Drifting off, and it feels so good. 🎶
Until…your partner starts to snore, your body wakes you up at midnight, or bright lights or alcohol keep you from getting precious REM sleep. And don’t even get us started on falling asleep in the first place. Hello, anxiety!
We Greatist staffers have worked on our fair share of research-backed sleep-related content. And while we’re not perfect in the sleep department, we have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes to getting quality Zzz’s.
Below, we share our own sleep stories with you, including the tips and techniques that help us drift off into dreamland and wake up feeling refreshed.
It’s good for you to have perspective from a 50-plus person. I’m not somebody who has terrible sleep problems, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started middle of the night wake-ups.
So I’ve had to come up with a bunch of different techniques to get myself back to sleep. Often if it’s an early enough wake-up, like midnight or 1 AM, I’ll sometimes take [over-the-counter medications for sleep].
But if it’s later than that, I’ll use my other techniques. Counting backwards by odd numbers, starting at a hundred and keeping your breath going with the cadence of your counting.
It’s just enough busyness for your mind that you can’t think about anything else. The breathing and the focus generally works for me and puts me to sleep.
Within the past year I’ve noticed that falling asleep is really hard for me.
I’ve always been someone who lives with anxiety and I’ve usually just carried that anxiety throughout the day. I have found that in recent months, I feel overwhelmed with my thoughts and the things that are stressing me out as I’m falling asleep.
I take the immunity sleep gummies every night, from Olly. They’re delicious. And I also wear a sleep mask, play sleep sounds, and have [an organic latex] pillow. It is the most comfortable thing in the entire world. I’ve just really turned my bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, if you will.
I’ve found out what pajama pairing is perfect so I don’t wake up in a cold sweat, which happens. Usually it’s shorts and a tank top and multiple blankets, so I can rip ’em off if I need to.
Recently, I’ve been wearing this huge hair tie that goes on the top of my head that keeps your hair up so it looks nice and styled when you wake up.
When I was young, I thought I was the best sleeper. But I also was dealing with a lot of fatigue. But now, as a real adult, I know that I’m sleeping so much better than I did before age 25.
I feel pretty passionate about this: The big changes had to do with alcohol and cannabis. I drank so much more before I was 27.
I’m 31 now, so yeah, even drinking a beer on a Friday can affect me days later I find — which I know sounds wild, but it’s kind of changed my life.
Now I drink maybe a few drinks a month, which is way down from when I was younger. I think that’s the one thing that has really, really changed my sleep.
I also smoked a lot of pot when I was younger, and needed it to fall asleep and I thought that was my sleep aid. But while it does help you fall asleep, I think it impacts deep sleep.
[Sleep] started becoming a significant problem when I was postpartum with my first child. I just couldn’t relax and I couldn’t sleep when she was sleeping.
After I would nurse her, I would put her down, then I would be wide awake. I was only getting like four hours of sleep, and so my doctor did give me medication and that helped get me over that hump.
I used to always have to read. It became a pretty intense habit. If I didn’t read, then I would just lie awake.
Listening to music [also helps]. I also used a sound machine that has helped a lot in the past. I [mainly just use the white noise, but I’ve also used] waves crashing in a babbling brook — just like, nature sounds and stuff.
I need at least eight to eight and a half hours, nine. On the weekends, I sleep like 10 hours. I love sleep. It is my favorite thing. Growing up, my mom was very anxious. In our household, anxiety surrounding not getting enough sleep was the most ever-present thing.
I need to have enough time to wind down before bed and feel like I can put a little bow on the day and be done. I think it’s more about the feeling and the routine — like the smell. I have to have lavender.
[Sharing a bed with my girlfriend] was a little bit of an adjustment period. The good thing is that she and I get tired around a similar time. We’ve recently been trying the Scandinavian sleep method [in which each partner has their own blanket].
I sleep hot and do not like to feel overheated at night. If the room is cold, I am so happy. I can’t stand long pajamas. I have to have pajama shorts — that’s my jam.
I find that keeping the lights dimmer has been really helpful.
And I just didn’t really realize how not dark my apartment actually was before I had [blackout curtains]. Now when people sleep over, they become completely terrified in the morning when they wake up — it’s really dark. But I have found that I have a harder time getting up because of the blackout curtains. I don’t have quite as much of the body cue.
I’ve always had trouble falling asleep my whole adult life. And I’m definitely a night owl, so my brain kind of comes alive after dark. That’s been a struggle.
Also, once I do finally fall asleep, I have a hard time staying asleep. I’ll wake up to any noise, which is a problem with the snoring partner.
For Christmas my partner got me these really soft sleep buds that only play white noise. It totally drowns out his snoring and I’m much more likely to sleep through the night.
[When I’m in bed] I’m thinking about what I need to do and I’ll just not be tired. [Journaling does help, to get thoughts out on paper,] especially if I’m anxious about having to do something.
Melatonin has definitely helped and CBD has helped, and I kind of just switch back and forth.
The thing that has helped (this is so recent): I just got a dog. And because of her, I’m on a schedule.
Now I have to wake up in time to feed her and walk her and, and I go on long walks with her now. So I’m more active every day. And I have found that I’m sleeping so much better, just having activity during the day, sticking to a schedule.
Everyone has always said to me, just stick to a schedule, go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, but I could never do it. Now that there’s someone depending on me, I can.
During the pandemic, I discovered a podcast called Sleep With Me. And it’s just this guy telling really boring stories and it’s so good. It’s just enough to keep my mind occupied, but it’s boring enough that I don’t get invested.
I have kind of had all-over-the-place sleep schedules. I’ve worked from different time zones. Life happens and my sleep sometimes falls behind.
The one thing I’ve noticed: When my sleep schedule gets all messed up, it gets me into this really vicious cycle of going to bed later and not getting as much sleep and then I’m not waking up early enough to really start my day. It starts to all blend together where my energy’s just really, really low.
I think when I’m navigating a really busy work schedule or navigating working across various time zones, what really helps me is leaning into the circadian [rhythm]. Getting sun early in the morning or getting outside at some point during the day. Stepping away from my desk and then coming up with a time that I close a laptop and do the little things to start to get ready for bed.
Something that really works well for me is giving myself the ability to have my screen time if I want it. If I wanna relax and watch TikTok I can, but what I don’t want it to do is turn into bedtime procrastination where I’m scrolling TikTok until 1 in the morning.
So I give myself a time where I’m like, OK, I’m gonna put my phone down around an hour before I wanna go to bed. And that’s my time to drink some tea.
If I wanna write and journal, I’ll do that. If I wanna read, I’ll do that. If I wanna stretch, I’ll do that. If I wanna take a bath, I’ll do that. So I kind of have a list of things that I can do that are tech-free.
And I pick what I wanna do and then I do my skin care and that really helps me go straight to bed.