Insomnia means that you have trouble falling asleep or
staying asleep. It is a common problem. Most people will have sleep problems
now and then because of temporary stress, worry, or an irregular schedule. But
when you have trouble sleeping for weeks or months, it can lead to health
problems. Worrying about it only makes it worse.

The good news is
that if you can change the way you think about sleep, and then make some simple
lifestyle changes, you may improve how well you sleep. This topic will give
you some tips on how to do just that.

  • Lots of things affect how well you sleep.
    You can use a sleep journal to help you figure out what helps and also what may get
    in the way of a good night’s sleep.
  • Changing one or more of your
    habits may improve how well you sleep.

How can you sleep better?

Here are some tips that
may help you sleep more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed. You might
want to start slowly at first. Pick one thing to change, and see how that
change affects your sleep. After a week or two, try to add another change. As
you make changes, you might want to use a
sleep journal (What is a PDF document?) to figure out what things help you to sleep better and what things
may get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Step by step, your sleep should
improve. If it doesn’t, talk to your doctor.

Food and drink

  • Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas)
    during the day, and don’t have any for at least 4 to 6 hours before
  • Don’t drink alcohol late in the evening. You may fall asleep with
    no problems, but drinking alcohol before bed can wake you up later in the
    night. Otherwise, drink in moderation. Try to limit alcohol to 2 standard drinks a day
    for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. But a light snack may help
    you sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed thirsty. But don’t drink so much that
    you have to get up often to urinate during the night.

Healthy habits

  • Go to bed at a regular bedtime every
  • Wake up at the same time each day, including weekends, even
    if you haven’t slept well.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Get plenty of sunlight in the outdoors, especially in the morning
    and in late afternoon.
  • Set aside time for problem solving earlier in the day so that you
    don’t carry anxious thoughts to bed. Keep a notepad by your bed to write down
    any thoughts or worries that may keep you up or wake you up during the night.
  • Try to not use technology such as smartphones, computers, or tablet devices in the hours before bed. The light from these devices and the emotions that can result from checking email or social media sites can make it harder to unwind and fall asleep.
  • Do something relaxing before bedtime. Try deep breathing, yoga,
    meditation, tai chi, or muscle relaxation. Take a warm bath. Play a quiet game,
    or read a book.

In bed

  • Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. A bit of
    light reading may help you fall asleep. But if it doesn’t, do your reading
    elsewhere in the house. Don’t watch TV in bed.
  • Be sure your bed is
    big enough to stretch out comfortably, especially if you have a sleep
  • Use earplugs or sleep in a different room if your partner’s
    snoring keeps you awake. If you notice that your partner is sleeping on his or
    her back, turn your partner to his or her side. This may help your partner stop
    snoring. You may also want to encourage your partner to see a doctor to find
    out what may be causing him or her to snore.
  • Reduce the noise in the house, or mask it with a steady low
    noise, such as a fan on slow speed or a radio tuned to static. Use comfortable
    earplugs if you need them.
  • Keep the room cool and dark. If you
    can’t darken the room, use a sleep mask.
  • If watching the clock
    makes you anxious about sleep, turn the clock so you can’t see it, or put it in
    a drawer.
  • Use a pillow and mattress that are comfortable for
  • Consider making your bed off-limits to your children and your
    pets. Their sleep patterns may be different from your own and may affect your

Things to avoid

  • Don’t take naps during the
  • Don’t use tobacco, especially near bedtime and/or if you wake up
    during the night. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can keep you
  • Don’t lie in bed awake for too long. If you can’t fall
    asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to
    sleep within 15 minutes or so, get out of bed and go to another room until you
    feel sleepy.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD – Psychiatry

Current as ofMay 3, 2017