If you have been tossing and turning and wondering if you will ever fall asleep, you are not alone. Over the course of a year, up to one fifth of adults haveinsomnia, or trouble sleeping. Insomnia is more common in older people. Learn why sleep is so important and what you can do to better yours.
The body repairs and restores itself during sleep. The immune and nervous systems cannot work well without enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Digestive system problems
- Feeling more stressed
- Problems with memory and thinking
- Lower motivation
- Slower reflexes
Changes in your daily routine may help you sleep better at night. These include:
- Keep regular hours—Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, even on weekends.
- Regular exercise—Exercise helps reduce stress. Try not to exercise too close to bedtime. This can make it hard to fall asleep.
- Cut down on caffeine—Eating or drinking things with caffeine in the evening can make it hard to fall asleep. Caffeine can also affect the deep sleep that helps your body restore itself. Have a cup of herbal tea, which does not have caffeine. You may even want to cut caffeine from your diet.
- Do not smoke—Smokers tend to take longer to fall asleep, wake more often, and have poor quality sleep. Talk to your doctor about how to quit.
- Try not to eat before sleeping—Plan to finish eating 2–3 hours before you go to bed. If you eat too close to bedtime, you may wake during the night.
- Drink alcohol in moderation—Drinking alcohol shortly before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster, but it can lead to poor sleep.
Once you are home for the night, these steps may help you wind down and get ready for sleep:
- Create a sleep ritual—Take a hot bath, drink a cup of herbal tea, listen to music, or read a book. Doing the same things each night just before bed tells your body to settle down for the night.
- Unwind early in the evening—Deal with worries and things you need to do a few hours before going to bed. Make a list of things you need to do the next day so you will not think about them all night. Try exercises to help you relax, like slow rhythmic breathing.
- Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation—It is difficult to get deep, restful sleep on a bed that is too small, too soft, or too hard.
- Make sure your room is a good place for sleep—A dark, quiet room is best for sleep. Sudden, loud noises or bright lights can make it hard to sleep. You may want to try using a white noise machine to block out noises. A room that is too hot or too cold can disturb sleep as well. The best bedroom temperature is between 60-65°F.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex —Do not use the bedroom for things like paying bills, watching tv, or talking about the problems of the day.
If your doctor has suggested you take medicine for sleep, take it as directed. Sleep medicine should only be used for a short time and as a last resort. Most are taken within an hour of bedtime and should only be used when you are able to get a full night of sleep.
If you do not want to take medicine to help you sleep, light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy may help.
Sometimes insomnia may cause or be caused by other health problems. Talk to your doctor about getting the right treatment so you can get a better night's sleep.
National Institute on Aging
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council Canada
Canadian Sleep Society
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Insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/home. Accessed November 16, 2020.
Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed November 16, 2020.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114839/Insomnia-in-adults. Accessed November 16, 2020.
Insomnia fact sheet. Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/insomnia.html. Accessed November 16, 2020.
Melatonin. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Accessed November 16, 2020.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 1/29/2021