7 Ways to Just Get Through the Night With Insomnia

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Evelyn Creekmore on September 13, 2021
  • woman-sitting-up-in-bed-with-insomnia
    Insomnia Tips
    Up to 70 million people in the United States have a sleep disorder, and insomnia–the inability to fall or stay asleep–is the most common type. Adults need between seven and nine hours of solid sleep each night, but more than a third of us get less than seven. Symptoms of insomnia include trouble falling asleep, waking up often once you do, and feeling the effects of sleep deprivation the next day: fatigue, irritability, or poor concentration. Learn what you can do to improve your sleep quality and keep an eye out for signs it’s time for your doctor’s help.
  • couple sleeping, woman embracing man
    1. Overcome insomnia with a better sleep space.
    Take a fresh look at your bedroom with restful sleep in mind. Is it dark enough, cool enough, quiet enough? How old is that mattress? Eliminate all the discomforts and distractions you can. Resist the urge to watch TV, play with your phone, or work on your laptop in bed. Any “daytime” activity during your nighttime routine can overstimulate you and make it harder to sleep. Turn any clocks facing away from you to reduce the temptation of checking the time during the night, which can prolong your restlessness and make you feel more frustrated.
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    2. When you can’t sleep, stop trying–for a while.
    Forcing yourself to go to bed when you’re not tired or go back to sleep after you’ve woken up at night can backfire. If it’s time for bed, but you’re wide awake, try doing something relaxing, like reading or listening to soothing music, to ease you into a more sleep-ready state. If you wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up, go to another room, and engage in a relaxing activity there until you feel sleepy.
  • Woman jogging up stairs
    3. Tweak your day for a better night.
    From the very beginning of your day, what you do can have a huge influence on how your night goes. Most of us like to sleep in when we can, but you’re more likely to sleep well if you wake up and go to sleep on a regular schedule. Naps can feel great in the moment, but they can throw your system off, too, so it’s usually better to avoid them. Daytime exercise helps many people relax at night–but avoid winding yourself up late in the day.
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    4. Avoid insomnia by avoiding stimulants.
    Nighttime isn’t the right time for caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine. Try cutting off coffee, tea, and soft drinks by noon and drink no more than one alcoholic drink early in the evening. Smoking any time can tank your sleep quality, so use that as motivation to quit. Kicking the habit may not be easy, but individual counseling, support groups, and medication can help. Be aware that using nicotine replacement products like patches can cause sleep disturbances, but you may be able to reduce the risk by not using them within a few hours of bedtime. Ask your doctor for advice.
  • Caucasian man sleeping with mouth open and head to side in bed
    5. Remember to breathe.
    When you’re trying to fall asleep, it can help to relax your nervous system and signal to your body that it’s time to rest. Controlled breathing is a relaxation technique that can lower stress, calm anxiety, and ready the brain for sleep. There are many different exercises you can try. Here’s one to start with: while you’re lying in bed, inhale slowly through your nose and count to one. Then, exhale slowly out your mouth and count to two. Inhale three, exhale four. Keep breathing and counting until you start to drift off.
  • young-woman-laying-in-bed-awake
    6. Practice mindfulness over matter.
    Mindfulness is a type of meditation that aims to decrease anxiety and stop recurring, worrisome thoughts that literally keep you up at night. As with controlled breathing, there are many different mindfulness exercises. Performing a body scan is a great place to start. Concentrate on your body, part by part, one at a time: feet, legs, trunk, arms, shoulders, neck, head. Note any positive or negative physical feelings or sensations. Consciously relax any tensions, let go of any resistance, and adjust yourself to more comfortable positions as you go.
  • Doctor talking to patient
    7. Know when to say when.
    You may not be able to fix your sleep problems on your own because they may be due to an underlying medical cause. Mental health conditions involving anxiety or depression could be the root. Other conditions as different as asthma and acid reflux may also play a role. If you’re taking medicine, sleep problems may be a side effect. You may even have a broader sleep disorder than insomnia like sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop in the night. If you find simple sleep tips aren’t that helpful, it’s time to talk to your doctor in depth.
Insomnia Tips | Overcoming Insomnia
  1. Nicotine Patches Topic Overview. Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=aa153504
  2. Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics. American Sleep Association. https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
  3. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/insomnia/faq-20057824
  4. What to Do When You Can’t Sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/treatment/what-do-when-you-cant-sleep
  5. Insomnia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/insomnia-causes-and-cures.htm
  6. Medical Causes of Sleep Problems. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/medical-causes-of-sleep-problems.htm
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Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.