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I was wondering if someone could let me which one of the identical following self-made sentences does not sound natural because of the different time adverbs:

  • I couldn’t get any sleep last night at all.

  • I couldn’t get any sleep last night for the life of mine.

  • I couldn’t get any sleep last night one bit.

  • I couldn’t get any sleep last night a wink.

For me, they all mean the same, but I doubt if the last three sentences are used as common as the first one. Aside from this mater, they all mean the same and work properly to me.

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    The idioms are "not sleep a wink" and "not get a wink of sleep"
    – Victor B.
    Dec 31 '16 at 9:23
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The correct position for your idiomatic intensifier phrases are

I couldn’t get any sleep at all last night.
I couldn’t for the life of me get any sleep last night.
I couldn’t get one bit of sleep last night.
I couldn't get any sleep last night, not one bit.
I couldn’t get a wink of sleep last night.

I'm not sleepy at all".
I'm not sleepy one bit".
I couldn't fall asleep at all last night".

As a pattern "for the life of me" usually comes in front as an intensifier and can be used with other intensifier phrases

For the life of me, I'm not sleepy."
For the life of me, I'm not sleepy at all".
For the life of me, I'm not sleepy (not) one bit".

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  • Peter, does it sound natural grammatically and idiomatically to say: (I couldn’t fall asleep "at all" last night.)?
    – A-friend
    Dec 31 '16 at 12:13
  • what about: "I’m not sleepy at all" OR "I’m not sleepy for the life of mine" OR "I’m not sleepy one bit"? Which one does not sound natural?
    – A-friend
    Dec 31 '16 at 13:08
  • Added to answer.
    – Peter
    Dec 31 '16 at 18:05
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    "For the life of me, I'm not sleepy" sounds unidiomatic to me. I've heard the phrase used only in the context of being unable to do something: "I couldn't fall asleep for the life of me"; "I can't carry a tune for the life of me." I haven't come across any examples I can think of that use it to represent the absence of a state, like sleepiness or hunger. Also, I don't agree that it typically is at the beginning of a clause. I agree it sounds better there.
    – verbose
    Jan 1 '17 at 3:01
  • "For the life of me, I'm not sleepy" could be said in exasperation and frustration to someone who is trying to get you to go to sleep. "For the life of me" is kind of the same thing as "I swear (on a stack of Bibles)". I think you might be thinking of "I can't carry a tune to save my life".
    – Peter
    Jan 1 '17 at 3:13

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