Tell me if this sounds familiar. You had a long day. You’re exhausted. Yet the minute you get into bed and turn out the light, you’re wide awake. You lay there for a few minutes, hoping a wave of sleep will pass over you, but then nothing. You’re still wide awake, unsure why you’re having trouble falling asleep. You toss and turn for a while, checking the clock to see how much longer until you’re officially going to be a zombie the following day.
Does this sound familiar? If so, then you know how frustrating it can be to have trouble falling asleep. Every bone is your body is tired, but you continue to lay there, eyes open and wide awake.
If you have trouble falling asleep, here’s a tip you need to know. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up, out of bed, and do something else. And that something else needs to follow a few rules. It needs to be non-stimulating and fairly chill (think reading, coloring, folding laundry, puzzles, etc.), and it shouldn’t involve a screen (TV, tablet, or cell phone). You might have to get creative with this activity, and it might be something you only do when you’re having trouble falling asleep. The goal isn’t to be productive, but rather, to engage your mind in something other than thinking about not being able to sleep.
Do this activity for as long as it takes until you start to feel sleepy. Then return to bed and try to sleep again. And if you’re still having trouble falling asleep after 20 minutes? Yep, you guessed it. Get up, get out of bed, and repeat this process.
While it might seem counterintuitive to get up and out of bed when you’re trying to fall asleep, it’s worse to just lay there, staring at the ceiling. Because slowly, your concern about not being able to fall asleep increases, turning into anxiety, and then rumination. And this cycle never leads anywhere good.
So while it’s tempting to lay in bed, scrolling through your phone, don’t. Resist this urge. Not only will it not help, it will make things worse. So if you’re having trouble falling asleep, get up and out of bed, opting for a fairly quiet, relaxed activity, until you’re sleep. Then head back to bed and try again.
For more helpful tips sleep, check out this post: 10 Scientifically Backed Ways to Get Better Sleep.
If you have significant and longstanding difficulty falling and or staying asleep, so much so that it’s interfering with your quality of life, consider seeing a professional trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. It’s an evidence-based treatment that doesn’t involve taking medication for sleep.