What You Should Do If You Can't Fall Asleep

by Carina Wolff

Nothing is worse than getting into bed, only to toss and turn for hours before drifting off. Getting upset can make it even harder to relax, so it's important to know what to do if you can't fall asleep, beyond counting sheep of course. Rather than get frustrated, you can turn to a number of helpful activities that will have you relaxed and dreaming away in no time.

"First and foremost, don’t TRY to fall asleep — that is a stressful and alerting way to approach it," says certified sleep educator Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ over email. "Reframe it so you just relax, unwind and prepare for bed. Sleep will follow."

If you have problems drifting off to sleep at night, you're not alone. It is the most common sleep disorder, affecting up to 10 percent of adults, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Problems falling asleep could be a result of many factors, including physical activity, diet, stress levels, and more, but about 50% of insomnia cases have no identifiable cause.

Since it's hard to pinpoint one specific tactic to help you fall asleep, it's good to know all the different ways you can help yourself feel sleepy and get adequate rest. Here are 10 things you should do if you can't fall asleep at night.

1. Charge Your Phone Away From Your Bed

Electronics like your computer or cell phone emit a blue light that affects your levels of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. "Many devices now have a nighttime setting that gives light a orange glow, which doesn’t mess with your melatonin production like the blue light does," says Rachel Wong, Sleep Research Expert at OSO over email. "Or, you could try a radical approach and charge your phone away from bed."

2. Lower The Temperature In The Room

The optimal temperature for a room is somewhere around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, as your body temperature needs to drop to induce sleep. "Lower your thermostat, crack a window, sleep with cooler bedding, or stick one foot out from under the covers," says Wong. "This old trick is actually quite efficient in cooling the body."

3. Practice Deep Breathing

Take 10 deep breaths," says health coach Katie Henry PT, DPT, HHC, CYT over email. Count to five on the inhale and exhale. This breathing lowers cortisol levels, lowers your heart rate and your breathing rate, as well to prepare your body for sleep."

4. Write Down Your Thoughts

"Sometimes our minds are just going and going and can't slow down when we lay down for bed," says Henry. "Try keeping a journal nearby and writing down whatever is on your mind in the journal — a little brain dump — so that your mind can be more at ease when you try to sleep."

5. Meditate

"Meditating can calm a worried mind, which may be contributing to your tossing and turning," says Henry. One study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that meditation helped people fall asleep faster, as well improved their quality of sleep and sleep duration.

6. Drink A Cup Of Chamomile Tea

Although you want to stay away from anything caffeinated, drinking herbal teas can help relax you, especially chamomile. Research published in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports shows that chamomile is a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer, and it can have natural sedative effects.

7. Think About What You're Grateful For

It can't hurt to think positive thoughts. A study from the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found that people who spent time thinking of what they were grateful for every evening worried less at bedtime and slept longer and better afterward.

8. Eat A Snack

If you're hungry, you'll likely have a hard time falling asleep. Instead of eating a big, heavy meal, opt for a snack that can actually help induce sleep, such as nuts, fruit, or a slice of cheese. Avoid anything spicy or that contains sugar.

19. Keep Some Essential Oils Nearby

"A number of aromatherapy agents are used to help with relaxation and sleep, including lavender, vanilla, jasmine, chamomile, sandalwood, clary sage, rose, and valerian," says Cralle. Keep some essential oils by your bed — the smell can help relax you.

10. Utilize Sound

Whether you prefer some classical music or maybe just the soothing sound of a fan, let some relaxing sounds guide you to sleep. One survey from Consumer Reports found that white noise was found to work almost as well as sleep medication when it came to helping people doze off.

Whether you have frequent problems with insomnia or you're just having an off night, it's important to know the do's and don'ts of helping yourself easily fall asleep.

Images: Pixabay (11); Bustle