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Help! I Can't Sleep

There are so many ways to improve sleep.

There is not a person among us who has not dealt with the anguish associated with restless and sleepless nights. They may be occasional if you are lucky or frequent if you are less lucky. Those sorts of nights are aggravating and frustrating not only because we feel helpless but also because we know that a sleepless night is very likely to ruin our mood the next day. The day following a sleepless night often results not only in exhaustion but also in irritability, distractibility, and an overall bad mood. There are many ways to try to remedy insomnia. I know that many of you have tried all sorts of ways to get to sleep and have often been less successful than you have desired. Let me try to help you here. Pay careful attention as I take you through a list of potential problem solvers. I hope that you will find something here that will help get you through the night. You may not yet have considered or tried some of the suggestions below:

  1. Partner Responsiveness: A study by Selchuk et al. 2017 suggests that the behavior of who you are sleeping with may make a difference in the quality of your sleep. In this study, it was found that individuals who perceive their sleep partner as validating sleep better. This is no surprise but is often not considered. Work on your relationship and communication style with your partner if you would like to sleep better. Improving communication is helpful in more ways than one.
  2. Sleep Environment: Your sleep environment can also make the difference between a good or a problematic night of sleep. Make sure that your pillow and mattress are comfortable. Perhaps, a weighted blanket might make all the difference. Many people experience weighted blankets as both comforting and soothing. Pay attention to the temperature of the room in which you sleep. Many people prefer sleeping in a slightly cool room and getting wrapped up in a soft and cozy blanket. I have heard from many good sleepers that putting a dab of an essential oil on a pillow also contributes to a comfortable sleep environment.
  3. Calming Rituals: Consider engaging in at least 1 or 2 calming activities before going to sleep. Consider listening to soothing music, an audiobook, reading, or even having a cup of tea. Some people like warm showers or baths. Yet others enjoy stretching. The list is endless. It's important, though, that you find an activity that you find soothing and that you then make it part of your evening ritual. The body and your sleep cycle thrive on soothing rituals.
  4. Limit Electronics: Turn off all technology before going to bed. This is a time to decompress and to wind down not to get stirred up. Let me also emphasize that watching the news before bed is not helpful but you all already know this.
  5. Manage Anxious Thoughts: Many of us stay awake ruminating about the next day's activities. Consider making a list of the next day's tasks and then moving on and attending to resting. Once you are in bed, checking the time and figuring out how much sleep you may or may not get is never helpful. Avoid this at all costs.

If you can't sleep despite having attended to 1-5 above, consider attending to your breathing, telling yourself a calming story, or focusing on a peaceful mantra. If the insomnia is persistent and is interfering with your functioning, please consider talking to a physician and/or therapist.


Selchuk,E.,Stanton,S.C.E.,Slatcher R.B.,& Ong,A.D. (2016) Perceived partner responsiveness predicts better sleep quality through lower anxiety.Social Psychological and Personality Science.8(1)83-92.