Help I Can’t Get To Sleep


14 suggestions for getting a good night's sleep.

Here's Dusty getting his beauty rest. How does he do it?


Are You Getting Enough Sleep?


Doctors and psychologists tell us it’s important to get good rest and that means plenty of sleep.  According to the Mayo Clinic the amount of sleep a person needs is largely determined by age—anywhere from 14 to 15 hours per day for infants to 7 to 9 hours for adults.  So how do you get those hours if you can’t fall asleep in the first place, or if you tend to wake up at night?


Here are 14 suggestions for getting a good night’s rest:


Stay cool at night for better rest.

Turn the thermostat down at night, or better yet program it to go down automatically at bedtime.

(1) Check the temperature in the room. Turning down your thermostat at night not only saves money and power, but it’s easier to fall and stay asleep if the room is cool.


(2) Stick to a schedule. If you’re varying the hours you get up or go to bed, don’t be surprised if it’s harder to stay asleep for a specific period of time.  Try getting up and going to bed at the same time every day of the week.  The idea is to train your body to accept a routine.


(3) Make the bed about sleeping.  How do you use your bed?  Is it your desk, favorite television, phone or texting place, your craft center, or the one spot you spend your waking hours idly passing time?  Try changing your routine so that the only thing you do on the bed is sleep.  By associating the bed with the activity of sleep alone, you’ll gradually train your body to fall asleep as soon as you hit the mattress.


Flipping out at bedtime.

Avoid vigorous exercise as you get ready for bed.

(4) Avoid invigorating activities at bedtime. Exercise gets the blood flowing which is probably the last thing you want to do right before trying to fall asleep.  Some say sex is the exception to this rule, but it depends on how you tend to feel after.  Another biggie to avoid: Starting a fight or a discussion over a topic you’re bound to disagree on.  If you’re all bound up in knots over a particular issue, a better strategy may involve writing your thoughts out on paper and leaving the discussion for morning.



(5) Skip foods before bedtime. Your body needs time to process foods so generally avoid eating for the three hours before you go to bed. This may help if you’re suffering from heartburn, too.  It’s easier for food to re-enter the esophagus when you lie horizontally.  Do yourself a favor and give your stomach time to digest food while you’re still up and about.


Coffee isn't the only thing that contains caffeine.

Coffee is delicious, but save it for morning.

(6) Caffeine is right out. Caffeine and other stimulates like nicotine should be avoided for at least 2 or 3 hours prior to bedtime.  Caffeine comes hidden in unexpected forms, too.  Besides coffee or soda, caffeine is often an ingredient in over the counter medications or in so-called “energy snacks”.  If you’ve eliminated the obvious sources of caffeine, check the list of ingredients for any pre-packaged product you’re consuming.


(7) Cut back on liquids before bedtime. Chances are if you’re drinking lots of fluids before bed, you’ll need to get up at night to relieve yourself.  Since it takes the body anywhere from a half hour to an hour to process and eliminate excess liquids, limit the amount you drink for the two hours prior to going to bed.


(8) Avoid bright lights during the evening. Your body will take cues from your environment.  The time to get plenty of light is in the early or middle part of the day, not the evening or night time.  This means you should avoid turning on bright lights prior to going to bed, or when you wake up during the night.  If you wake up at night to use the bathroom and are worried about tripping or falling, use less powerful night lights to guide your way.  Also, you can try a sleeping mask to block out light if you work nights and need to sleep during the day.  Another idea: Get a different clock for the side of your bed if your current clock  has a bright display.


A15 to 20 minute power nap can re-energize.

A long nap can upset your night time sleep pattern. Avoid naps or take shorter ones.

(9) Take sensible naps.  Some people say to avoid them if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, but others say a nap can actually improve mental function.  If you do decide naps are more beneficial than otherwise, try limiting them in length and frequency.  A good “power nap” of 15 to 20 minutes may be all you need to recharge your batteries.


(10) Give yourself permission to relax. There’s far too much to be anxious about in this world if you let it.  In the hour before bed, take the time to check in with your feelings.  Are you anxious?  Worried?  Stressed?  If you are, write down your concerns and then give yourself permission to deal with them tomorrow.  After all, it will only feel worse if you fail to get your rest.  Another good option is to avoid checking email, texting, or watching news or other shows that will only amp up your anxiety.  It’s bound be more beneficial to read a book, instead.


(11) Start a soothing bedtime ritual.  Find a way to divert your attention and energy before hitting the hay.  Try one or more of these ideas: Take a warm bath.  Read a story to your kids.  Meditate.  Drink a cup of warm milk or a non-caffeinated herbal tea like chamomile.  Give or receive a massage from your partner.  Do some mild stretching.


(12) Get up if you still can’t sleep. If you’ve tried everything you can think of, get up out of bed after about 20 minutes.  The idea here goes back to one we mentioned earlier—you want to train your body into believing that the mattress is only for sleeping.


(13) Some strategies if you do wake up: Try reading, but use the dimmest light you can—one that doesn’t strain your eyes.  The goal is to take your mind off whatever it’s been stuck on.  Avoid jumping on the computer or turning on the television as the light from the screens can actually stimulate brain activity.  You can also try listening to soft, calm music, or a cd or music file that contains natural sounds to soothe like ocean waves or a crackling fire.  Want to make your own nature sounds?  Try this fun link.  If you woke up because you had a nightmare or are overly anxious, spend a few minutes writing your thoughts out in a journal.  Sometimes our dreams aren’t as much about the images we remember, but how we feel about them as we dream.  If you find a pattern in your dreams or if they only add to your anxiety, they make be worth talking over with a counselor.


Not everyone sleeps soundly.

I may need to see the doctor. I feel anxious almost all the time and can't get to sleep.

(14) If nothing works see a doctor.  Sometimes the inability to sleep is sign of a physical problem like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.  However, most of the time it’s a matter of excess stress, anxiety and the associated tension that go along with them.  If you’ve tried everything and still can’t sleep, it may be worth a visit to your doctor to see if you have an underlying medical condition. If your doctor suggests a sleeping medication, be sure to remind him of the other medications you may already be taking,  ask about potential side-effects, and ask whether there are any other options you might consider.  For more information on common sleeping medications see this page at WebMD.


A Quiz On Sleeping


How does sleep affect your body?  Take this short quiz from WebMD to test your knowledge.


More Info…


For more information on sleep or information on sleep disorders see the American Sleep Association, The National Sleep Foundation or


How do you do it?


Far too many people I know suffer from restless nights.  How do you handle it when you can’t sleep?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also want to read:

The 12 Ways I Manage Stress

Finding Balance In Nature


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