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seawulf575's avatar

Does anyone know a good way to "turn off" your mind so you can go to sleep?

Asked by seawulf575 (13839points) November 7th, 2021
53 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

My wife often has a hard time going to sleep. She will be physically exhausted, but her mind continues to run a mile a minute. She has tried Ambien and we have determined she is not allowed to take it anymore. She has bizarre ideas and she acts upon them when she takes Ambien. She has tried melatonin, valerian root, and a variety of herbal remedies all to no avail. She has tried meditation and that just allows her mind to work even more. Any other suggestions?

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kneesox's avatar

There’s a pretty good list here in @canidmajor’s question from a week ago.

Inspired_2write's avatar

A good thing to quiet the mind is to say to oneself ” I don’t have a solution yet but I will think on it tomorrow or next few days, but for now I will forget about it until I can devote more time to discover the perfect solution.”

seawulf575's avatar

@kneesox Thanks. I looked through the list of ideas and my wife just plain doesn’t fit into most of them. She drinks 2 half cups of coffee when she first wakes up. Period. She doesn’t eat chocolate. She doesn’t drink. She doesn’t exercise late in the day. She gets sunshine every day (if there is sunshine). She takes Tylenol PM. She takes Benedryl. She used to take melatonin but got to where she was taking 10 mg per night and it wasn’t working. She has tried many “mind tricks” to get her mind onto a track like remembering a movie or something like that. That usually ends with her thinking “I always liked that movie. But that one actor was horrible in it. I remember when he was in this other movie. I saw that when I was dating Seawulf. I remember when I met him. What will I make for dinner tomorrow? I better get something out of the freezer. What would it be? What do we have? Well, I need to go to the grocery store for x, y, and z.” and on and on.

The only thing she does that drives me crazy is she has to have the TV on when she goes to bed. And despite the idea that is the problem, when she DOESN’T have it on, she is up all night. Turn it on and she is snoring relatively quickly. But it doesn’t last.

janbb's avatar

A friend of mine who had sleep issues played the same movie on their DVD player every night and it lulled them to sleep.

I find that if I take ambien only occasionally when I really need to sleep, it helps. If I try to take it night after night, it stops working. Also, on occasion if I am wide awake in the middle of the night and i take a low dose Xanax it will help get me back to sleep. Most mind games don’t work for me.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Does she like to read? I find that sleep comes easier if I have been reading a book (not on tablet or a phone) just as I am trying to fall asleep. For me, 2–3 pages and I get groggy.

Does she put on music before bed? I find that classical and folk (with a sleep timer on the device) also helps/

kruger_d's avatar

You could try a blue light screen filter on your tv.

rebbel's avatar

What works great for me is ‘reading’ audiobooks (you’d need a phone for that, and a headphone (there are those that look like headbands, with build-in speakers)).
You can put a timer, for say, twenty minutes before you (or as long you think you need to listen until you fall asleep).
If it works it is definitely worth the investment of an audiobook subscription, and the purchase of a headphone (although that is not even necessary, of course).

Edited to add: My mind usually is off after 5 to 10 minutes.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I take a warm shower and bath.

Jeruba's avatar

@seawulf575, I often have runs just like your wife’s, where almost any thought leads me to rehearsing all the gottas for the next day, typically along with ruminating on the situations (often troublesome ones) that created the gottas. I sympathize.

For years, Erik Satie used to do it for me. Poor, disappointed Erik wrote some very meditative pieces. Also mentally reciting mantra-like things such as the Serenity Prayer. In college, I could always depend on a botany or poli.sci. textbook to send me off in record time. Little did I know that I basically had nothing to worry about back then.

Thank goodness there’s no TV in my repertoire. That would drive me nuts, never mind anyone else.

One thing that has never helped at all is counting sheep. Damn sheep. Who cares how many there are anyway?

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Has she tried CBD? My wife swears by it. I usually sleep with headphones and put on a podcast on low volume. 20 min in the hot tub with a glass of wine will knock me out pronto.

kritiper's avatar

Leave the TV on.

Zaku's avatar

Yes, but like mediation, developing dream skills tend to be a personal thing to develop rather than something someone can just say “do this” about. I sometimes struggle with doing this, but I’m often pretty able to do it by letting my mind drift into a liminal state. Or, by starting to imagine an imaginary place and situation. Or thinking about certain things that my brain doesn’t really want to tackle consciously while tired. It also helps to have gotten enough exercise, have drunk and eaten a little bit, have peed recently enough, be in a good sleep position, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think trying to clear the mind works easily for people like your wife. She could try thinking about something pleasant and rather mindless, but maybe her thoughts will still intrude on it?

It’s a skill to be able to compartmentalize. I am better at it as I get older. I only allow myself to obsess or ruminate for a while and then can switch it off usually. Unless, it’s something very traumatic.

Typical recommendation I give are don’t drink caffeine late at night and don’t try to go to asleep until you are ready to fall asleep. Try reading, try watching TV. Pillow talk with you at night. Something that replaces her thoughts.

I’m not so fond of go to sleep drugs, but it’s worth mentioning that several years ago Ambien became the first drug ever to have a different initial recommended dose for women than men. For years it was the same, but women were having a lot more side effects. In fact, the side effects were observed during the trials by gender, but the scientists chose to ignore them assuming doctors would always first try a low dose, which I would hope they would, but they don’t. Your doctor might have no idea, or just prescribe what he has prescribed the last 20 years.

I think the initial dose for women is 5mg and men 10mg, but you could check with your pharmacist. If she was started on a higher dose she could try the lower. I have no idea if you can split a pill, again a question for a medical professional if you choose to try.

JLeslie's avatar

Does she have to keep a regular schedule? If not, I would advise sleeping whenever sleepy. Some people have an idea they have to stay on a regimented sleep schedule and don’t think they can break up sleep. I say if you can, take a nap, don’t worry about insomnia, etc. It’s a luxury.

janbb's avatar

It sounds like you wife has tried most of the ways all of us are suggesting to no avail. I struggle with sleeplessness at times so I can empathize but have no great solutions.

gorillapaws's avatar

Reading something very dry and boring can be effective for some people.

Zaku's avatar

Yeah, dry and/or dense reading. Or certain really slow films that want attention. There’s a 1932 Danish vampire movie that put me to sleep several times while trying to watch it… Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Gray

It was his first non-silent film, but since it was made in three languages, the director minimized the amount of recorded dialog, so there’s little talking, and it uses written intertitles a lot, and it’s intentionally shot in soft focus with a washed out look, and is really slow and intentionally deam-like and disorienting . . . so much so that it induced me to dream.

So she could get a copy of that and try to watch it, to fall asleep.

Caravanfan's avatar

You might try a mindfulness app like Waking Up.

raum's avatar

In undergrad, I switched from being a molecular cell biology major. But still kept my OChem textbook on my bed stand. More effective than Nyquil.

Nowadays, I play mindless repetitive games like solitaire.

LuckyGuy's avatar

If thoughts of things to do are running through my head in the middle of the night, I write them down on a piece of note paper I keep next to the bed. Just making the list is enough for my brain The list allows me to forget about the items so I can relax.

JLeslie's avatar

I really like the list idea! That could work for things to do, but not sure it works for things she fears or worries about.

Sounds like possibly an anxiety problem. Has she tried therapy? That could help her sort through these thoughts and set them aside or act on them to get past them.

OCD meds like Anafranil or one of the SSRI drugs that is sometimes prescribed for OCD might help. She’s obsessing. I’m fairly sure bensos would work, but they can be very addictive and not necessarily the drug to start with, because of the downside. Ambien is addictive too of course.

I’d go for talk therapy first, I hate to take drugs if I can avoid it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m a great sleeper but occasionally during stressful times, I have trouble. I read that going to your happy place tricks your mind into relaxing. Sometimes if you’re very amped up, I push everything out of my mind and see, feel and breathe in my happy place. It works for me.

flutherother's avatar

When lying in bed trying to get to sleep, I think about the last dream I had. That seems to switch my brain from daytime operation to night time mode.

mazingerz88's avatar

I have a friend who kept taking Ambien until he almost died because of it. He stopped taking any sleeping medications and prefers to lie awake the whole night if need be. So good thing giving up Ambien.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, my dad used to have trouble falling asleep and then more recently he quit drinking alcohol every night and now sleeps much better. Moral of the story, if she drinks regularly, she should try quitting. I’m assuming she doesn’t since she was taking Ambien, but always bad to assume.

jca2's avatar

I went through about a ten year period where I was waking up every night in the middle of the night, and I came to the conclusion (after reading a lot on the internet and talking to friends about it) that it’s hormonal. From around early 40s to early 50s it was chronic, every night. Wake up around 3 or 4, sometimes with a song in my head, and then maybe go back to sleep in early moring, which, when combined with having to get up around that time (6 or 7) for work, totally sucked and didn’t work well. I concluded recently that I was just chronically tired during that period.

Melatonin didn’t really work well for it. I have no real advice except to say I feel for her because it’s rough.

janbb's avatar

There is something called a biofeedback machine that may be useful to her but I don’t know much about it. It would be worth her doing a sleep study or consulting a sleep specialist since it doesn’t seem like any of the things she’s tried has helped.

seawulf575's avatar

To answer some of the suggestions: When she reads, her mind gets even more geared up. Makes sleeping harder. Ambien: I’ll give you an example of why she isn’t allowed to take Ambien anymore. She took it one night and, while under it’s influence, she didn’t sleep. But she did paint the linoleum in the bathroom with latex wall paint. That didn’t end well. But it seemed like a great idea at the time!

JLeslie's avatar

Oh gosh. What is she thinking about? Maybe getting at that will help.

seawulf575's avatar

She can’t listen to music. It doesn’t settle her. She does have to have the TV on which, of course, drives me to distraction. It would be okay if she put a sleep timer on for 30 minutes or so, but she puts it on for 2 hours and then falls asleep in 10 minutes. She wakes up when the TV wakes me up and I turn it off.

seawulf575's avatar

I’m considering living like the old timers where she is in one room and I am in the other. Then she can set it up anyway she wants.

JLeslie's avatar

I sleep in my guest room half the time. Sometimes even if I go to sleep there I go to the master bedroom if I wake up in the middle of the night and can go right back to sleep. Or, sometimes I go into our bedroom in the early morning. I stay up later than my husband a lot of the time and I like to watch TV before going to sleep and he doesn’t like to. Sometimes I am more on his schedule for weeks. It is random.

jca2's avatar

@seawulf575: I know a lot of people who were older who slept separately, including my grandparents, my parents and my great aunt and uncle.

JLeslie's avatar

If she is trying to conform to your schedule that might be part of the problem. She is trying to go to sleep before she is ready to go to sleep, which is very frustrating. Frustration raises adrenaline. You did say she is tired, so maybe it isn’t that she is trying to sleep on your schedule?

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie Nope, not trying to conform to my sleep schedule. But when she comes to bed she has to turn the TV on. Bless her heart, she tries to keep it low, but flashing lights and noise is not conducive to me sleeping. Usually I am asleep when she gets there.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie And in answer to your previous question, what she is thinking about, there is no specific topic. It varies from topic to topic to topic, some important, some inane.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 ”...When she reads, her mind gets even more geared up…”

Has she tried reading something incredibly boring though? Like the operating manual for your lawn mower or something that’s painfully dull (like a subject she has no interest in)?

JLeslie's avatar

I think she should try sleeping in another room. When I watch TV and know it’s bothering my husband it’s stress provoking. Also, what if it’s something about the routine of going to sleep in your bedroom. (I mean your as in both of your). Does she sleep better when she’s on vacation?

longgone's avatar

Is she looking at the TV, or does she only need the audio? Because if she’s not watching, try streaming a show on a laptop, dimmed and half-closed, along with wireless earbuds/a bluetooth headband. There will still be a slight flickering, so you might need a sleep mask. Still, that solution should provide absolute silence for you, and constant TV sounds for her.

janbb's avatar

@seawulf575 It does seem like trying separate bedroomsmight help you both as @JLeslie suggests. I have friends who sleep in separate rooms as they’ve aged because their sleep habits don’t gel. It might her more relaxed about what she needs to do and give you a better night’s sleep. You could still have “cuddle” visits at times.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, if it’s the light then @longgone has a great suggestion about the sleep mask.

My husband fought me for 20 years about using a sleep mask (stubborn!) and now he doesn’t want to sleep without one regardless of TV or not. My husband is more sensitive to live than the TV light. He actually uses a headband over his eyes, not a proper mask, but same effect.

I mainly suggested it to him (for years) to help him nap, he just would not believe me that it would help. If you actually know the light bothers you then that’s an easy fix.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws when she reads something boring she gets mad at having bought such a boring book and her mind kicks up again.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 Do you perceive her as high strung? She seems to be easily frustrated from how you describe her, but I realize you are only talking about this one aspect of her. I don’t want to assume she is like that throughout the day.

I know as I get older I am more like I have ADD. I don’t want to do things that don’t interest me, and I get bored with tasks easily, wanting to change to another. My sleep is more disrupted, but it doesn’t bother me much.

Does your wife take thyroid medication? Even if she doesn’t, her symptoms also fit someone with a hyperthyroidism or someone over medicated for hypothyroidism. Do her eyes hurt, or feel like they are rolling around in her head? People who have that know just what that means, while people who have never experienced it don’t usually understand. Has she had her thyroid checked? Is her TSH less than 2? Are her skin, hair, and eyes very dry?

jca2's avatar

@seawulf575: Does she have anxiety?

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie She is not really easily frustrated, more like opinionated. With the boring book for instance, she would read the whole thing…because she bought it…and then swear she would never buy another book by that author.
Yes, she does take thyroid meds. Her eyes don’t hurt like that. Sinus pressure due to allergies sometimes, but that’s about it. And she gets her thyroid checked regularly. Skin, hair, and eyes are not dry.

@jca2 No anxiety that really jumps up. I’ve known people that suffer from anxiety and that isn’t her.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 Since she is a thyroid patient I highly recommend looking at her lab work. If her TSH is under 2, or even under 2.5, she might benefit from taking a slightly lower dose one or two days a week.

Some doctors keep TSH around 1 or 1.5 and at that level my heart is racing out of my chest, I can’t sleep well, and my hair is falling out of my head. It’s very individual though. Some people do great that low.

When thyroid is too fast it can create symptoms of frustration, anxiety, fear, restlessness, sleep disruption, or even mania.

jca2's avatar

Good point by @JLeslie. Does she get her TSH checked at least once a year?

seawulf575's avatar

She goes for labs like every 6 months…maybe more frequently.

jca2's avatar

@seawulf575: That’s good. So hopefully her TSH is right where it should be.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 What’s the number?

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know, but I know when it is off because she and her doctor talk about it and she is very engaged in those numbers.

JLeslie's avatar

That sounds great! Some people are oblivious to their own lab work, and some doctors don’t really consider symptoms to be related to thyroid, but it sounds like she has a good doctor.

Off topic, I’m the only person I know that had a doctor who told me to get a blood test when I feel great when I changed a dose. She didn’t care if it was 2 weeks after, 4 weeks, etc. Waiting 6 or 8 weeks I was already feeling like crap again sometimes. It’s how I figured out what my feeling good number was without suffering unnecessary months. I am difficult to stabilize though. Some people have no problems.

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