5 Brain Games That Induce Sleepiness

sleeping womanI don't know one mom who wouldn't love a little, or a lot, more sleep. So when insomnia strikes, it seems like such a cruel joke. Your kids are sleeping like angels, and there you are, staring at the ceiling and trying not to look at the clock.

I've got my own handy little tricks to shut off my racing brain and catch a few more precious z's, and I picked up a bunch more when I asked my friends how they handle insomnia. Next time you're wide awake in the wee hours, try these 5 tried-and-true brain tricks to see if they don't have you snoozing in no time.


1. Relax your brain muscles

Try slowly tightening and then relaxing every muscle group from your toes to your scalp, repeating to yourself, "Let your toes relax, now your ankles, now your calves" and on up.

A psychologist friend related a trick she learned from a sleep specialist: Name five things you can see, five things you can feel (sense of touch, not emotion), and five things you can hear. Then do four, then three, then ... well, I'm not sure what comes after that because I'm always out cold by then.

2. Exercise your memory

Memory games help because they're boring enough to make you sleepy, but stop your mind from racing.

Naming the states alphabetically works for me. PJ, the owner of a local comedy theater, dad to a 5-year-old, and former babysitting charge of mine, tries to recall the names of large groups of acquaintances, like high school classmates or people in classes he's taught. Kate, a fellow writer, says she tries to fill in a map of Africa in her head. And a teacher friend plays the alphabet game, trying to come up with something for every letter of the alphabet in a certain category, such as food or names.

3. Bore yourself with repetition

My Catholic cousin says the rosary (that string of prayer beads with a cross at the end that Madonna used to wear as a necklace, for the non-Catholics out there). Another friend counts backward from one hundred.

4. Use your imagination

My cousin who works at Whole Foods says she imagines herself methodically stocking apples. A college friend says she imagines other people's houses as hers and tries to figure out where she'd arrange all her furniture if she lived there.

5. Tune in, drift off

Fellow Stir blogger Jeanne Sager says mindless TV has the magic. "Joey saying, 'How you doin'?' usually does it for me," she says.

Do you play mind games to get to sleep?

Image via pedrosimoes7/Flickr

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