23 Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep

Worry, stress, excitement, work, travel, the latest season of your favorite show — there’s a lot that can keep you up at night. Occasionally finding it difficult to sleep isn’t cause for alarm. However, you may need to make some changes, or talk to a medical professional, if sleepless nights are a common problem for you. Here’s what to do when you can’t sleep, and some tips to improve your quality of sleep at night.

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What to do when you can’t sleep

  • Don’t get discouraged and up out of bed 10 minutes after closing your eyes. It’s normal to lie in bed for 15 to 20 minutes before you actually fall asleep.
  • Try to go back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. As with falling asleep, don’t give up too soon.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed, stretch, and do something low-key or tedious. Try folding laundry, organizing your junk drawer, or reading the classifieds. Avoid screens and electronic devices.
  • Embrace sleep. Relax, focus on your breathing, and tell yourself that you’re tired.
  • Turn off all lights and sounds if you failed to do so before bed.
  • Adjust the temperature. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal sleep temperature range is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Some people are easily distracted by noise outside of their home, and some people find silence unsettling. Try white noise or a sound machine to help you fall asleep.
  • If stress or worry are keeping you up, try to think about positive things instead of dwelling on negative thoughts.
  • Distract yourself. Don’t fixate on the fact that you’re not sleeping when you should be sleeping. Try thinking about something else or nothing at all.

Ways to promote better sleep

Try making changes in your lifestyle that promote better sleep. Creating a good sleep environment, establishing a routine, and making healthy decisions can help improve the quality of sleep that you get each night.

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule. Choose a bed time and wake time that will help you meet the recommended number of hours for sleep each night.
  • If you decide to take a nap, limit your shuteye to 10 or 20 minutes. Don’t nap late in the afternoon.
  • Set up a good sleep environment. Your bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. You should have a comfortable mattress, pillows, and a blanket.
  • You should exercise everyday. Regular physical activity is good for your health, and it can help you fall asleep at night.
  • Silence your phone and set it on the other side of the room. This will discourage you from checking it throughout the night.
  • Turn off screens well before bedtime.
  • Dim the lights leading up to bedtime.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine, or stop drinking caffeine early in the day.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bedtime.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, especially before bed.
  • Relax and unwind before bedtime. Take a bath, color, write in a journal, paint, listen to soothing music, read, stretch, or do a puzzle.
  • Putting aside stressful and worrying thoughts until bedtime can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and these thoughts might wake you up in the middle of the night. Set aside some time during the day to process, reflect, and meditate on your thoughts.
  • Talk to a sleep specialist. Sometimes making lifestyle changes isn’t enough to improve your sleep quality and help you get the rest that you need. 30% of adults have symptoms of insomnia, according to the American Academy of Sleep. Talk to a medical professional if you find it difficult to fall asleep, you wake during the night, or you get poor quality sleep.