5 Ideas for What to Watch When You Can't Sleep

Woman eating popcorn exploring what to watch when you can't sleep

Insomnia is a pain, but sometimes you just can't get to sleep. You've tried counting imaginary sheep, counting backward from 1000, and simply pretending to sleep. The problem isn't so much that you're awake now, but that you still have a day to live tomorrow. You'll still need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work or school the next day and your brain just isn't cooperating.

So you decide to do the next best thing: watch TV in bed. This way, your body is relaxed and you can nod off if ever you feel the urge. But the real question is what to watch when you can’t sleep. If you pick something too interesting, you'll stay up all night following a riveting storyline, but if you pick something too far from your interests, it'll make your insomnia night a bore. The key is to find the perfect TV or movie that will be entertaining while you're awake but will, eventually, soothe you into at least a semblance of sleep.

For everyone who doesn't already have a go-to insomnia playlist, we've put together a few helpful pointers to find the perfect sleepy show to watch.  

1. Don't Watch Live TV

The first tip we can give is very important: Do not simply flip on the TV in your room or stream a live channel. Late night television is designed to keep you awake and watching. The commercials and sensational content will keep you awake, the exact opposite of drifting off to sleep.

Stick with playing movies and TV episodes that will play without commercials and you have complete control over playback. Part of being able to relax and fall asleep watching a show is being able to replay anything later that you might have found interesting. Be in complete control of your insomnia-time media.

2. Try History Channel Documentaries

Documentaries, especially historical ones, are great at walking the line between interesting and boring. On one hand, they tell tales of ancient kings and royal intrigue—All the things that make a great story when remade into historical drama. On the other hand, unless the presenter is particularly talented, documentaries tend to get the 'droning on' effect of a long and not-that-interesting school lecture.

The same tone of voice going on about some old history topic can be the perfect thing to lull you to sleep. That said, documentaries can also be pretty riveting. If you find yourself too interested in one, save it for later and look for a documentary that starts to bore you after a while.

3. Watch Something You've Seen a Million Times

We've all got a few old favorites that we'll rewatch over and over again. Whether it's the first few seasons of your favorite TV show or a handful of movies you've been watching annually since you were a teenager, anything you can quote along with the actors is great fodder for your insomnia-playlist. The key here is that you already know what's going to happen. No matter how good it is, there's no tension anymore. You know when the heroes are going to win, when the bad guys arrive, and aren't surprised when the plot thickens.

You've probably cleaned the house with these movies on, done homework or paperwork with them playing, and even held phone conversations with the show on in the background. Now you can use that same power to ignore or delight in your old favorites by setting the volume low and snuggling up for a restful rerun. And if you fall asleep in the middle? No worries, you know how it ends.

4. Choose Very Predictable Plots

If you don't want a documentary and don't have an old favorite on file, look for something with a very predictable plot. This is an odd one, but it works if you do it right. Look for a movie or television show that's in the same genre as what you like, but lower quality. If you like police and detective shows, look for something like community theater Sherlock Holmes remake or one of those slow BBC detective shows full of murmuring and investigation.

If you like horror movies, look for movie covers with bad costumes and cheesy title fonts. You know what we're talking about. The beauty of these low-budget features is that most of them are blissfully uncreative. The detective discovers intrigue and solves the case. Coeds disappear one by one after some pointless drama. While you may occasionally find a low-budget gem, most of these will put you to sleep with surprising efficiency because you already know every plot twist before it happens.

5. If All Else Fails, Watch Black and White Films

There are some truly amazing black and white films and TV shows out there that have defined the world of cinema that we know today. However, not everything filmed in the Golden and Silver ages of the screen were masterpieces. Most were slow-paced, ponderous, and pretty low on content compared to what we're used to today. Things just moved slower back then and it seemed reasonable for television and movies to do the same.

Pick out something from your video source's black and white collection that isn't an acclaimed classic. One of the Humphrey Bogart movies that didn't get raved about or some old romance that practically writes itself. These have all the benefit of predictable plots and slow action that can interest you for a little while, then put you right to sleep as your brain realizes there's not much to work with.

Putting yourself to sleep when your mind wants to stay awake can be unreasonably difficult. Especially if the thing keeping you awake is your own thoughts. When your mind is reeling but your body needs sleep, the best thing you can do is to sequentially distract and then bore yourself. By choosing the right insomnia movie or TV show to play for yourself in bed, you can do just that. Knowing what to watch when you can’t sleep is the first step. Your brain pays attention to the show during the interesting intro and setup. Then, as your brain realized there's no challenge in watching an old favorite or a predictable movie, you'll finally be able to drift to sleep. For more great tips on how to get an amazing night's sleep (even when your brain doesn't want to cooperate) contact us today!


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