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7 mind games to help you sleep

A woman asleep in bed.

Jan. 9, 2021—Sometimes it can be so hard to fall asleep. You try to relax, but your mind is racing. You can't turn it off. It's almost like you've forgotten how to sleep.

One sleepless night is bad enough. But several in a row can be truly terrible. What can you do to get some ZZZs?

You might want to try some of these mental tricks the next time you find yourself staring helplessly at the clock.

Count sheep. It's an old stereotype, but maybe that's because it works. You don't even need the sheep. Just try counting slowly to 100 and see if you don't fall asleep before you get to 99.

Tense and relax. Start by tensing your toes for a few seconds. Then relax them. Next comes your ankles. Then your calves. Slowly work your way up to your forehead.

Use your bedroom only for sex and sleeping. Don't read, watch TV or do work in bed. Pretty soon that's all you'll associate your bedroom with.

Move the clock out of view. Constantly checking to see how much time has ticked by only stresses you out more. Turn the clock around so you can't see its face.

Visualize peace. Think of a relaxing place, like the beach. Listen to the waves roll in. See the birds in the air. Feel the wind and mist on your skin. Banish all other thoughts from your brain.

Create a soothing soundscape. Try listening to a relaxing podcast, audiobook or guided meditation. Or turn on some calming tunes or nature sounds. Keep the volume low and try to focus only on what you hear. Stop "trying" to go to sleep—and you may find yourself dozing off in no time.

Write away worries. If your mind is racing or worries are keeping you up, try writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper. Tell yourself you'll think about them tomorrow. Then fold the paper in half and put it away.

When to see your doctor

Not sleeping can become a habit. If you go two to three weeks with very little or poor sleep, you may have a sleep disorder. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss it.

Learn more about healthy sleep habits by visiting our Sleep health topic center.

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