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What To Do When You Can’t Sleep | Sleep Reset

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October 3, 2022

What To Do When You Can’t Sleep

Medically reviewed by: 

If you've spent countless nights staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping, you're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. If you're one of them, don't worry—there are things you can do to fall asleep faster.

And no, you don't need to count sheep. Simple tricks like that may work for some people, but they're not always effective. If you want to try something that's backed by science, here's an in-depth look at our best tips for what to do when you can’t sleep. Are you wondering if you have insomnia? Take our Insomnia Quiz to find out if you have insomnia.

Stop Trying to Sleep

Struggling to fall asleep? The worst thing you can do is lie in bed and try to force yourself. That just leads to stress and frustration.

Instead of tossing and turning for hours, give yourself twenty minutes to fall asleep. If you're still awake at minute 21, get up and do something else until you're tired. Go to another room and meditate or read. Then, once you feel sleepy, head back to bed.

There are things you can do during the day to protect your sleep as well. For example, try to reserve your bed for sleeping and intimacy. This will help your brain associate your bed with bedtime.

Create a Positive Sleeping Environment

Your bedroom should be a haven for sleep. But that only comes by practicing strict sleep hygiene.

Make sure it's dark, quiet, and cool. Consider investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light. If you live in a noisy area, invest in a sound machine to help you drift off.

Your mattress and pillows are also important. If you can't remember the last time you changed your sheets, it's probably been too long. Invest in high-quality bedding that feels comfortable to you. The same goes for pillows—find ones that support your neck and head so you can sleep soundly throughout the night.

These may seem like minor adjustments, but they can make a big difference. Creating a positive sleep environment will help you fall asleep—and stay asleep.

Practice Mindfulness Exercises for Sleep

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment. It can help you relax and clear your mind before bedtime.

There are several ways to practice mindfulness for sleep:

Breathing Techniques

One of the simplest mindfulness techniques you can try is to focus on your breath.

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Slowly inhale and exhale through your nose. As you breathe, pay attention to the sensations in your body. Notice how your chest rises and falls with each breath.

Continue breathing deeply for five to ten minutes. Once you're finished, open your eyes and go to bed.

Muscle Relaxation Exercises

Another way to practice mindfulness is to focus on relaxing your muscles. Start by tensing and releasing your toes, then move up to your feet, calves, thighs, and so on.

When you reach your head and neck, try this: tilt your chin down toward your chest and slowly roll your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold for a count of five, then release. Repeat three times.

Visualization Exercises

If you find it difficult to focus on your breath or relax your muscles, try a visualization exercise instead. Picture yourself in a peaceful place—a beach, the mountains, or even just your own backyard. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell?

Spend a few minutes exploring your surroundings. Once you're finished, open your eyes and go to bed.

Mindfulness exercises can help you fall asleep faster by reducing stress and anxiety. If you're having trouble sleeping, give them a try tonight.

Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Sleep

Tricks to fall asleep may help occasionally, but if you’re routinely dealing with sleepless nights, you need a real plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a treatment that can help you change your sleep habits and thoughts.

CBT-I usually starts with education about sleep. You'll learn about how sleep works and what can affect it. This will help you understand why you might be having trouble sleeping.

Next, you'll work on changing any behaviors that are affecting your sleep. Perhaps you routinely enjoy an evening cup of coffee. Or maybe you like to scroll through social media in bed. These are the kinds of behaviors that will be identified.

Finally, you'll work on relaxation training and creating a sleep schedule. And the schedule may not be what you expect at first.

CBT-I uses sleep restriction and compression, a method that involves restricting your time in bed. Your total sleep duration may be as short as five hours. Temporarily adhering to this strict sleep schedule can help reset your internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep.

CBT-I is a very effective treatment for insomnia. It can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night.

Find Better Sleep With the Sleep Reset Program

If you're looking for a better way to sleep, try the Sleep Reset program. It's an easy-to-use program that will help you reset your sleep habits and get the rest you need.

The Sleep Reset app uses CBT-I to help you change your thoughts and behaviors around sleep.

You'll start by completing a short questionnaire about your sleep habits. Then, you'll create a personalized treatment plan with specific tasks to help you improve your sleep.

The app will also provide education about sleep and how CBT-I can help. Plus, it has a built-in progress tracker so you can see how far you've come.

If you're struggling to sleep, the Sleep Reset app can help. Take the Sleep Quiz