Many people have trouble going to sleep, and I thought that I should share some of my strategies for the times I have trouble falling asleep. Following are some of my favorite ways I use to ensure that I fall asleep. The Approximate times to fall asleep are just guidelines for how long it will probably take you to fall asleep once you start that method. If you’re an extreme insomniac however, it may take a bit longer, but should still help you fall asleep faster.

Deepening the Breath
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 5-15 Minutes

This technique has many different roots, so I’ll just leave that part of it alone. The basic idea here is to observe and deepen your breath. As you breath in, try and take a deeper breath. Don’t strain yourself, just go as far as feels natural. Then let out a slow, relaxed breath. Try and keep your mind focused on this alone. (This will help alleviate a racing mind) If you find yourself thinking about other things, you can count up to the end of your in breath and count back down to the end of your out breath. Try not to go past your comfort level with how deep your breaths are; keep it natural.

Advantages: Helps slow down the mind and eventually to clear it. Fairly quick effects.
Disadvantages May not help some people even after an extended period of time.

Tense and Relax
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 15-20 Minutes

This is a method I first came across in a book by Robert Bruce. This is also meant for preparing for an OBE, and relaxes you fairly well. As you lay in bed, tense your larger muscle groups for 5 seconds, and then relax for about 10 seconds. Repeat this about 3 times for each muscle group. Start with your calves and move up until you reach your face. Tense your face in three ways. Tense all of your muscles on your face, and then make these different shapes with your mouth each time: An O, a smile, and a frown. Done well, this method relaxes your muscles very well. You may wish to repeat it for parts of your body if you still feel tension in certain muscle areas.

Advantages: Easy to do. You’re unlikely to forget what you’re doing as the physical activity keeps you awake while you’re performing it.
Disadvantages: Keeps you awake for the first parts. Doesn’t work as well if you’re sore.

Monroe’s Method
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 5-25 Minutes

This technique was developed by Robert Monroe to prepare you for attempting an out of body experience (OBE). Its main goal is to relax your body however, so it fills our purposes as well. To accomplish this relaxation, you imagine all the stress leaving your body with your breath. As you breath in, visualize your anxiety and/or stress and/or muscle tension build up as a black cloud, and as you exhale, see it drift away. While doing this attempt to feel the black cloud actually leaving you. After doing this for a few minutes, if you don’t feel relaxed enough to fall asleep, begin working on individual parts of the body. Start with your toes and work up to your head. Imagine all the tension exiting the toes in any manner you wish. Again, make it as tactile as possible. Remember to keep your body still during this, and you should fall asleep fairly quickly once you relax your body.

Advantages: Very effective overall, you can fall asleep while performing it.
Disadvantages: Extremely variable in the time requirements, as your mind tends to wander once you’re in a certain level of fatigue.

Melatonin
Approximate Time Until Sleep: N/A

Disclaimer: I do not recommend this method for anybody under 18, anybody not comfortable with supplements and the relatively new nature of Melatonin (wiki) to the supplement market, or anybody uncomfortable with the risk that it may have unknown effects. I am also not a doctor, so this advice, like everything on this blog, is simply my opinion.

Melatonin is a hormone related to sleep cycles, which is secreted by the pineal glad. It typically takes noticeable effect around 45 to 60 minutes after having been ingested. Many of the supplements I have seen are sizes of 3mg. This is, in my opinion, overkill. You typically receive anywhere from 15-25 micro grams of melatonin from the pineal gland, and that 3mg supplement has 3000 micro grams. From my experience, as little as .3 mg (300 micro grams, still a large increase over normal, but a lot more reasonable) is an effective dose. Now, all that you really need to do to use melatonin is to make sure you have enough time to get a decent amount of rest (7~8 hours) and take it about 45-60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. If it doesn’t make you sleepy enough, you might increase the dose, but I wouldn’t go above 1 mg. That’s just my opinion though.

Advantages: Easy, period.
Disadvantages: Dose issues, timing, potential unknown effects, money, not being able to use it on a whim. (You have to have it on you to use it)

Combinations

If those methods don’t work by themselves, you can also combine them for a greater effect. That means it takes longer to fall asleep probably, but if you’re unsure whether you’ll fall asleep in an hour or two, adding another ten minutes to make it two techniques is probably worth it. Here are some of the combinations I would recommend, as well as the orders I would perform them in. As a note, melatonin may be added to any of these as a general aid.

Deepening the Breath + Monroe’s Method
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 15-30 Minutes
First, you watch your breath and try and relax yourself in a general way by deepening your breath. (This will also slow your mind down) Then, get to the specific muscles and tight spots with Monroe’s Method.

Tense/Relax + Monroe’s Method
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 25-35 Minutes
The idea here is to relax the biggest parts of the muscles with Tense/Relax, and then get to the smaller tensions with Monroe’s Method.

Tense/Relax + Deepening the Breath
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 20-30 Minutes
Relax the big muscle groups with tense/relax, and then relax everything (including the mind) by deepening the breath.

Tense/Relax + Deepening the Breath + Monroe’s Method
Approximate Time Until Sleep: 30-45 Minutes
Get your entire body relaxed, then your mind, and then keep the body relaxed and occupy the mind.

As a parting thought: These are just suggestions for how to use these techniques in combinations. You might find that certain orders that I didn’t list work for you (although these tend to be the most successful.) You might also find that while one technique works great for you, the others don’t work at all. Experiment with what works, and try to suit the technique to the situation.

Sleep Well!

-Hatter

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