It’s not easy being human. I often tell people this when I want to remind them that it’s okay to be angry, stressed, anxious, upset, worried, or just in a stinking mood sometimes.
I believe the original phrase is ‘it’s okay to be human’, which I’ll also use when appropriate (humor and bad moods don’t always mix well). The more lighthearted version usually does a good job of squeezing a smile out of the darkness though, which is sometimes all that’s needed.
The thing is, when we carry stress, anxiety, or worry to bed with us, it often results in another very human problem: not falling asleep when we really, really need to.
Of course, there are many possible explanations for bad sleep, and we’re all different. One thing that seems to unite many of us though is that it’s difficult to fall asleep if you don’t feel relaxed.
In this article, I’ll be covering different relaxation techniques that you can try if you regularly can’t sleep because your mind is racing. There’s no rule about when to do them, so feel free to try them just before you go to bed, during the daytime if you’re feeling stressed, or even while you’re already lying in bed if you can’t sleep.
More than one way to relax
I know not everyone finds the idea of meditation or yoga appealing, so I’ll also suggest some other techniques that might have less of an esoteric connotation for you.
However, if you haven’t given meditation, breathing techniques, or yoga a go because you feel that they belong in some overly colorful New Age realm of wind chimes and incense, I can assure you that people of all walks of life practice them, myself included.
A lot of what was once New Age is fairly mainstream now. You just need to take note of how often people carry yoga mats into coffee shops to see what I mean.
I don’t think there’s one single technique that’s better than all the others when it comes to sleep. So if going for a walk helps you unwind more than sitting cross legged with your eyes closed, that’s all that matters.
I’d just like to suggest keeping an open mind and trying out different techniques. You’ve got nothing to lose, and you don’t need candles, incense, or gong-filled music to meditate if it’s not your thing.
1. Guided meditation
If you’re new to the idea of meditation, a good place to start is with a guided meditation. That way, you don’t need to read a book or website, or attend a workshop. You can just press play, close your eyes and let a calm voice take you on a journey to a calmer state of mind.
There are many different styles, so it’s worth exploring YouTube, Spotify, or downloadable apps to see what works well for you.
Some will incorporate techniques such as mindfulness, with concepts like not being stressed about the fact that you’re having normal thoughts. Others might take you on more of a journey which can be a pleasant distraction from an overactive mind.
If I can’t sleep, I’ll sometimes listen to a meditation video or audio track through my phone. I leave it playing on the nightstand, close my eyes and listen to the calming instructions.
And if you have a relaxing bedtime routine that you like to repeat, it’s a good time to squeeze in a guided meditation.
To give you an idea, here’s one I like. I found this by searching for ‘guided sleep meditations’ on YouTube. If you do the same search, you’ll find many others.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique that works well for several reasons:
- Tension in the muscles can lead to tension in the mind.
- Focusing on your body can help turn your attention away from your thoughts.
- By tensing and releasing your muscles, you learn what a relaxed state feels like. That gives you a goal to work towards when relaxing at night.
Step by step muscle relaxation
Here are some instructions for a classic progressive muscle relaxation technique. I recommend lying down to do this one, and I often do it when I’m in bed after I switch the light off.
- Breathe slowly and deeply in a natural way for a minute.
- Inhale slowly through your nose while tensing your toes and feet for three to four seconds (however long is comfortable for you).
- Slowly exhale through your mouth, and relax your toes and feet again.
- Take a deep breath and tighten your lower leg muscles, hold for a few seconds, and then relax again with the exhale of breath.
- Breathe in and tense your upper legs, hold, and then relax.
- Breathe in and tense your abdomen and lower back, hold for a few seconds and then relax.
- Repeat with your chest and upper back.
- Repeat with your hands, lower arms, then upper arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Tense your face, scrunching it up tightly.
- Finally, inhale and tense your whole body at once. Hold for a few seconds.
- Slowly exhale and relax your entire body, with a gentle sigh if you like.
- Repeat the full-body process three times.
And here’s a calming video that talks you through progressive muscle relaxation:
3. Deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing is calming to do either on its own or along with other relaxation exercises. Most meditation exercises encourage you to focus on your breathing at some point.
There are two main components to this style of breathing: learning to breathe into your abdomen rather than just the chest, and breathing at a controlled and slow rate.
It’s an effective relaxation technique for several reasons:
- It relaxes your muscles.
- It can help slow your heart rate down.
- It can help slow down your breathing if anxiety is affecting it.
- It takes your attention away from worrying thoughts.
- You can continue doing it for as long as you like in bed.
Step by step deep breathing
Here are some instructions for doing a deep breathing exercise. Again, it’s a good one to do while lying in bed, but you can do it any time you feel stressed or anxious during the day.
- Take a minute to get comfortable. Try to relax naturally.
- Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing
. Placeone hand on your stomach and one on your chest. See if they both rise when you inhale, or if just one of them rises. You don’t need to do anything in particular at this time. Just see which hand is rising, and pay attention to it.
- Inhale slowly through your nose for the count of four seconds. Try to breathe in such a way that the hand on your stomach rises, and the hand on your chest only rises a little. This is called abdominal breathing and what you should ideally try to do. You may find it tricky at first, but keep practicing and it will come in time.
- After you inhale, hold your breath for four seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for four seconds. If four seconds is too much or too little, you can adjust the time to suit you.
- Continue breathing in this way for five minutes.
- Once you’ve learned how to breathe with your abdomen, you can place your arms by your sides when you do the exercise.
- You could set yourself a goal to practice this deep breathing exercise for five to ten minutes, but there’s no time limit or ‘ideal’ length of time really. I sometimes just keep doing the exercise until I fall asleep.
Deep breathing video
The next video first explains how to do deep breathing, and then talks you through an exercise.
4. A short routine if you have limited time (or patience)
Despite writing an article discussing meditation and relaxation techniques, I have a little secret: I find it difficult to sit still for long meditation sessions! I’m just an active and somewhat fidgety person.
I’m also not a huge fan of sitting cross-legged, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already missed the chance to become bendy enough for the lotus position during this lifetime.
So after years of experimenting with relaxation exercises and mindfulness techniques, I decided to put together a routine that was short, positive, and effective.
What I like about it is that I can do all of these steps in just five to ten minutes, but they are enough to help me relax and go to bed feeling positive. I first started with just five minutes, and added an extra minute every two weeks. So now I tend to do ten, but if I’m really not feeling it, I stick to five.
Here’s what I do, and why:
I usually lie on the floor or bed for the entire five minutes, but I tend to change positions a couple of times to stretch muscles that are tight. It also stops me from getting frustrated by being in one position the whole time.
Sometimes I hug my knees to my chest while lying on my back. I might also lie with my hips out, and my arms behind my head with my arms out – the splayed frog pose, as I like to call it.
So basically, I meditate and stretch out sore muscles at the same time. That seems to appease the active side of my personality which likes a good stretch.
I first take a few slow and deep breaths through my nose, just to settle into the session. If you wonder why I keep insisting on breathing through the nose, look up the book ‘Breath’ by James Nestor. Basically, breathing through the nose is a good thing!
I think of three things I’m grateful for today. It can be anything really: a delicious meal, the fact that I’m lucky enough to eat three meals a day, the beautiful blue sky and sunshine today, a phone call from a friend, remembering that someone loves me.
I then tell myself in my head “The day is over. Let it go. Forget it.”
I feel this helps close the day nicely, and helps put to bed any regrets, worries, or anxiety about the day’s events.
I practice some simple forgiveness. If I did something or said something I feel bad about that day, I forgive myself. Likewise, if someone did something that got under my skin, I forgive them.
If nothing happened of note that day, I think back to something in the past that I’m still harboring.
Just let it go.
It’s surprising how simply choosing to forgive yourself or someone else, or even the bad weather that day, can help you unwind.
If you’re the kind of person that finds it hard to forgive, aren’t ready to forgive someone that springs to mind, or feel that forgiveness requires more effort, don’t stress about this step. This is your time, remember. Maybe start small with forgiving the weather for raining on you or something else relatively superficial.
I finish by doing some deep breathing. This time, with each exhale I imagine following the breath into the room, then the building, then the neighborhood, the city, country, world, and beyond.
If my imagination is struggling to visualise all of that on a particular day, just a few meters usually does the trick of getting me out of my head, thoughts, and worries.
And that’s my little routine. If you decide to give it a go, I’d love to know what you think of it in the comments below. Perhaps you might also like to get creative and put together your own positive relaxation routine, either based on my suggestions or ideas that you think are more personal and relevant to you.
5. Try some yoga or chi kung
I can’t describe yoga or chi kung techniques in a written article in a way that would do them justice, but I want to mention them because I believe they are both great for relaxation.
What I like about both is that they are relaxing for the body and the mind. Of course, there are some styles of yoga that can feel more like a workout than relaxation, which might be good for sleep too, but perhaps not right before going to bed.
I recommend going to a class in your local area if you can, not just for the proper instruction but also the social aspect. Humans are social creatures and it’s important we have good social contact with others. You might be surprised to discover how much having contact with others helps you feel more positive. And that in turn might help with your overall wellbeing and perhaps your sleep too.
If you can’t attend a class, once again YouTube is a great place to get some instruction in your own home. For yoga, a channel I follow and really like is ‘Yoga With Adriene’. I like her style in general and I appreciate how she has specific videos for different needs.
There are some for relaxation in general, and many for particular body parts. I’ve had times when I can’t sleep because I’ve been in pain, and yoga has come to the rescue by helping me stretch out some sore muscles.
6. Other relaxation techniques
As promised at the start, here are some suggestions that don’t involve meditation or bending your body into unusual positions.
- Go for a walk outside, preferably in a green space or by water. I always find walking helps me clear my mind and relax. Even if I don’t ‘try’ to relax, I always come back from a walk feeling calmer than when I left.
- Read a book, magazine or comic. I prefer to avoid screens when I want to relax, and like the physical feel of a book.
- Have a relaxing drink. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks late at night if you can. Herbal or decaf tea are good options.
- Have a warm shower or bath. Maybe light some candles in the bathroom if you can, and put some music or radio on. I’d avoid a hot bath just before bed though, especially in the summer.
- Put on some headphones, shut the world out, and listen to some relaxing music.
- Watch or read something funny. I usually advocate for switching off screens late at night. But if you’re in an especially bad mood or feeling down, it’s amazing how much a good comedy or some funny cat videos can lift your mood!
- Do some art. If you like to do art, maybe get your creative juices flowing in times of stress. You could keep a separate book to draw in next to the bed that you only use at bedtime.
- Journaling. Writing about your day, mood and life’s events can be cathartic. Getting it on paper might help your mind relax too.
7. Readers’ suggestions
Here are some ideas that readers have suggested. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
- Get up for a while if you can’t sleep.
- Do yoga.
- Do stretching before bed.
- Don’t watch horror films before bed.
- If noise keeps you awake, don’t let it stress you out – find a way to stop it or reduce it.
- Try a sleep hypnosis recording.
- Try some aromatherapy before going to bed.
Finally, if you’d like some more ideas that can help with sleep, talk a look the sleep hygiene page which is full of tips and techniques for better sleep.
Thank you for offering all these ideas in one place. I will try them. I have been using a sleep hypnosis recording for about a year quite successfully. I still have nights when it doesn’t work but it is often effective when I’m thinking too much, especially. I don’t know if it’s ok to link here so I’ll just suggest people search for Marc Schoen PhD. Go to Products then Audio Downloads. Deep Sleep Hypnosis.
I also really like the herbal remedy: “I Sleep Soundly” by Banyan Botanicals. I’m an herbalist and have researched pharmaceutical and nutrient remedies for years. Most are too sedating or addicting. This one is neither. Getting enough Magnesium in the diet is important and a supplement of Magnesium Glycinate at night is calming. I’m also interested in how gene polymorphisms affect sleep and what supplements might be helpful. It’s a new field so not much is established but I think it’s promising.
Thanks for your comment – I’m happy to hear you liked the article, and I hope they help you. I think sleep hypnosis recordings can work really well, and have used them myself several times. I’ll have a look for the one your mentioned.
I’ve tried many herbal remedies, but not that one – I’ll have to check it out too! It sounds like you’ve done a lot of research into sleep and remedies. If you’re following this thread, it would be interesting to hear more about your views on herbal remedies for sleep!
I do a bit of aromatherapy before going to bed and add some relaxing oils into my bath or shower gel. My mind is very creative and I am hyper at night because the new ideas just pop up in my head. I used a neurofeedback app to identify which relaxation tools could help me once and found out that just going to my “happy place” in my mind or focusing on my breathing helps quickly. I do proper meditation too when I have time and more for a meditation experience itself, but when I need to relax fast, I just use my “happy place” or focusing on deep breathing
Thanks for your suggestion. Many people talk about having a shower or bath before bed, but not so much the idea of adding aromatherapy. I think it’s a nice way to boost the relaxation potential of both! I also like your suggestion of going to a happy place.
What a great guide! I love the different types and approaches to relaxation. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome, I’m glad you liked the article!
Hi, m one of Buddhist monk from south India.. I m getting trouble with sleep.. My usual timing for bed is 10:30 pm to till 3:30 am…. Now a days, m not feeling comfortable on bed and not having good sleep… It happened before few months and now it’s second time… Actually, I don have worry or any stress but when I go to bed and ly down, different thought arise and I can’t stop it… Being me as in silent retreat for some years, I don have any way to go for medical checkup and so on… Please, give me some idea or information about ” good sleep”. Thank you… May god bless u all and I too pray to clearify all yours abstacles and fulfill wishes…
Thanks for your comment. Interestingly, a lot of the relaxation advice I give tends to have either roots in, or similarities, to Buddhist meditation techniques. But I guess I can’t advise you to learn those techniques, as you probably already know many different relaxation techniques which you can do at night in bed.
Do you find you actually feel tired when you go to bed? And is there anything you can do to improve the comfort of your bed?
So my question is, do you do all of these techniques to fall asleep? Or do you pick and choose? Or do you only do one? Or do you do different ones on different days? Been having trouble sleeping recently (going to bed at 10 PM and not being able to sleep until 5 or 6 AM, only to get up 2 hours later), and I’m not sure where to begin. Some insight would be helpful!
That’s a good question! Ideally, just one or two would be enough to do the trick. I gave different ideas as some people will find one technique works better for them, or they just feel more comfortable doing it. But if you’re awake for ages, then there’s no harm in cycling through them – if you can handle doing one relaxation exercise after another! Personally, I find just breathing works well for me. I’ll do it for up to 10 mins in bed, but if I still don’t feel sleepy after all that time, I might get up for a bit, do something relaxing, then go back to bed and try again. But then again, I’ve also tried listening to really long meditation clips, and kind of spent 30-60 mins drifting in and out of sleep listening to the audio. To be honest, it depends as much on my mood as anything else which method I go for.
It’s really up to you to experiment and see what helps. Have you also read my article about fixing your sleep routine? That might help, as it seems going to bed 9-10 hours before your wake up time might be too early, and setting yourself up for getting frustrated if you go to bed when you’re really not tired enough yet.
Hi, I’m Jake. I often have trouble falling asleep at night mainly due to the stress I encounter at school. I usually get into bed around 10:30. On nights where I can’t fall asleep, I can be up anywhere from 12:00-3:30. Usually, after 3:30, my body will shut down and I have to wake up at 6:00. I am going into 11th grade, and last year I had problems falling asleep at least once a week. I perform well in school, but I always feel as if I am not doing enough. I have been called a perfectionist due to my work ethic while also balancing two sports and other extra curricular activities. During the summer, my anxiety and sleeping problems almost vanished completely, but in the last few weeks, the problems have aroused again. I was considering consulting my doctor about this issue. Do you have any advice; I have tried breathing exercises before and it is hard to perform them due to my heart racing and the constant thinking. Thank you for your consideration.
Thanks for your comment. I can completely understand you – I also used to get anxious at school, and was a bit of a perfectionist too! It’s great that you’ve tried breathing exercises before – it shows you’re willing to try things that might help. Sometimes it can take a while to get into the swing of doing them and for it to become a routine that you can relax into. Dealing with constant thinking is something that is possible to do, but can take a little practice. I often recommend something called mindfulness techniques to help with that. It’s basically all about accepting that everyone has lots of thoughts, accepting them, not stressing about them and allowing them to pass without becoming fixated on them.
If you have a racing heart though, that’s something I’d speak to your doctor about as well. Getting their reassurance and advice might help you to relax at night. But again, if it’s a symptom of anxiety, it’s something you can learn to control in time if you keep practicing positive relaxation techniques.
I also highly recommend talking to your family about how you feel, if you don’t already. And if your school has a tutor or psychologist you can see to talk through how school is making you feel, that might help too.
I hope you have found help to sleep by now Irina. Do the breathing techniques help relax you? I noticed you didn’t get a reply from Ethan so wanted to say hi.x
Jenna your comment drew my attention to the previous one (thanks for joining in!), which somehow escaped me. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to you Irina, and I hope you sleep problems are no longer!
Hi my name is Lauren
I have anxiety and really struggle to switch my mind off because it’s going at 1000mph with thoughts and worries and I stress myself out without intending to! I’m very interested in mindfulness techniques and will be researching into it! I can’t seem to sleep through the whole night, I end up waking up multiple times either for no reason or because I’m needing to pee and when I go there isn’t actually enough to require the urge to go in the first place, it makes me feel like I haven’t slept very well! I don’t know what to do to stop this from happening.
Thanks for your comment. I can empathize with you – it’s never nice lying in bed with an overactive mind. Do try the tips in the article, and the mindfulness article too – they can make a profound difference. I’d also try not drinking liquids a couple of hours before bed. Maybe just a small amount of water or milk to prevent dehydration. And if it keeps happening, maybe get checked out by a doctor for infections.
Hello my name is anne-marie,
In the last 2 months my sleep has been affected badly, I go to bed around 10 pm and have no problem falling asleep but then I wake at 4 am usually, I fall back to sleep again and have vivid dreams sometimes nightmares, I wake myself up and usually I’m breathing heavy and trembling. I’m worried about not getting enough sleep, I do have significant depression and anxiety but I don’t want to take medication, is there something I can do that will help stop the vivid dreams and help me sleep through the night?
Thanks for your comment. I think you’re on the right track looking into relaxation exercises – they can certainly help you stay calm when unsettling things happen in your sleep. Perhaps it might be good to get up for 5-10 mins when you wake at 4, have a cup of milk or water, and then sleep again. You could also try the tips in my article about nightmares, but it might be difficult to completely stop having vivid dreams – they are quite normal to have and not harmful, even if they are disturbing sometimes. What you can control is your reaction to them though, but accepting that dreams are normal, and doing the relaxation exercises to help yourself not get stressed by them.
Hi I’m Amaree, for me I either sleep and sleep for half or all of the next day, or I don’t sleep at all and resort to looking up tips. Do you have any other suggestion for falling asleep within seconds??
Thanks for your comment. The problem is that it’s very uncommon to fall asleep that quickly – the normal time is anything up to 30 minutes. So perhaps it’s useful to take the pressure off yourself to fall asleep so quickly, and relax in bed instead. You can try these techniques, but it’s also sometimes good to just focus on how soft, comfortable and nice the bed feels and enjoy that feeling rather than expecting to fall asleep. That shift in focus can sometimes be a big help!
And if it’s more tips you want, I definitely recommend reading my article about how I personally deal with insomnia, in which I share my top tips..
My problem is not getting to sleep so much as staying asleep. I wake up sometimes because my blood sugar is low, I am a diabetic, or because my mind hears something my conscious mind doesn’t. Then I can’t get back to sleep.
Thanks for your comment. Have you spoken to your doctor about this to ask them if they have any advice about staying asleep considering your personal medical history?
I hope that you also found some useful ideas in this article of things you can do when you wake up in the night.
I would really appreciate some help its been a week since i am struggling to sleep and im having an awful insomnia im just sleeping for three hours a night only one night inslept 8!hours but then again last night i slept only three hours i just need some help i dont want to live like this because it makes my anxiety and depression worse im also started to take lexapro , but i dont want to take sleeping pills but im even scared to not be able to sleep my head feels numb i heard that people are placed in psychiatric hospitals duo to sleep deprivation and this is scaring me so much im also taking magnesium i just need some help please i dont want to live like this!
Thanks for your comment. I can understand your distress and worry. It sounds from your comment like you’re having a lot of anxiety because of this, which is something that can put you in a vicious cycle of not sleeping because you worry about not sleeping. I think it’s good that you found this article, so maybe you can try to put the techniques into practice and see if they help.
Have you spoken to your primary care doctor about your sleep problems? I assume they prescribed the lexapro, so maybe it’s wise to speak to them about the sleep problems you’ve been having recently.
As for the hospital worry, try not to think about that too much. It’s very rare that people go to hospital because of sleep deprivation because the body has a way of looking after itself so that sooner or later you will sleep again.
I lay awake for hours. Pain from a leg/knee injury in the military. Does anyone have relaxation techniques for pain? Is meditation good as you go to sleep for pain?
Thanks for your comment. You can do the exercises in this article to help distract yourself from the pain and feel less anxious about it. Meditation is thought to be good for helping you cope with pain when it comes to sleeping, yes.
There are lots of chronic pain associations, and if you search online for your region, you might be able to find support groups.
My daughter is now 15 and hasn’t been sleeping well since she was 9. Taken her to various sleep specialists, psychiatrist, psychologist, body tapping, natural remedies and nothing is really helping. We are all very tired and frustrated as she keeps us all awake.
Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that, it must be very difficult for all of you. Did they actually come up with a diagnosis for why she doesn’t sleep well? Is there anything at all that helps even a little bit that you could tell me, and I’ll see if there’s anything else along that line of thinking?
Hi :) Im Shanie,
I have not been able to sleep a good nights sleep in at least 3 years. Im only 23 and each time i get in bed its like my mind just starts thinking and i end up keeping myself awake. The thoughts are very similar to what i read above and are always random. If i do sleep straight away i dream alot or ill be back up in a few hours but wont be able to go back to sleep though im tired. Thank you so much :)
Thanks for your comment. I hope the article was helpful for you. If you’ve been struggling with this for so long, I’d definitely recommend trying mindfulness, as it goes much deeper than basic relaxation exercises. It’s something you can start to work on, and then continue to in the long-term and has a lot of potential to help calm the mind.
Hi, Im Kathryn, and the reason I have trouble sleeping at night is just of my intense anxiety that can sometimes even lead to anxiety attacks. Do you have any advice to guarantee a full nights sleep without constantly waking up, and to ease my mind?
Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice that can guarantee a good night’s sleep. Do you, or have you in the past, receive help for the anxiety? If it’s a serious problem, it might be good to get some support in the form of a therapist. I’d also strongly recommend the mindfulness option if you like self-help, as it can be a powerful way to deal with anxiety. And of course, do try to follow the advice in this article as even simple relaxation techniques can be very effective – particularly those involving controlling your breathing.
Since two weeks I Am having sleeping difficulties . It take me 2 hours to sleep .and at night suddenly after 3 hours wake up and then again some time before sleeping . Every alternate day I felt I sleep less than 3 hours .what you suggest ? I am doing yoga and meditation since some days . What techniques before bedtime so I can sleep well
Thanks for your comment. It’s actually quite common to wake up in the night for a while, and then go back to sleep again later. It happens to me almost every night, and I’ve now learned to live with it, accept it and not allow it to stress me out. Yoga and meditation are great ways to relax before bed, so I would say keep up with that and hopefully, it will start helping.
I am constanly finding it hard to sleep with the pain of my gout what should i do
Thanks for your comment. I understand – pain can make it very difficult to sleep. My advice would be to speak to your doctor about this and see if they can help you manage the pain better.
I am always thinking about my day and all the stresses, and then it turns to “when am I going to fall asleep.” This is my nightly routine. I even take Trazadone and Belsomra. I love the star meditation!
Thanks for your comment. It’s very common to worry about falling asleep, and something that’s good to try and avoid. Doing exercises like the breathing and muscle relaxation are good because they can help distract your mind from thinking unhelpful thoughts about sleep.
Hi Im Cay-Leigh .. I cant sleep at night . I see shadows and black things on top of me . I dont know what they are . Are they really just my mind playing tricks on me.. Because it feels very real… I just experienced and decided to look for help on the internet and I saw your page .. I tried the 4-7-8 yoga practise but it doesnt help .. May it be because Im not doing it right?
Hope to hear from you soon!
Thanks for your comment. The things you see are what are known as sleep hallucinations. They are very common, and happen to many people at some time in their lives. Have a read of this article for more about the hallucinations.
You probably were doing it right, but it just might not be the best technique for you. Try the others and see if they help, and also, I’d recommend talking about your sleep problems with your family.
Hey Mr.Green! I am suffering from sleepless nights since 18 months. I read many articles and blogs and I feel your blog might help me. Starting today I am going to start practicing the techniques you have explained about. I’ll let you know if and to how much extent it helped me.
Love from India.
Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful. I hope the techniques bring you some peace, and it would be great to hear back from you again with news of how you got on.
Warm wishes from England!
Thankyou for the ‘sleep ‘ breathing exercise , not had a full nights sleep since birth of first child 44 yrs ago.
I’ve watched the video and have now started to relax before bed and also going to try yoga as a means to relax myself .
I’m always so active at night ..in my brain , it’s not that I have any worries but I’m quite a deep person and all the worlds problems seem to come into my head at night and yes I do care for our planet..and tomorrow.
And no I don’t watch to much at all ..
So really it comes down to me being a worrier..
It’s 1.42am and this is about the time I go to bed ..
Thanks for your comment. That’s a very long time to go without a full night’s sleep. Have you ever had any professional help regarding that? I’m glad you found the article useful. I think breathing exercises are great to do in bed. I’m also a natural worrier and over-thinker, and when my brain is being particularly active, the breathing exercises usually work a treat. Sometimes I have to keep doing them for a while, but they inevitably take my focus away from my thoughts enough to be able to relax, and eventually sleep.
I have developed hypnic jerks when attempting to relax and go to sleep. Or if I wake up early and am lying in bed, same thing. Then anxiety kicks in and it becomes a cycle. Getting sleep study results next week but up to now nothing physically wrong is showing up after numerous tests. Question is how to go to sleep when as you fall asleep you suddenly jerk/ jolt awake numerous times?
Thanks for your comment. Have you seen my article about hypnic jerks? There are lots of ideas in there from readers, some of which have helped other readers a lot. If you haven’t already, I suggest taking a look and trying some of the suggestions there.
All the best with the sleep study results!
I’ve had a lot of issues lately sleeping and getting my mind to slow down, especially since I’ve gotten onto a routine of going to bed late. A lot of this stems from the fact that I have ADHD, so it’s already hard for me to just sit during the day and it feels like that’s carrying over when I try to sleep. It takes me a while to fall asleep and I have trouble just lying there for 20 minutes. Any tips on how to deal with this?
Thanks for your comment. I can understand your difficulty in slowing your mind down and lying still enough to fall asleep. My suggestion would be firstly to try and stick to a bedtime routine which is regular if you can, getting up at the same time every day even if you don’t fall asleep until late. And when you’re in bed you could try the exercises I mentioned in the article. Maybe you will find one helps you more and you’re able to focus on longer, such as muscle relaxation or counting your breathing. If you do find yourself getting restless, don’t stress about it, just relax and bring your mind back to the exercise you were doing if you can. Try and keep doing it, even if you get distracted lots and keep having to come back to it. See if that works for you.
hi sir..I am 24 years old…during studying for my exams I was suffered with fear and worry..because I am unemployed fr a year nw…I am preparing fr exams…I think due to stress I got shoulder, neck pain for week..I also has depression and worries abt something will happen and if any body problem occurs I start to feel better to die. ..after a week of pain on both shoulders and neck and went to see neurologist. ..and ortho doctor..they scanned my neck and told nothing to worry…I explained to my neurologist that I fear to sleep because of depression and thinking negative things…he gave me anxiety and depression medicine for a month…after taking the medicine for 2 days my pain went away..after then one day I felt my leg jerking while trying to sleep and I became worried lot…now I when I thought about that I never slept on my back…whenever I lie on my back to sleep my leg jerks…I told my neurologist doctor he flashed light into my eyes and checked for twice and said I dnt have any physical problems…..nowadays I can only sleep when I am not on my back…I am worried I may have got brain tumuor or something. ..and worried lot about this jerks..
Thanks for your comment. I know sometimes it’s hard to stay calm when we have some physical difficulties, but it’s important to try not to think of the worst possible explanation when we have symptoms. In this case I think it’s unlikely you have a tumour, especially if your doctor has already cleared you. I think maybe ensure you don’t fall asleeo on your back, and try one or two of the tips in the article. Hopefully you’ll fimd that helps stop the jerking sensation.
i think i have been suffering from hypnic jerks for over an year and i fear that it might increase someday. somehow i have started to deal with it but it’s scary and nobody else has them. after one sleepless night i developed anxiety and couldn’t sleep for full two days which further makes me anxious. i have no twitching all day.
i am really scared that i will lose my mind and control on my mind.
i am in desperate need of help.
Thanks for your comment. I can see that you’re very worried about this, but it’s important not to allow the fear of sleep problems to itself cause sleep problems! I think it’s unlikely you will lose your mind because of hypnic jerks. I would have a look through the readers tips section if it continues to happen and see if anything there helps you to control them a bit.
I have problem while sleeping, i sleep for 7-8 hours daily but when i sleep my mind is active with constant dreams during sleep..
Few months back i had anxiety problem, now it is reduced.. but i think in my subconscious the anxiety is still there… Every thing is fine, only while sleeping i am having continuous dreams…
Could you please help me to how to get a good sleep without those continuous dreams.
Thanks for your comment. This is an interesting problem you’re talking about, and not one I’m sure how to help with if I’m honest. Dreaming is a normal part of our sleep, and it may be that you’re always waking up during the stage of sleep in which we dream most, the REM stage. Perhaps you could try adjusting your alarm to wake up 15 mins earlier or later than normal. And if that doesn’t work, try a different time like 30 mins. You may find that helps.
I am having great trouble getting into deep restful sleep. I am acting out my dreams which is causing concern for my wife. Most of the dreams are of me either physically defending myself or my family or friends. This causes me to strike out hitting my wife or kicking her.She has learnt to be aware and anticipate my reactions and grabs my hand or arm. Do you think your techniques could help me or is there maybe some other underlying cause for this type of problem.
Thanks for your comment. What you describe could be REM sleep behavior disorder.
I am desperate for help regarding my sudden insomnia. I have always been a great sleeper, although have dealt with an anxiety disorder since the age of 21 (i am 30 now). After a tremendous stressor, I found myself struggling to fall asleep one night, and I have been insomniac every night ever since. What keeps me awake is this crazy anxiety I have over sleep. I am looking for ways to keep my positivity and stop stressing so much but I honestly feel that every bad night makes me more pessimistic. It has been 7 weeks now and my stressor has been dealt with.
Thank u so much,
Thanks for your comment. I can understand the anxiety – I’ve also had times when sleep has really stressed me out, and I know that it can get worse with every night you repeatedly don’t sleep well. I think that in your case, mindfulness could be a great option. It’s ideal for dealing with constant anxious thoughts and worries. Have a look at this article about mindfulness for a start. You can also look it up online or in your local bookshop if you want to get more details about it. I can’t recommend it enough as a technique for quietening an over-active mind.
I’m writing to you because I’m getting really desperate about my husband’s breathing noises at night,keeping me awake.
I’ve tried to talk to him,use earplugs,paracetomols,sleep tablets and a whole list of things on myself and nothing works.
Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear about that. I’ll be writing a post soon after snoring, so check back in a few weeks too! Paracetamol won’t help with this situation unfortunately. And sleeping pills may or may not, but if you’re sensitive to noise then either he needs to try to get some help for the breathing and/or you could try some better earplugs. But if he is having breathing problems, resulting in the noise keeping you awake, then perhaps a trip to the doctor might help. You can also record the noise he makes to play to them to give them an idea of what is going on.
I have been a insomniac for a vey long time probably 10 years but the last 5 till now are the worst due to serious health issues with my husband . I am currently on 5 mg melatonin it helped for a little time but now I’m back to staying awake all night ,I have tried a lot of the things you have suggested and I go to the gym 5 days a week doing hi intensity classes and still can’t sleep . I do take valiam and sleeping tablets in between when things start effecting me, my eyes are shut but my body is awake and I hear everything outside ,inside and even my neighbor going to his bathroom.
I don’t know what to do anymore can you suggest anything new for me .
Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’ve had such problems sleeping. If noise is keeping you awake, as it does me, then have a look at my article about blocking noise at night. You might find that helpful. But if you’ve tried all the sleep hygiene stuff, then perhaps a trip to the doctor would be useful, if you haven’t already been. Otherwise, I’d also say to stick with the sleep hygiene tips and give them more time. Particularly the ideas around sleep routine and sleep restriction for example.
Most of the time, I have no trouble falling asleep. But many nights I wake up 2-3 hrs later and have great trouble falling asleep again. Sometimes, not always, I take 1/2 Normison/Temtabs although I try not to do it too often as I notice after effects (lassitude, low-energy) the next day.If I don’t take anything, I often stay awake for quite a long time.
I have dinner early, some 4-5 hrs before going to sleep and I am not on any drugs except for the occasional Paracetamol.
Thanks for your comment. It sounds like what’s sometimes called sleep maintenance insomnia, but is really just the particular way some people experience insomnia. Some can’t fall asleep, others do but then wake in the night.
HI I have been having trouble sleeping for six months plus, I have anxiety and have tried listening to calming meditations in bed but nothing seems to work. I have been on amitriptyline 10mg for over a week now but still cant seem to sleep. I’m a night worker also. I find if I sleep at night on my days off I sleep a little more but if I cant sleep during the day when I get home it effects the sleep that night. really need some help if you can.
Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been having these sleep problems. This is a very common problem for people who work shifts unfortunately. It’s even worse if you continually change your sleep pattern from night to day – it’s almost like keeping yourself in a state of jet-lag. Have you spoken to your doctor about perhaps trying melatonin? You might find it helps you to manage your body clock better.
For the past month or so I’ve developed a lot of anxiety.. I went through a breakup and it really hit me hard. I’m 21 and I’ve never experienced anxiety before and it’s really been bothering me, especially at night. I’ve been able to get over the break up and it’s not so much that I can’t get my mind off things to help me sleep it’s more that I’m really focused on my body. More so on my heart beat. I’ve been to the doctor to have my heart checked out and I’m healthy but when I lay in bed at night I can feel my heart beat, so much that it’s all I can think about and it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me like my hearts beating harder than it needs to. When I breath in my heart beat increases and when I breath out it returns to normal so it’s like it’s fluctuating. But there’s nothing actually wrong with me. My doctor told me it’s normal for your heart to fluctuate when you breath and if it doesn’t that means there’s something wrong. I’ve never noticed it before though I don’t really know what made me so focused on it cus I’ve never felt my heart beat so much other than now. I’ve tried different sleeping positions and it never works. So it started out with the breakup causing my anxiety to me worrying that there’s something wrong with me physically. My doctor put me on anxiety medication to help me sleep at night but I don’t want to depend on that to help me do something that should come naturally and has come naturally for the past 21 years. There has been nights where I don’t need the medication but when I don’t take it there’s always thoughts in the back of my head that I’m not going to fall asleep. I’ve tried counting sheep at night because that’s something I’ve always heard to help fall asleep and sometimes it works I usually make it to around 400 and I start forgetting and repeating numbers but it doesn’t always work, also I’ve experienced the hypnic jerk a few times in the past couple weeks sometimes more than once in the night but I read an article on it just now and I found out it’s nothing to worry about because it started to worry me a little. But I’m going to try a few of these methods that you talked about I’m going to start off with the breathing method where you breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 and exhale for 4. That one interests me the most. I really appreciate you posting this article I always like reading what other people have to say. Not that I’m happy other people are having these problems because I wouldn’t wish anxiety, stress, sleepless nights, etc. on my worst enemy it really does suck and it makes you feel like you’re going to have these problems forever, but because it helps me in knowing that I’m not the only one having these problems. Because when I’m going through an anxiety or panic attack I feel like I’m the only one. So thank you again for this. Best wishes to you and everyone else for restful nights in the future. :)
Thanks for your comment, for sharing your story and the compliments about the article. It’s always much appreciated when readers take the time to say they found an article helpful, and it’s great motivation to keep writing!
I can very much empathize with your particular situation. I’ve both been through breakups in the past which have left me with anxiety, and been close to people who have experienced physical symptoms following difficult periods in their life. So I know how difficult it can be to cope when you suddenly develop the kind of bodily hyper-vigilance that you describe.
I think that the breathing technique is a good choice for you, as it might help to distract your attention away from listening to your hear beat. And just a word on the counting – if you do decide to do that again, have you tried counting down from 1000 in 3s? That’s supposed to be a good technique because it requires just a little bit of focus to do it.
I also think that mindfulness exercises might really help you. I’m a massive fan of mindfulness, and have found the principles and techniques it teaches you to have helped me through some very difficult periods in my life. In some ways it’s like taking that simple breathing exercise to a whole new level, and can have a profound effect on the amount you worry about things. Have a read of that article and see if it appeals to you.
All the best
Thanks for such a nice article.
I’ve had sleep issues since 2013 and it’s affected deeply my ability to function during the day. Used anti-depressant, Zanax, Valium for sleeping throughout 2 years, but its going on.
Tried deep breathing couple of months ago along with face stretching, it helped. So two month ago stopped medication and just relaxation before bed. It worked and only couple of nights in this two month where i was not able to sleep or just fallen into a situation between awake and sleep condition. A few times found myself awake at middle of the night. I think its stress and anxiety which now have converted into depression as well.
Today is the first time I’ve found that deep breathing needs to be through the abdomen.
Thank you for your comment and you compliment about the article. It’s great that you’ve been trying natural self-help techniques instead of the medication. I know it’s not easy to stop taking those kind of powerful medications, so well done for being brave enough to do so after so long of taking them.
I think that if the breathing has been helping a little, then there is lots of hope that you can continue to do well with self-help like this. If you suffer from anxiety, stress and depression I can’t recommend trying the mindfulness path. It might be just the thing to really help you.
All the best
I am really looking forward to trying these techniques. I have a new and highly stressful job and I keep waking up at 3 AM with restless dreams and not being able to get back to sleep. I have cut back on caffeine and alcohol and exercise regularly, but to no avail. Hope these help! :-)
Well done for already taking action on the caffeine and alcohol. Hopefully these techniques will help you in addition. Sometimes it’s a case of putting lots of different things together in the fight against insomnia and stress. Let me know how you get on, and good luck with the new job.
I have trouble getting to sleep in part to stress, but always because I’m really sensitive to bass that my neighbours play EVERY NIGHT. It’s reached a point that calling noise control a few times every night is far too much of a hassle (especially since I don’t like being on the phone anyway) and I just want to sleep through it. It’s not even that loud really and sometimes I can sleep through it if I’m really tired, but most times I get caught up in the anxiety and frustration that the sound of the bass causes me that I’m too tense to sleep.
Thanks for your comment, and I can completely understand how difficult it is to sleep with noise. I have exactly the same problem! It’s also very natural that it makes you stressed, which then also stops you sleeping.
I have trouble sleeping. I have so much going through my head. I have tried herbal tea and milk. Meditation works then later I wake up.
I still wake up to the same thought each night. Started developing insomnia. Can I get advice on ways to relax and get my thought out so I can sleep?
Thanks for your comment, and I can empathize with having problems sleeping because of a busy mind. If you always wake up in the middle of the night you might find it helpful to read about sleep maintenance insomnia. Whether it’s what you have or not is impossible to say, but there are some nice ideas there about how it may be something quite normal and a time of the night which you can use to your benefit.
Otherwise, I personally find the best way to distract my mind is to do anything which focuses it on something physical instead. I like breathing exercises for that, as attention it takes to concentrate on your breathing is sometimes all it takes to get rid of the annoying thoughts.
So even if you do wake up in the night, you can just lie quietly and focus on breathing in for four seconds, hold for a second or two, then breathe out for four.
Try that and see if it helps!
I have been expreiencing plenty of sleepless nights because of horror movies… it may sound really stupid haha.
I have been trying to engage in a regular night routine but nothing seems to work. Do you have any tips on making my room more comfortable?
Thanks for your comment. My first suggestion would be to stop watching horror films! In terms of comfort, there’s lots you can do. For example make sure you have the best bedding you are willing to afford. Keep the temperature down – 17-19 degrees Celsius is good. Keep some fresh air flowing if it’s not too cold. Keep the room de-cluttered. Don’t watch TV in bed or play games on the phone, Ipad or whatever you might have.
After than you have a whole world of things like Feng-Shui or interior design you could look into! And of course, check out the other sections here about sleep hygiene.
All the best
Breathing exercises rings a bell as I’ve been trying but not being able to center other than what I think about, though now I know to breathe into belly and HOLD IT.(at least for 3 or 4 sec.)…to focus mind a key thing then when I stretch every other day I may be able to concentrate more. I’m seriously out of shape well a lot of fat but also bloating – gastronomical difficulties are a problem- gluten intolerence. I’ll reconnect with you and let you know how it’s going! Thanks
Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. Breathing exercises really are great, and I do them regularly at night. If nothing else they help to distract your mind when it’s in 5th gear!
It would be great to hear from you again, and I wish you luck with the relaxation exercises.