Talk about it: Having trouble falling asleep? Try a few simple steps for a good night’s rest

To help readers deal with their anxieties during these stressful times, TOI has launched Talk it Out, a series in which our panel of expert advisors will answer your questions about mental health. This week’s tips come from psychologist Pragya Lodha
I don’t want to leave the house. I forget stuff soon. I’m still in a different world and I don’t notice anything around me. I procrastinate a lot. I feel anxious before meeting anyone, including my closest friends. I want to know how to help me.
— Anonymous
The extended stay-at-home period following the pandemic has led to us feeling too comfortable at home and, as a result, experiencing social embarrassment. It may be normal. Acknowledge your feelings and don’t resent them or fight them. Start talking with your friends through audio and video calls and make short visits outside the home. You can also do it without motivation. It is not always necessary to feel motivated to accomplish the tasks we need to accomplish. Take it up as a challenge to yourself, if you think it will help you do it better. Remember to start small but start somewhere. If the anxiety is beyond control, contact a mental health professional.
I am 87 years old. I’m retired and on high blood pressure medication. My problem is the ‘sticky song maniac’. My subconscious mind picks up a bit of a song, phrase, or words. They repeat so much that I am mentally exhausted. The song continues even during sleep. I tried to meditate and remain silent; sing the song out loud, substitute another tune, but to no avail. Please advise.
— Anonymous
Earworms can be a common challenge for many. In no way should you resist or hold back the song, but ironically try to sing the song to the end and repeatedly commit to sing it to the end whenever it comes to mind. It can help induce boredom and eventually relief. You can also try chewing gum or eating any chewable food, engage in alternate repeated exercises of speed counting, counting, etc. It can help replace the repeated song. You can try focusing on your breathing to relax. If it doesn’t resolve, see a mental health professional.
I am a 13 year old teenager who has suffered from sleep related anxiety for a few months. It started one day when I was sleeping but suddenly woke up. Since then, I have had trouble sleeping again. For 3-4 days after that I couldn’t sleep at my normal time. I usually sleep at 9 p.m. but I fell asleep at 2 a.m. I saw a therapist, and it worked for a while, but even now I have trouble falling asleep. Please help.
— Anonymous
Could you have underlying troubling thoughts and emotions that could worry you? If so, consider logging your thoughts in a journal about an hour before you go to bed. You could discuss these issues with your therapist. Remember that therapy is an ongoing process, give it time. Also, try postponing sleep for an hour or two. If you’re not sleeping, don’t stay in bed. You can try reading a book before bed or listening to meditative music for sleep (audio only) and avoid using the screen. Finally, lying on your back, you can also practice breathing and count your inhale and exhale, count 1-2-3 as you inhale and exhale, and repeat this 5 times. Do the same increasing the number to 1-2-3-4 for the next 5 times and 1-2-3-4-5 for the next 5 times.
I find it hard to think too much before even making minor decisions like buying clothes. I seek help from my family for these trivial matters. I get angry when I don’t get help. How can I change this?
— Anonymous
It is easy to think and negative thoughts can come easily. But not all negative thoughts are true, in fact most of them are not. Relying on others to make decisions for us is not always satisfying. This can sometimes invoke a negative emotion. Sometimes, we can be afraid of not being able to make the “right” decision. It’s important to remember that it’s not about being ‘right’, it’s about being able to ‘make’ a decision in the first place. Taking responsibility for our decisions and our emotions can be helpful, saving us from feeling negative about someone else. We learn to make better decisions with practice. Bad decisions help us make better decisions in the future. You can take this as a learning experience and give it your first full shot.
My father is an 82 year old widower. He lives with me and my wife and we take good care of him. Recently, he had undergone several tests and his doctor had found no physical illness. His parameters are perfectly normal for a man of his age. The problem is that he is hyperactive and takes very little rest. He also loses interest in books, magazines and television. He is losing weight rapidly. Please let us know how we can help calm him down at this age. — –Anonymous
The loss of a spouse in old age can be a marker of several psychological changes, expressed and unexpressed. Also, if your dad has always been an active person, he may find it difficult to rest for the greatest quotient of time. You can check with him what he likes to do and how would he like to spend his time. I would definitely recommend getting a mental health consultation to clear things up and screen for onset of dementia or geriatric depression.

5 tips to help you with insomnia

1. Channel your worrying thoughts or emotions by painting, talking to someone, dancing, or journaling at least 45 minutes before bedtime
2. Have regular sleep and wake times to ensure your circadian rhythm is maintained
3. Make time to exercise in your day
4. Deep breathing with a focus on breathing helps reduce anxiety and induce restful sleep
5. Guided sleep meditation, sleep music, or screen-free Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) sleep sounds can also help

If you need advice, please contact the following helplines

Aasra +91 9820466726 (24×7)
Cooj +91 9822562522 (1pm-7pm, Monday to Friday)
iCall +91 9152987821 (Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm)
Fortis +91 8376804102 (9am-5pm)
Kiran 1800-599-0019 (24×7)
080-4611 0007
Sumaitri +91 9315767849 (2pm-6:30pm)
Sneha +91 9566027776 (10am-2pm)
Vandrevala Foundation 18602662345, +91 7304599836 (24×7)
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