Tell Your Brain to Shut Up! 5 Secret Stress Busters for a Great Night’s Sleep

active brain

I am a terrible sleeper. My brain thinks when the lights go out it’s time to think. I’ve solved world hunger in my sleeplessness. I’ve rearranged the furniture to transform my thrift store apartment into a masterpiece of modern design. I’ve negotiated peace treaties between warring countries. I’ve balanced my checkbook from memory. Instead of resting, I exhaust myself. It would be ironic if it weren’t so terribly frustrating! The worst part is that I’m so tired during the day, I fall asleep in all sorts of weird places: on the train, at school, even standing up! Over the years, I have discovered a few tried and true secrets that help me sleep: mysterious tinctures and techniques that power down my head so I can drift off into dreamland like a normal stinkin’ person.

1. Warm Milk Ain’t No Chamomile Tea

I know warm milk is supposed to help you sleep, but I don’t think there’s anything grosser than milk-coated morning mouth (my husband wholeheartedly agrees). He and I both prefer chamomile tea. Chamomile is warming and comforting, a little spicy, a little sweet, and it works. I usually drink a cup about 45 minutes before bed. That’s time enough to process the liquid (if you know what I mean) so I’m not stumbling to the bathroom at 2 AM.

relaxation recording

2. Listen to a Recorded Guided Relaxation Exercise

I thought recorded relaxation exercises were the cheesiest things ever: feel your breath, picture a waterfall, blah, blah. But, if I’m honest, these work really well. I think the key here is that you’re focused on listening instead of on thinking. Most of them are so boring, that alone can put you to sleep.

3. Visualize A Mythical Beast Ripping the Thoughts from Your Head

Yeah, this sounds crazy, but if you’ve got a little imagination it works wonders. I imagine a big old ogre, reaching into my head and pulling my thoughts right out. You can also imagine opening the gates of your mind to let your thoughts stream out on their own. I find my thoughts are too stubborn for that. I need the ogre’s  iron grip. Experiment with this one and focus on whatever visualization works for you.

4. Get Regular Exercise and an Occasional Massage

Okay, so maybe exercising for sleep isn’t a secret, but despite it’s popularity as a media mantra, few of us are actually taking it to heart. I certainly didn’t. That is, until I started training for a 5K race and found myself sleeping like a super cute baby. Exercise can suck, but at least you’ll sleep. Oh, and you’ll lose weight, reduce your risk for heart disease, and stave off Type 2 diabetes, but who’s counting? Massage actually has similar stress-busting benefits, raising endorphins, reducing cortisol, and stimulating your brain’s delta waves (the brain’s sleep setting).

5. Get a Decent Mattress for Cripes’ Sake!

There is no substitute for a quality mattress. My mattress taco was a relic from my college years and I spent most nights rolling into my husband (who is like 100 pounds heavier than I am). And I was all, “why can’t I sleep?” My awesome natural foam mattress was the best money I ever spent, hands down. Or, rather, whole body down (and sleeping).

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