It happens when I’m at my most stressed out, busy, and overwhelmed — just when I know sleep is exactly what I need and I can imagine how sweet it would feel to just close my eyes and not think of anything anymore… I can’t do it. I find myself sitting up until 3 a.m. or later, staring at the computer screen with bleary eyes, completely bereft of ideas or energy.

Insomnia sucks. And the worst part is, I’m totally doing it to myself and I can’t even stop it. transient insomnia can be caused by stress and depression. So what helps to alleviate my bouts of work-related sleeplessness? I’ve tried a bunch of stuff.

As much as I love the Smashing Pumpking song, I’m not about to start popping Soma. Because I’m scared of sleeping pills and overly potent remedies, I try to keep my sleep aides all natural. Here’s what helps most in my go to sleep routine.

1 — Get a good workout in during the day. Working up a sweat guarantees that I’ll be ready to pass out the second my head hits the pillow.

2 — Try to eat dinner early. I notice, if I have dinner after 9:30 p.m., I still feel wide awake well past midnight. On a school night, that just guarantees that I’ll be sluggish in the a.m.

3 — If it’s getting late at night, even if I still have work to do, I have to make it a point to drag myself away from the computer screen and the television, to allow my eyes and brain to relax. Staying up late to complete a task often means that I’m not working at my optimal best, and I often find my most heinous spelling errors and crimes against grammar the morning after an all-night writing binge. There’s a noticeable difference in the quality of posts I worked on when at my sharpest, versus the ones I churn out on a sleepless night.

4 — A warm, delicious, non-caffeinated beverage usually does the trick. Got milk?

Even though it’s been debunked as a sleep inducing beverage, a night time glass of milk’s still my BFF. Since I’ve been a little one, my family has believed in a glass of warm, slightly sweetened milk to kill nighttime sweet tooth cravings, and lull us off to the land of Nod.

My Aunty Gemma’s a teetotaler with a strong religious faith, and she believes in a bedtime cup of warm milk and honey — a combination that is beneficial and beautifying both inside and out. I love the thick sweetness of honey, but every so often, for a decadent nightcap, I go heathen-style. A splash of amaretto, Bailey’s, Frangelico, or Kahlua all are delish in a glass of milk, and sometimes I’ll make a PG-13 creamy cocktail depending on what liqueur I’ve got available. Just a splash. Web MD doesn’t recommend this at all — one of their top 10 tips is to avoid alcohol before bed. But until that new special extra-melatonin milk hits the market, I reserve the right as a grown woman to kick my nightcap up a notch if I so choose.

If I’m not sipping leche, I make some kind of warm, yummy, non-caffeinated tea. Celestial Seasonings has been outdoing themselves in this department, and their bags are constantly on sale at the grocery store. That Sleepytime definitely works well for me when I’m halfway zoned out, and today I treated myself to a box of Sweet Coconut Thai Chai. It smells like poetry, and it’s decaf so it won’t get you all hopped up. I just had a cup, and I do feel about ready for bed. Good thing — it’s 1:15 a.m. on a Monday morning!

Random randomness indeed — in writing this post I stumbled across a Sesame Street song I’d almost forgotten! Everybody Sleeps. Wow. I hadn’t seen this since I was a little girl, I swear! I miss old school Sesame Street, I really do.

My Trinis know whereof I speak — vintage Sesame Street will always be the bomb. I really couldn’t finish my post without that video.

Do you ever suffer from sleeplessness? What helps you drift off?

Filed Under:


don says:
August 25, 2008, 6:21 am
Don't I know the feeling. Actually I am going through one of my insomnia phases as I type. Although it has gotten better from what it once was (it all started back in early '05), I still suffer many nights where I will only get between 2 to 3 hours of sleep. I've tried everything, some of what you listed. I once filled a prescription for sleeping pills, which I took for about a week. They helped and everything but I didn't like the way they made me feel nor did I want to depend on drugs of any kind.
Mrs.Mckinzie says:
August 25, 2008, 7:21 am
I soften all of my sheets,comforters,pillowcases,and pj's in Downy with lavender it works.I work out about an hour before bed,and then take a nice shower or bath.Ginger tea also helps to give me that extra knock out.
Doris says:
August 25, 2008, 8:03 am
When I can't sleep I usually will drop the AC temp really low. It's something about the cold temperatures, maybe I'm part bear, I just want to hibernate.
b. says:
August 25, 2008, 8:27 am
Ooh yes ya'll...there's something about a clean warm bed when it's cooler in the house. And I think ginger is a cure for many things, second only to water (my dad's cure for all that ails...he's a former marine). Have any of you tried the drink from The Ginger People? Go to your local World Market and give it a shot. Yum for everybody! When preparing for bed, if you're the cold-natured type, try one of those U-shaped pillows you heat in the microwave and wrap around your neck. After taking your sweet time in the shower, turning down the A/C, and reading under clean covers while sipping tea/milk with that pillow around your neck...maybe I should go back to bed...
blkbuttafly826 says:
August 25, 2008, 8:36 am
You might also try Calms Forte I've seen it in Walgreens as well
Richard says:
August 25, 2008, 8:46 am
It annoys my wife that I fall asleep so quickly. (I usually drop off in under 2 minutes.) Do you do a lot of stuff in your bedroom. I make it a point to only sleep and [CLEARS THROAT] in the bedroom. I do all of my work, internet browsing, and reading somewhere else. I sometimes get sleepy just walking into the bedroom. On the rare occasion that I can't fall asleep (usually because of the 4 hour nap I took earlier) I just get up and putter until I feel sleepy again. It sucks to just lie there. I admit that I am a little surprised that no one has mentioned Ny-Quil or Benadryl. :-)
Wes says:
August 25, 2008, 9:36 am
No, I don't have this prob (Thank God and knock on wood) but sometimes I do get overwhelmed with work and writing. When this happens, I focus on clearing my mind and when I do, thats when I fall asleep. If I'm busy thinking about bills, work, writing, etc. I won't fall asleep. My mind MUST be clear.
southernbella says:
August 25, 2008, 10:13 am
When i have trouble falling or staying asleep it's usually my spirit signaling me to get with God, that there is something or someone that i need to speak with Him about.. so i get in the position, on my knees and let the thoughts and words come to me.. i give in to the process sort of like mediation.. relax, release and then sleep comes.. thats how i deal with occasional insomina..
Brandi says:
August 25, 2008, 10:23 am
I usually can't sleep when I have some serious problems or if I know I'll have a stressful day, like a job interview. In those cases, I either sweat it out or take Tylenol PM or something. But My niece takes Melatonin and it works like a champ. I should give that a go. A full day, exercise and a clear head and I will sleep like a baby.
Nycki says:
August 25, 2008, 11:16 am
Insomnia can be relentless at times. I've suffered from it in phases since my teen years, and as we all know, it's just not a nice way to live. I used to take TylenolPM, as it was the only OTG med that worked, but I got tired of feeling drugged when I woke up. I started taking 3mg Melatonin recently as well (Brandi mentioned it above), and it definitely works for me. Take it 20 minutes before you go to bed. No med-head when you wake up. ;)
Nycki says:
August 25, 2008, 11:17 am
That should have been "OTC..." Haven't had any coffee this morning. lol
dettygirl says:
August 25, 2008, 11:33 am
This post came right on time! Glad to know I'm not the only one suffering from sleep deprivation. I have had problems sleeping for the past year.Part of it is b/c I just moved to the city from the country & am still adjusting, but still... I'm tired of being tired! My mom is a nurse & told me to take one HALF of ONE Tylenol PM to help me sleep & to avoid that groggy feeling the morning after & that has helped alot. That Sleepytime tea does the trick sometimes. I am trying to reduce my mental stresses, b/c I really want to be able to sleep so I am going to try to get back to exercising daily. Also, (off topic) Bella, please do a review of Miss Jessie's new shampoo & conditioner. I'd like to know what you think. I got an email that they are having a special on these new items.(But don't lose any sleep over it :)) Thanks!
Mona says:
August 25, 2008, 11:39 am
Hey Bella, I'm a grad student, so insomnia is almost a fact of life for me. But I'm a little leery of sleep aids (afraid of the potential dependence). When I'm really trying to fall asleep, I try to eliminate as much external stimulation as possible (TV, radio, other noises, etc.). I have a sleeping mask (a la Whitley Gilbert) and have used earplugs on occasion. Hope this helps!
Nichole says:
August 25, 2008, 12:05 pm
When I was married, I could fall asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. Now that I am single and over 40, getting to sleep can be more of a challenge. It gets worse when you have hormonal issues. Yikes. A couple of months ago I had transient insomnia. It was the worse. One of the first things I did was turned the lights down in my place. It helped by creating the mood, letting my brain know it was time to start winding down. One of the greatest things that has helped was buying a fan. White noise. I didn't realize it at first because I thought it was the coolness of the room that helped me sleep (it did) but it was the repetitive noise that helped calm my mind. I am a true fan of any white noise.
Megan says:
August 25, 2008, 12:14 pm
A nice back rub puts me to sleep. Not a deep tissue back rub but just a rub like youre rubbing lotion on the back. Also, this may sound weird but British accents put me to sleep. I would put it on PBS on the weekends when those Brit-coms came on and fall straight to sleep.
Amina says:
August 25, 2008, 12:17 pm
i should try your remedies.. since may, i've been insomniac...
sdg1844 says:
August 25, 2008, 12:29 pm
I get it from time to time. I'm usually in bed by 10 or 11PM the latest except Friday. My house stays pretty cool and that air just knocks me out most of the time.
LuLu says:
August 25, 2008, 12:30 pm
Jamaican Dogwood Supreme by Gaia is an excellent, all natural sleep/anxiety aid. Bella, I'm very surprised you're not familiar with it, it's indigenous to the West Indies. It's also great for many nerve conditions, helps with anxiety, insomnia, the list goes on. Stop by your local Whole Paycheck or wherever you can buy herbal tinctures. I hope this helps!!
Sabrina97 says:
August 25, 2008, 8:57 pm
@ Richard--my brother says the same thing about the purpose for the bedroom! Unfortunately I have gotten into the habit of having my TV on to put me to sleep and lately it's not been working. I have found that only going to bed when I'm sleepy has been a help. If I'm not sleepy, laying down won't make it so. Bella, I'm with you on the Sleepytime tea (especially made into a hot toddy....makes me feel better when I'm sick too). Like Wes, clearing my mind usually makes me sleepy. Sometimes that takes effort....
LBellatrix says:
August 26, 2008, 9:02 am
I don't have problems sleeping unless I eat something too close to bed that keeps me up (like dark chocolate...I overdid my caffeine intake with just that one piece last night). I just wanted to THANK YOU for taking me back with that Sesame Street video! :D
J. Diva says:
August 26, 2008, 9:40 pm
I noticed that with small amounts of alcohol when tired, but sleepless, a little bit of booze does the trick. Either that or I have to bore myself to sleep. I often pick up an old textbook and read a super boring chapter...I'm usually asleep within 10 minutes.
Sumatra77 says:
August 26, 2008, 10:21 pm
I have trouble starting off sleep in my bed, so when I do, I suffer from insomnia. I fall asleep pretty quickly on the couch. My family and I have always been "couch sleepers," so it's a tough habit to break. I get up around 1am and stumble to bed. I also need to have the TV on, but on mute to fall asleep..., weird eh? Warm showers help me sleep, I think it just helps relax every muscle in my body. A small glass of wine helps as well.
Bsquared86 says:
August 27, 2008, 4:47 am
I am definitely not a "drop right off to sleep" person. I've struggled with going to sleep all of my life and college didn't help any either! Now that I've graduated, I though I'd be able to get a decent nights sleep regularly but au contraire-- I find myself up into the wee hours of the morning every day, trying to catch cat naps during the day to make up for a lost night's sleep or just plain sleeping in until the afternoon. It's a never ending cycle that I've just accepted as one of life's many quirks, lol. Thank you for this post! It's good to know that I'm not alone in my sleeplessness!
Masani says:
August 27, 2008, 9:00 pm
I am a real nightowl, so natural sleep aids are a must! I am a Calms Forte fan! You literally drift off to sleep and you don't feel groggy in the A.M. I was given a tip about it from a nice lady at a health food store....chew the tablets instead of swallowing them, followed by a glass of water. Works everytime! Also, I am a fan of Dr. Paul Goss' New Body Products...check out the site, and look for NVS. Its a fantastic herbal combination of Peppermint, Catnip, Ginger, Valerian, Hopi, Skullcap, Chamomile, and Rosemary. I keep these with me at work. Take one and feel the stress roll off your back. Finally, if all else fails, try Earth Theraputics Dream Zone Pillow Mist This citrus scented spray contains lavender, Egyptian Geranium and Valerian and it really works! Sweet Dreams!
jJazzy says:
September 3, 2008, 1:00 am
A good book and a cup of Sleepytime tea always does the trick for me...I like and die by that little bear!
Mike says:
March 1, 2009, 2:29 am
I realize this is an old post, but you people who responded,although well meaning,don't really have a sleep problem. Your comments,well taken, problally work for some people, but not for the ones that really have a sleep problem. I don't have the answer. I don't even get sleepy and yawn anymore. I can't go to sleep. I yearn for the days when I did sleep, It was so nice.
Lynette Bowin says:
August 30, 2010, 10:50 am
Sure, a dog's temperament determines how quickly they can bounce back from a traumatic experience, if ever. For instance, a friend's dad has a excitable JRT who got so excited when company came in the door he jumped on a hot wood stove. He never did that again. And when you open the door on it, he bolts. Then again, you know the saying some fools never learn. There are countless dogs who get bitten by snakes, attacked by cats, hit by cars more than once because they shake off the experience a little too quickly.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *