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What Should I Do If I Can't Sleep?

What Should I Do When I Can't Fall Asleep?

If you find yourself lying awake in bed, you may need a sleep reboot. Try this:

  • Try to take your mind off any racing thoughts. Picture a relaxing scene that involves sleep and build that scene in your mind. So, let's say your scene has you lying in a beach hammock under the stars. Imagine what the waves sound like. Are there other sounds, like palm trees rustling? What sensations do you feel (like the hammock swaying, or maybe a warm breeze blowing)? Is anyone else there with you? Focus completely on this scene for a while.
  • Get up for a short time. If you’ve been lying awake for a while, get out of bed and do something relaxing that might make you feel drowsy — like reading, listening to quiet music, using a meditation or sleep app, or doing gentle yoga. Keep the lights low and go back to bed after 20 or 30 minutes (or sooner if you start feeling sleepy).
  • Avoid technology, like phones, computers, or TV. Brightly lit screens can trick your brain into thinking it's time to wake up. And anything that stimulates your brain — from texting to video games — also can kick your body into wake-up mode.

If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, work on training your body to wind down and relax with a pre-sleep routine each night. This could mean taking a shower, reading, or listening to quiet music.

Set other good sleep habits will make it easier to fall asleep at night, like:

  • going to bed at the same time each night and waking up around the same time in the morning (even on weekends)
  • shutting down technology
  • keeping your room cool and dark

Being active during the day can help you sleep better, as long as you don’t exercise too close to your bedtime. Caffeine will keep you lying awake at night so avoid coffee, tea, energy drinks and anything with caffeine in it for several hours before bed.

It can help to treat sleep like any other goal: Build a plan that helps you focus on it and get the results you want!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: Jun 1, 2020

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