Rest & Relaxation

Recap: What To Do If You Can’t Sleep

Lesson 16 Chapter 5

What To Do When You Can't Sleep

People with insomnia tend to have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night, or they wake up too early in the morning. There are ways to help with each of these patterns:

Tips For Falling Asleep

  • Carve out at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed in which you do something relaxing, such as read a book. Dim the lights in the house slightly for an hour or so before bed.  
  • Disconnect from close-range electronic devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets, as the light from their screens can alert the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Make lists of things to be tackled the next day before you go to bed, so they're not swimming around in your head.
  • In order to calm your mind, do a breathing or relaxation exercise. Use an App if you are not sure how to do this (there is one in the resources section).
  • If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and return to another space in the house to do a relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment and wakefulness. Instead, you want your bed to conjure sleepy thoughts and feelings only.
  • Wake up at the same time every day. Even if you have a hard time falling asleep and feel tired in the morning, try to get up at the same time (weekends included). This can help adjust your body's clock and aid in falling asleep at night.
  • ​Take a bath an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Sex!!  Yes, sex can actually make it easier to fall asleep. This is mostly because of the hormones that are released during the act. Sex boosts oxytocin (a hormone that makes you feel connected to your partner) and lowers cortisol (a stress-related hormone). Plus, having an orgasm releases a hormone called prolactin, which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. All of that leads up to a nice, drowsy state that's perfect for cuddling up and falling asleep.


  • Working too close to bedtime can make it hard to unwind. How can you drift off to sleep when all you can think about is that report that’s due the next morning? Instead, set a hard start and stop time when it comes to your work assignments. If you can, make a rule for yourself that you won’t work when you get home from the office. Your mind needs time to relax so that you can be fresh for the next day.
  • Don’t bring your smartphone, iPad, or other tech gadget to bed with you. It will be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep if you do this. In the evening, power down electronics at least an hour before bed to avoid both the mental and physical stimulation from these devices.
  • Although a caffeine rush may help you get a boost so that you can meet an impending deadline or stay up to take care of a newborn, it will wreck your sleep. Unless you like lying awake, staring at your ceiling all night, you might want to put that cup of coffee down.
  • If you are sensitive to the adrenaline rush from exercise, you may not want to do a full workout before it’s time to go to sleep. Rigorous efforts can make it difficult for some people to fall asleep.
  • You might enjoy a glass of wine or two before heading to bed, but this isn’t the best way to get a good night’s sleep. Alcohol might help you fall asleep quicker and enjoy a deeper sleep initially, however it can also interfere with other aspects of your rest. Studies have found consuming alcoholic beverages prior to getting some shut-eye can reduce REM sleep.
  • Sure, it’s important to stay hydrated, but it could have a negative impact on your ability to stay asleep. Getting up to run to the bathroom several times during the night will make it tough to have a good night’s sleep. If you’re thirsty, drink a small amount of water instead of chugging a full glass. ​


Sleeping is like anything else that's worthwhile.  It's far better if you work to a plan, until the sleep plan becomes a series of habits that happen automatically, to ensure that you sleep really well, consistently.