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Insomnia Help: How to Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep

Updated on January 3, 2014


I’m not sure if I’m an insomniac, but I know that I have been having some insomniac-like tendencies this past month or so. The basic definition of insomnia is a the condition where someone can’t get to sleep, can’t stay asleep, or both. I have been having a bit of both issues within the past few weeks, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to shut my mind off and get some z’s.

What Causes It?

In my case, I may be dealing with what is called short-term insomnia. According to the University of Maryland, this can be caused by “illness, stress, travel, or environmental factors.” Knowing me, it’s probably the stress part because I am natural worrywart. I have also been able to pinpoint a few other reasons, but I’ll cover those later.
There is also long-term insomnia (which is something I’m pretty sure my mom has), which can be the result of “underlying psychological or physical conditions” (University of Maryland).

So What Do I Do?

There are some tips that I’ve scoured for and found useful to me personally, but I will also share some other tips that may not have helped me, but may help you. I personally try to stay away from sleeping medication because I don’t want it to become my one way of sleep (but that may also be because I’m a bit paranoid of addiction in any case). So here are some non-medicated tips to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.

How to Get to Sleep

1. Go to sleep when you’re tired

Last night was a perfect example of this. I was feeling drowsy at around the later part of nine o‘clock, but I forced myself to stay awake and do a crossword because I like doing those. At around the later part of ten, I wasn’t sleepy, but I forced myself to go to bed anyway. This was not a good idea because since my brain was still fully functioning and awake, I kept going through things I had been thinking about lately that have been a bit stressful to me. So really, go to sleep when you’re sleepy.

2. Don’t think of stressful things

Like in my little anecdote above, thinking about stressful things are not conducive to getting a good quality sleep (or sleep at all). When I get stressed out, I want to pace around, which is very hard to do while you’re in bed. These sort of negative things will make your brain stay awake worrying about things that can more than likely wait until the next day.

3. Music or no music?

I personally, like to go to bed listening to music, and I don’t listen to the radio. Whenever people are talking, I generally want to hear what they have to say, so that makes me stay awake. Some things I generally listen to are Enya or anything with calm sounds, or nature sounds. However, some people sleep better without music. Either way, I suggest trying both and seeing which one is better for you.

4. Cut out annoying sounds

Seriously, another sleep horror story of last night, my fan makes a huge whirring noise whenever it’s on the lowest level, but it’s also really noisy at any other level, so I think I’ll have to treat myself to a new fan soon to get rid of that stinking noise. Shutting your door may also be helpful so you don’t hear the T.V. downstairs or the washing machine doing it’s thing.

5. Turn off cell phones

I find it really irritating when someone texts me in the middle of the night while I am sleep asking me, “Are you awake?” Well, I am now, and I’m not happy about it. Turning off your phone, and keeping it out of arm’s reach has helped me get to sleep. Since I can’t get a hold without getting out of bed, this cuts down my desire to check and see if I have mail or anything.

6. Light or no light?

I tend to sleep well when I have some sort of light on. I find a little bit of light comforting and good for sleep, but this is just me. My friend cannot sleep unless it is pitch black in her room. Shutting the door here may also be a good idea to shut out any light coming from the hallway. This is another trial and error sort of thing, for those who need just a little light, I suggest either a night light or leaving the door open just a crack.

7. Make sure the bed is comfy

You may need to upgrade to a different mattress if your back is sore in the morning and you haven’t done any strenuous work the day before. Some people like to sleep with only one pillow versus two. Maybe you’re one of those people that likes to have only sheet on them while they sleep. This may take some time to figure out, but find out what is most comfortable for you.

8. Make sure you’re comfortable

Whether you are one of those people that sleeps with silk pajamas or only boxers, that’s your business, but sleep may come along better if you’re not in a nightdress. Something I also suggest wearing socks, because I don’t like having cold feet. And this is all about clothes, this also about whether or not you sleep on your back or side, or stomach. Whatever suits you for sleep, go for it.

How to Stay Asleep (Or Go Back to Sleep When Woken Up)

1. Don’t drink before bed

I have found myself waking up a few times because I had to go in the middle of the night, and it is a torturous feeling. I know my limits, so I try not to drink much of anything after dinner, but this may not be for everyone. Staying away from alcoholic beverages after lunch may be a good idea too, and anything with caffeine is also in this list. But again, do what you see fit.

2. Have music on repeat

Whenever I would wake up, I would realize my music wasn’t playing anymore, so I would have to fumble around to find the Play button before I could go back to sleep. Try to keep your music on repeat to eliminate this issue, or just get used to sleeping without any music at all.

3. Fix the temperature for sleep

Some people are able to sleep better if a room is cold, some with a really hot room. But more often than not, people tend to like a cool room. Having a room that’s too hot makes you want to throw the covers off and turn a fan on you while being cool allows you to snuggle closer to blankets. Personally, a colder room works better for me, but it might be different for you.

4. If you wake up, don’t open your eyes

I have found that whenever I open my eyes in one of those episodes where I randomly wake up, I can’t go back to sleep as easily because my eyes have taken in some sort of information other than what I had been dreaming about or just darkness. Which leads to the next point…

5. Don’t look at your clock

If you can, face your clock away from you before you go to bed. Whenever I wake up and look at the blue lettering on my clock and it says 2:32 in the morning, I gripe and groan instead of going back to sleep. I start to get frustrated that I woke up so early, which gets my brain going again about something that doesn’t involve dreams, and it takes me a long time to get back to sleep.

Happy Sleeping!

I certainly hope these tips at least gave you some ideas on how to get the sleep you need and desire. Once you get into a pattern that you are comfortable with before you go to sleep, just remember that blissful sleep is on the way!

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