How To Relax A Sleep Deprived Mind And Get Back To Sleep

By Yaro Starak
42 Comments

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

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42 Comments

  • Hey Yaro,

    writing to you quite a lot these days, haha!

    You are describing my brain’s behaviour exactly when I wake up in the middle of the night or am sleep deprived.

    I’d like to add one possible approach to the whole situation:

    Write a check list of all the fundamental, basic things that may be contributing to your emotional situation, print it out and keep it handy:

    – tired
    – thirsty
    – hungry
    – not enough exercise
    – too hot
    – too cold
    – need a shower
    – need more time with friends and family
    – haven’t had my daily chocolate fix
    – haven’t listened to music in days

    …and anything else along those lines – things that are simple and often also fast to just take care of, but can really mess with your head when you don’t.

    Problem is, you often don’t recognise what it is when you’re in the middle of the situation.

    Next time, grab your check list as a simple reminder, and go through it. Don’t think or analyse, just do it. If you’re not sure if one of the things is the problem or not, take care of it without thinking too much. Get a glass of water even if you’re not entirely sure you’re thirsty, for example.

    By the time you have made your way through this list, often the problem is gone. It doesn’t matter then if you don’t know which of the five things on the list that you tried this time actually solved it.

    I call it the Baby Principle because this works for crying babies as well; obviously many items on the list are different, although there is quite an overlap!

    Just keep ticking the boxes, and you may be surprised how much emotional turmoil just goes away.

    Have a good night!

    Ciao,

    Matthias

    • Thanks for sharing this comment here too Matthias. I’m sure others will benefit from your list.

      I haven’t actually tried this technique before quite so specifically as you explain here. I have asked myself why am I REALLY upset about something in a sort of theory of constraints backwards analysis, which I find helps tremendously. If you know what you are really upset about and then remind yourself of the solution – which you can apply tomorrow if you should be sleeping now – you have an answer, there is no point thinking about it anymore. It’s a positive frame too, which is the best thing you can do.

      Yaro

  • Catherine

    Hello, Yaro! Fellow introvert here. I do SO understand your post.

    I keep a stack of crossword puzzles that are a little too difficult for me on the nightstand.
    Diving into one of those at 2 or 3am will usually occupy my brain power enough to distract myself from whatever the issue keeping me up is. While an enjoyable challenge, it’s not interesting enough to wake me fully and it’s dull enough to lull me back to sleep. Give it a try.

    Also, something I read in a book ages ago that has helped me not set “triggers” off for myself while awake, is this.

    “Never get too hungry, too angry, too lonely or too tired.”

    It really works to help the sensitivities stay on an even keel and that leads to having a smoother day and better sleep. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to destroy that sensitivity because it’s such a fabulous tool to have in your bag of tricks and it gives you a fantastic edge. But, I find that stopping to mentally check that list when I feel the old, familiar “overwhelm” beginning to engulf me, helps me get it back under control pretty quickly.

    • Great list Catherine, I definitely agree about the lack of food and lack of sleep challenges, those are the worst for me… Throw in extreme heat as well, I’m not very good with that. The last four days were all 40+C here in Melbourne so I’ve been a lot less functional than usual!

      Your crossword tip reminds me of the word puzzles I used to do when I had anxiety attacks many years ago. I was really bad on planes when there is turbulence, so I’d keep a word find puzzle handy for those moments. I also used to play that very old mobile phone game “snake” back from before we had apps on smartphones as a way to distract myself.

      Yaro

  • Tamar Goldstein

    Hi Yaro :),

    I had one such night last night myself!
    This isn’t limited to introverts as I’m quite an extrovert.
    Yes- did the countdown backwards though I start at 100! :)
    Probably should’ve read my book. Resisted getting up for hours
    and then got up and did some work……

    back to bed – lay awake again..till 4.00am! Ho Hum. Big sleep in – got up at 8.00

    I do agree with you that one’s brain goes into worry mode.

    Cheers,
    Tamar

    • I tried the 100 countdown once Tamar, but I ended up feeling more pressure for some reason, like the bigger number was too significant, haha.

      Yaro

  • gary

    Dude get Nature s Calm it’s a magnesium citrate s and take it before you go to bed and you will be lights out and sound sleep. A lot of people are deficient in magnesium.

    • Lack of magnesium is not my problem Gary (and my last blood test backs this up).

      This is more a mind issue I believe. My limited experience with drugs/chemicals is that the mind can overpower them in many situations. I’m sure with a heavy enough tranquilliser the mind will give in, but that’s a pretty drastic solution!

      Yaro

  • Hi Yaro,

    Reading this post was like looking in the mirror! I too find myself waking up with the first thoughts being everything that’s wrong with my life. Most of it is total BS but that mindset you spoke of and animal brain just go to town in the wee hours. I’ve found ways to combat that like you by pointing out the absurdity of the thoughts and breathing mindfully which has really helped.

    I also have trouble sleeping in strange places but have gotten better about that too. Maybe it’s just advanced age-LOL-but I can usually sleep on the second night because I am completely exhausted from the night before. I also have a stretching and yoga practice I do every night that gets me more relaxed regardless of where I am.

    I’m so glad (and sorry too) to hear I’m not the only one who is a completely different human being on less than seven hours of sleep! I can’t believe I’m the same person that went to bed the night before. One of the worst issues can be with melatonin, which I take for digestive health, that requires at least seven hours of sleep. If I roll around and sleep like crap, it’s double jeopardy. The melatonin hangover makes me wake up like an undead being and usually takes a couple of hours to clear up.

    Thanks for sharing this informative and relieving post with us. I’ve just bought Quiet too.

    Jeff

    • Yes exactly Jeff, I had the same experience when sleeping in a new place. The first night is always the worst, then I’m so tired from the previous night the second night I sleep much better. So annoying!

      My dad used to take melatonin to help him adjust to new timezones when traveling. I was struggling with jetlag so much once going from Canada to Scotland that I went looking for some melatonin only to find out you can’t buy it over the counter in the UK. It must be some powerful stuff!

      Yaro

  • i can’t sleep much. because now i’m a patient of tension and depression :-(

    • Hopefully you will get better soon Abdul, other people have so you can too!

      Yaro

  • Nancy

    Gary, I so agree with you about Nature’s Calm! I’ve always keep some of that around. For some folks, comfortably hot milk works too. And a hot bath, shower right before bed is another one. I do hot bath and Nature’s Calm – works wonderfully. However, there are times that I’m too tired or lazy to do what I know works. Then I have an experience like Yaro has described.

    Something Yaro didn’t mention in his article is that sensitive folks often are picking up on
    other people’s thoughts and feelings, and may have been doing that since they were young.

    There is a process from Access Consciousness(TM) that I find enormously useful if I do wake up wired in the middle of the night. It involves two questions and a statement:
    “And who does this belong to? Return to sender with consciousness attached! How can it be better, and what else is possible?” The questions are there to create release, and not to be answered. I find several repetitions of that process shifts my state amazingly and I’m quickly back to sleep. Works during the day as well to clear anything that feels heavy.

    • Hi Nancy – thanks for your input. For the really sensitive people I am sure that is helpful. I’ve had friends who carry around a lot with them from other people and learning to just let it go is a good idea.

      Yaro

  • Di

    Hi Yaro

    First time leaving a comment on your blog although have been reading for a while now and through you have found Leslie Samuel at becomeablogger and Pat Flynn at smartpassiveincome. All you guys are just so inspiriational and so free with your encouragement and information that I am finally just getting started on my own blog! So thanks a lot!

    Thanks for the link to the book on introverts – your comments on sleep problems too really resonate with me – just had a look at the book on amazon and ordered my own copy – nice to know there are other introverts out there!!!

    Just thought I would share my own sleep cure – what i do is tell myself I need to go back to sleep – whatever I am thinking about it doesnt matter – it is time for sleep – I try to relax my body starting at my toes – get into a comfortable sleep position and think about relaxing each small part at a time, so that it feels like just a blob (probably not the right word but just so it feels like it cant be move – relaxed to the point where you would need to consciously think about moving it) move through the parts of your feet, then your ankles and so on – I often find I don’t get past my ankles and i am back to sleep. I have really found this very effective.

    Thanks again
    Di

    • Hello Di,

      That sounds like what my previous yoga teacher had us do at the end of class when we are in savasna pose.

      For me if I tell myself I have to sleep I can actually get stressed. It’s like performance anxiety, if you call sleeping a performance, haha!

      I think your activity relaxing your whole body is a good one, it’s also like meditation because it forces your body to think about the relaxing process and stay present with each body part as you do it.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Yaro

  • I’m such a good sleeper that I should probably not give advice to anyone having trouble with it. I never wake up at night and when I wake up in the morning, sleep’s just a body rotation away.

    This hasn’t always been the case though. I used to have panic attacks myself, or work so late that my body was all fired up between the excitement of the night’s work and the anxiety of the short night ahead until next working day.

    All of this has vanished since I’m living with someone (and sleeping). So here’s an advice, perhaps :)

    On the rare occasions that I do lie awake, I have cultivated the following tricks:
    1. when negative thoughts arise, I welcome them, observe them for what they are and say something like “well, I acknowledge you, bad thought, and you’re welcome anytime but right now I think I’m going to have a rest instead; cee ya!
    2. same when I start organizing my life, even thinking about projects with great positive energy; “great you are here, good thought, but this is probably not the right time; why not come back tomorrow”
    3. when no thoughts are in the way, it’s just that I can’t sleep, then I start making hard computations, like multiplying 735 and 378. This gives my mind something to do that is not trivial but does not expand into a realm of thoughts either.
    4. and when that doesn’t even work, I might just sit it through till the morning; but now we’re talking a yearly event at worst!

    Sleep well, Yaro!

  • Thanks for the tips Knotwilg! I have to say that counting backwards from ten is about as high level math I want to do when trying to fall back to sleep. Those computations you recommend are beyond even my fully rested mind!

    Yaro

  • Yaro,

    Melatonin is actually a very mild sleep aid that has been recommended by traditional and alternative doctors alike. It doesn’t knock you out or anything. It just makes it a little easier to fall asleep. The problem most people have with it is it’s not necessarily as good at keeping you asleep. It’s not addictive or habit forming and I’ve yet to read anything negative on long term use from any reputable source.

    Last year I weaned myself off prilosec which was a bear. Turns out, melatonin is also a very effective acid production controller-not inhibitor. I’m really surprised it’s not available over the counter in the U.K.

    Jeff

    BTW-Am I the only one who can’t get the “reply” link to work right?

    • Yes I was surprised about Melatonin in the UK too. I’m pretty sure in Australia and Canada you can get it over the counter, I’m not sure about the rest of the world though.

      When you say the reply link is not working, what do you mean?

      Yaro

  • Two separate beds?

    Oh my, I have found a soul brother in you Yaro! Hahaha I love it!

    I commend you Yaro for addressing the following point in your book . . .

    “Why a small group of people succeed and so many others fail”

    Ever since I heard Earl Nightingale talking about how the majority is wrong about everything – money, relationships, work, sex, fitness, etc. – and how doing the opposite of the herd will get you desirable results, I’ve made a massive difference in how much value I can bring to world.

    And for me, sleep is just too important a part of life to follow the herd blindly along with.

    Like you, I’m hypersensitive to what’s going on around me unless I’m in the deepest of deep sleep cycles which only lasts a short time relative to how much time you’re in bed. So if someone moves or makes noise and I’m not comatose, I wake up and if I wake up in the wrong cycle, I’m up for an hour.

    And depending on what time it is, I might just say screw it and get up two hours before I planned on doing so.

    I have a man I respect very, very, much to thank for waking me up to a different way of being in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. The baseline premise I admired about his philosophy was never moving in together.

    He and his girlfriend had been together for years but they both were introverts who treasured their freedom and their space but also yearned for the affection of a lover.

    I would feel safe to say that they were more deeply committed to each other than the majority of people who are married to each other.

    They didn’t need paper, nor a ceremony in front of the herd to declare them an item. They didn’t need anyone’s approval of their situation. They only needed each others understanding of what respect meant for each of them and one of the big signs of respect they could give each other was that of giving each other space to be alone without making them wrong for it.

    Their relationship makes me think of the quote of, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

    They made the conscious decision to not have children. They lived in the same city and would get together on weekends and if the instance came up, would go to events, parties, dinners with each other during the week.

    One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard on the topic of relationships is that if you’re going to keep them hot, you’ve got to keep that initial phase of dating when you two were hot for each other alive and burning.

    I think they helped keep their fire burning by not being in each others face every single hour that they were home, so they anticipated seeing each other and avoided the whole “familiarity breeds contempt” dynamic that kills so many relationships.

    So coming full circle to the topic of “Sleep”, this couple was at least guaranteeing themselves PERFECT SLEEPING CONDITIONS for 5 solid nights of the week of (they would sleep in the same bed with each other on weekends).

    Of course, this is a renegade couple who isn’t playing by the rules society says they’re supposed to – marriage, kids, shared home, etc. so this means 80+% of people will dismiss the idea immediately because it doesn’t fit with the norm or the average.

    And I understand that if a couple has kids together, the general consensus is that the children will thrive with both parents under the same roof. But in my opinion this only extends to the couples who are living a solid example of what love is – you being you without negativity – which the incredibly high divorce rate says is far from what the average couple is putting on display in front of their kids.

    Even if a married couple were gushing with love for each other and being great examples for their kids of how to be in love, I don’t see how sleeping in two different rooms would be a problem.

    It seems to me that if you wanted to be loving and contribute to your lover being their best self, you would encourage them to make themselves a sleeping cave where maximum rest was possible rather than forcing them to endure the pain of your tossing and turning, snoring, blanket-hogging, heat conducting, or whatever else negatively impacts your partner’s sleep.

    If the majority, 80% of society, is not getting sleep, getting divorced or feeling trapped in a horrible relationship, having money problems, having kids when they’re not ready, they can have their average. Good luck with that.

    I’ll be over here being “weird” and well rested, financially flexible and less stressed because I don’t participate in or contribute to the behavior that gets you “average results”. :)

    Like you, I also let fiction read on night mode put me to sleep. Right now I’m starting the 17th Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. I read either til a certain time or until I start nodding out. And then I shut my reading app down and start playing my Pzizz app (a powerful new kind of insomnia treatment that’s perfect for you if you have the kind of sleep problems where you can’t switch off when in bed).

    I find that if I repeat the guy’s voice on the audio, in my own head, in both word, tone, and cadence on the audio, my own voice can’t trip me up.

    What you’re saying to yourself (positive or negative), how you’re saying things to yourself (loud or soft), and the speed at which you’re saying them (fast or slow) dramatically impacts your ability to knock out.

    I can not recommend using this app the way I do (repeating the words to yourself exactly as he’s saying them) highly enough.

    And I thank you Yaro for pointing out why reading non-fiction business stuff might not be good for me getting a good night’s rest. This is especially good advice for a guy like me that sees something that needs to get implemented and wants to start taking notes on it. :)

  • Nancy

    Yaro, I just re-read your post and all the comments. Thank you for sharing personally and kudos for seeking out whatever might work when you’re having challenges.

    Those of us who have ever struggled with not getting the 6-8-10 hours of sleep that make for our best functioning, and who are a lot more sensitive than the average person, probably feel a deeper connection with you. This is so for me.

    I appreciate the others, too, who’ve shared here what works for them.for a decent night’s sleep and I’ll follow up on some of those suggestions.

    I think your willingness to honestly step out with your challenges, along with the writing skills to articulate yourself, are a big part of the great success you’ve created in the last few years, Yaro.

    Thanks for opening this topic that called me to comment!

  • Thanks for the epic reply and app recommendation Lewis.

    I totally agree with the example you share of that couple who do not live together. My previous yoga school also advocated not sleeping together to avoid reducing the polarity between a couple, which is what makes you attracted.

    I think sleeping together now and then is nice, but not seven days a week.

    Yaro

  • Hi,

    I noticed that recently the full moon has influenced my sleep very much. On the full moon night my body seems to forget how to fall asleep and I am awake until 4 am. Isn’t it the case with some of you too? I sleep in a dark room, so the moonlight doesn’t disturb me.

    Edit

  • […] its this reason why I quit blogging.  I had hoped to become a famous blogger like Darren Rouse and Yaro Starack. Yet all of my hard work and effort was just being […]

  • Pat

    Yaro – I love your blog and have been reading it for years.
    Often when I read what you have written it is exactly what I needed to think about at that moment in my life. Two days before I read your recent thoughts on lack of sleep and global negative thinking, I experienced one of the worst nights of sleepy hell that I had in a long time. In the past I have successfully used some of the strategies you recommended, but it was good timing in my life to be reminded of them.

    Another strategy I would like to share, came from author Barbara Sher. It might seem counter Initiative but it is based on the power of negative thinking to get to a more positive state. If you just cannot get out of that negative funk – then go with it, embrace it. It’s best to do this in writing – just start writing down everything that comes to mind that is wrong with your life – why the world is against you, how nothing every goes right, etc. Only one rule when you are writing out your negative thoughts – no positive comments allowed, and definitely no trying to come with solutions. Exaggerating your woes helps – just keeping going. For myself – I usually end up laughing by the time I am done. Also I don’t save anything I write during these deliberate negative thinking sessions. After expressing them, I literally let them go by throwing them in the trash or shredding them.
    I know doing the above negative writing may or may not be advisable while you are still in bed in sleepy hell – but for myself just reminding myself I can do this exercise in the morning or the next day helps. In part it helps because I remember I much I have enjoyed past these unbridled power of negative thinking sessions. Thank you again for this recent posting. Pat

    • Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your tip. It sounds a lot like a good old fashioned brain dump, which I think is a fantastic technique IF you can let the writing down of the thoughts be the necessary release.

      What Barbara Sher suggests reminds me too of what I have learned from writers like Eckhart Tolle, with the key word being surrender. If you don’t resist, the dissonance is not there, it is just an experience that passes through you rather than you trying to fight it away.

      I’m a big fan of surrendering, since as soon as you do you basically accept things for how they are, which is very relaxing. The hardest part though is when your physical state is not great, which like when you wake up at night, adds a little extra sensation to the experience.

      Yaro

  • Hi Yaro,

    What I mean is when I hit the reply link below your reply, it just takes me to the bottom of the page where I have to put in another comment from scratch. I see you are able to reply to us but I don’t see where anybody else has been able to add to their previous comment by responding to yours. Does this make sense?

    Normally, I’ve seen the reply link allow one to add a response to another commenter by keeping that response just below the comment they are responding to. Keeps the thread in line for each comment. That doesn’t appear to be working here.

    Jeff

    • I think I know what you mean Jeff, and yes the threaded replies seem to be broken. It’s working for me when I enter them via the admin panel, but that’s not the same of course.

      I’ll bring it up with my tech person.

      Yaro

  • Great info. I have sleep problems and recognize a lot of these problems. Stress from business is the biggest problem for me great tips.

    Rgds,
    Alexander

  • Great post. I really have sleeping problems. I find it hard to get to sleep even when I’m totally exhausted.
    tried out the technique to count from 10 to 1 and so far, for 3 nights in a row it’s making magic :D
    Thank you very much for the post :)

    • That’s great to hear Liudas – I love it when a simple technique works.

      Yaro

  • Hey Yaro,

    I didn’t mean to detract from the flow of excellent comments coming in. I’m all about trying to make it easier for people to interact with me. I knew you’d agree.

    That’s why I’ve been following you since 2006, I believe? Ha!

    Jeff

    • No worries Jeff, I appreciate the feedback. I’m glad to hear I’ve kept your attention for so many years now :-)

      Yaro

  • One thing I’ve noticed about not being able to sleep is this. If I wake up in the middle of the night, it could be stress. But often it’s my brain trying to get my attention because it wants to tell me something. An idea for my business is often what I’m trying to be informed of. If not that, then a solution to a vexing problem.

  • : )

    Yaro,

    If anybody’s waivered, it’s been me. I know you’ve always tried to provide meaningful and useful content. Sometimes, I just wasn’t in the right place for it.

    Thankfully, that’s all changing and you’ve been a part of that change.

    Jeff

  • Hi again Yaro,

    I too clicked to reply to your reply to my comment, and all that happened was the screen seemed to jump down two lines – no fields to enter my reply, same screen as before. Both on Opera and Firefox.

    Do you mind deliberating on your “constraints backwards analysis”?

    I think we are tackling the situation from two different ends (that may both work).

    You seem to be tackling the real problem (which makes sense, of course!).

    My Baby Principle is not actually targeting or solving the problem; it is just stripping away all those layers of additional factors (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc. etc. etc.) that often put your mind into fight or flight mode; a mode in which every problem seems and most importantly feels way worse than it does with those factors removed and a cool head.

    I prefer to try that approach first, and then, with a cool head and more realistic view, deal with the actual problem – or rather, what remains of it.

    Happy sleeping!

    Matthias

    • Hey Matthias,

      I follow the “why train” process to go back to the core constraint, or in this case with waking up and not falling back to sleep, the core source of the emotion that is making me stressed.

      I state my problem/feeling and then ask why I have it, then when I give myself the answer I ask why again, and so on until asking why doesn’t make sense anymore. The final stop in the “Why Train” will be the root cause of your condition.

      You can see an example of how I applied this to understanding your target market in this article (towards the end) –

      http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/3004/customer-psychology/

      I cover this in my mindset guide under the theory of constraints section too –

      http://www.ejinsider.com/mindset/

      I do find it very centering. It forces me to discard the irrational and find the aspect to actually work on, rather than just all the things I can dwell on for no reason other than complaining.

      Yaro

  • Yaro, I can totally relate to this post. I have this problem every night. I stay awake on my bed for hours just constantly thinking and thinking about things, and other things and then other things. I won’t even recall the first thing I thought of to begin with. My mind wanders endlessly and even when I’m physically tired, I still just can’t sleep. Your post made me realize, and it is now that I only realize that it’s the negativity in me that making my sleeping problem worse. The feeling of pessimism looms over me, and that is what I need to get rid of. Thanks for the post.

  • Brother I’d recommend you try T.M (transcendental meditation) – that will keep you relaxed, creative, motivated, youthful and all the rest. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s a life saver. take care M

  • Yaro,

    I read your description of your problem and some of the ways you have attempted to deal with it as well as all the comments from your responders. It is obviously a common problem, I also have difficulty sleeping and anxiety driven thoughts and difficulty relaxing. Your physiological model is correct. It is a problem of the stress response in hyper drive, it is difficult to shut down. But the antidote is to find ways to counter act it. You can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time. So the key is to discover ways that work for each of us to calm, relax, soothe ourselves. Daniel Seigel has written extensively on how to “rewire the brain” I have also blogged about it. Meditation, mindfulness is very helpful as it trains and does rewire the brain by engaging other circuits-Hence rewiring. Reframing our thoughts by examining them and putting them in perspective. Stop criticizing, shaming, and guilting ourselves also helps. It is the first step, recognize what you are doing. Relax, breathe deeply, counting backwards does not help me. I try to allow my brain to become empty, no thoughts.

    Just a few observations from someone who has been there and worked with this problem as a clinical psychologist for years. I enjoy learning about blogging from you and have been enjoying writing my own. I love the thinking, writing, expressing process. Creativity channels all that adrenalin and pent up energy.

    gary reece, ph.d.

    • Thank you for popping by and offering your insights Gary. I agree that a clear mind is the ultimate goal for relaxation. You might say the counting backwards from ten technique is a stepping stone towards that.

      I think every technique I use nowadays is basically some kind of reframing aimed specifically to relax me. It’s a bit more difficult to do it at 3am when your nervous system is undercooked from lack of sleep, but I’ve certainly become better at it as I have aged.

      Thanks again!

      Yaro

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