How to Prevent Insomnia

Three Parts:Improving Your SleepMaking Lifestyle ChangesSeeking Professional Help

Insomnia is defined as an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep and/or get deep enough sleep, which creates numerous physiological problems over time. It's estimated that as many as 95% of Americans experience periods of insomnia at some stage during their lives.[1] High levels of stress — often due to financial concern, workplace issues or relationship problems — is the most common cause of insomnia. However, other factors may play a significant role in insomnia, such as your diet, medical conditions, and/or prescription medications.

Part 1
Improving Your Sleep

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    Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. It's important to have a relaxing ritual to engage in before bed. Having an activity you regularly engage in before bed can help signal to your mind and body that it's time to sleep. Relaxation techniques before bed can also help the brain wind down.
    • Deep breathing can help aid in sleep. Place one hand on your lower stomach and breathe in so your hand rises with each breath. Hold the breath for a count of three and then exhale.[2]
    • Try tensing your toes. Curl your toes in, count to 10, release, and then count to 10 again. Repeat 10 times.[3]
    • Relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, can help you wind down before bed. You can find progressive muscle relaxation techniques online. PMR involves hyper-focusing on one region of the body at a time. This can help place you in the present moment, avoiding any troublesome thoughts that prevent you from sleeping.
    • A warm shower or bath can also help with sleep. Consider hopping in the tub an hour or so before bed. Make sure the water isn't too hot, as this can actually be stimulating.
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    Make changes to your sleeping area. To help prevent insomnia, make your bedroom or sleeping area as inviting, calm and soothing as possible.[4] Simply improving your sleeping area can lead to higher quality sleep.
    • If you live in a noisy apartment or area, consider a white noise machine. This can drown out unwanted sounds. You can also download white noise apps on your phone.
    • You should strive to keep your beds and sheets comfortable. If you're irritated by a certain fabric, replace it. Experiment with the temperature in your room. Keep your room cool —try around 60–65 °F or 16–18°C (though this may be too cool for some). Keep bright lights and electronic screens out of the bedroom.[5]
    • Try putting a fan in your room, which can provide white noise as well as move air around and keep your room cool.
    • Your bed should only be used for sleeping and sex. Avoid doing work or reading in your bed. You do not want to associate your bedroom with anything but sleep.[6]
    • Avoid trying too hard to sleep — wait until you're drowsy to go to bed. If you can't sleep, then get out of bed after 20–30 minutes and do something relaxing until you're drowsy.[7]
    • Remove clocks from the bedroom. Once you set your alarm, hide all clocks from view. Seeing what time it is can increase anxiety and make insomnia worse.[8]
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    Watch what you eat before bed. Heavy meals a few hours before bedtime can cause indigestion and discomfort. This can result in an inability to sleep. Stick to light, healthy snacks before bedtime like whole grains, fruit, and low fat dairy.
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    Do not ingest stimulants before bedtime. Another common cause of insomnia is consuming certain sleep-disrupting chemicals too close to bedtime. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are all well-established as sleep disturbers, and their effects can last as long as 8 hours.[9]
    • As a general rule, avoid caffeine after lunch, avoid alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime, and avoid nicotine (tobacco) a few hours before bedtime.[10] Caffeine increases the firing rates of the neurons within your brain, causing more thoughts to race through your head. Alcohol consumption, while making many people drowsy leads to less high quality sleep.
    • Coffee, black tea, green tea, hot chocolate, dark chocolate bars, most sodas, and energy drinks are sources of caffeine. Even caffeine-free energy drinks contain stimulants such as guarana, cola nut and/or ginseng. Avoid such beverages close to bedtime.
    • Sugar is also a stimulant and should be avoided for at least an hour before bedtime.
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    Find ways to turn off your brain before bed. If stress is causing your insomnia, finding ways to turn your brain off before bed can help. Establish a pre-sleep routine that allows you to wind down and de-stress before bed.
    • Consider a calming activity before bed. Read something light and fun. Take a warm bath. Meditate. Avoid activities that are stimulating, however, like using your computer and watching television.[11]
    • You can also try writing down your thoughts earlier in the day. Dedicate 10 to 15 minutes each day to writing down your worries or at least taking time to think about what's bothering you. Then, at night those thoughts will be out of your brain. This can make it easier to fall asleep.[12]
    • If you find yourself worrying in bed despite trying to unwind, busy yourself with mental exercises. Try to think of 50 boy's names that start with the letter "A." List as many fruits and vegetables you can that start with the letter "C." As silly as these exercises may seem, they'll take your mind off worries and tire you by occupying your brain with other thoughts.[13]

Part 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Reduce your stress. Concerns with work, school, and social life can lead to stress which then causes in insomnia.[14] Trying to reduce or manage your daily stress can help relieve the symptoms of insomnia.
    • Be reasonable about your obligations and responsibilities. Many people are stressed due to being overcommitted or over scheduled. If you don't have time to make a dish for your school's bake sale, do not promise to do so.
    • Scratch items off your "to-do" list if you realize you won't have time to get to them today. Ask a friend or family member for help running errands if you're having a busy week.[15]
    • Feel free to disengage with stressful situations. If you have a family member or co-worker who tends to grate on you, lessen contact. If certain social events cause you stress, stay in for a night.[16]
    • Manage your time in a way that you can avoid stressful situations. If you hate running late, leave for work a little early each day. If you stress about day-to-day chores, lump together tasks that can be done in the same outing. For example, plan to pick up your prescription at the same time you stop by the grocery store after work.[17]
    • Talk to friends and family members about stressful issues. It can be very helpful to have a friend or family member to vent to on stressful days. Just getting troublesome thoughts of your system to help. If you feel uncomfortable talking to someone about your stress, consider journaling your feelings instead.[18]
    • Talk to your doctor about your stress level. Your doctor can recommend lifestyle changes that can help your body better regulate stress. He or she may also be able to provide you with a referral to a counselor or therapist who can work with you on stress management.
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    Exercise. Regular physical activity can help regulate your sleep cycle. If you don't have an exercise routine already, working to establish one can help you combat insomnia.
    • Strive for 20 to 30 minutes of regular vigorous activity each day. This should be in the form of aerobic exercises like biking, jogging, sports, or aerobic routines you can find online.[19]
    • Establishing an exercise routine can take some work. Keeping a regular schedule can help. Try to exercise every morning or every day after work. Having a certain time during which you normally work out can make exercise feel routine, as much part of your day-to-day activity as brushing your teeth or having dinner.
    • When you exercise matters when it comes to insomnia. While exercise can help, you should not engage in vigorous physical activity too close to bedtime. Try to make sure your workout routine occurs five to six hours before bed.[20]
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    Limit daytime napping. If you have difficulty sleeping, you may want to nap during the day. However, this can make falling asleep much more difficult. Try to limit daytime napping or, better yet, avoid it altogether. If you can't get by without a nap, do not nap for more than 30 minutes and do so before 3 PM.[21]
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    Check your medications. Ask your doctor if any of your current prescription medications may be contributing to your insomnia. If they are, see about switching medication types or altering doses. Check the labels of any over-the-counter meds you take regularly. If they contain caffeine or stimulants like pseudoephedrine they may be causing your insomnia.[22]

Part 3
Seeking Professional Help

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    Schedule a consult with your doctor. If acute insomnia has transitioned into chronic (long-term) insomnia despite your efforts with home remedies, then make an appointment with your family doctor. You may have an underlying medical condition causing your sleep difficulties.
    • Common causes of insomnia include chronic pain, depression, restless leg syndrome, severe snoring (sleep apnea), urinary problems, arthritis, cancer, overactive thyroid gland, menopause, heart disease, lung disease, and chronic heartburn.[23]
    • Ask your doctor if any of your medications put you at risk of insomnia — problematic drugs include those used for depression, blood pressure, allergies, weight-loss and mood alteration (such as Ritalin).
    • Your doctor will go over your medical history and any other symptoms you might have. It might be helpful to make a list of concerns and questions ahead of time to ask your doctor.
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    Look into cognitive behavioral therapy. As insomnia is of the result of emotional stress, therapy can help you manage insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of therapy that helps you better control negative thoughts, is often helpful for those suffering insomnia.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is used to combat factors that exacerbate chronic insomnia such as poor sleep habits, irregular sleep schedules, inadequate sleep hygiene and misunderstandings about sleeping.[24]
    • CBT includes behavioral changes (keeping regular bedtimes and wake-up times, eliminating afternoon naps), but also adds a cognitive (thinking) component. Your therapist will work with you to help you control or eliminate negative thoughts, worries and any false beliefs that are keeping you awake. Your therapist may ask you to do work outside of his or her office, such as keeping a diary of negative thoughts or engaging in certain activities to cope with negative thoughts.
    • You can find a therapist by asking for a referral from your doctor. You can also find a list of providers through your insurance. If you are a student, you may have access to free counseling through your college or university.
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    Explore medication options. If your doctor thinks it's necessary, he or she may prescribe drugs to help you address sleeplessness. Keep in mind that most doctors do not prescribe drugs for the long term when treating insomnia as drugs sometimes treat the cause with addressing underlying issues.[25]
    • Z-drugs are a class of drugs that help encourage calmness and sleep. They are usually prescribed for two to four weeks at a time as they become less effective over time. Side effects can include increased snoring, dry mouth, confusion, and drowsiness or dizziness during the day.[26]
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    Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter supplements. There's numerous herbal remedies or natural supplements that act as mild sedatives and can help induce sleep and combat insomnia.
    • Valerian root has a mild sedating effective. Valerian root is sometimes sold as a supplement at many health food stores. As it sometimes has an effect on liver function, you should talk to your doctor before using valerian root.[27]
    • Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain and essential for circadian rhythm and deep sleeps. Research is inconclusive on how well it treats symptoms of insomnia, but it is generally considered safe for short term use.[28]
    • Acupuncture is a medical procedure in which a doctor places needles into your skin at strategic points. There is some evidence this may help people with insomnia. You might want to look into acupuncture treatment if other methods don't work.[29]


  • Chronic jet lag from constantly traveling long distances and dealing with time changes can trigger insomnia.
  • Most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, although a few can get by with as little as 3 hours per night without exhibiting any negative long-term effects.


  • Clinical depression is a common cause for insomnia and should not be treated with home remedies.

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Categories: Sleep Disorders