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The Insomniac’s Guide of Things To Do When Failing to Sleep

The Insomniac’s Guide of Things To Do When Failing to Sleep

So you’ve checked your clock for the third time in the last ten minutes. It just past two in the morning and you have to get up at seven to get to work. You’ve tried everything to get to sleep but something between life stresses and that fourth cup of coffee you had are keeping you up. What do you do?

Don’t give up. The problem is usually that you are preoccupied with something that is keeping you from relaxing. This could be a distracting sound, stress or even your own concern at how late it is. I’ve had moments like these and I’ve come up with different mental games to play to calm myself down and get to sleep.

Before that, here’s a list of things not to do:

  • Don’t leave the bed. Unless you can sleep standing up, moving around will only keep you awake longer.
  • Don’t read. Although a boring book can put you to sleep, reading will probably only delay any rest.
  • Lights off. Keep the lights off and put yourself in a position where you are ready to fall asleep.

This may seem obvious, but many cases of insomnia are the result of the person getting impatient when trying to fall asleep. Unless you’ve decided to pull an all-nighter and are prepared to feel like death the next morning, stay in bed.

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After removing all the fun activities, here are some things you can do to help you fall asleep:

1) Picture a Scene

Try focusing yourself to imagine you are in a familiar place. A good way to start is to visualize yourself moving around your room. See how much of it you can remember clearly. If this gets too easy, try creating your own room to walk through. You can spend a few minutes during each bout of restlessness building your own imaginary mansion you can improve on each time.

2) Breathing

Focus on your breathing. Try to consciously slow your breathing to a particular number of counts in and out. Not only does this focus your mind by counting, but it physically relaxes you. Slowing your heart rate down and forcing you to relax your body will make it easier to drift away.

3) Self Dialog

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Who says imaginary friends are just for kids? Make up a character and have a conversation with him. This can help you focus your normally random flow of thoughts. This can direct your thinking away from distractions or stresses that are keeping you awake.

4) Bodily Awareness

A good relaxation technique is to contract and release all the major muscles in your body. Start by tensing up your toes for a few seconds. Then relax them for another few. Then tense up the muscles in the arch of your foot. Go through your legs, arms and finish on your neck. This can help remove bodily tensions and make you more comfortable.

5) Daily Review

Spend your restlessness reviewing the past day. What accomplishments did you make? What would you like to improve on next time? Don’t do this if specific stresses are keeping you awake, but it can be a useful exercise if the day went normally.

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6) Plan Ahead

Visualize from start to finish your perfect day tomorrow. Imagine yourself waking up with energy and getting done all the things you want to do. It usually takes at least fifteen minutes to go through the entire day if you are specific enough. This can help calm your thinking while preparing you for a good tomorrow.

7) Visualize a Goal

Spend some time thinking about a goal you have. If you currently have problems with money or debt, spend a few minutes thinking about being wealthy. If you are looking for a new relationship, imagine the partner you want. Invest time in bringing out the details. Don’t just imagine writing a book, visualize the finished copy in your hand.

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If you are forced to stay awake, you might as well think about something that makes you feel good, right?

8 ) Sheep Squared

Counting sheep is a little too boring to occupy a restless mind. Try counting by powers of two instead. This means starting with the number 1 and continually doubling it. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16… 1024… 8388608. Eventually you are going to lose track of the digits and have to start over. Little math games can keep your mind occupied when distracting thoughts are keeping you awake.

9) Mental Studying

If you are a student or learning a new subject, use your insomnia to ace the next test. Start with a random piece of information in your subject. This could be the name of a muscle in your foot for an anatomy class or a major philosophical figure for your history paper. Now link this idea to another idea in your subject. With each new idea, find a new link in the chain. Socrates could lead to Aristotle, leading to Alexander the Great, leading to the Gupta Dynasty in India.

10) Keep Your Eyes Open

Blink when you have to but try to keep your eyes open. You can probably remember boring lectures or meetings where it was painful to keep your eyes open. Watching your ceiling fan will probably be a better sleep inducement than anything your high school math teacher could have come up with.

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Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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