One of the most irritating things to do is try to fall asleep. Usually when patients come in with a lot of anxiety about falling asleep, I tell them to reverse things by trying to stay awake, with the caveat that they can only count their breath all night. This meditation alters their anxiety level and can improve a sense of well-being (study here).
Here is my insomnia checklist, giving the basics of good sleep hygiene and listing some of the common aids.
Ritual: maintaining a schedule, regular food and drink intake, using the bed for only sleeping.
Preparation: A warm bath, hot tea, massage.
Isolation: eye and ear protection, minimizing auditory and visual stimulation (no bedroom TV), avoiding the news before bed
Distraction: using sound machines, hot water bottles, pleasant aromas
Purification: air filtration, dust covers, regular laundering with non-fragrant soaps, minimizing pet/bed activity, minimizing small child/bed activity, no smoking or eating in the bedroom.
Journal: Putting work and worries down, and forgetting about them until the morning.
Relaxation response: variety of self relaxing techniques.
Magnesium: muscle relaxation.
Homeopathics: hit or miss, non-toxic
Flower essences: hit or miss, non-toxic
Tryptophan: mental relaxation. Serotonin raw material. Available from turkey, warm milk, or 5-HTP.
Skullcap: mild sedative.
Passion Flower: mild sedative.
Valerian: mild sedative with the possibility of rebound wakefulness.
Hops: mild sedative (the herb, not necessarily in alcohol)
Oatmeal: mild nerve calming agent (avena sativa)
Melatonin: effective only in those deficient
Kava: strong muscle relaxant.
5-HTP: in high doses
Pharmaceuticals: rebound insomnia, long-term toxicity