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We all have nights when we cannot fall asleep. It may be due to stress, health problems, or a noisy neighbor. Quality of sleep affects performance, mood, and health. Whether you have short- or long-term insomnia, you can take steps to make sleep easier.

Change Your Environment

We love to be comfortable, warm, and cozy. Going to bed at night should give you the same feeling. Look at your bedroom and see if you can make changes. Here are some options to think about:

  • Make sure you have a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation.
  • Keep your bedroom very dark. Use shades and curtains that block light.
  • Wear a sleep mask.
  • Try to prevent noise from keeping you awake. Use earplugs or white noise (a machine that uses steady noise to drown out disturbing noise).
  • Keep the room cool.
  • Turn off TVs, computers, or cell phones in the bedroom. Do this at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Change Your Behavior

Certain habits can make it hard for your body and mind to relax and unwind. A nightly routine will help make your body ready for sleep. Remember new habits take some time. Be patient and keep trying new things.

Use the daytime hours to get ready for sleep at night:

  • Do not use stimulants such as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, or chocolate) in the evening.
  • Set aside some time for worrying and dealing with upsetting situations.
  • Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime. Try some relaxation methods too, like Tai Chi.
  • Take a short walk outside during the day. Sunlight or bright light may help you relax at night.
  • Try not to nap during the day, but especially not after 3 pm.

There are also some changes you can make to your evening routine:

  • Do not stay up too late. Make sleep a priority.
  • Go to bed at a similar time each night, even on your days off.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
  • Take a warm bath to relax before going to bed.
  • Have a light snack a few hours before bed. Do not eat spicy foods or large meals which can cause heartburn.
  • Do not drink a lot of fluids before bedtime.
  • Check ingredients on cold medicines. See if they have caffeine or other stimulants.

Nicotine and alcohol contribute to sleeplessness. Do not drink alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime or smoke within 2 hours of bedtime. If do you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. Smokers have more disrupted sleep than nonsmokers.

If you still cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something. Try again when you feel drowsy.

Health problems can also affect your sleep. Examples are sleep apnea, snoring, or pain. If you have long-term sleeping problems, call your doctor.

RESOURCES:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

National Sleep Foundation
http://www.sleepfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Better Sleep Council Canada
https://bettersleep.org

The Canadian Sleep Society
http://www.css-scs.ca

REFERENCES:

Healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep_atglance.pdf. Accessed June 9, 2021.

Healthy sleep tips. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips. Accessed June 9, 2021.

Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/insomnia-in-adults . Accessed June 9, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 6/9/2021