November 19, 2020

5 Tips to Sleep Better When You Worry About Not Sleeping

You can beat insomnia by following these tips

woman practicing yoga before bed

Have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or just feeling rested?

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The bad news is that it may be due to personal lifestyle habits. However, the good news is that those are easy to change to help get you on your way to sleeping better, says behavioral sleep medicine specialist Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.

What do my habits have to do with it?

Some people lay in bed staring at the ceiling in part due to chronic pain, depression, medications or other substances that can interfere with sleep. When you treat those issues, often it will naturally help improve your ability to sleep.

However, despite addressing other medical or psychiatric conditions, sleep difficulties often will persist. People who have chronic insomnia worry excessively about sleep and the effects of insomnia. They also become more and more agitated and tense as bedtime gets closer.

“If you’re very worried about getting good sleep, you can put a lot of effort into getting sleep and have a lot of anxiety at night,” says Dr. Drerup. “This makes you more alert and can keep you lying in bed wide awake.”

Help is available if you’re having trouble sleeping

Dr. Drerup offers some suggestions that can help improve your sleep habits, including individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia. Trying to break some of the patterns that you may have developed is often the key.

1. Keep your sleep schedule the same

You can improve your sleep by ensuring that you have a consistent sleep schedule. Avoid staying up late on weekends and sleeping in, then trying to go to bed at your regular time on Sunday night.

Advertisement

“We call it social jet lag because it’s like you’ve flown to California, and now you’re trying to adjust back to the time zone difference,” explains Dr. Drerup. “So, keep those times as consistent as you can.”

Going to bed early or sleeping in to catch up only leads to more fragmented and poor quality sleep. Typically, you go to bed two hours early and then just lay there wide awake, continuing to associate your bed with not sleeping.

2. Take some quiet time before bedtime

Quiet time is worth its weight in gold. Give yourself at least 30 to 60 minutes of quiet, relaxed time before bed as a buffer. Nix phone screen time and replace it with reading a book, listening to calming music, taking a warm bath or having some decaffeinated herbal tea.

3. Distract yourself if you can’t sleep

If you can’t fall asleep, get up and try to restart by doing something to distract yourself before going back to bed.

“It could be flipping through magazines, calming yoga stretches or some type relaxing hobby like knitting or coloring,” she says. “Avoid anything that’s goal-directed or too physically or mentally activating such as house chores, paying bills or working on a computer.”

While it may be tempting to grab your phone off your nightstand and scroll endlessly through social media, don’t. The blue light emitted from your phone or tablet screen can inhibit your natural melatonin production which is a hormone that is involved in the timing of our internal circadian sleep clock.

Advertisement

4. Learn how to relax

Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can go a long way in helping you fall asleep. A sleep specialist can help you learn this as well as ways to calm your mind and your muscles and reduce or eliminate all the racing thoughts and worries. Dealing with stress in a healthy way is important for not only sleep, but your overall health, too.

“Practice the relaxation techniques and develop them as a skill during the day when you feel good and are already calm, rather than trying to do them for the first time at bedtime,” says Dr. Drerup.

5. Keep a sleep log

Think of this as the adult sister to that diary you’ve kept in middle school.

“You can track the details of your sleep patterns and lifestyle habits,” she says. “This can help you see trends in your behavior and will be useful when you discuss your insomnia with your doctor or a sleep disorder specialist. “

If writing things down the old fashioned way isn’t your jam, try smartphone apps or your smartwatch to help you keep a log. The Sleep Foundation has a sample sleep log that you can download and print out, too. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated to work.​

Related Articles

Older woman awake in bed in the middle of the night looking a smartphone
February 20, 2024
Does Menopause Cause Insomnia and Sleeplessness?

Hormone changes can definitely leave you tossing and turning at night, but help is available

female awake in bed staring ahead with male next to her asleep
January 19, 2024
3 Steps for Managing Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

Keeping a sleep diary and seeing a sleep specialist can help you stay asleep and get the ZZZs you need

An illustration of sheep jumping over a fence.
May 10, 2022
Can COVID-19 Cause Insomnia and Other Sleep Problems?

COVID-19 can lead to a number of sleep disorders, including insomnia

sleeping pills on bedside table with clock and glass of water
March 8, 2022
Can Melatonin Really Help You Sleep Better?

Does this supplement help you get more ZZZ's

man in pain after sleeping
January 12, 2022
How To Keep Sore Hips, Knees and Shoulders From Ruining Your Sleep

Find the right sleep position to tame your joint pain

woman sleeping and dreaming of covid virus
August 31, 2021
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Impact Your Sleep

Here's how to get some rest in the face of pandemic-caused insomnia

Circular orange pills spilling out of a tipped-over bottle
June 28, 2021
Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?

The scoop on magnesium sleep aids

woman taking vitamin
June 9, 2021
Can Vitamins and Supplements Help You Sleep?

An expert discusses what effects, if any, vitamins have on your ability to sleep

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery

Ad