I can't describe it… How to sleep without alcohol or drugs?


Exhaustion is the only reliable way I know of, when I’m running symptom hot, without chemical assistance.

And, for me, that has to equate out to both physical & mental exhaustion… and ideally mentally/physically/AND emotionally exhausted.

Even then? I’ll only be looking at about 4 hours of sleep, twice a week… or catnaps of 5-10-22 minutes a couple/few times a day… until I can start getting more and more of my symptoms under better and better check.

So it’s something of a 2 pronged assault:
- Work on exhausting myself to deal with the immediate/acute
- Work on symptom management/ stress management/ trauma processing to go after the root cause of the insomnia.

Even when I’m virtually asymptomatic I still have to be reeeeeeally careful to be meeting both the physical & mental expenditure (as opposed to exhaustion) on a daily basis.

(Although there is SOME wiggle room… like if today is a big physical day? Tomorrow “can” be a big mental day… and I can expect to sleep well both days. BUT if it starts creeping, like several physical or mental days in a row, without the balance? I can expect to first start sleeping badly, and then to start kickin into some insomnia jags that require me to not just use my mind and body every day, but to have to use them to their absolute limit.)

So as a baseline? I try and use both my mind and my body (and ideally my heart) every single day… in roughly equal measure… and pay close attention to when my balance is off, and nudge the scales back.

But when my PTSD thunders itself onto the scene? Simple balance simply isn’t enough. I have to shoot for straight up exhaustion, if I want to be sleeping at all, much less every day.


you’ll probably find a few very similar and also slightly different opinions. That’s the bummer that it’s a bit of trial and error and person specific.

I personally need cardio to stay sane. Not too much otherwise I’m over exhausted and can’t sleep. Or too much strength training makes me too sore to sleep.

Sleep hygiene is important for me I’m allowed one cup of coffee a day and it must be in the morning. It’s a bit sucky not going to lie. I stop drinking even tea (like breakfast tea) by 8pm and go to herbal. Turn off all notifications for 10pm and night shift my phone no social media or news etc.

Dark room with a window open, (weather and noise permitting) humidifier, sleep mask with an audiobook on 30min sleep timer. If I’m still awake afterwards. I get up pee get a glass of water and try again.

Sometimes pink noise or rain sounds helps or a guided meditation. Sometimes I have to utilise the spare room or previously the sofa because even my partner moving around in his sleep has been too much.

Still even then I have to just radically accept that sometimes sleep is hard. I often sleep every other day I’m not really a nap kinda person. They always go too long or I wake up feeling like a disorientated time traveler. Others swear by a nap and f*ck I wish I was one of them.

It’s f*cking hard and I’ve been in the situation before where I haven’t slept so long I’ve had auditory hallucinations. There’s nothing wrong with getting a prescription for insomnia short term. If it saves you from hallucinations f*cking right. One thing at a time.


Sleep is the hardest thing to regulate for me, even if I'm in a great place mentally. I'm also Autistic, so my brain operates at an RPM set to a higher idle speed than most brains. I have to go with Friday's thing, physical and mental exhaustion, or I just. CAN'T. sleep. Limiting screen time during the day or turning it off about 30-45 minutes before bed seems to help a great deal! Good luck. Sleep is sooooo hard to regulate!


I have PTSD and I am trying my darndest to live with it. Not one incident but several, my question is, how to sleep without alcohol/drugs? Ironically I'm a trained holistic therapist.
Ok, I am just coming back here because of the crazy world we live in, but after much anecdotal research a few things that have helped me are:
1. Weighted blanket
2. Epsom salt hot baths
3. White noise

Ok, the rest ARE drugs, but not like, you know, Ambien and good ole Klonopin.

4. Magnesium Glycinate
5. Nighty Night Tea
6. Spray melatonin with B6 added
7. Ashwaghanda

Also, seriously CBT-I, is so great and works!


I am wondering what specifically it is that makes sleep hard for you? When I can't sleep, it can be for a few different reasons. Sometimes, I have pain or my restless leg syndrome is acting up. Sometimes, my thoughts are racing. Sometimes, my anxiety level is super high.

I do different things to help me sleep based on why I can't. Melatonin really helps, as do some of the over-the-counter pain/sleep meds (like Tylenol pm). I have an incredible amount of anxiety if it's completely quiet, so I bought a sound machine and play a favorite sound (thunder and rain) most nights. And I know it is supposed to be dark for a good night's sleep, but my place is dark as a cave with all the lights out, which I hate, so I have a small night light on in my bathroom.

Racing thoughts sometimes are the hardest thing for me to overcome, but I practice mindfulness when they are bad, and it really helps me drift off.

I should also mention I have sleep apnea. Before I got a machine, I had a lot more trouble sleeping and was always tired during the day. Sleep is much better since I was diagnosed.


Sleep? What’s that? For me nothing works consistently. Something that worked one night will be the absolute worst another night. Things that help:
Small bowl of cereal with extra milk.
Not checking my email if I know a parent might be upset with me.
Reading a book if it’s not at a really engaging spot. Or reading for a class because they’re never engaging.
TV shows that I’ve already seen but enjoy.
Fan going for both noise and temperature control.
Journaling if something is on my mind, or sending an email if something is bugging me and I can send it to someone I feel safe with.
Winding down my evening about an hour before I’d like to be asleep.
And yes my phone is alert free from 9:30 on.
Most of the time these things will give me 6 hours of sleep. Though sometimes that is broken into 30 min increments. 🤷‍♀️

If my symptoms are really hitting me NOTHING. including drugs and/or alcohol. My T even got me on the medical marijuana list and that didn’t help. Sleep has never been easy for me with ADHD and PTSD combined, sleep is a concept I’m not well acquainted with. Luckily the ADHD will sustain me for at least a week of mostly sleepless nights and on the weekends I sometimes sleep 12-14 hours mainly broken and mainly daytime hours.


In the long run, what helped most was lowering my stress levels, and resolving / working through my trauma. However, when you need sleep, you usually need it NOW, not down the road…

During the really rough times when I was desperate for sleep, I did take Lunesta (prescription). I found it to be helpful and non habit-forming, without a hangover feeling. That was only after trying herbal remedies with little to no success. Melatonin actually made my nightmares worse, if you can believe that.

I also used to sleep in some random different place in the house - on a couch or in a spare bedroom. Somehow it helped to remove the expectation of sleep that I wasn’t getting when in my bed.

Now that I’m in more of a management / recovery phase, I find Valerian Root Extract to be helpful on occasion, 300mg/capsule at 0.8% Valerenic acids. It’s pretty cheap. I made the mistake of trying it as a high quality essential oil, and let me tell you - WOW, does it STINK. It was inside its capped glass bottle, inside a sealed freezer bag, inside a sealed glass jar…and I could still smell it, and it was horrid. That was a nope. I did try ingesting a few drops inside an empty gelatin capsule a couple of times, to no positive effect. The scent alone was unhelpful, and there was no way I was applying it to my skin, even in a carrier oil.

I also find a completely dark room with white noise from a fan and soothing music to be assistive - these are part of my regular routine.

If I have a particularly rough night due to an unresolved trigger, I’ll try EFT (emotional freedom technique) on whatever I think is bothering me. Sometimes bilateral stimulation tapping is also useful.

I hope you’re able to find some strategies that help you cope, both now and in the future.


my question is, how to sleep without alcohol/drugs?
The answer is simple IMO, depending on what stage of healing you're within.

If trauma is still devouring you, then you sleep with whatever works for you. Just do your best to keep it within limits. That is the hard part.

If you have done the hard work with your trauma, then it no longer haunts you, or scares you to want to stay awake, so cut back incrementally until one day you don't need it.

To be honest, many people without trauma don't mind a nip of scotch or their favourite spirit before bed. Many make it their thing. One nip isn't considered bad for you in any way, and is probably better for you than pharmaceuticals.

People beat themselves up over too much. If you have to drink in excess to sleep, then sure, that's a problem. But there are plenty of 80+ year olds who still to this day swear by having a nip of their favourite spirit before bed.


Policy Enforcement
how to sleep without alcohol/drugs?

To be honest? Radical acceptance that chronic fatigue just is and will continue to be part of my life.

After well over a decade of fighting it, of endless doctor’s appointments trying to find solutions, after having tried literally every recommendation under the moon, I think I’m finally at a point willing to just accept that this is part of my life. I have crappy sleep. End of story.

Not gonna lie, it sucks. It sucks big time. Chronic fatigue is an absolute motherf*cker that additionally and unhelpfully faces a metric shit ton of misunderstanding in everyday life.

But I’ve come to a point where I’m not willing to continue spending the very little energy I’ve left trying to fight it.

Mostly, because there is no pattern to it.
Every single day can have a completely unpredictable different reason for my insomnia. Some days it’s PTSD. Some days it’s anxiety. Some days it’s stress. Some days it’s ADHD. Some days it’s understimulation. Some days it’s pain. Some days it’s the weather. Some days that afternoon latte keeps me up when other days it makes me fall asleep. Some days it’s any of a gazillion possible combination of these. And some days there literally does not seem to be any reason at all - I. just. can’t. sleep.

I’ve literally had days of being dead tired, of being physically/mentally/emotionally exhausted - and still not being able to sleep. No racing thoughts or anything. Nothing nada. And still can’t sleep.

And hence I have no solution because what might work one day has zero effect the next.

My go-to things I will try are:
- audiobooks, sometimes the only thing that helps is the TV
- weighted blanket
- purring cats
- co-sleeping, other days I specifically need to sleep alone
- sometimes I just can’t deal with my mattress/pillow and the only thing that helps is moving to the crappy uncomfortable couch
- melatonin
- night lights
- phone/alerts on mute
- if I just end up laying awake with no sleep in sight, chatting with friends online helps to keep me from dying from boredom

and as I said, radical acceptance that some days there just won’t be much sleep. I try very hard not to get anxious about not falling asleep or waking up a trillion times anymore. Trying not to count the decreasing hours of sleep I’m not getting with every glance at the clock and worrying about all the things I’ll need to do the next day that I’m now too tired for. Not saying I’m always successful with this, but I’m working on it.

And I specifically have stopped beating myself up about all the things that purportedly are supposed to help sleep not helping and feeling like I’m an imposter, feeling like I’m cheating or making excuses or not trying enough. I have stopped feeling guilty and I have stopped defending myself against doctors and therapists and society (which routinely makes you feel like it’s all just your fault when you’re tired and not a morning person like “everyone” else). I don’t care if sleep hygiene tells you you need to sleep in a dark and quiet room. If that specifically makes me sleep WORSE, I’m not doing it. End of story. I know myself and my various Dx’s well enough by now that I *know* those aren’t the reasons for my crappy sleep, even if your textbook says something different.
And this ties into what Anthony wrote: if a sip of alcohol or medication works for you, screw what society tells you about what you should and shouldn’t do. Unless you get completely drunk every night, stop feeling guilty.

Oh, yeah, and I also do the “sleeping 12+ hours on weekends after a mostly sleepless week” thing. Usually as a longer night and lots and lots of naps. Just your random chronic fatigue exhaustion crashs.
Last edited: