1. Keep track.
Record how much and when you sleep, fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms. This serves two purposes: It can identify activities that help or hurt the chances of a good nightâs rest, and itâs a useful tool for a doctor or therapist, should you decide to see one. Digital programs like Zeo, YawnLog, and a variety of apps can all make snooze-tracking easier.
2. Try therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is a pretty common technique. Also called CBT-I, the therapy typically involves self-monitoring, mental strategies (like developing positive thoughts about sleep), and creating an environment that promotes sleepâand itâs been shown to improve sleep quality. Learn these strategies with the help of a therapist or with online guidance or booksâboth are equally effective ways of implementing CBT-I.Not into seeing a therapist? Check out Sleepio, a digital program that helps users learn about and implement CBT practices from the comfort of their own homes.
3. Establish a regular bedtime routine.
Find activities that help you wind down before bed, and stick to the same sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
4. Use the bed appropriately.
Beds should be reserved for sleep and sexâand nothing else. Bringing work into the bedroom is a sure-fire way to discourage sleep quality.
5. Choose the right mattress.
Uncomfortable bedding has been linked to poorer sleep quality, while a comfortable mattress can up the chances of a satisfying snooze. 6. Donât smoke.
Need another reason to quit? Smokers commonly exhibit symptoms of insomniaâpossibly because their bodies go into nicotine withdrawal during the night. 7. See a doctor.
If youâve tried everything and nothingâs worked, it might be time to consult a professional. A doctor can help rule out any sleep disorders and identify lifestyle factors or medications that might be getting in the way of a good nightâs rest.
32 Solutions for When You Can' t Sleep
8. Exercise early in the day.
Studies find moderate aerobic activity can improve insomniacsâ sleep quality. For best results, exercise at least three hours before bedtime so the body has sufficient time to wind down before hitting the sack.
9. Schedule âworry timeâ during the day.
Spend 15 minutes addressing problems (journaling is a good way to start) so they donât sneak up when your head hits the pillow. If a particular event or stressor is keeping you up at nightâand it has a clear end dateâthe problem may resolve itself naturally.
10. Limit caffeine.
Itâs tempting to reach for coffee when weâre tired after a poor nightâs sleep, but drinking caffeine can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night, creating a vicious cycle. Canât quit cold turkey? Try limiting caffeine intake to earlier in the day so itâs out of your system by bedtime.
11. Nap the right way.
Just 10 to 20 minutes of napping during the day can help us feel rested (and improve our creativity and memory, to boot. But try to avoid napping after 3: 00 or 4: 00 pm, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. 12. Get outside.
Increasing natural light exposure during the day promotes healthy melatonin balance, which can help us get to sleep later in the day.
13. Eat for sleep.
Eat foods high in magnesium, like halibut, almonds, cashews, and spinach, and foods high in vitamin B complex, like leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Some experts also recommend taking supplements of taurine, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
14. Try relaxation techniques.
In one study, people who practiced meditation saw improvements in total sleep time and sleep quality. Other relaxation strategiesâlike yoga, deep breathing, and progressive relaxationâare also effective tools for promoting good sleep.
15. Avoid large meals late in the evening.
Jumbo meals pre-bedtime have been linked to trouble falling asleep. 16. Dim the lights two hours before bed.
According to one study, exposure to electrical lights between dusk and bedtime might negatively affect our chances at quality sleep. Assuming you donât want to sit in the dark for hours, find the happy medium by dimming the lights as bedtime draws near. Also consider changing all light bulbs to âsoft/warmâ varieties with a color temperature less than 3,000 kelvins, all of which can reduce lightsâ effects on our nervous systems.
17. Turn off the screens.
The artificial (or âblueâ) light emitted by screens can disrupt our bodiesâ preparations for sleep by stimulating daytime hormones. Reduce exposure by turning off TVs, phones, and computers at least one hour before bedtime. Canât give up the Daily Show? At least dim a screenâs brightness, either manually or with the help of automated programs.
18. Donât drink alcohol right before bed.
Booze might seem like an obvious choice for calming down pre-bedtime, but it can actually disrupt sleep cycles later in the night. You donât have to give up the good stuff completely; just drink it with dinner (around 6 oâclock) and skip the nightcap.
19. Donât use your brain before bed.
Donât work, watch stimulating TV shows, read complex material, or think too hardâabout anythingâbefore bedtime; working out the brain keeps the body awake.
20. Have sex or masturbate before bed.
Hey, anything for a good nightâs rest. Getting our âOâ face on pre-bedtime can help us fall asleep.
21. Keep it (dark and) cool.
A dark, cool bedroom environment helps promote restful sleep. Program the thermostat so the bedroomâs temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (experiment to find what works best for you), and use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block lights. Also be sure to charge phones and laptops outside the bedroomâeven this tiny bit of light can disrupt sleep. If you live in a studio or canât get away from blue lights for any reason, consider making a (very small) investment in blue light blocking glasses.
22. Consider natural supplements.
Valerian and melatonin are two of the most highly recommended supplements (though their efficacy is still under review. Some other sleep aids can be effective, too.
23. Donât try to sleep unless youâre sleepy.
Yes, it sucks when itâs 2 a.m. And you still donât feel tired, despite knowing you need rest. But climbing into bed when you donât feel ready for sleep is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, engage in relaxing activities (like gentle yoga and meditation or listening to soothing music) until you get the strong urge to snooze. If sleep hasnât come within 20 minutes, get back out of bed and try relaxing activities again until youâre sleepy enough to give it another go.
24. Minimize disturbing noises.
If external noises are beyond your control (a busy street outside the window, a neighborâs barking dog), cover them up with the sound of a bedside fan, a white noise machine, or other sounds that help us sleep.
25. Vent stresses.
If designated worry time earlier in the day didnât fully do the trick, spend some extra time writing down anxieties. Loose-leaf paper works, but if you scrawl your sorrows in a journal or notebook, you can literally close the book on your worries (at least until morning).
26. Brew some chamomile tea.
Studies find the humble herb can reduce anxieties, getting us into a better head space for sleep.
27. Try a hot bath or shower.
Stepping from warm water into that pre-cooled bedroom will cause body temperatures to drop slightly, which can trigger sleepy feelings by slowing down metabolic activity.
28. Sip some hot milk.
Science doesnât necessarily back the idea that milk facilitates snoozing, but conventional wisdom might be strong enough that our minds still believe moo milk lulls us to sleep.
29. Do some leg exercises.
We know; we told you not to exercise before bed. But apparently some easy leg lifts, squats, or your leg exercise of choice can help divert blood flow to the legs and away from the brain. This can help quiet the mind, making it easier to slip into dreamland.
30. Seriously: Count some sheep.
It might not work for everybody, but focusing on one thing can help the brain settle down, making sleep more possible. Not a fan of our wooly friends? Focusing on your breath (in, out, in, out) is also an effective way to chill out. Or bust out some of those relaxation techniques you practiced earlier in the eveningâthey're just as good of a resource in the wee hours.
31. Visualize yourself asleep.
Imagine yourself drifting in a blissful slumber while practicing deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at one end of the body and working up or down, clench and then release each section of muscles for instant all-over relaxation.
32. Accept insomnia for what it is.
Judgments (âI should be asleepâ), comparisons (âmy BF/GF/roommate is sleeping; why canât I?â), and catastrophic thinking (âIf I donât get eight hoursâ sleep tonight, Iâll mess up that presentation tomorrow, lose my job, and die tired and aloneâ) donât do us any good. Make the night easier by accepting it for what it is, letting go of judgments, and being gentle with yourself. The silver lining? You just might get to see a glorious sunrise.