning through that fantasy, I'm also churning something else. And that also helps me sleep!
You asked for this.
And sometimes I think about my mother dying and that gives me panic attacks. But that does not help me sleep.
I listen to lectures on subjects that give would give me a headache if my mental battery was fully charged. From theoretical physics to video essays on modern art, it bores me for restful, almost death-like, sleep.
My girlfriend as well as both my kids have a genetic deviation that transforms their nasal passageway into a sort of foghorn. It’s ridiculous. Every day at 1.30 those three ships sail into harbor, and I flee to the couch downstairs. I wear headphones listening to podcasts, comedians, even you, Chuck. Anything to drown out the loudest fucking sound you’ll ever hear. Sometimes, even that is not enough. I have a recording taken downstairs in the kitchen you’ll swear I took standing right next to an industrial vacuum.
I am perpetually tired.
When I struggle to fall asleep I review the discography of a band in chronological order… or the bibliography of an author… and when it’s really hard to fall asleep I think of all the dead people I’ve loved. I don’t know why but it always works, thinking of them gives me tranquility.
I usually listen to melodysheep talk about the end of the universe. If I have time before bed, I watch the amazing visuals as well. Helps clear the mind of the insanity I see daily.
The overall story of " heat death will end us all" is somewhat soothing
I have to accept that everything that I am worried about will go wrong. When I went to therapy a few years ago, they referred to it as “radical acceptance”. For example, if I am anxious about my job, I tell myself over and over again that I will be fired until I truly believe it. Once that I accept it will happen my brain gives up and my body follows.
Usually, what runs through my head is all of the things I used to be phenomenal at, and the pain running through my body. I’ll usually lose myself in guilty pleasure ebooks.
That last sunny day on Tuesday was gonzo for me. I think tonight I’ll probably fall asleep thinking of all of the surreal and amazing things that incredible afternoon and crazy yet surprisingly NOT traumatizing evening have resulted in for me today, and the pathways that sequence of events has opened up for me.
Today, I realized that I actually DO have to finally sit down, write out my ridiculously unlikely experiences, collate the wide variety of creative works I’ve done, and let it fly free out there in the world.
I’m still gobsmacked over how blown away my voice coach, was at our first lesson on Tuesday, over my silly little song about pumpkin pie. She’s a prolific performer that I admire and respect. It seemed to be the first of a variety of synchronous “right time right place” events in my most recent history. It shocked me out of this haze of self hate and harsh self judgement I’ve been in this year.
I don’t think I’ll need to read until I fall asleep tonight.
I'm piloting a space fighter that conveniently has the pilot lying down with the controls to the left and right. I've landed on a faraway outpost of our fleet and am watching from my cockpit window as I'm being refuelled and resupplied. At the same time, I'm communicating with the other four fighters of my wing, setting up an ambush for the space pirates that frequently attack space freighters on a nearby trade route. The hangar we're in has been dug into a small asteroid, and it is extremely utalitarian. A crew of three mechanics runs it, and they hate their jobs. They stay on the rock for half a year at a time, but relief often doesn't arrive on time because of remoteness and pirates. Also, if pirates discover these outposts, they will destroy them. That's why pilots like me don't even leave their space crafts for the resupplying, because firstly, there could be an attack at every moment. And secondly, our fighters have little brigs that are better equipped and nicer than anything on the rock. All us pilots do is monitor the re-stocking of ammunition, fuel, and water, and give the mechanics shit when something is missing. Normally, I fall asleep before we head out, leave rock and mechanics behind, and stealthily lie in wait for the pirates to move.
I think about two years ago I came across a video on YouTube of a barber giving a guy an hour long haircut/shave. The barber goes about the work like he’s sculpting the Michelangelo; attentive to all the little details. The stimuli of the visuals in addition to the sounds are pretty relaxing. Pretend you’re the lucky guy in the chair who can close his eyes and relax while this comb and scissor wielding Da Vinci goes about his work.
Often I"ll fall asleap to Don Rickles vids on youtube, or Harvey Pekar on Letterman ( He makes me laugh more than anyone), at times I'll sleep on imagining myself playing Poker in a live setting, some other times I fall asleep reminding myself that all people are scumbags.
When you make notes at night, do you wake up in the morning with what looks like beat poetry written down? Like you've tried to cram an entire paragraph/idea into three words? Sometimes I have notes where I have no idea what I meant or how any of the words are actually supposed to fit together. They made sense at the time though. Probably.
Two things- ever since being a child I've played cassette tapes of old comedy shows. I had a few that I copied from my Dad, then I took to putting a microphone by the speaker of the TV when they were on and recording them. I can recite every line of every episode now, but it works!
If I can't do this (i.e. I'm staying at someone's house, without access to these things, or the nerve to make them think I'm a lunatic) I just walk around the sets of the comedy shows in my head- in and out of the rooms, in the various doors, around the building, whatever.
Snakes! Slinking, scaling into my bed. Stretching to see if there’s room to devour me. Phobias are consuming. They come for you. The idea of the touch with your fear is enough. They find me and I slink back. We all sleep together.
I have to either plan something in the future, like a trip and all it details or remember a past memory in extreme detail to fall asleep. If I think about “nothing” my mind wanders to scary possibilities and then my stomach turns and I can’t relax.