The night before my wedding, I went through all the classic steps to ensure I had a good night's sleep: I ate a light meal, watched an unstimulating movie, drank water (not wine), massaged lavender oil into my temples and tucked myself into bed at 10pm.
And, of course, I had a sleepless night.
I tossed and turned and a million thoughts raced around my head: have I set my alarm? Is my fiancé handcuffed to a tree? Did I lock the back door? Is our best man going to embarrass me in his speech? Would any guests not turn up tomorrow? Did I tell the caterer to prep a meal for the photographer? If I don't get seven hours' sleep will I have big ugly bags under my eyes? Does my wedding dress suit me? Will it ever stop raining? Why am I so tired but can't fall asleep? If I take a massive dose of Night Nurse will I ever wake up in the morning?
On and on and on.
Eventually I nodded off, as one always does, but I wish I had had a few tricks to help me calm me thoughts and stop the ridiculous, irrational mind-mess.
Now when it happens, I know exactly what to do. The secret is to clear those thoughts, to not think about anything controversial or provoking. To do this, focus on one simple image in your mind. It can be anything you want, as long as it's basic, clear and neutral. For instance, a sleep expert I once met told me to think about a black cat, sitting on a black cushion, sitting on a black armchair. It sounds absurd, but it makes sense: if you spend enough time visualising one simple idea (rather than a thousand dilemmas), you relax your mind and it's easier to drift off to sleep.
The cat thing wasn't really doing it for me and I've since used a variety of ideas, including concentrating on the backs of my eyelids (don't ask me why, but it works every time!). Recently, I've been picturing a small pyramid, with a cool blue pearl of light shining inside it. I think it may have been inspired by a passage on yogic meditation in Elizabeth Gilbert's novel Eat, Pray, Love. Anyway, the more I focus on the glowing blue pearl, housed safely in that pyramid, the less I think about everything else - thus, I'm asleep before I know it.
It's a weird idea to get used to, but if you train your mind to visualise sleep aids, you'll get conditioned to the process and falling asleep will get easier and faster.
Exercise helps immensely too. It's quite primitive in a way: spend the day being active, running and hunting (venting all your frustration on stabbing a mammoth/pounding the treadmill), and allow the body to rest and recuperate at night.
In the meantime, those eye-bags are still an annoying reality so invest in Bobbi Brown's ace new Eye Brightener pen (lighter and less cakey than a concealer, not as bunny-in-headlamps as YSL's Touche Eclat) and rest assured that even if you just get a couple of hours' kip, you can still look fresh and fabulous the next day.
Bobbi Brown Tinted Eye Brightener, £22, www.bobbibrown.co.uk