Helpful Things To Do When You Can’t Sleep

When You Can’t Sleep

There are always times when most of us can’t sleep at night. Regrettably, the fact that you can’t sleep is a problem that needs immediate resolution. So, we use tricks we have learned over the years, to try falling asleep.

Ultimately, there are, essentially, three kinds of remedies to use if you can’t sleep. First, there are the remedies which have immediate consequences. Next, there are the short term remedies. The effects of these remedies are seen as early as a few days and as long as a few weeks.

Finally, there are the long term remedies. The effects of long term remedies are seen in several weeks to months. However, that does not mean, you put off the long term remedies. In fact, the best approach is to begin using the long term remedies concurrently with both the immediate and short term remedies. And, one of the long term remedies is making the bedroom more conducive for sleeping. As a matter of fact, some of the remedies described for the bedroom are indeed short term remedies.

Immediate Remedies When You Can't Sleep

Take a Warm Bath

First and foremost, if you can’t sleep, take a warm bath. In fact, studies have shown that increasing your body temperature before bed makes it easier for us to fall asleep. Moreover, it is best to take a bath or shower about an hour before bedtime.

And, when you are done, stepping into the cooler air causes your body temperature to drop precipitously. In fact, studies report that such a fast drop in body temperature, quickly slows down your metabolism, your heart rate, your breathing rate, and your digestion.

Above all, the circadian rhythm controls many aspects of our daily life. And the circadian rhythm is greatly impacted by body temperature. So, as the body cools down from a warm bath or shower, the circadian rhythm begins making us sleepy.

In addition, soaking in a warm bath has been shown to reduce inflammation. Incidentally, showers are also very relaxing.

Also, if you do this regularly every night, your body learns that the next thing to happen is to fall asleep.

Listen to Music

Next, studies have demonstrated that one hour of listening to sedative music, composed by certified music therapists, reduced Stage 2 of a sleep cycle. But, it prolonged the duration of a sleep cycle’s most restorative Stage 3 deep sleep.

On the other hand, if you can’t get hold of sedative music or if it’s not your taste, you can listen to Buddhist chants. Also, another 2008 study focused on listening to relaxing classical music for 45 minutes, before bedtime. Moreover, the study reported significant improvement in sleep quality, as measured using the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index.

In conclusion, listen to any kind of music that is calming or has a soothing effect on you and helps you fall asleep.

Read a Book When You Can't Sleep

Now, research shows that only six minutes of reading relaxes you and reduces your stress levels by up to 68%. Furthermore, no matter what book it is, reading lets you lose yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book exploring the domain of the author's imagination. As a result, you are able to escape the worries and stresses of the everyday world.

However, if you are reading a book because you can’t sleep, make sure you read a hard back or paperback instead of reading from a screen. In fact, a study reported that participants reading an e-book took longer to fall asleep than those reading a hard back or paperback book. Finally, avoid books that might cause you to have a strong emotional response, as this might make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

Do Stretching Exercises

Next, stretching relaxes your muscles as well as releases tension. Furthermore, relaxing your muscles relaxes your mind. Which, in turn, relaxes your body. As a result it helps you fall asleep. So, next time you are having difficulty falling asleep, stretch your back, body, arms, or legs.

Do Breathing Exercises When You Can't Sleep

Because they help you relax, another option to consider are breathing exercises. And, one of the easiest and most effective breathing exercise is Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 method. Follow these steps:

  • First, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the exercise.
  • Second, completely exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Third, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
  • Fourth, hold your breath while mentally counting to seven.
  • Fifth, open your mouth and exhale completely making a whoosh sound, while mentally counting to eight.
  • Sixth, repeat the cycle at least three more times.

Exercise Your Legs

Yet, another exercise to do when you can’t sleep is the leg lift or squats. Most of all, both the leg lifts and squats divert blood away from the brain to the legs. And, this helps quiet the brain. Which, in turn, makes it easy to fall asleep.

Get a Massage

Meanwhile, another way to help you get to sleep is to massage your feet using a foot massager or warm your feet using a foot spa massager. Also, using a massage chair may make you fall asleep.

Change Your Sleep Position

If you can’t sleep with the sleep position you are using, try a different sleep position to see if it helps. Above all, there are principally four sleeping positions: on your back, on your stomach and on one side or the other.

Incidentally, the back position may not work for everyone and especially anyone with blocked airways, sleep apnea, or snoring.

Moreover, a study reported that the majority of survey respondents slept in the side position. And, that this sleep position significantly protected against cervical, scapular and arm pain while significantly promoting high sleep quality.

Count Sheep When You Can't Sleep

An old method to try, is to count slowly backward from 100. Above all, some of the reasons why this works include getting bored and by distracting you from anxious thoughts. However, for this remedy to work, you have to be able to focus your thoughts on the counting and not allowing your brain to wonder. And if it doesn’t work, don’t get distressed, just try something else.

Don’t Look At the Clock

If you still can’t sleep, hide the clock. Because constantly checking the time, only increases your stress and worry about not falling asleep. As a result, falling asleep gets even harder.

Put On Socks and Gloves

Especially relevant, a Swiss study reported that warm feet and hands were the best predictor of rapid sleep onset. First of all, socks warm your feet. As a result, blood vessels on the surface of the feet get wider.  Which, in turn increases heat loss. Consequently, this causes more blood to flow from your core to your feet. Which, in turn cools down your body. And the cooling body along with melatonin causes you to fall asleep faster.

Get Up

If, after getting in bed, you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, do not lay in bed and worry about not sleeping. Rather, get up and do something else. Go to another part of the house for a relaxing activity. And read a book in dim light or listen to music until you feel tired.

Try Staying Awake

After getting in bed, 20 minutes have gone by but you still can't sleep. Rather than trying to fall asleep, try to stay awake. In fact, there was a small study at the University of Glasgow to see if this works.  First, one group of insomniacs were told to lie in bed and stay awake by keeping their eyes open. While another group of insomniacs were told to lie in bed and try to sleep. Ironically, the study found that insomniacs, who were told to stay awake, fell asleep faster than those who weren’t.

Get Out of Bed

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed. Rather, for 10 minutes do something that requires your hands and head. As a result, you avoid associating the bed with being awake.

Try Cold Water Therapy

If you are really anxious about not falling asleep, submerge your face in a bowl of cold water. As a result, an involuntary phenomenon, called the “Mammalian Dive Reflex”, is triggered. Strangely enough, this phenomenon lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Consequently you are able to quickly fall asleep.

Use Relaxation Exercises When You Can't Sleep

Try a relaxation exercise to help you relax and sleep.

Use Meditation Techniques

If you are familiar with meditation techniques, use them. Most of all, meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety as well as helps increase melatonin levels which, in turn, helps falling asleep.

Use Yoga Techniques

Yoga helps release stress and tension in your body. Most of all, yoga promotes relaxation, breathing, exercise and healing. Furthermore, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga may be helpful for insomnia.

Use Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness helps maintain focus on the present and not worry so much while falling asleep. Moreover, a study in older adults with sleeping difficulties found that mindfulness meditation improved sleep quality compared to people who did not.

Short term Remedies When You Can't Sleep

Avoid Mid-Day Naps

First of all, avoid mid-day naps longer than 30 minutes. And if you must nap limit it to 20 minutes. Furthermore, nap only between 2 PM to 4 PM. However, as you nap closer to the evening, you may have a hard time falling asleep at your regular sleep time.

Follow a Bedtime Ritual

Set aside 30 minutes before bedtime for a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as those described in this article.

Eat Early

Another method is to eat early. However, allow two to three hours between a large dinner and sleeping time.  Meanwhile, this allows enough time for you to digest the food before going to sleep.

High-Carb or High-Fat Dinners

Now, a 2016 study from Advances in Nutrition concluded that high-carb meals before bed allows you to fall asleep faster and your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is longer. However, your slow wave sleep or Deep Sleep is shorter, which may be characterized as not being a restful sleep.

On the other hand, high-fat meals before bed increases the length of slow wave sleep or Deep Sleep, which may be characterized as a more restful sleep. However, your REM sleep is cut short along with the amount of time in bed spent asleep.

None or Limited Caffeine

Most noteworthy, caffeine is a stimulant. In fact, caffeine stimulates wakefulness and can disrupt sleep patterns. Consequently, for many people, caffeine has negative effect on sleep. So, it is best to avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening and definitely at least in the last 4 hours before going to bed.  On the other hand, for some people, consuming caffeine at any time of the day has a negative impact on sleep quality. Therefore, it’s best they avoid caffeine altogether.

None or Limited Alcohol

Having a drink before sleeping does speed up falling asleep. Regrettably, you quickly build up tolerance for the sedative effect of alcohol. As a result, when one drink would have gotten you asleep quickly, with time one drink becomes two drinks, and it goes up from there.

But while alcohol can make you fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes, it contributes to poor sleep quality. Most noteworthy, in the first half (or 4 hours) of sleep, while your body is metabolizing the alcohol, you spend more time in delta wave’s slow wave sleep, also known as Deep Sleep. During this time there is very little REM sleep.

Also, in the first half of sleep, alcohol causes the brain to turn on alpha activity. Incidentally, alpha activity usually doesn’t happen in sleep but rather when you are resting quietly. Regrettably, the simultaneous alpha and delta activity inhibits restorative sleep in this first half of sleep.

Meanwhile, 4 to 5 hours after consuming alcohol you enter the second half of sleep. During that initial 4 to 5 hour period your body has metabolized the alcohol and now it disrupts your second half sleep. This is because the alcohol molecules have crossed the blood brain barrier and are bombarding your brain’s neurons. This causes the neurons to get excited. As a result, your body moves from the Deep Sleep of the first half to a lighter sleep in the second half where you easily wake up. As for your REM sleep, it is gone.

 In conclusion, while a drink may help you fall asleep quickly, you pay the price of not getting good sleep.


Check Your Medications

Your medications may affect your ability to sleep. So, if you take any of the following medications, check with your doctor or health care provider. 

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Appetite suppressants
  • Beta agonists
  • Blood pressure medications (alpha agonists, beta blockers)
  • Cold medicines and decongestants
  • Diuretics
  • Dopamine agonists (includes some medications for Parkinson's disease)
  • Niacin
  • Psychostimulants and amphetamines
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants such as Prozac® and Zoloft®)
  • Steroids
  • Theophylline

Drink Almond Milk

First of all, almond milk contains magnesium. And magnesium is a nutrient that improves sleep quality. In addition, almond milk is high in the amino acid tryptophan. And, in the brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin and melatonin. Incidentally, both serotonin and melatonin are natural sleep-inducing compounds. For example, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the body’s internal clock. While, melatonin induces and maintains sleep.

So next time you can’t sleep, drink a cup of almond milk. And wait 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Drink Tea

Research in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that herbal teas have little or no side effects. However, you should not drink herbal tea if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, expecting to be pregnant, suffer from autoimmune diseases, or scheduled for surgery. In addition, you shouldn’t drink herbal tea if you take prescription sedatives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, blood thinning medications, and blood pressure medications.

Above all, chamomile is one of the most popular herbal teas. In addition, research in the same journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reported that patients suffering from transient insomnia slept better with chamomile tea. Also, other studies show that chamomile relaxes the central nervous system.

So, drink one cup of chamomile tea. And wait 30 minutes before going to bed.

Eat Snack

If you can’t sleep because you are hungry, eat a light healthy snack containing some proteins, complex carbohydrates, and a bit of calcium. For example, consider yogurt, sliced apple with cheese, half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter, a whole wheat cracker with some cheese, or a bowl of whole grain cereal with skim milk. Also have your snack about 30 minutes before bed time. 


Aromatherapy helps relaxes you. Studies show that aromatherapy is effective in improving quality of sleep. Yet another study of young adults found that using lavender oil has a positive impact on sleep quality. Also it seems both lavender and rosa damascene have positive effects on sleep. The aroma of Lavender relaxes your nerves, lowers your blood pressure, and puts you in a relaxed state. A study at Wesleyan University focused on the effects of sniffing lavender oil for two minutes at three 10-minute intervals before bedtime. And the study reported that participants increased the amount of their Deep Sleep. Furthermore, the participants felt more vigorous in the morning.

Get Out Into the Sunlight

Above all, expose your body to sunlight or other bright light during the day. Because, this exposure helps your body’s internal clock (the circadian cycle) synchronize itself to day and night.

Avoid Laundry Detergents with Strong Fragrances

Especially relevant, some laundry detergents may have strong fragrances or irritate your skin. And these fragrances or skin irritations may make it difficult for some to fall asleep. Therefore, avoid using these detergents to wash your bed sheets, pillow covers, or blankets.

Take Fast Acting Supplements

Especially relevant, 5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP, boosts production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. In fact, serotonin helps production of melatonin, regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles, and regulate the body’s internal clock. Finally, as with all supplements, review them with your doctor or health care provider.

Long Term Remedies When You Can't Sleep

Follow Sleep Schedule

First of all, fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. And keep this schedule, even if you have a hard time falling asleep and feel tired in the morning. This not only helps adjust your body's clock, it also helps the body’s clock to predict when to induce sleep. Which in turn helps falling asleep at night.

Exercise Regularly When You Can't Sleep

First and foremost, regular exercising is an excellent remedy if you can’t sleep. Therefore, exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. But never exercise in the last few hours before going to bed.

In fact, exercise boost production of the feel good serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain while decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Incidentally, studies show that aerobic exercise in the morning (for example running on a treadmill) causes blood pressure to drop by sleeping time. Also aerobic exercise in the morning improves sleep quality. Meanwhile, for those who do not want the jarring associated with jogging, can use either a stepper elliptical, recumbent cross trainer, compact elliptical machine, or a long stride elliptical machine

A study of 305 people over 40 reported that moderate or high-intensity exercise programs improved sleep quality. In addition, the study reported that participants took their sleep medications less frequently.

Yet another study in the journal Sleep showed that the amount of exercise and time of day makes a difference. For instance, women who exercised at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes each morning, 7 days a week, had less trouble falling asleep.

While women who exercised later in the day fared worse in their ability to fall asleep. That is because body temperatures rise when you exercise. As a result, you have to allow up to 6 hours for the body temperature to drop back to normal. And, because sleep needs cooler body temperatures, the latest you should complete exercising is 6 hours before bedtime.

Use Bed Only For Sleeping

Above all, make sure you use the bed only for sleeping or sex.

Bedroom Helpful for Sleeping

Most of all, if you can’t sleep, change your bedroom to make it conducive for sleeping. Hence, consider making changes to your mattress, pillows, blanket, sound, temperature, electronics, and television.

Supplements May Help When You Can't Sleep

If you still can’t sleep, consider taking supplements. For example, try supplements like magnesium, L-theanine, melatonin, and Gamma-aminobutyric acid. However, as with all supplements, review them with your doctor or health care provider.

Also, be careful with taking sleep medications. In fact, over time, your body may end up developing a tolerance for them. And, they may have unwelcome side effects.


Magnesium helps active neurotransmitters that are responsible for sleep. In fact, research shows that inadequate magnesium in the body causes sleeping problems such as insomnia.  Incidentally, good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.  Finally, check with your doctor or health care provider before taking magnesium supplements.


L-theanine found in green tea may help combat anxiety that interferes with sleep. Furthermore, a 2007 study showed L-theanine reduces heart rate and immune responses to stress. In addition, L-theanine is thought to boost the amount of feel-good hormones in your body. Finally, L-theanine also induces brain waves linked to relaxation.


Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body, which also helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. In fact, melatonin is produced from serotonin when exposure to light decreases at night. Regrettably, research on people with insomnia is mixed. Strangely enough, melatonin restores and improves sleep, for some people, while for others melatonin does not help stay asleep. 

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) helps the central nervous system relax. As a result it helps you fall asleep.

See a Doctor

Finally, if none of the remedies, described here, helped and you still can’t sleep, then make an appointment with your doctor or health care provider.

can't sleep