I often use a technique used by mediators and even MMA fighters to block everything out, it’s also amazing for those times you can’t sleep because your brain is in overdrive at 4AM.
Most of us think in pictures that are associated with the language we speak. Same picture, many words. If I say tree, you see a tree. If you’re Spanish and I say árbol, you see a tree!
Make up a word, GOGWAND for instance. This seems to ‘stall’ the brain.
When we think of a word, pictures follow and this can trigger that sleepless state, especially if we have something on our mind. When we’re anxious one bad image flows into the next and the mind races into panic mode as the fight or flight reflex kicks in. The blackness gets blacker and we drift into an endless, cinematic screening of X rated, B movie horror.
Make up a nonsense word and your brain can make nothing of it. It can’t associate pictures, which seems to break the process. As the mind drifts, keep coming back to the nonsense word.
Another technique is to simply stop ‘trying’ to sleep altogether. Say “fuck it”. Open the eyes and look at the ceiling or a the light coming through the curtains. Just stare at it and try to stay awake. The eyelids will fight you and try to close so concentrate on keeping them open!
Works for me anyway.