Sleep Hygiene: When You Can’t Sleep

One of the most frustrating things is when you want to sleep, you follow your routine, you lie down in bed, and it just…doesn’t happen. Maybe you had a particularly stressful day, or maybe you had caffeine later than usual. Or maybe you fell asleep, but a noise or a dream woke you, and now you are Awake.

Photo by cottonbro on

When you can’t sleep, it’s tempting to get up and do something. But this tells your body that it is time to be awake, which can interfere with your sleep cycle over time. You wake up or can’t fall asleep -> you get up and do things -> your brain and body get the message that this time is not Sleep Time -> you have increased difficulty falling asleep in the future.

So, what can you do while lying awake? Stay there. Remaining in a restful posture in your sleep space still gives your body rest that it needs even if you are not falling asleep. If you woke up because you needed to use the bathroom, certainly get up to take care of this need, but resist the urge to stay up and try to do other things. Again, your focus is to remind your body that it is time to rest and eventually fall asleep.

If spiraling or anxious thoughts are making it difficult to feel calm, you can put on a guided sleep meditation to help talk yourself into a more restful state. This meditation by The Honest Guys is my personal favorite because I do not know how it ends, since every time I have used it I’ve fallen asleep before it was over.

Sleep issues are so frustrating. Remember that rest is still good even if you do not fall asleep, and sleep can come more easily over time if you continue to reinforce good sleep hygiene.

Currently, this is the final post cued up in my Sleep Hygiene series. If you have other questions about sleep or another topic you’d like to see me blog about, contact me and let me know!

For more tips on improving your sleep, check out this article: 21 Tools for Emotional Wellness and Sleep Health. A really cool psychologist is quoted in this article. 😉

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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