Do you struggle to sleep at night? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Sleep Foundation, conservative studies estimate that ten to 13 percent of adults live with chronic insomnia. Other studies suggest that the number is much higher – closer to 50 or 60 percent.
If you’re spending your nights tossing and turning, it’s probably frustrating. And you’re awake now, so can you doing something productive that will help you sleep later? To take back control of your insomnia and do something productive with those sleepless nights, take a look at our best ideas for insomniacs below.
Play a Strategy Game
Strategy games are great for your mind – they keep you sharp, focused, and they help you think multiple steps ahead. The problem with many strategy games is that they require another person. However, the rise of online gaming means that you can play anywhere, any time – even at 3 AM on a Tuesday when you can’t sleep.
If you’re looking for a strategy game that will improve your overall quality of life, try poker. The benefits of poker are well-charted, but perhaps never so well as by Maria Konnikova, psychologist-turned-poker-expert. A recent article in Global Poker discusses Konnikova’s novel The Biggest Bluff, which charts her experiences as a psychologist and a poker player, and how the lessons she’s learned playing poker have positively affected her life.
Improving your quality of life and having fun playing a game instead of tossing and turning – that sounds like a win to us. And even if you’re not playing a game, you could even try reading the book (more on that later) to get inspired.
One of the leading causes of insomnia is stress. If you’re chronically stressed, you’re probably not sleeping very well. But maybe the middle of the night is the perfect time to get organized. How many tasks have you avoided for months that end up taking just fifteen minutes?
Healthline experts recommend making a to-do list when you’re awake in the middle of the night. Organize the list by priority. Make sure to be realistic about your deadlines. If you’re worried about completing the items on the list, schedule out the chunks of time you want to devote to each task. Healthline recommends this method because multitasking can add unnecessary stress.
Yoga is a great way to take advantage of the time you spend awake with insomnia – and it can improve your sleep as well. According to the experts at Harvard Medical School, the best poses to help you get to sleep include:
- Wide-knee child’s pose: to enter this resting pose, kneel on the floor, separate your knees and sink your torso onto your thighs. You can choose to keep your arms by your sides or out in front of you for a more active pose.
- Standing forward bend: stand with your feet hip-width apart and extend your torso forward and over your legs. Hold onto your elbows, or let your hands touch the floor.
- Legs up on the wall: this pose is great for swollen feet and ankles. Lie on your back on the ground and lean your legs against the wall until they form a right angle.
Read a Book
Many experts suggest reading before bed as a way to relax, but it can also help you relax and stay productive if a night of tossing and turning is on the cards. Why? According to Washington University professor of neurology Raman Malhotra MD, reading gives your mind time to rest and settle. In an article for Refinery29, Malhotra said: “For many [people], reading can be relaxing and enjoyable, which can put your mind and body in the appropriate mindset or mood to go to sleep.”
It’s essential to choose something light (maybe skip The Handmaid’s Tale on this one) and something that isn’t too gripping. The perfect book for an insomniac is one that’s been on your shelf for a while, but you’re struggling to finish.
Write in a Journal
Journaling has many health benefits. According to Positive Psychology, journaling clears your head, helps you meet your goals, and generally improves your quality of life. Journaling helps to:
- Improve mood
- Enhance a sense of well-being
- Reduce depression before a big event
- Reduce the symptoms of a traumatic event
- Improve memory
Journaling makes us more aware of our thoughts and can help push through unhealthy patterns in our behaviors. Many people find that journaling gives them more control over their lives than they had previously. Positive Psychology shares their best tips for effective journaling below:
- Write in a private, distraction-free place
- Aim to write consecutively (at least once per day)
- Make sure to give yourself time to reflect after your writing
- Journal about what you’re feeling in the moment
- Structure the journal however you wish
- Keep your journal private
Try Meditation and Mindfulness
For the sleep experts at the Sleep Foundation, meditation and mindfulness are great ways to spend time when you’re struggling to fall asleep – and the benefits seep over into your waking life, too. Over time, a regular meditation and mindfulness practice can help you fall asleep faster – and potentially kick insomnia entirely.
How can you practice meditation and mindfulness? The Sleep Foundation shares their best tips below:
- Focus on inhaling and exhaling at a pace that’s comfortable for you
- Pay attention to how your body is positioned on the bed
- Notice sensations in your legs and feet, and let those sensations be soft
- Continue to pay attention to your body, and scan up and down, paying attention to what you notice, but taking care not to judge
- Allow your body to relax after you’ve completed your scan
You can also try another mindfulness technique, progressive muscle relaxation. This creates a calming effect by tightening and releasing muscles in the body in time with your breathing. Start with your toes and work your way up your body for the best results.
Insomnia doesn’t have to be a bad thing. These ideas will keep you from staring at the ceiling all night and will make sure that you use your mind productively as you nod off to sleep.