Nothing is worse than lying in bed staring at the ceiling wishing you could drift off to sleep. If you struggle with insomnia and can’t sleep through the night, some relaxation techniques and tips may help you get some shut-eye.
If you can’t sleep, try practicing relaxation techniques like controlled breathing and meditation, along with optimizing your sleep environment.
To help you fall asleep, curate the most comfortable sleeping environment and incorporate methods for relaxation to help lull you to sleep.
Keep reading to learn more about insomnia, other sleeping disorders, and what to do when you can’t sleep at night. We’ll discuss relaxation techniques, like controlled breathing and meditation and help you pinpoint daytime habits that may impact your sleeplessness.
What Is Insomnia?
If you can’t sleep no matter what, is it insomnia? If you’ve tried everything, who should you talk to? If you’re dealing with insomnia or can’t sleep, you may feel like there is no hope for a peaceful night’s rest. This article will dive into what insomnia is and some techniques to help you combat it.
Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you can never fall asleep at night, you may have insomnia.
Daytime Effects of Insomnia
Lying in bed staring at the ceiling is brutal, but insomnia symptoms can trickle into your daytime life, too, making it harder to work and socialize. If you can never fall asleep at night, it can lead to the following problems during the day.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased irritability
- Mood swings
- Slowed thinking
- Short attention span
- Poor recall and memory
- Difficulty making decisions
7 Tips For Insomnia
Instead of hopelessly lying in bed staring at the ceiling, try these seven tips for insomnia that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep every night, rather than miserably watching the minutes tick by until morning comes without a wink of sleep.
It may sound unintuitive, but if you lay in bed for 20-30 minutes and can’t sleep, getting up and doing something can help. Go to another part of your home and try something soothing like reading or listening to music.
Laying in bed without sleeping for too long creates a negative association with your bedroom and bed. This unhealthy mental connection between wakefulness and your bed can make it even harder to fall asleep. You want your bed to conjure sleepy feelings and thoughts.
Wind Down Time
It’s difficult to fall asleep shortly after doing exciting or strenuous activities. If you go out for a fun night with friends, you can’t go straight to bed and expect to fall asleep. Create a bedtime ritual to perform every night to help yourself wind down.
Do something that can unwind your body and mind, such as reading, coloring, or light stretching. Meditation can be your relaxation activity, but it can be something easier, like a long skincare ritual. Whatever helps you calm down, do it about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Press the Off Button
One of the best ways to combat insomnia and trouble sleeping is to unplug. Turn off your devices, especially ones with blue light, like laptops, tablets, phones, and the television.
Devices stimulate your mind, indicating to your brain that it’s time for activities and thoughts, not time for sleep.
Certain devices are acceptable, like Kindles or other e-readers that don’t use a blue light. But overall, it’s best to stay away from the blue light for 30 minutes to an hour before you head off to bed.
Help your eyes relax by dimming the lights and creating the most comfortable environment possible. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable; people typically prefer a cooler temperature.
Wear your most comfortable clothes to bed and consider if you like your sheets, comforter or blankets, pillows, and mattress. If you find one or more of these to be subpar, consider upgrading to improve your quality of sleep.
Sharing a bed can also lower your quality of sleep, whether you sleep with a partner or a pet. Consider getting your pet their own bed or find a bigger bed to share with your partner.
Maybe add an aromatherapy device to your bedroom that will release soothing scents like lavender or chamomile into the air.
Controlled breathing is one of the best ways to calm your mind and fall asleep. It’s one of the most popular relaxation techniques because it’s easy and effective, and you can do it in bed.
And it’s one of the most effective sleeping techniques for anxiety and stress. Below are instructions for two different controlled breathing techniques you can test out.
The Counting Breaths Method
- Slowly and gently inhale through your nose.
- Slowly and gently exhale through your mouth.
- Count each breath, either during inhalation or exhalation, whichever feels more natural to you. Count up, not down.
- Continue until you fall asleep.
The 4-7-8 Breathing Method
- Take several deep breaths to open up your lungs.
- Touch the roof of your mouth toward your front teeth with the tip of your tongue.
- Close your mouth and slowly inhale through your nose. Count to four while you do this.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Keeping your tongue against the roof of your mouth, open your mouth and exhale for eight seconds. You should make a whooshing sound when doing this because of your tongue placement.
- Repeat three to five more times, or until you feel relaxed.
The counting breaths method is much easier and straightforward, but many people find the 4-7-8 method to be effective. Try out both and see which one you like more!
Mindful meditation is similar to controlled breathing, and controlled breathing is often part of mindful meditation. Look into sleep affirmations and visualizations that appeal to you. But for a brief overview of what mindful meditation can look like, read the steps below.
- Breathe slowly in and out.
- Focus on each part of your body, noting the position and comfort.
- Relax each part of your body, starting with your toes and working up to your head.
- Repeat this mental body scan until you feel at peace or until you fall asleep.
The idea behind this meditation technique is to reflect on the sensations in your body and take the time to relax each body part. This meditation practice also allows you to get in touch with body parts you don’t pay attention to often.
Add Soothing Sounds
A white noise machine or soothing audio tapes can lull you to sleep, especially if you’re struggling with mind wandering.
Explore the many options for sleeping sounds and see what works for you. Some people listen to calming music. Others enjoy soothing podcasts where they can be lulled to sleep by someone’s voice.
You can try rain sounds or tropical nature sounds, which many people enjoy. Or you can keep it simple with a white noise machine that can distract you from your thoughts without holding your attention like a podcast or song might.
What to Do About Mind Wandering
Mind wandering is common, and even experts in meditation find their thoughts drifting during relaxation techniques. Don’t feel bad if you struggle with mind wandering, as it’s common. When you find your mind wandering, try to follow these simple tips to calm your brain and get to sleep.
- Stay calm and try to push stressful thoughts away.
- Breathe deeply and slowly, or practice a specific controlled breathing technique.
- Bring your thoughts back to a calm, peaceful place by thinking of something soothing like a beach or beautiful forest. As people say, “go to your happy place.”
- Count backward from 100, and add ten seconds every time your mind wanders. This forces your mind to focus on the numbers and not your thoughts.
- Write down all of your thoughts in a sleep diary. A journal gives you an outlet to expel your intrusive thoughts and ease your mind.
Other Sleep Conditions
A few sleep conditions can contribute to or cause insomnia. If you can’t sleep through the night, you may have one of the following conditions. Consult a doctor if you think you may have one of these sleep disorders.
Sleep apnea has to do with breathing while sleeping. People with sleep apnea do not breathe normally during the night; their breathing starts and stops periodically. This condition can lead to loud snoring, morning headaches, and extreme fatigue during the day.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is when someone can’t stop moving their legs, whether just at night or also throughout the day. Most people take medications for RLS, but therapy and relaxation techniques can also help.
If you often travel, whether on a plane or in a car, and frequently move through time zones, this can lead to trouble sleeping. This problem can be hard to combat, but the best thing is to listen to your body and try to rest whenever you can.
Night terrors are when you chronically have terrifying nightmares, whether due to stress, anxiety, or PTSD. The treatment for night terrors is usually a combination of therapy, medication, relaxation techniques, and sometimes even hypnosis. Sleepwalking can also be a symptom of night terrors.
Other Reasons You’re Not Sleeping
Trouble sleeping at night doesn’t always mean you have a sleep condition. You may struggle to sleep at night due to life habits and other environmental conditions, which are often easy to adjust, improving your ability to sleep.
Consider the possible reasons you’re not sleeping below and what might apply to you.
Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine consumption negatively impact your sleep. Even caffeine in the morning can lead to problems sleeping at night. If you struggle with insomnia, consider ditching caffeine altogether and see if that helps.
One glass of alcohol before bed is no big deal, but consuming more can ruin your sleep, so even if you fall asleep, it’s not a refreshing night’s rest. Alcohol interrupts the REM cycle, so even if you sleep, you will still wake up feeling sleepy and groggy.
Anxiety or Stress
Anxiety and sleeplessness often go hand in hand. If you suffer from anxiety, stress, or depression, these mental conditions often contribute to a lack of sleep or difficulty sleeping.
Consider speaking with a therapist about possible antianxiety or antidepressant medications that could help. If you’re dealing with anxiety and sleeplessness, practice the relaxation techniques discussed above.
Lack of Routine
If you don’t follow a decent sleeping routine, it is harder to fall asleep. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, even on the weekends.
If you tend to stay up late on certain nights or oversleep in the morning, this will throw off your sleep schedule. So when you want to go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour, your body will struggle to adjust.
Late Exercise and Diet
A poor diet and exercise routine can make it much harder to fall asleep and sleep. Try not to exercise immediately before bed, as this gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, making it more difficult to relax and fall asleep.
Eating close to bedtime can also cause you to stay awake. If you eat foods high in sugar, fat, and protein right before you go to bed, it makes it hard to sleep. On the other hand, you can wake up from hunger pangs, so don’t go to bed hungry either.
Unfortunately, many medications lead to trouble sleeping. The following medications can lead to insomnia:
- Dopamine agonists
- Cold medicines
- SSRI antidepressants
- ACE inhibitors
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- H1 antagonists
These are just a few of the medications that can lead to insomnia. If you’re on other medications and suffer from insomnia, research them to see how they might affect your sleep patterns.
Unfortunately, sometimes the remedy for a medication that causes insomnia is sleep medication, but try relaxation techniques and other tips for insomnia before turning to sleep medication.
As mentioned, optimizing your bedtime comfort is essential for getting a good night’s sleep. Consider if your sleeping environment went through a change recently. Did you get a new mattress? Did you replace your pillows? Has it been hot recently?
Try to control factors like these to help you fall asleep. Even people who don’t typically have trouble sleeping can experience insomnia if their sleeping environment is negatively affected. If you can’t sleep, don’t be afraid to spring for the fancy pillow or get a new mattress, it could solve everything!
When To See a Doctor
You should see a doctor when your insomnia or sleeping troubles dribble into your daytime life. If you’re struggling to function during the day, you should discuss this with your doctor, as they can offer possible treatments. People with sleep disorders can benefit from visiting a sleep center or sleep specialist for testing.
If you have more questions about insomnia and relaxation techniques, you can learn more information in the following section that answers commonly asked questions.
I can’t sleep. Should I just stay up all night?
If you can’t sleep, you may feel like getting up and enjoying a movie or getting things done around your house. For people with chronic insomnia, this is tempting, but it’s a bad idea. Scientific evidence shows that even laying in bed with your eyes closed has benefits to your mental and physical health, even if you never actually sleep. This habit is known as “quiet wakefulness.”
Are there downsides to relaxation techniques?
Relaxation techniques rarely have negative consequences. However, some people report relaxation techniques can increase their anxiety. If you suffer from high anxiety and want to try relaxation techniques, discuss which methods are ideal for you with your doctor or therapist.
What if relaxation techniques don’t work?
If relaxation techniques don’t work, see a doctor and tell them about your sleep struggles. They may recommend sleep medications or encourage you to visit a sleep specialist to identify the root of the problem. Relaxation techniques don’t work for everyone, so don’t feel bad if you need to seek extra help with your sleeping.
Lying awake every night can be frustrating and detrimental to your health. Don’t suffer through insomnia and other sleeping disorders in silence.
Try these relaxation techniques, make your sleeping environment as comfortable as possible, modify your diet, and if all else fails, talk to your doctor. Insomnia is often due to anxiety and stress, so reducing these feelings can help you get a full night’s rest every time you go to bed.
For those struggling to sleep, give these seven insomnia tips a try! If you consistently can’t sleep after trying these techniques, reach out to your doctor to try and identify the problem and find a solution.