top of page

How to Sleep, When You Can't Sleep

Powerful, drug-free methods that work for me every time

A lot of my readers are having trouble with sleep. It's not surprising for a couple or reasons. One reason is that most of my readers are the same age as me, and we seem to sleep less as we age. I think we require less sleep as we age but I don't know of any science to back that up. It's just how it feels to me. I'd love to see a clinical study done.

The other reason, of course, is the state of the world. I won't go into detail on that, because this post is supposed to help you sleep. But the state of things causes worry, and worry prevents sleep. To me, things just feel harder than they did before Covid.

Anyway, I've figured out how to go to sleep at bedtime instead of lying awake with my mind racing for hours on end. And the same methods also work for going back to sleep when you wake up to pee at three a.m. So, I thought I'd share my best methods. They all work.

John Lennon's Method

Maharishi Maresh Yogi taught this one to The Beatles. Lying in bed at bedtime, repeat to yourself, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better." Repeat it 20 times.

There's only been one time I got to twenty still awake. I started over and only made it to 5. I find that as my mind drifts, I forget to keep repeating, and thoughts come in, but I quickly realize it, and just go back to where I left off.

The bonus of this is a little bit of natural magic. (which I teach over at The Bliss Blog.) The state between sleep and wakefulness, that twilight state, is also in between the worlds. It's a place where thoughts linger just before becoming things. It's a place where launched desires can have near instant manifestation. It's a powerful state and difficult to achieve while retaining enough awareness to do anything about it. If we are saying and thinking, "I'm getting better in every way" as we pass through that state into sleep, we are launching some powerful natural magic.

Because of that understanding, I often use this method with more specific goals. And being a writer, I eliminate the unnecessary filter word, "getting," which just weakens the impact of the sentence. I might even say several versions of the affirmation (or spell) in the same night.

  • Every day, in every way, I am healthier and healthier.

  • Every day, in every way, I am a better storyteller.

  • Every day, in every way, abundance flows freely.

  • Every day, in every way, I live more love and joy.

  • Every day, in every way, I am kindness personified.

A Yoga-Based Relaxation Method

Lying in bed, you will tighten, hold, then completely release each body part in something like the following order. Feet. Calves. Thighs. All three at once. Hands. Arms. Shoulders. All three at once. Buttocks. Pelvis. Hips. All three at once. Lower back. Middle back. Upper back. All three at once. Abdomen. Middle Tummy. Chest. All three at once. Neck. Face. Head. All three at once. Entire body. Hold longer than the rest. Relax.

At each point when you relax the body part, relax it again, and then relax it even more, and then still more. It's amazing how much we're still clenching without even knowing it. So relax, then relax more, then relax more, until you really feel you've released whatever part you are clenching. Do this even further after the final, full-body clench.

This method has never failed for me, and I'm usually asleep before I finish.


As a rule, we don't want to develop the habit of falling asleep during meditation. But I think we are smart, capable beings who can do two different things. We should all spend 15 minutes each day in silent meditation, preferably first thing in the morning. This practice will improve physical health and sleep all on its own, even if you don't do another thing. It reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk for multiple conditions and diseases. It puts you in tune with your intuition and then some.

For sleeplessness, I recommend repeating a 15-minute meditation right before sleep, in bed, as a relaxation method. Like in the daily meditaiton, quiet the mind, focus on white noise, and count the breaths; three slow beats in, five slow beats out. When thoughts come, and they will, notice but do not grab hold of them. Just let them float by, and return your attention to the white noise, and the counting of your breaths.

Nature or Science Documentaries with Soft-Spoken Narrators

You have to use common sense, here. Don't choose nature documentaries that feature graphic animal violence, or science documentaries predicting our doom. Planet Earth or Secrets of the Octopus or The Universe, that type of thing. There's one astronomy show with this soft-voiced British man narrating and I swear his voice is a lullaby.

I fall asleep within fifteen minutes of one of these programs, even though I always stir enough to turn off the TV before I sink entirely into sleep.

Why These Methods Work

What's really happening in every single method above is pretty much the same. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. They cannot spin worried mind-chatter while simultaneously counting, or while simultaneously repeating a phrase. Mind chatter shuts off when we are focused on something of interest, like a TV show. The key is distraction.

The yoga method is a distraction, too, but it has the added bonus of thoroughly relaxing the body at the same time it distracts the brain.

I think of my inner chatterbox brain as a toddler. I have to get the toddler to sleep before I can rest myself. This analogy works for me because I raised five daughters, and I spent many a night trying to get them to sleep so I could rest myself. The key is to get them to lie still long enough, and shut off their little brains long enough, to let sleep slide in like a shadowy ninja. Hence the magic of the bedtime story. (Although many nights, I'd nod off while reading three or four times before the child did.)

It's exactly the same way with our brain. It just wants to second guess everything we've done, worry about everything in the future, rehash everything in the past, and thoroughly discuss every random thought it can get hold of.

All we have to do to distract our brains from mind chatter and worry, is give them something else to focus on. They cannot do both at once.

I know it's hard to maintain the focus at first, because brain is a two-year-old whining, "I wanna stay up!" and "I want another drinka water." The thoughts keep coming back in, but that's okay. That's supposed to happen. Just gently shift back to the chosen distraction, over and over, until she falls asleep. And then you will, too.

The more often you do this, the easier it will become.

Chime in!

Share you own methods, or let me know how my suggestions worked for you in comments!


Got Witches?

307 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All


I use the ABCs of gratitude. Listing things I'm grateful for starting with the letter A, then B and so on. I fall asleep before I'm half way through the alphabet.

Maggie Shayne
Maggie Shayne

Oh, that's a great one! I need to add that to my list.


A long while ago, when my kids bought me a kindle for Mother's Day, I found an app in the kindle app store called Ocean Sound. I only got the free version, though there are paid options, but they have several choices of ocean wave sounds and you can set a timer and let it go. I like relaxing sea and usually set my time for 30 minutes. I'm almost never awake that long once it starts.

Maggie Shayne
Maggie Shayne

Oh, I bet that's beautiful.

bottom of page