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Can’t sleep? Do this, not that!

Filed in
  • poor sleep
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Technology

By Patrick Murray  |  Jun 28, 2013
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One of the first things sleep physicians tell insomnia patients is to get out of bed if you can’t sleep. The worst thing you can do when you can’t fall asleep is lie in bed and attempt to force yourself to sleep. But you can’t do anything that’s stimulating or in violation of the basic rules of sleep hygiene. So what do you do?

Do This

Indulge in a low impact hobby: Do you play a musical instrument, knit or like to draw? All of these activities can be low impact and perfect for when you cannot sleep. Whenever you find yourself ready to nod off, stop what you’re doing and go to bed.

Not That

Quality screen time: Netflix, Hulu and a boatload of apps may entertain you but won’t help you fall asleep. Computers, smartphones, televisions and tablets emit blue light, which can reset your circadian clock and make your body think that it is time to be awake.  Late-night screen time is one of the most common sleep hygiene violations.

Do This

Read Something Boring: Maybe you have a book or magazine you’ve been meaning to read, but instantly lose interest the moment you read half a page. Now is finally the time to learn about the intricacies of legislative process or attempt James Joyce’s Ulysses… or crack open that mildly amusing collection of short stories you’ve been meaning to read.

Not That

Read Something Thrilling (or at Least Semi Interesting): Remember that chapter in Game of Thrones where everybody dies? Whatever you do, do NOT read that when you cannot sleep. Don’t read the latest page turner by Dan Brown. If you’re interested in politics or baseball, don’t read about either subject. And remember, don’t do it on a backlit electronic device!

Do This

Low Impact Chores: When was the last time you mopped the floor or picked up clutter around your home? As long as you do these at a relaxed pace and don’t work up a sweat, you may find yourself ready to fall asleep in no time. Just don’t make too much noise.

Not That

Exercise: There’s a common misconception that you can tire yourself out by exercising. While this could hold true for daytime exercise, doing even moderate exercise in the nighttime is akin to drinking a big cup of coffee. Exercise at night and you will not sleep.

What do you do when you cannot sleep? Share your tips in the comments section below:


  1. 1 Amelia 26 Feb
    Hi I was reading this in night and I'm a 9 year old I've been googling a lot and I'm typing this at night sometimes I want people to be happy but they don't feel like it and I'm experiencing depression a lot, thank you tho. I gotta sleep now 
  2. 2 Someone 18 Feb
    What also is problem with insomnia, you might even start getting into sleep but your mind is telling you that you are still awake and then you get fullyawake again and again.
    When you are lying down and your mind is mostly inactive, this already is very close to getting into sleep or even is some lower level of sleep.
    But there is still some level of being aware of what you do, so insomniac will treat it as being awake.
    Instead, lying down with inactive mind should be treated as sleep or something close to it, which means a success for insomniac.
    It should be treated like you already managed to succeed in trying to sleep.
    This mindset will make it much more likely to continue and dwell deeper into it.
  3. 3 Someone 18 Feb
    Maybe it's better to "force" yourself to sleep until you feel fresh and rested.
    If people with serious insomnia just get up to read if they can't sleep, they will end up being wake whole night without getting any rest.
    Good sleeping habits may never come this way.
    Had they "forced" themselves to sleep, they would be much more rested.
    By "forced", I mean just lying in bed, resting, not doing anything, not thinking about anything.
    When something starts to bother you, just stop thinking about it and Maybe it's better to "force" yourself to sleep until you feel fresh and rested.
    No matter how annoying something is, treat it as false signals trying to trick you into getting up before getting fresh and rested to prolong your suffery.
    This sleeping may last long and make you feel worse before it gets better, but eventually you could feel submersed in abundance of rest and sleep like never before.
    It's good to stand up and walk a little bit if this session lasts longer than a night of sleep would. Also, drinking water and eating is something not to forget.
  4. 4 J Smith 13 Feb
    None of this stuff works. You'd think a condition that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide would get more attention and research. I'm to the point where I'd rather die young if it meant I never had to be bothered with sleeping again. I'd throw my bed outside and set fire to it and celebrate. Better than wasting so much time laying there pissed of because I went to bed at 10 and needed to be up at 5 but could not sleep until 3. On top of all of it I do two of the worlds most dangerous jobs: commercial fishing and manual chainsaw logging. I need to be alert. It's a miracle I haven't been killed or seriously injured yet. Everyone of these articles is a waste of time.
  5. 5 N/A 31 Jan
    I'm 14 and like most commenters have tried all methods, I have went to alot of sites to help but I cant sleep, and if I do sleep I finally nod of at about 6am after going to bed at 10pm. I just sit there trying to sleep yet still fail. Any other tips you can provide?
  6. 6 Barry 18 Jan
    I would also add that I have tried literally everything suggested here and many other sites and none of it works.
    Sorry to burst your bubble folks.
    The very best thing you can do is get hold of strong sleeping pills and as if by magic, problem solved!!
    Insomnia is a fact of life every so often, just gotta man up and go with it.
  7. 7 Barry 18 Jan
    I’m  46 and long time shift worker. This means I’ve relied on less and less sleep as the years have gone by but haven’t had any adverse issues.
    Occasionally have 36 hr insomnia bouts but I’ve just hit a new record with my latest bout of 60 hours!!!
    I used to get frustrated and punch the pillow angry, but now Im just chilled about it as I realise that my body just isn’t needing sleep at the moment.
    No mental health issues, I’ve got a will like an iron rod.
  8. 8 New apartment 04 Jan
    How can I fall asleep better while living next to the highway? My whole floor starts to shake/constant vibrations going through my new apartment anywhere between 5pm and 10 or 11pm and then starts picking back up at 3am.
    I've been here 3 nights and can't get any shut eye. I'm a super good sleeper usually but just can't seem to fall asleep. I left the house yesterday to sleep in my car and got 2 hours of sleep there.
    I want to leave but I just signed a year long lease, what should I do? 🙃
  9. 9 American Academy of Sleep Medicine 04 Jan
    Nikita, if you have difficulty sleeping or want to improve your sleep, try following these healthy sleep habits.
  10. 10 nikita 01 Jan
    I'm 17 struggling to sleep at night i go to bed for 10 each night but i just cant sleep. can anyone give me ways to sleep please
  11. 11 theresstilllifeinheryet 05 Dec
    okay so I'm 16 and I've been plagued with Insomnia for years now. I've tried everything, asmr, changing my sleep patterns, tea, melatonin, sleep music, and everything listed above. I've looked up countless ways to fall asleep as an insomniac and almost all of them tell me if I have anxiety or depression they won't work and I have both, they are literally some of the main factors causing my insomnia! I'm just sick of constant all nighters and 42 hour days. I need to be able to sleep, it can't be healthy and is probably the reason I have a crappy immune system. So if anyone going through the same thing as me has found something that works please reach out. <3<3<3 
  12. 12 BT 03 Dec
    im a 12 year old who is waking up at night. I can usually fall asleep at 9 and 10 PM but i now suddenly wake up at 3 and 4 AM and i feel wide awake and also feel like i slept the whole night. HELP ME PLZZZZZZZ
  13. 13 Michael Dooley 01 Sep
    It seems I can’t break the cycle of staying up until 5:30 am every night. Even if I don’t sleep during the day I end up sleeping later in the next day causing me to stay up until 5. I’ve been alone with just my thoughts so often that I’ve consciously watched myself become a different person. I don’t know why I haven’t looked for tips but I’m sure these will help.
  14. 14 Krishnaveni 24 Jul
    Iam unable to sleep since a month now. I try to sleep but I end up forcing myself to sleep. I have depression and religious ocd. I scold God everyday for not giving me the sleep. It 4.00am now but iam still awake
  15. 15 Devan 22 Jul
    Its 8 pm and still not asleep until 03:30 am.
    Because of that my parents is STRICTLY told
    Me to not play games with my Friends! And this
    Is a Pandemic! Im sad,lonely and depressed. Im Litteraly
    12 Years old! 
  16. 16 Zoe Campos 18 Jul
    Thank you for telling me that doing chores at a relaxed pace can also help me sleep better at night. I have a hard time sleeping and I even wake up early in the morning once the sun is out. It might be better if I were to change my room's overall vibe and install some roller shades for a more relaxing feeling.
  17. 17 Tem 11 Jul
    It is currently 5 in the morning and I’ve been trying to sleep since 10. I’m at my wits end and I just want to get a decent amount of sleep at a normal time. :(
  18. 18 Donna Grace 15 Jun
    I turn to human beings also at any time i want to, and am one of the most dreaded men in my country. I became a vampire through the help of my friend who introduced me into a vampire kingdom by giving me their email. if you want to become a powerful vampire kindly contact the vampire kingdom
  19. 19 Laur 29 May
    Household chores, although low impact, are exactly what take so much time that I am unable to lie down at night, many times not until 6 or 7 AM. I start the housework about 1:30 AM. I wish I started and ended it earlier, so thst I could go to bed.
  20. 20 T Johnson 15 May
    I have been like this for over 20 years. I rarely dream, I sleep like crap. I got a Galaxy fit watch earlier this year and shows I barely get any REM sleep, ever..  Do I have some sort of disorder? This can't be normal can it?  My wife has the most vivid dreams, she even says she can control things in her dreams and can go back into a dream if she wakes up..  I would just like to have a dream that I can remember.. Just once in while..  I did when I was a kid, all the time..
  21. 21 Monkeyjoe518 15 Apr
    I have sleeping pills but I’m scared I’ll get hooked
  22. 22 Mariam :D 10 Apr
    I literally didn't sleep until now I don't sleep at night and sleep in the morning And sometimes when I'm tired at night I just cannot sleep and it's annoying me ALOT can anyone PLS help me literally feels like hell
  23. 23 Antonietta 25 Mar
    My daughter is also having a deficulty in sleeping. So i told her to sleep early maybe around 7pm,and after 3hrs.she did not felt asleep.can someone give me advice?
  24. 24 Klarissa 16 Mar
    Well, everytime at night, I try to go sleep, and it usually takes 1 or 2 hours or more, then i go on my tablet if im not tired, then the next day, (since i have 4wks off of school -covid 19)I always wake up early,and tired! Please help me find a way to help me sleep faster, and wake up a bit later, it doesnt matter what time as long as its at least, before 45 minutes Thank you😉
  25. 25 American Academy of Sleep Medicine 28 Feb
    Hi Lilian, Your behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep. This page includes a list of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  26. 26 Lilian 27 Feb
    I am currently 13 and cant remember the last time i had i good nights sleep. I stay up all night doing homework (at least 2 pages per class{i have 5-8 classes}) and am always tired in the middle of class and the whole day. Is there any way to help me fall asleep faster than these maybe in 10 minutes or less? Someone please help.
  27. 27 Olivia 21 Feb
    I’ve struggled with insomnia for years now.. I’ve tried medicine after medicine after medicine and nothing seems to help. I’ve tried forcing myself to sleep but it just causes me to have anxiety. I have anxiety and depression and I’m not sure if that affects my sleep, but I would love to just be normal and be able to lay my head down and sleep. 
  28. 28 Meh 12 Oct
    job market saturated programmer by trade, had to move back to grannie after a hostile roommate wrecked my life... she likes to speak to me and spread out interuptions as long as she can... started staying up a couple hours later cause sleeping her 8-6 schedule was horrible for getting work done and i desperately needed alone time where i wasnt being interupted if i don't code i don't make money she constantly wakes me in mornings often she drops something 3 or 4 times loud enough to make me spring outof bed, sleep would need to lay back down and catch up to have enough focus to work started growing laterand later into day it used to loop around and reset nowshe gets me up at 3pm taunts me with a good afternoon been losing sleep now, 3 days and something has crashed enoough to make mr jump out of bed upon falling asleep been too tired to write suitable code forced myself to bed early desperate for sleep 2 nights despite being tired body remembers slipping to 4am sleep schedule and cant do it now im at 5 nights with complete sleep loss I cant focus and thattired feeling in my head has slipped to the rest of my body and i now have a splitting headache not getting work done again too delerious , if i tell her i cant sleep or cant work under these conditions she just grumbles all my fault angrily like im abusing her my work isnt getting done not enough money to get away and wide awake dunno how i can work and get proper sleep cant get enough distance from stupid all thats on my mind all day now is sleep and when she goes to bed it doesn't come to  me anymore less I try to sleep a time shes going to interupt an hour or two later, projects have been at complete stand still because shes too stupid to listen coming Monday shes going to remember i promissed to take her to ear doctor she remembers her schedule so not dementia just discourteous driving me to dementia though memory has gotten super short feel like my mind is lost as hers should be completely distressed and dont know what to do, considered knocking myself out with a brick because need to sleep is outweighing the risk now but im reading elsewhere being knocked out isnt the same and sedation doesn't work.other roommates ive had would keep TV on loud and cackle at it all night and i could sleep through that insomnia doesnt come natural for me just when this one is groaning one lil thing is out of place or dropping plates and bottles while their making breakfast, desperately need sleep desperately need work too cant have both with them help!
  29. 29 Jennifer 09 Oct
    I've not sleep for about over three week now...had problems for about sleeping tablets..that worked for a long my body has got used to told me to come off them for 4 get them out of my system. ..I've done a few weeks trying over the counter stuff....they don't work...just have to ride to ride the storm...and see what happens...
  30. 30 Kristen Brooks 13 Aug
    Exercising does help you sleep well at least me aha PERIODT
  31. 31 Huntergal 28 Jul
    Try listening to nature sounds or any kind of sounds on youtube you might fall asleep faster that way you can finally wake up next morning and enjoy your day (and drink some water it helps me when i start falling asleep)
  32. 32 lisa 22 Mar
    i’m 16 and ever since i was a child the thought of ending my day and getting into bed gave me a pit in my stomach and i don’t know why! literally have tried everything - changing my sleep routine, melatonin, eating healthy, exercising during the day, u name it. every night i sleep later and later than the night before and i dropped out of school due to this problem for a while. then a friend of mine introduced me to a dab pen.... i was skeptical at first smoking weed but this has changed my life. for all you insomniacs this will put u right to sleep! i swear on this dab pen 
  33. 33 Shirley Brown 04 Mar
    Nice Post
  34. 34 Carrie 22 Feb
    I’ve only just found this article. I’m a 15 year old who hasn’t had decent sleep consistently since I was 7-8. I’ve been on high doses of melatonin and lots of therapy. My doctor has told me that “maybe you just don’t need sleep”, which I find highly unlikely since I’m tiered all of the time. But whenever my head hits the pillow, I’m wide awake. I, unfortunately, have anxiety and depression with symptoms of paranoia. Can someone please help?!
  35. 35 AASM 09 Jan
    Gabriel - Please talk to your doctor about your sleep problem. You also can contact an accredited sleep center ( or a behavioral sleep medicine provider ( Help is available.
  36. 36 Gabriel 07 Jan
    I havent slept in 5 days. Considering jumping off my roof. Its 1:41am, 5 doses of melatonin, three doses of nyquil and four doses of tussin and I’m laying here wide awake. I need a horse tranquilizer not this. 
  37. 37 Grace 03 Dec
    This is true!
  38. 38 Bo 21 Dec
    But my problem is that I can't sleep in! I have to get up so early on weekdays that if I ever have a holiday or weekend I automatically get up only about 10 minutes after the normal time. Still, on these days I stay up about an hour after usual, so I end up getting less sleep than usual!
  39. 39 Edd 22 Aug
    In your mind's eye - slowly draw a large cross using your favorite color. Top to bottom - left to right. Do not move your eyes.  Count each cross. You probably will not get to ten.  It works.
  40. 40 lucy 13 Jul
    i am going to trust you because all the websites i have been on have told lies so i hope this works will get back to you thank you - Lucy
  41. 41 Anna Turner 06 Mar
    That part about exercising isn't true. I start to have a panic/anxiety attack the moment I get in bed if I dont exercise. 
  42. 42 Tony 04 Jul
    I re-listen to audio books. Interesting enough to keep me from thinking much and boring enough to allow me to drift off to sleep.
  43. 43 Benjamin M 29 Jun
    I would like to see more information regarding amber colored lights and apps o remove blue from screens. I use them exclusively after 9pm and it has turned around years of insomnia! The F.Lux app for mac took care of the blue light from my computer so I can fall asleep watching movies.
  44. 44 greenscarab 30 May
    Melatonin, Sweetest dreams, Solgar brand. Cheap melatonin works one or two nights, But stops after that.This is the best brand I think...Source naturals are also good.
  45. 45 Rich 23 May
    Very good article, Ardith the UP you mentioned is great. I have the UP 24 and it has helped me keep track of my sleep and lack of sleep. However, I find when I can't sleep I can watch TV or play a game on laptop or IPad and within minutes I am starting to doze off. Since I was a child I always fell asleep to the TV
  46. 46 Mel 17 May
    I use a sleep app.  The soothing background sounds put me right to sleep!
  47. 47 Vi 16 May
    Good article with basic information. I would be interested in an article on improving sleep quality as well. When I can't sleep - which is frequently - I pretend that it's morning and get up and do all my normal morning chores. By the time I've both dressed and emptied the dishwasher I'm starting to fight a case of the yawns. So I go through my bedtime ritual all over again. Soothing hot shower and dose of melatonin included - I usually sleep really well the second part if the night. Whatever I do I have to be careful to make sure it isn't something that engages my brain or my imagination - the last thing I need are more runaway thought trains coming through my night! 
  48. 48 Jim Miller 18 Apr
    How can I increase deep sleep?
  49. 49 Marielle 11 Apr
    I get up and have some sleepy time tea. Also do deep breathing and use imagery. Usually I think of something beautiful I saw or something that was soothing.
  50. 50 Janan 14 Mar
    I understand about TV and the blue light but my remedy is twofold:  either C-Span with somebody droning on, or depending on the season, Nascar/football with the hypnotic sounds. I use a mask or hide under covers to avoid the light but hear the low sounds...Then presto!
  51. 51 Paula 14 Mar
    I agree w/not staying in bed and forcing yourself to sleep. It is very frustrating. Calming herbal tea helps me sometimes before I go to bed or if I wake too soon. I really enjoy the sleep app it helps me keep track of my nightly zzz's
  52. 52 Annamaria 17 Jan
    Great read. All your suggestions are very helpful

  53. 53 Julie 10 Jan
    I do a couple yoga sun salutations then a shoulder stand or some other inversion. It works like magic!
  54. 54 Barry 10 Jan
    Ambien works for me.  But then, I have a sleep disorder.
  55. 55 Dick 03 Jan
    At age 76 I can walk the treadmill at moderate pace and tire after short stroll and return to sleep 
    Different strokes for different folks.
  56. 56 Ardith 20 Dec
    All your GREAT articles really add to the fact the  UP. is the very best product like this out there. lpve the good ideas/bad ideas.....very belpful. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
  57. 57 Bridgett 13 Dec
    Simple, to the point and practical. Very helpful to offer things not to do, too. I often read to help, but I choose favorite books and stories. 
  58. 58 pvs prasad 10 Jul
    very happy to read the article and it is really useful for diabetic with partial osa.