Sleep Hygiene: Helpful Tips for Getting More Sleep When You Can’t Sleep

November 16, 2023

Sleep is important. We all know it and we all especially feel it when we can’t get enough sleep. For some of us, getting the right amount of sleep is the key to avoiding going full Godzilla-mode. For others, sleep is needed, but not the scariest thing in the world to lose. Either way, these tips for getting more and better sleep are probably worth a quick read (also feel free to scroll to the TLDR at the bottom). Though some people may be familiar with these tips already, it can still be hard to know how to put them into practice. That inspired me to write this post in the hopes that I can explain them in a way that feels approachable and easily applicable.

Sleep Tip Number One Two, One Two, One Two, You Got This!

Create a routine and stick to it. That’s it. That’s the first and second tip in one sentence. And yet, I can hear some groaning from audience members in the back (the front just looks grumpy). The reason probably being that some of you have tried this before and failed. Creating a routine is not easy and sticking to it is even harder sometimes. Maybe I can give y’all some tips that will make it somewhat easier.

As they sing in The Sound of Music, “🎵let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start🎵.” Sometimes just starting something can be the most difficult part. I would encourage those of you who have trouble even starting to allow yourself to do less than the bare minimum. Don’t even take the first step, stick the first toe out. What might that look like? That may look like getting a piece of paper and a pencil and writing down “My Bedtime Routine” at the top of the paper and then stopping. It may look like thinking through what you normally do before bed each night and then stopping. It can also look like taking five minutes to write a couple ideas in your phone of what your routine might look like. But now what, you may be thinking, I stopped and now I have to start again. Ah ha! Now there is where you are wrong. You have already started, have you not? And you may find that after writing the title or thinking through your bedtime routine or jotting down some ideas, you are more motivated and interested in creating that routine. You have gotten through the first hurdle, without even realizing it.

So now you have started. What does it look like to create a routine? To create a routine, you first look at your existing habits. Then, you can put those items in an order and choose what time you’d like to start each activity. For example, if you generally try to brush your teeth, take a shower, and browse your phone in bed (though you may want to change that after reading this blog), you may choose to first take a shower at 8:00pm, then brush your teeth at 8:45pm, and lastly browse your phone in bed starting at 9:00pm before falling asleep. Sometimes, being constrained by a time in which you need to do each thing can feel too restrictive, though, so maybe start with choosing a starting time instead. Once again, do the bare minimum. Don’t start out with creating a whole new routine of new things that you never normally do. Small changes over time are better than big changes all at once. If you do these things, you (hopefully) now have a solid routine that will serve you well in the future.

You have created a routine and maybe (hopefully) have started to practice it. You’re making mistakes, you’re forgetting things, and you’re working to do better each night. How do you make sure you don’t stray from the path? It’s very easy to get into the mindset of “Oh, I didn’t do my nighttime routine tonight. I have failed and will now give up on my routine foreverEHHH wrong (that was supposed to be a buzzer sound just so you know). What you want to think is “I messed up and forgot to do my nighttime routine this evening. That’s okay. I am human and we all make mistakes sometimes. Tomorrow is a new day and I will work to do better then.” Be understanding/kind to yourself. This is called self-compassion and it is far more likely to keep you going on the path you’re blazing. If you are still continually having trouble keeping your routine, maybe the routine needs adjusting or you may need an accountability buddy. There are many ways to keep up a new lifestyle choice, you just gotta take the first tiny, small, miniscule toe tap.

Sleep Tip The Third Time You’ve Gotten Up to Go to the Bathroom Tonight

I hate this sleep tip and it is probably the hardest out of all of them for me to keep. So, I perfectly understand the struggle that this one may pose for some of you. The tip is to not eat too close to bedtime and don’t drink too much too close to bedtime. The reason being that those of you who have heartburn or indigestion may have interrupted sleep or have a hard time getting to sleep if you eat too close to bedtime. This is more nuanced, of course, than it seems at first glance.

First of all, this tip is more for those of us who have stomach issues or tend to be woken up/kept awake by stomach discomfort. It is also for people who have small bladders and may be woken up by needing to go to the bathroom throughout the night. For the latter, the solution is rather simple (haha as if hydration was simple 😭). Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day instead of gulping down a ton of water right before bed.

For those of us who are crummy in the tummy, it may take some experimenting to figure out what works best for you. I know for myself, sometimes the midnight snack is worth it because I will stay awake feeling hungry if I don’t eat. Sometimes it is better to forgo the food if the indigestion is worse than the hunger. What you eat can also be as important as whether you eat. Some foods are more likely to cause indigestion. I’d recommend experimenting with various foods to see what is least likely to bother you at night. The same goes for how close to bed you can eat. Some people can eat right before bed and not be bothered, while others cannot eat within 3 hours of bedtime. Figure out what works best for you through trial and error. Again, remember to use self-compassion when you mess up (because I promise you, you will).

Sleep Tip Episode Four: The Return of Speederman – Spiderman’s Caffeine-Addicted Cousin

The title of this sleep tip is probably (but not really) longer than the actual tip. Do not drink caffeine or consume nicotine within 8 hours of bedtime. Both of them are in the drug class of ‘stimulants,’ which can keep you awake and/or ruin your sleep altogether. Now, that is a generalized statement. For some people, a low amount of caffeine does not affect whether they feel sleepy. However, even if GETTING to sleep feels fine after caffeine or nicotine, the QUALITY of sleep is often worse. Ultimately, take this tip with a grain of salt and do what feels right for you. However, that is not an excuse to not take it into consideration if you are having sleep issues (I’m talking to you, Speederman).

Sleep Tip Five More Reps To Go

I lied. This is my least favorite sleep tip. Mainly because it involves exercise. That being said, the tip is to maintain regular exercise and only exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercising too close to bedtime can keep you awake because your body is too hyped up (no, that’s not the scientific term, but it should be!) to fall asleep. Less intense exercise in the evening is also okay for most people as long as you have ample time for winding down before bedtime (Mulla, 2022). Again, use trial and error to find out what works best for your own body.

Sleep Tip 6°C

Have you ever stayed awake late at night sweating because your room was just too hot? (All the people in Texas say AMEN!) It is important to keep your room cool at night in order to get good sleep. The reason behind this is because our bodies naturally get cooler at night, so this mimics our natural rhythm (Mulla, 2022). Use a fan, A/C, or even cold packs if needed to help you get cool at night. For those of you who like the heavy feeling of a lot of blankets on you at night, but don’t want the heat, weighted blankets can be a good alternative. At the end of the day, your electricity bill (and blanket budget) may hate you, but your sleepy body will love you.

Sleep Tip Seven: Naps are Heaven(ly bad for you)

Sleep is for nighttime only, with limited exceptions. If you love naps, as I do, make sure you limit it to less than an hour per day and make sure to do it before 2pm (Pacheco, 2022). The reason for this tip is that daytime sleep can take away nighttime sleep, especially if you nap later in the day (Pacheco, 2022). Again, this is not true for everyone. If you are more sleepy or fatigued than the average person, you may need a longer or shorter power nap. Experiment and figure out what works for you.

Sleep Tip Eight is Great(ly upsetting)

Falling asleep is easiest in a quiet and dark environment with NO SCREENS. To clarify, white noise or other constant, soothing sounds are often helpful for sleep, so it doesn’t need to be dead silent. I will fully admit that I do not follow this sleep tip regularly (or really, ever), though I know I should. I sometimes leave lights on and I always have noise playing. I also always look at screens right before attempting to fall asleep. However, it is best to avoid screens for at least one hour before bedtime. This is, again, not true for everyone. Some people can look at screens right before bed and fall asleep easily, though their sleep quality may still not be great. If you are struggling to get to sleep at night, it may be worth it to try reading a book for an hour before bed instead of doom-scrolling on social media (I promise, I am calling myself out on this as well).

Sleep Tip Nine, You’re Sleepin’ Fine

So, we know that our minds make associations with various emotions and objects. For example, looking at a souvenir you bought on a fantastical vacation 7 years ago can bring memories and happy feelings flooding back. This association can also happen with places and what you normally do at those places. Therefore, it would make sense that if you use your bed for playing games or talking on the phone or doing homework or all of the other things we do while sitting on our beds, our bed is not associated only with sleep. The ninth sleep tip is to use your bed only for sleep. Get into bed only when you are feeling tired and are about to go to sleep. This tip is a really hard one to follow, even for me. Again, I understand if this tip is not for you, but for some of you out there, it may be extremely helpful. To fully follow this tip, if you are not asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed and go read or do some other relaxing activity. Do NOT stay in bed for longer than 30 minutes if you cannot fall asleep. Once you are tired again, go back to bed and repeat the process. For some people, this works really well and for others, it’s just not worth it. Do what works for you!

Sleep Tip Why So TENse

This tip is very simple and short and to the point. Take a hot shower or bath before bed as this helps to relax you and any tense muscles. I don’t have much to add to this other than the fact that for some people, this can heat you up too much and it’s good to make sure you have adequate time to cool off before trying to sleep (Mulla, 2022). Remember, keeping cool is important for falling asleep (refer to sleep tip six).

Sleep Tip Eleven: I D.A.R.E. You to Follow This One

Drugs are great— I should clarify. Prescription drugs are great when used in accordance to how they are prescribed. In that vein, do not rely on sleeping pills and, if you are prescribed them, use them under a doctor’s supervision. Also, it’s important to check side effects and make sure they aren’t interacting with any other of your medications. Some meds can interfere with sleep, so it’s important to be vigilant!

Sleep Tip Twelve: The End of this Blog, But Not the End of the World

Taking all the previous tips into consideration, I think this may just be the most important and valuable tip. If you do nothing else, please do this. Do. Not. Catastrophize. Yes, as we have discussed, sleep is very important. Especially to some of you. You may know that if you don’t get adequate sleep, you will become a raging monster the next day or get zero work done. Honestly, I don’t care. And neither does anyone else. We all have bad days and we all have non-productive days. Do not blow one bad night of sleep or even a week of bad sleep out of proportion. That will make it worse. I’m not sure if you know this, but being stressed out makes it really hard to fall asleep. When you lay there and think about the time going by, or how bad it’s going to be tomorrow, or how frustrated you are by not being able to fall asleep, sleep is going to be that much harder to come by. Please tell yourself, “it’s okay. I will fall asleep eventually.” And do your best to believe it. Relax any tense muscles and take deep breaths. It’s okay. Sleep will come. Sleep… will… *yawn* Excuse me, I’m going to go to bed now. Night y’all 😉.

TLDR (too long; didn’t read)

The 12 Tips for Sleep

  1. Stick to a regular bedtime schedule
  2. Create a bedtime routine
  3. Don’t eat or drink too much too close to bedtime
  4. Do not drink caffeine or consume nicotine within 8 hours of bedtime
  5. Maintain regular morning or afternoon exercise
  6. Keep your room cool at night
  7. Only sleep at night; keep naps to an hour or less
  8. Keep it quiet and dark at night; NO SCREENS
  9. Use your bed only for sleep
  10. Take a hot shower or bath before bed
  11. Do not rely on sleeping pills
  12. Don’t catastrophize falling asleep


DBT® Skills Manual for Adolescents, by Jill H. Rathus and Alec L. Miller. Copyright 2015 by The Guilford Press.

Mulla, R. (2022, November 30). Best Temperature for Sleep – How Temperature Affects Sleep. Sleepstation.

Pacheco, D. (2022, September 27). Does Napping During the Day Affect Your Sleep at Night? Sleep Foundation.

Appreciations to AFC’s Kaity Dallas, LPC-Associate, LMFT-Associate, NCC for the hilarious titles of the last three tips (ten, eleven, and twelve). Your contribution was invaluable!

lindsay thompson counseling therapist lpc
Written By: Lindsay Thompson, LPC-A, Supervised by Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-Supervisor


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