Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep? This is very common and affects pretty much all of us from time to time, if not on a regular basis. However, it can be inconvenient and the sleep deprivation can prevent us from feeling and functioning our best during the day.
Often (but not always), not being able to sleep is a result of an overactive mind. Thankfully, there are many psychological tricks that can help to calm your mind, change your focus and get you into a sleepier state. I’m about to show you how to trick your brain into falling asleep, using 12 methods that have worked for me.
These methods are my go-to tricks for falling asleep. I use every single one of them from time to time, and all I can say is that they generally all send me off to sleep before I need to try another! That said, the method I choose does depend on how I am feeling. Different tricks work on different days, depending on my mood, sleepiness and other factors, so undoubtedly the same will be true for you. Some of these might work really well for you and others might not work at all.
You won’t know unless you try, so let’s get started and take a look at the methods.
How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep: 12 Methods That Work For Me
1. Imagine sleep hormones running through your body
I sometimes imagine sleep hormones running through my body, making me all relaxed and sleepy and knocking me out. This often sends me to sleep. You could even try imagining you’re having anaesthetic – that would freak me out a bit but it might work for you. It doesn’t matter if your imaginings are scientifically accurate or not – as long as it works!
2. Appreciate the stillness
In your daily life, do you ever get overwhelmed by bright lights, noise, people and discomfort? Wish they would all just go away for a minute and leave you in peace? Well, now that it’s night time, your wish has come true. Lie in bed and really appreciate the soft blanket of darkness, silence, stillness, solitude (if you are alone), warmth, comfort and any other positive, calming aspects you are experiencing.
I like to repeat those words to myself, “darkness, silence, stillness…”, and think of how lucky I am to have these comforting things at this moment, and just enjoy them. This helps me to relax and eventually sleep, because it takes my focus out of my racing mind and into my physical senses, where everything is okay at the moment.
3. Imagine different sleep scenarios
Another thing that helps me to sleep is to imagine I am in a different place or scenario. If you’re alone, you could imagine you’re cuddling the person you love (or a desired loved one!). Or imagine you are in a sleeping bag in a tent, and it’s really cold outside but you’re snuggled up nice and warm. Or imagine your bed is floating in the sky, with beautiful scenery below it and barriers to stop you falling out. Let your imagination run wild. It may sound crazy but it helps me!
4. Try to stay awake!
This is reverse psychology, and it may or may not work for you. But I remember when I was a child, I used to try and stay awake until midnight so that I could have a ‘midnight feast’. Every night I would try to stay awake, and be determined that this would be the night I would manage it, but invariably I would fall asleep long before midnight.
Trying to stay awake takes off the psychological pressure of trying to fall asleep. If you need sleep and are sleepy enough, you will most likely fall asleep anyway. The trick is not to stay up and about, or do any stimulating activities because then you really will stay awake. But lie down in bed and think about staying awake, and maybe even imagine you are an excited child planning a midnight feast. Chances are, sleep will get the better of you.
5. Imagine you are someone else
This might sound weird, but hear me out. Try imagining you are someone else who you know sleeps well. This could be a partner or family member who sleeps like a log, or if you don’t know any such person, think back to your childhood or teenage years. Did you ever have sleepovers with your friends, and there was always that one friend who would fall deeply asleep before everyone else? Imagine you’re that person!
This psychological trick helps to take you out of your own thoughts and worries, because you’re pretending to be another person. You don’t know what they would be thinking, so you’ll generally just focus on the physical experience of lying in bed. This grounds you and clears your mind.
6. Appreciate the night as a time to just chill
In the middle of the day, do you ever wish you could just flake out and do nothing? But you can’t (or you feel guilty doing so) because you have too many other things you need to do. Well, appreciate this moment lying in bed, because right now, you don’t have to deal with any of your responsibilities. You can just lie there and do nothing at all! Appreciate this fact – you can totally relax and chill with no negative consequences. If it helps, you can even imagine it’s the daytime and you’ve got the green flag to just do nothing at all.
7. Gratitude check
This method can help a lot if you can’t sleep because of worries or troubles that are running through your mind. Call a gratitude check, and run over things in your mind that you am grateful for. This could include positive things that had happened that day, recent positive interactions with other people, and things you are privileged to have in your life. Keep on thinking of things you are grateful for, until you fall asleep. Hopefully you will, because your mind is distracted from your worries and focused on positive things.
8. Remind yourself that sleep is the best possible thing you could be doing right now
Sometimes, I can’t sleep because I’m feeling too wired up. I am worrying about something and thinking about how I could resolve it, or I’m feeling like I haven’t been productive enough, and that I should be working right now to make up for it. Are you the same?
In those situations, it’s helpful to remind yourself just how important sleep is. You physically NEED sleep to live, and you need a decent amount of sleep in order to function your best. If you’re in good physical and mental shape from a good night’s sleep, you’ll be able to be more productive the next day, and deal better with your problems. Now is the time to sleep, and that’s the best, most productive thing you could be doing right now. Thinking about this fact helps you to ‘put your worries to bed’ and feel more restful.
9. Imagine you are a little child
Most children fall asleep quickly and easily. This is partly because they are usually very energetic and wear themselves out, and also because, all being well, they have few or no worries to keep them awake. They are just living in the moment. Therefore imagine you are a little child, all tucked up in bed. Try to remember what it was like when you were a child, and get into that mindset of peaceful innocence. This should help you to fall asleep easily, like a child.
10. Imagine a movie scene or story
Something I find helpful for falling asleep is to make up a story and imagine it played out like a movie in my head. It’s best not to think about anything too realistic or related to your real life, or anything you’d find triggering, as this could lead back to racing thoughts. But imagine something made up and harmless.
For example, a common one I do is to imagine I bump into a long lost identical twin, who I never knew I had. This makes for an interesting and entertaining story, so I run the scene through my head, of how we came across each other and what our reaction was. Usually, I fall asleep before I even develop the story.
11. Pretend it’s the morning
If you’re someone who struggles to get out of bed in the morning, this trick is a good one for you. Remember how in the morning you didn’t want to get out of bed. It was so cosy and warm and you wished it wasn’t morning yet, so you didn’t have get up.
As you lie in bed in the evening, pretend it is the morning now. Your alarm has just gone off but you really don’t want to get up. You just want to snuggle up in bed and go back to bed. Really imagine that feeling of not wanting to be dragged out of your cosy, warm slumber.
Then, imagine you are actually able to go back in time. Turn the imaginary clock back 8 hours, and now you don’t have to get up! You can snooze in bed for another whole 8 hours! That’s where you are right now. Savour the feeling, and be grateful that you can stay in bed and basically have an 8 hour ‘lie-in’ with no consequences.
12. Focus on your breathing
This is probably the simplest out of all these psychological tricks, in fact, it’s not really a trick at all. It can work when your thoughts are running wild and you struggle to implement the other techniques. Simply just breathe and focus on your breathing. Listen to the air flow, and feel your body rise and fall. It sounds so basic but it can really help you fall asleep. This is the method that helps me the most when my mind won’t stop running over other things.
How To Trick Your Brain Into Falling Asleep: Which Methods Will You Try?
If you’re someone who struggles to sleep, I hope this post has been helpful for you and given you some new tricks to try. Do you think any of these methods would work for you? Maybe you already use some of them – I’d love to hear about your experience so please do put a comment below.
As well as using psychological tricks, there are also physical and practical ways you can help yourself get to sleep. I outlined those in another post, where I also share some ways to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, so I encourage you to have a read of that too: How To Get To Sleep Within Minutes. There are actually a few more psychological tricks included in that post too. By combining the physical and the psychological, hopefully you will find some fail-safe ways of getting to sleep that really work for you.
With that, I wish you a good night’s sleep (when the time comes)!