On those nights when she finds herself lying awake, plagued by worries, Arianna Huffington reminds herself that she’s going to die one day.
That seems like a morbid thing to be focusing on in the middle of the night, but the Huffington Post founder swears it helps her get back to sleep. And as she explained in a recent article for Sunday Life, the idea came from Steve Jobs.
In a 2005 commencement speech, the Apple CEO claimed remembering your inevitable death was “the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose” because it caused all external expectations, pride, fear of embarrassment or failure to fall away.
“There is certainly no reason not to fall peacefully asleep; if all these earthly worries eventually ‘just fall away’, there’s no reason you can’t let them fall away each night,” Huffington, who has just released her book The Sleep Revolution, added in her article.
If there’s a moral to this tale, it’s that there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
There are general expert-approved tips for good “sleep hygiene” — for instance, the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations include sticking to a sleep schedule and exercising every day — and if you frequently struggle to sleep, it’s important to seek expert advice from a doctor or a psychologist.
However, people sometimes stumble on tricks or techniques that really do the trick for them when the odd restless night strikes.
Like so many things in life, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another… and might sound completely bonkers. While you might find counting sheep effective (does anybody?), someone else might be lulled by reciting song lyrics in their head, or through visualisation.
Watch: Some people find meditating helps them nod off. Here’s a Paper Tiger routine to try. (Post continues after video.)
A quick survey of the Mamamia office certainly supported this.
Here are some of the go-to tactics my colleagues swear by when bedtime rolls around (or when they’re attempting to get back to sleep at 2.47am):
“Burning lavender oil in an oil burner half an hour before going to bed.”
“My mum said whenever you wake up with your mind racing and start panicking about not getting to sleep, just remember that any form of rest is good. So the fact I’m in bed, with my eyes closed is still beneficial, even if I’m not asleep right at that moment. Once I stop panicking and just go with it, I usually fall asleep quicker.”
“Go to bed. Stay there.”
“Hot shower, fresh PJs and pillows everywhere.”
“Listening to or watching ASMR videos.”
"Eye masks totally changed my sleep game." (Image: Paramount Pictures)
"This will make me sound like a grandma, but wearing socks on cool nights makes a huge difference for me. I get really icy extremities, even in mild weather, and when I don't wear socks it takes me so much longer to get to sleep because my mind will just focus on my freezing toes."
"Eye masks totally changed my sleep game. Obviously they block out natural light, meaning I'm not woken earlier than I intend to be, but they also signal that it's sleep time. When the mask goes on, it's down to business."
"Reading a book right before bed. I can never last very long before my eyes start getting heavy."
Reddit is also filled with diverse, interesting sleep tactics. Here is just a handful of what's out there:
"Go to bed at the same time every night. Yes, even weekends" — UncleTrustworthy.
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"Whenever I'm finding it hard to switch off I'll start to slowly repeat a phrase or sound over and over in my head. This blocks out my 'thinking' thoughts like actual sentences in my head and I start to have more visual thoughts and begin to drift off." — Magall.
"I have found great success by thinking of an interesting hypothetical and focusing my thoughts on the specifics of it. My go-to is, 'What would I do if I won $250 million in the lottery?' I start from the beginning, 'Well, first I'd get a lawyer and accountant before claiming the money so I could avoid as much tax as possible. Then I'd give x amount to x people. Would I set up a trust?...' It's like meditation for people who can't turn their minds of completely; by focusing on one thing I usually just drift from my fantasy right off into sleep." — Whatsherbucket
"As I'm falling asleep, I imagine I'm sleeping on a big swinging cloud, at the end of a pendulum. Each breath I take and exhale, the cloud swings back and forth, rocking me to sleep." Trippingchilly.
"I think, 'What would I do if I won the lottery?'" (iStock)
As for Arianna Huffington, thinking about death in't her only go-to — she also likes to picture a calm lake in her mind.
"Any thought, worry, or concern that comes up I think of as a stone dropping into the lake. There may be a ripple or two, but quickly, the lake returns to its smoothness and calm," she explained in Sunday Life. "As more thoughts or worries or fears come up, I let them drop like stones and let the lake return to its natural tranquillity."
Huffington also recommends finding a sleep 'talisman'; an object that tells your body and mind to slow down and prepare for rest. For her, this takes the form of three photographs in her room.
"It helps me put the problems of the day I'm leaving behind into perspective," she explains.
Is there a technique or trick that helps you sleep?