By JC Wan/ Image created by Bing AI

**Updates on Oct 15, 2023: With hindsight, I just realized today that I should have put my “last resort” in the first place, although I do believe that God has mercy for everyone who seeks and accepts Him.**

Ideas of this post:

  • Know your own unique biological clock
  • What helps me sleep
  • The last thing to do when I really can’t sleep

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” What seems impeccably right has wronged me for decades. Just trying to fall asleep early has put a lot of pressure on me. But this has been somewhat alleviated after I realized there is something called a biological clock, or the cycle of circadian rhythms, to sound more academic. It regulates people’s sleep-awake patterns. Everyone has their own unique biological clock.

For many years, I had tried to be a lark because I was convinced that it was what a normal and healthy lifestyle should be. But whenever I try to fall asleep at 10 pm, I toss and turn on the bed, with a million thoughts racing through my mind. Even though I want my body to rest early, my brain does not allow me to.

And yet, I am not a night owl either. If I am still wide awake at 1 am, chances are I won’t be able to fall asleep until 4 am. And the thing is, during that three hours of time my body feels exhausted, drained and not wanting to move. I am not able to experience that energy surge like night owls do. I would lie flat on the bed, hoping to fall unconscious soon.

Eventually, I came to believe I was something in between, a mixed creature of an owl and a lark. Knowing this, I no longer force myself to bed for a perfect eight-hour sleep. I’d rather get drowsy before heading to my pillow than go to bed early with my brain still working at full throttle. But I do find some tips helpful for sleep when I am sleepy already and yet can’t really fall asleep.

Build up a bed routine to wind down

My pre-teen son has trouble falling asleep like I do. He might have the potential of being a night owl. But being an elementary school kid just like hundreds of thousands of his peers in Taiwan, he does not have the luxury of getting up late. By 7:50 am, he needs to sit in his classroom poised and ready for a whole day’s learning.

What I did is that I set up a sleep schedule for him. The last thing he does before going to bed is reading or drawing. Before that, there is teeth brushing time. Before teeth brushing, he gets himself a shower. It turns out that he falls asleep fast.

National Health Service in the UK and myriads of self-help websites have emphasized the importance of a sleep schedule. Imagine our body as a car. We press the brake slowly before we stop the vehicle. After engaging in all kinds of activities for a whole day, our body also needs to wind down before it can fully rest. And so I agree that there is truth in the bed routine theory.

Read a book or a non-LCD screen ebook

Reading before sleeping has been a proven strategy. Research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US found that “reading in bed before sleep not only potentially improves overall sleep quality but also people in the reading group experienced fewer problems staying asleep.”

Make sure you don’t read on an LCD screen, which emits blue light. Web MD said that blue light blocks melatonin– a hormone that makes people sleepy– causing people to unable to fall asleep. So I would grab my e-ink ebook reader and tap an electronic book to read if I could not sleep. After intensively reading for about 30 minutes, my eyes would become heavy, and then the next thing I know it’s morning.

Listen to the low, monotonous sound of a machine

The operating sound of the air conditioner in my room is a sleep aid. Listening to that low, continuous sound attentively clears my mind that is otherwise busy working on who knows whatever it is. In addition to the air conditioner, the noise of the dehumidifier works for me, too.

My idea of listening to the machine operating sound came from white noise. The Sleep Foundation explains that white noise is “a specific type of broadband sound that includes all the audible frequencies.” White noise is primarily used to mask high levels of disruptive environmental noises and thus improves people’s sleep in metropolitan areas. However, some studies, such as Sleep Medicine Reviews, find that the use of continuous noise might hurt hearing.

So I won’t buy a white noise machine simply to aid my sleep. Turning on an air conditioner or a dehumidifier is enough. Having said that, I won’t recommend anyone expose themselves to the sound of household appliances if the noise is too high and loud.

Drop a few essential oil on my pillow before sleep

Medical website Johns Hopkins Medicine writes that lavender oil “helps relieve stress and anxiety and promote good sleep.” I drop a few lavender oil on my pillow whenever I have difficulty sleeping. Being surrounded by that aroma calms me down. Massaging tense neck and shoulders with lavender oil is also a soothing experience. Both help me fall asleep faster and better.

Think of my favorite things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are the lines of my favorite song, but not my favorite things.

The happy feeling of just to think of my favorite thing helps me fall asleep in a very good mood. That favorite thing for me is food. Sometimes, I think of bread– all kinds of bread. Other times, it’s different food. Some research said that imagery meditation helps induce sleep. I meditate on food, and it works.

Rely on God’s mercy and rescue

“Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:28)” There are times I reap what I sow. I drink too much caffeine and too late in the day, and it turns out my mind is alert while my body is tired at midnight.

When every tip and trick about falling asleep fails, the last thing I can do is ask God to rescue me from this unwanted insomnia. I would say to God, “Lord, I need to get some sleep. Have mercy on me. Thank you, Lord, for making me sleep.” Then, during the rest of the time, before I fall asleep, I keep on giving thanks to God. Thank and thank and thank before my brain comes to rest.

I won’t say I wake up energetically the next morning. There is too much caffeine in my body, after all. I should have known my body better and refrained from caffeine intake hours before going to bed. So I am like walking on hot coals, and at the end of the day, I need God to come to my rescue. I have times like this when I need to be rescued, and I have relied on God’s mercy to this day.

These are tips that I have tried and are true to me. Make a list of your own as to what makes you sleep and what keeps you awake so you can find ways to deal with it. God intends that we sleep well. If Jesus Himself, in the form of flesh and bone, can sleep on a stormy sea (Mark 4:37-38), why can we — made in His own image– not fall asleep?

The Bible


Ebook reader

Space heater