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Sleep Hygiene for the Rest of Us

Typical sleep advice does not always help those with chronic pain and illness.

Source: Pixabay

Articles on good sleep hygiene are all over the internet. I know the recommendations are good ones. It’s just that most of them don’t work for those of us who are living with chronic pain or illness. Here’s a list of typical sleep hygiene recommendations along with my comment on why they might not work for the rest of us.

1. Go to sleep at the same time every night.

Nice idea. Unfortunately, pain and other symptoms dictate what time I'll get to go to sleep.

2. Only use your bedroom for sleep or for sex.

The strictest version of this rule includes a ban on these activities: talking on the phone, listening to the radio, watching television, reading, using the computer, working. But if I can't write or use my computer while on or in the bed, from where would I be writing this article? My bed is my multi-purpose room. That's the way it is.

3. Don’t nap during the day.

I can’t get through the day without a nap. I have absolutely no choice here. I consider it a small victory if I only need one nap. I’ve been known to need four.

4. Exercise.

Oh yeah. If it were only possible…

5. Move the TV out of the bedroom.

Good idea—but maybe not for the rest of us who almost live in our bedrooms.

6. If you don’t fall asleep in 15-20 minutes or if you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t fall back asleep in 15-20 minutes, get out of bed, go into another room, do something non-stimulating for a half hour, and then try again.

Okay. First, I NEVER fall asleep in 15-20 minutes. It takes me longer than that to get comfortable. Then once I’m comfortable, I have to wait until the symptom parade calms down. On a good night, I’m asleep after about 45-60 minutes. On a bad night…it can take hours.

Second, I’ve discovered that I feel much better the next day if I don’t get out of bed when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. I “fake sleep," meaning I lie in bed in my usual sleep position and pretend to sleep.

I’m pleased to announce that I've mastered the art of fake sleeping!

© 2012 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I'm the author of four books:

How to Be Sick: Your Pocket Companion (for those who've read How to Be Sick and for those who haven't). Available May 2020.

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers (Second Edition) 2018

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon,, and iTunes.

Visit for more information and buying options.

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You might also like "Six Common Misconceptions about the Chronically Ill."

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