Sleep Tips for Sleepless Queers

by Gabby and Riese

I have received information and materials from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

Sleep is a gift. A good night’s rest heals the body and soul and is glorious but for real, it can be super elusive! It’s like that one fine person on OkCupid who keeps checking out your profile but won’t ever message you.

When I can’t sleep, I start to freak out. I try out every corner and side of my bed. I lie one way and then I lie another way. I give up, get up, and play Trivia Crack on my phone all night until I pass out from sheer content overload and then cry when my alarm goes off an hour later. I know we all share in this struggle ’cause y’all are the ones reblogging my tumblr posts at 3 AM. We’re in this together!

So, let’s help each other sleep, yeah? I’ll share my tips and you’ll share yours. Then maybe we can have an international spiritual slumber party, but the kind where people actually slumber. Here are some sleep tips for all you busy queers:

Read A Freakin’ Book

Choose wisely, though! Don’t be mad at me when you can’t sleep because your foolish self decided to read Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk or The House With A Clock In Its Walls. Read something gentle like Pat the Bunny. It’s a touch and feel book, yo. You can touch it and feel how soft it is and lull yourself to sleep. No but seriously, reading is my first go-to. You’re accomplishing something (because reading makes you smarter and, obviously, more well-read) while slowly drifting away into the night. But I’m talking about a book-book, y’all, the kind that’s printed on paper, not a book on a kindle or an article on your phone, which brings me to my next point —

Step Away From The Blue Light

Research has shown that using an e-reader, laptop, or smartphone before bed can really mess you up. That light your screen radiates tricks your mind out of sleepiness and into alertness and harshes your melatonin mellow. There’s even a study that showed people who read on an iPad for four hours before bed had a harder time falling asleep and ended up getting less REM sleep than those who read a print book before bed. So put away the laptop. Oh and also:

Treat Your Phone Like It Has The Zombie Virus

TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Turn it off! Choose the strongest of all your IKEA tupperware. Place phone in tupperware. Wrap tupperware in a black trashbag. Set bag on fire. Then go to sleep. Alternately: leave it in another room. Alternately: turn off the ringer and flip it over so it won’t light up with notifications.

Your mind can’t start preparing to shut off when a device that literally connects you to the entire universe is sitting there, receiving transmissions from said universe and then alerting you of them. That’s the actual opposite of “relaxation.” Also, seriously consider investing in an alarm clock so you don’t need to keep it by your bed and can resist the temptation to check it first thing in the morning, too!

Deep Breaths

Sometimes not being able to sleep is connected to being anxious or worried or just plain antsy. This happens to me all the time. I’ve started recognizing these feelings and using my breath to calm down. I shut my eyes and concentrate on taking long, slow, deep breaths. (A lot of smart healthy people suggest a precise equation of breathing: breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven counts and then exhale for eight counts. Repeat, repeat, repeat.) That’s it. And for me, it helps so much. I’m out before I can think of more things to worry about.

White Noise / Fan

If you’ve got trouble winding down ’cause every little noise distracts you or rouses you out of half-sleep, try turning on a fan or a white noise machine. Your brain will be lulled by the sameness of that one particular sound and therefore is less likely to notice other, unexpected sounds than it would be if the room was previously silent. At least that’s how I think it works. All I know is this: it works. (Especially helpful for sleeping with snorers!)

Lavender Oil

A few drops of lavender oil on your pillow and sheets work wonders. It’s like secret hippie magic for the senses. Those drops whisper to your body, “Sleep baby, ’cause you’re too darn pretty not to. Momma Lavender loves you.

Podcasts (But not Serial, anything but Serial)

Podcasts are relaxing. Definitely Not The Opera is a good one. Sook-Yin Lee has the world’s most relaxing voice and when she speaks, it’s like the angel of the universe is telling you that everything’s going to be okay. And it’s a Canadian podcast; you know Canadians are the chillest people ever. They want you to sleep.

Cast A Sleep Spell

I’m not going to tell you how. We’re not supposed to talk about this. If you don’t know how to cast one, find a coven or a botánica. But don’t you dare say I sent you.

french-bulldog-stretching

Stretch Them Limbs, Loverboi

Before laying down to sleep, set aside fifteen to twenty minutes for stretching. Whatever your body is capable of doing or however it can bend, do that. This is something I do either before I go to bed or after tossing and turning. I touch my head, shoulders, knees and toes a bunch of times with deep intention and deep breaths. Or get yourself some yoga to help you sleep better.

Stargaze ‘Cause We’re All Just Bits of Sky Anyway

If you’re just lying there freaking out about how you’ve been lying there for so long and you’re checking the clock and oh my lord you’ve been lying there for so long WOW YOU’VE BEEN LYING THERE FOR SO LONG SO LONG  — get up. Stop trying. Stop stressing out about how you’re stressed out. Step outside of the crib and look up into the deep dark blue of night. Take in all of the stars. Find peace in the sky and take that peace to bed with you, Dreamlover.
stargazing


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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. My girlfriend and I used to listen to “Serial” in bed before sleep.

    Needless to say, the tip about listening to any podcast but “Serial” before bed is right on point.

  2. If you often need to be on your computer close to bedtime (like I do) you might want to try this program that takes the blue light out of your screen as it gets later in the evening. It helps not mess up your internal clock/melatonin production. I’ve been using it for probably 18 months and it has made a big difference in my ability to go right to sleep after writing recaps or whatever. You can get it (free) here: https://justgetflux.com/

  3. Haunted is a particularly bad book to read before bed. A few years ago I just started it before I went to bed, read a bit there, then set it next to me on the bed and turned off the light. When I groggily turned over in an attempt to find a better sleeping position, a GLOW IN THE DARK FACE WAS STARING AT ME. I did a great impression of the Wilhelm scream, fell out of bed trying to get away from it, and caused my roommate to come running in. From then on I made sure it was face down before turning off the light.

    Also, I second the blue light filter suggestion.

  4. Welcome to Night Vale is the best for falling asleep to. This, alas, occasionally applies to new episodes that I’m actually trying to listen to all the way through as well…

    If you are like me and can’t bear the thought of being off your computer for a full half hour before bed, but still want to get away from some of that blue light, programs like f.lux will change the “temperature”/color of your screen light based on the hour. I know one called Twilight exists for Android phones as well. Just remember to turn it off before you start doing color-sensitive work… (My desktop shortcut to SAI was, for a time, labeled ‘TURN OFF FLUX’.)

    • Second WTNV and f.lux! Although there are some episodes of WTNV that really should NOT be listened to while you’re falling asleep because 1. you’ll freak yourself out or 2. you’ll have the weirdest fucking dreams.

      • I can attest to this. I love Night Vale, but I’m so behind, so I don’t listen to it before bed anymore, but when I did: I had the weirdest fucking dreams.

        Not bad dreams, per se. But really weird, and really vivid, and often about things I ought to have been more freaked out by while I was dreaming them than I actually was.

  5. As a queer who hasn’t slept well for months… i strongly identify with this article. Flux has helped somewhat… but neighbours are an entirely different problem.

  6. I have a lot of kind of kinetic-audio-visualization things i do when i can’t fall asleep! most of them just involve imagining i’m performing some sort of repetitive outdoor task. here are some i’ve been using lately:

    – painting a fence
    – making graveyard soda out of an infinite amount of soda machines (but outside, somehow)
    – dismantling a brick wall
    – planting seeds
    – shoveling snow (this one works every time for some reason)

    they can be really helpful, and it’s fun to come up with new ones and make your girlfriend user-test them.

    • Wow, this is an amazing idea that I’d never heard before! (I probably shouldn’t try painting the fence though, because I will inevitably start pretending I’m in my own version of The Karate Kid.)

  7. I like to keep an old biology textbook I found at a thrift store by my bed so when I can’t sleep I can read something that’s boring enough to put me to sleep but still interesting enough to actually keep me reading until I get sleepy. It always works!

  8. If you have an old-school e-ink e-reader, it’s safe to use before bed! I have an older Kindle that I sometimes read before bed, it’s great.

    My tips:
    -Reserve the hour and a half or so before bed for doing something relaxing. For me, that’s reading, journalling, coloring in, or taking a bath. No devices allowed, obvs.
    -Speaking of baths! A hot bath before bed can help you sleep. There’s some physiological reason for this which I’m sure Dr Google can tell you about. Also you can use lavender scented bath products for extra oomph.
    -If you’re a worrier, journal the things you worry about before bed. Like, not right before you sleep – I usually do it at the beginning of that hour and a half period. I write a list of things that are worrying me and a list of responses to those worries. If more worries come up during the night, keep a journal next to your bed and jot them down.

    Sweet dreams!

    • Oh yeah, and exercise. Not right before bed, because then you’ll be too keyed up to sleep. But go for a run, lift some weights, swim, climb… whatever you like to do to get the blood pumping. I find I need a few hours between exercise and bed.

  9. The breathing/counting thing is so real. I try to do it so that I push the limits of how long I can hold my breath, and if I do this for a while and then start breathing normally, I immediately crash. I don’t know if it’s the counting (because you can’t think about much more than numbers) or the lack of oxygen or what, but it doesn’t matter. It works like magic.

  10. My tips to add:
    -don’t have a baby, that kills your sleep
    -turn phone off or on airplane mode
    -breathing exercises, like counting your breaths
    -white noise
    -morning pages journaling (google it and do it! I would but I have a kid…)
    -homeopathic remedies
    -shower before bed, unless it invigorates you, it puts me to sleep
    -have a bed time and routine and stick to it

  11. Ocean lovers, especially if you live inland: imagine that your breath is the sound of the surf. The in breath is (and actually sounds a lot like) the wave building to its height just before it breaks. The start of the out breath is the breaking wave, and the rest of it is (and, ditto) the soft, diminishing sound made by the water and foam rushing over the beach, slowing, slow…ing, and then sinking into the damp sand as the next wave nears the shore. Sleepy yet? Keep breathing and imagining, and let your own quietness take you to the deep, lulling sea of unconsciousness and dreaming. Works for me here in Wisconsin.

    • I used to do this for the sound of cars passing by in my old city apartment. It would kind of break the pattern when big loud busses, police, or other alarmy sounds went by, but surprisingly that almost never was the case in Mexico city, at least in my neighborhood, and we lived next to a major highway. The sound of cars as waves was very soothing. Will definitely try this with my breathing now that I’m in the country.

  12. If you are the type of person who is lulled by the sound of a relaxing voice, then I totally recommend ASMR videos on YouTube. I sometimes watch them if I just want to relax, because a lot of the ASMR artists use very careful, deliberate hand motions that will seriously put me in a trance. But if I’m trying to fall asleep, I’ll just listen. There is an ASMR video for everyone. You can listen to someone quietly read to you to tell you their life story. You can listen to someone delicately unwrap a box of candy and describe each piece to you. You can drift off while someone pretends to give you a haircut or tells you how special you are. It sounds weird, and I used to be embarrassed about my… habit. But when I have trouble sleeping, it can really help me get there.

  13. Somehow you guys always seem to know exactly what I need and when I need it. It’s 6 am and I’ve been awake for hours, and this is the first thing I saw when I turned to Facebook.

  14. I had to become a boring person to get over a bad period of insomnia: no caffeine or alcohol ever, putting electronic devices away at 9 pm, going to bed and setting the alarm at the same time every day, also on weekends. (The occasional sleeping pill helped me to find a regular sleeping rhythm.) My insomnia was triggered by depression and anxiety, and not getting enough sleep obviously aggravated my depression. It’s a vicious cycle. Regular daily rhythm definitely helped, and so did getting treatment (SSRI’s + therapy) for my depression. Once I got the hang of sleeping again, I was able to reintroduce coffee, alcohol and staying up late on weekends to my life.

    Oh, and one thing: eat carbs before you go to bed. They make you sleepy.

  15. My trick is Netflix. A kinda crappy movie works, also going back through a TV series.I need something to basically drown out my brain. Only downside : occasionally, I’ll have a really weird dream. I watch on my phone, and use Twilight app for covering up blue light.

    Sometimes a book works, but often the book is so good I stay up til 2am trying to finish.

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