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How to Keep What Gets You Up in the Morning from Keeping You Awake at Night


Thirty-four ways to battle your insomnia, along with how to buy Ambien in Mexico


At least I can watch scenes like this at 3:00 a.m.

Updated 2019

High hopes of curing my insomnia accompanied my move to Mexico. I was sure the sound of the waves crashing outside my door in Mazatlán would solve the problem, which I’m sure is genetic. My usual routine is four hours of sleep a night, maybe an hour or two at dawn if I’m lucky. By Sunday I am completely un-spooled and crash, sometimes logging in 13 hours or more of sleep.

The way I feel after that 13 hours of sleep must be what heroin is like.  I love that feeling so much that when I do fall asleep I dream of sleeping.

Everyone knows what sleep deprivation can do to your waking hours. Insomnia is linked to depression and other health problems.  We all know what the benefits of a good night’s sleep are in terms of your outlook on life.  An old boyfriend once told me, "Never examine your life on three hours of sleep." Over the years he's been proven correct.

If you are older, you probably only experience the occasional night of sleeplessness, I wanted to share my on-going list of possible remedies, including the scoop on Ambien in Mexico. The later schedule in Mexico has alleviated the problem. Mexicans don’t have business meetings at 7:30 am to prove how ambitious they are.

Thirty-two  (Conventional and Non-Conventional) Ways to Fall Asleep

The Complete List You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

1. Sex - (Can I get a prescription for that?) - Notoriously more effective for men, apparently for evolutionary reasons. The male has been hunting all day; someone needs to be alert to guard the cave while the male is passed out.

2.  Go to bed at the same time every night. This one seems non-negotiable by sleep experts.

3. Prepare your physical  surroundings for relaxation -  a good pillow, quality sheets, a cool room temperature (55 degrees) and total darkness, with a eye mask if necessary. (I wear a bandana as a sleep mask...more on that later)

4.  Eliminate obstacles to sleep - Avoid caffeine, alcohol, exercise and heavy meals close to bedtime.  Many Mexicans just eat a bowl of cereal since they eat their heaviest meal around 2:00 p.m.

5. Teas -  Mexico has its own. In the States, chamomile, valerian, St. John’s Wort, Chinese teas or pre-mixed teas like the Sleepytimes teas.

6. Make sure room doesn’t have blinking lights from clocks. Avoid television and the use of electronics before sleep, Quietly wind down.

7. Melatonin - Melatonin is a hormone taken several hours before going to bed (1-3 mg.)

8.  Eat foods that help you sleep - Warm milk, and bananas, high in magnesium, a calming mineral, combined in a milkshake gives you the benefit of both. You can try Kiwis and tart cherries which are high in melatonin.

9. White noise from fans or dehumidifiers.  You can find apps or tapes that play the sounds of the ocean, thunderstorms or rainfall which induce sleep when you do not have the real thing (My wish for you is that someday you will, right here in Mexico).  Do a search for phone apps and plug into Bluetooth or similar high quality speakers to produce excellent sounds that continue all night.

10. Relaxing, carefully narrated podcasts - One friend of mine chooses Bible podcasts. I found that waking up in the middle of the night to some stranger talking in God's voice in the dark alarming. If you try Bible podcasts, I recommend the New Testament.

11. Aromatherapy -  A few drops of high quality brand essential oil. Doterra’s blends are Lavender, Vetiver or Serenity.  Dot few drops on the palms of the hands, the big toe or behind the neck. You can use them in vaporizers too.

12. Meditation or breathing exercises - Breath in for 7 and out for 8 and repeat for a breathing exercise.  Books on meditation can provide hundreds of meditation techniques that provide benefits beyond just a falling asleep naturally.

13. Repetitive or progressive mind games - based on the same principle of counting sheep, you bore yourself to sleep. You can also do a step-by-step drill of a physical activity like a golf swing.

14. Fantasy Games  - A spin-off from repetition like counting sheep  that I used for many years when I was younger was spinning a fantasy.  Whenever you lose your train of thought, You have to start all over. 

15. Television  -  Television before bed keeps some people awake but how many of us watched our grandfather fall asleep in the easy chair after the 20th rerun of Gun Smoke?  The key is choosing a re-run you’ve seen several times before. Try history channels.

16. Reading - If you only like to invest your time in books you can't put down, try books related to improving work performance or self-improvement books. You’re not completely wasting your time and there’s only so much of that you can take.

17. Calming music - Some music composed for sleep can be found online, which takes in account the number of beats per minute necessary to promote sleep.

18. Exercise during the day - If we don’t have active jobs, our bodies need a certain amount of movement during the day to bleed off energy i.e. release endorphins to sleep

19. Rituals - such as a warm bath, laying out clothes for the next day, or other cues to give your subconscious to wind down.

20. Detailed check lists and to-do lists  capture any ideas on your mind in writing before going to bed. Having it all organized prevents your mind from spinning with what you need to do the next day.  Keep a notebook on your bedside table too.

21. Alcohol -  While studies say alcohol only works to fall asleep, not stay asleep, I still know too many people for whom a glass of wine helps them wind down.  I have a friend who, if she couldn’t sleep by 2:00 A.M., went downstairs and did two shots of vodka. She had a demanding job, was desperate and it worked. I'm going to try it with Los Osuna Tequila.

22. Pot  -  (only in Colorado and other states where medical marijuana cards are available).  My home state of Colorado has legalized marijuana, and purveyors in these outlets know their stuff. They know precisely which strains of pot make people sleepy (Indica). Mexico just legalized medical marijuana.

23. Pot Edibles - If, like me, you do not care to inhale anything, cookies and sweets made with pot are an alternative to smoking. You have to be very careful with the dosage and give it time (an hour or so) to work. Edibles are problematic when you can’t take just two bites of a cookie, a caramel or a chocolate bar.

24. Nyquil, Tylenol, antihistamines -  At the drugstore you will see that cold medicine manufacturers have gotten heavily into re-packaging their tonics as sleep aids.

25. Ambien -  Memory loss attributed to long term use of Ambien has changed medical protocol and doctors will normally only write prescriptions for temporary use, usually 30 days. If you are going on a longer stay, you should get right on this as soon as you arrive to Mexico because it might take time to run down a doctor for a prescription.

A few words about getting Ambien in Mexico

Like in the U.S. Ambien is a controlled substance in Mexico. You will need a prescription and the drug is expensive ($60 U.S for a month). You can get 10 milligrams a day for 30 days, whereas in the U.S. prescribed dosage is only five milligrams.   


You can walk into pharmacies in Mexico with your U.S. labeled bottle for most other drugs and have prescriptions filled if it isn’t an antibiotic or a controlled substance.

Because of the lower income levels in Mexico,  some drugs are sold in blister packs in smaller quantities. The ingredients often read near the same in both languages, so your U.S. bottles help.  

Doctors keep visiting hours at pharmacies so for about $35 you can see a doctor and get a Mexican prescription, which I had to do for Ambien.  Their schedules, like everyone’s else’s in Mexico, can be erratic. You may have to come back.

You are only allowed to bring in 90 days worth of prescriptions from the U.S.and you will not be able to get 90 days of Ambien from your U.S. doctor, so plan on getting a Mexican prescription well ahead of running out during a longer term stay. 

26. Antidepressants - With the protocol changed for Ambien, your U.S doctor may turn to these.   No one likes taking pills, but if you have tried everything else and the alternative is severe depression, poor work performance and the host of health problems associated with lack of sleep you may not have a choice.

I have tried Trazadone and have heard of Elavil and Sinequan only to find they didn't work after taking them a week or two. Your doctor will have you keep a journal to determine which works best for you. Xanax in Mexico is called Alprozolam.

27. Weighted blankets -  Veterans with PTSD often have sleep issues and they have found that a weighted blanket helps. The “deep-touch therapy” blankets are made of plastic poly- pellets and weigh about 30 pounds.

26,  Cognitive therapy and muscle relaxation techniques can be led by a trained therapist.

27. As if insomnia wasn’t enough, restless leg syndrome is often a reason for not being able to sleep.  In addition (or instead of) medications, try ice packs behind the back of the legs or lay on your stomach in bed at first.

28. An aquarium - When I lived in Washington D.C., I kept an aquarium in the bedroom. The back and forth swimming of the fish served as a pendulum and often helped me nod off.

29. If you breathe with your mouth open, dry mouth will keep you up all night sipping water. Paradoxically, sleep medications cause dry mouth that will keep you awake all night.

If not caused by drugs, the advice is to  train yourself to sleep with your mouth closed by taping your mouth shut or mostly shut with surgical tape. Your partner will probably be more than happy to assist you.

I like to couple the tape over my mouth with the bandana over my eyes (see # 3), to indicate a hostage situation should I ever die in my sleep. Do not disclose these methods to potential romantic partners (see #1). Wait until they are in too deep.

30. If you’re drinking enough water during the day and still wake up with dry mouth, you may not be producing enough saliva. Check online for strips that attach to your teeth that help increase the production.  You have to go online for the best products. Drug stores usually only sell mouthwashes and lozenges.

31. Sleep-disorder clinics - You sleep with various electrodes attached to your head and body for a day or two so doctors can determine if you have sleep apnea, narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorders or the desire to kill villagers

32. The most radical of them all requires no drugs or ingestibles. I call it  “The Hamlet Method." No pills, no calories and free. The hardest part is giving up that it’s “gonna be one of those nights,”  and getting out of bed, rather than tossing and turning in vain.  

Best for those who can fall asleep, but not stay asleep, I read about it years ago when an author was making a case that electricity has disrupted our natural circadian rhythms. He claimed that before electricity was invented, many people woke up for a few hours in the middle of the night because for them (unlike me) 13 hours sleep was a little too much.

I call it the Hamlet Method

The Hamlet Method 

1. Go to bed, but set the alarm for when you usually wake up, probably round 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning - a great time to get up and “walk the moors.”

2. Use the hour or so of “quiet wakefulness” for prayer, reading spiritual or other soothing activities. Meditate or do a walking meditation in a garden or dimly lit area. These hours of the night have a special quality that promotes deep introspection.  

3. When you get sleepy (for me about 5:00 in the morning), go back to sleep another few hours. Typically the schedules of others will assist you in waking up early, construction or noises of city life, or maybe family members who need your to  begin your day with them.

4. After a regular lunch, you might get drowsy.  If you take a nap don’t sleep too long, probably a half hour at most.

This schedule should give you between eight hours of sleep a day, just not all at once. I’ve tried it a few times and loved the medieval feel of it.

The strange thing is that insomiacs often don't have any trouble taking naps in the middle of the day. When I worked in an office, I was able to conk out in five minutes in my car in a side-street during lunchtime.

Unfortunately, between the the bandanna over my eyes and the drooling, concerned pedestrians (and once an eight-year old with a can of Coke, leading me to think I was being filmed for a commercial) forced me to give the roadside naps up. 

I hope this list helps. Please let me know if I’ve left anything out.  I'm dying to get some sleep. 

Related Link:

"How Sleep Loss Disrupts Emotional Balance" - Psychology Today

Next up: How Skype can prepare you for expat life.

Most recent:  Maybe that's when I learned, love is not all that matters.

About the author and insomniac, Kerry Baker


Kerry Baker

Hi, I write this blog and am the author of "If Only I Had a Place," on renting in Mexico and the Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online, a curation of the best free tools on the web, organized by level and skill.

Spanish will double the pleasure of your experience as an expat. It takes several years to be truly conversational on a broad array of topics. Get started before you go with my guide.