09/14/2010 10:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Counting Sheep Doesn't Work

Pulling all-nighters in college is not an out-of-the-ordinary activity. During my academic career, I had to pull a few during finals week. The morning after my body feels like it was hit by a truck and it takes multiple Red Bulls to get through the day. I don't mind staying up late to finish a paper or to study for a major exam occasionally, but it becomes a major problem when I have the opportunity to go to sleep at a decent time and my body just won't cooperate.

Since my high school days, sleeping has always been unusually hard for me. Night after night, I'm staring at the ceiling, mentally encouraging myself to fall asleep. Then I start staring at the clock.

As time goes on, the more upset I get. It's bad enough that my body is tired, but it's even worse anticipating how exhausted I'll be in the morning. The hardest part about the whole sleep process for me is settling my mind down for the night. You would think that after a long day of thinking, it would allow itself to hibernate for a few hours. The moment my head touches the pillow, the mental to-do list starts forming for the next day. One thing leads to another, and it is 3 a.m., leaving me ready to throw my alarm clock across the room.

My doctor recommended listening to relaxing music to block out other thoughts that could keep me wound up. The music did help me relax, but the songs would often trigger a random memory, starting a string of unimportant thoughts. There have been times where I've bought over-the-counter sleeping aids, but they're not something I would want to take on a daily basis. While they help me fall asleep at night, they often leave me groggy when I wake up.

There are a few things that do make falling asleep easier that are simple to do. Reading a book or magazine, completely unrelated to school/work, allows me to decompress from the textbook reading that I do all day.

Hitting the gym after dinner (between 6 and 8 p.m.) is the best thing that I can do to help ensure a good night's sleep. Sweating and working out my muscles isn't just good for my body, it's good for my mind. It helps my endorphins kick into action, and gives my pent up energy, (and sometimes aggression) a chance to be burnt off. All of those things usually do help, but don't necessarily guarantee a restful night's sleep.

Do you share any of these sleeping problems, or have tips that have helped you in the past? Share them with me and I will try them then tell you if they helped!