If you are currently sitting at your screen because you can’t sleep, I have some good news for you: you might not be in such a bad state as you think.
Oh, you’ll be tired and listless, all right. Up too late when you think you should be sleeping soundly and fearful of how bad you’ll feel in the morning. Worried about not sleeping and then worried about the worrying. Not a pleasant prospect.
Note that I separate insomnia – an internal wakefulness – from those nights when you can’t get to sleep because some pest is watching soccer at 2:00AM or the neighbours are hosting a drunk. What you do about the latter two circumstances is between you and the man down at the gun shop. Remember murder is not legal, but rat shot is generally not lethal.
What you do about internal insomnia is…wait for it…nothing. No warm milk, sleeping tablets, meditation tapes, essential oils…nothing. Because all these are just chemical or physical rituals – they don’t cure anything. Possibly because there is nothing to cure.
If you are awake at 1:00AM, you are awake. If it is because you are cold, or sick, or hungry, go get a blanket or an aspirin or a sandwich. Don’t expect this to be an instant cure, but at least it means you are not lying there in the dark being uncomfortable. If you own a Siamese cat don’t expect to lie there comfortably anyway. But if you are lying there, awake, make the most of the physical comfort and then let your mind be free.
It may be free to sleep or it may be free to think. If it is a nasty little mind it can think nasty little thoughts – otherwise it can have quite a good time remembering, planning, designing, telling stories, or anything else it wishes. It will know when to switch off and sleep, but when it is awake in the dark, the rest of your body gets about 85% of the physical benefit of sleep anyway.
Think of it like your computer when you shut it down – sometimes it runs on for a bit as it finishes off programs. Don’t panic about how you’ll feel in the morning. If you haven’t given yourself a drunken hangover you’ll have at least 85% of the health you need.