cat sleeping

Dear Dr. Expert,

I can’t sleep! Even though I’m super tired, I just lie there and my mind just won’t settle down and turn off. I’m worrying about what’s going to happen at school tomorrow. I’m worrying about getting my homework done. I’m worrying about the fact that I can’t sleep. By the time I fall asleep it’s 2 a.m. and I can’t get up the next day for school! I feel crappy when I do wake up and I can’t concentrate at school. It’s awful. HELP!!!

Sleepless in Surrey

Dr. Expert: Dear Sleepless in Surrey,

Sounds like you are really struggling to get a good night’s sleep. There are definitely some things you can do that will help.  First, try to improve your “sleep hygiene” (a fancy term for sleep habits). Good sleep habits can make a big difference in getting a better night’s sleep. For example, try going to bed and getting up at the same time every morning (and don’t sleep in for more than an hour past your regular wake-up time on the weekends). Use your bed only for sleeping and avoid watching TV, playing on your phone, studying, or reading in bed. Get some exercise, but not too close to bedtime.  Skip caffeine in the afternoon and evening. About 30 minutes to an hour before bed, turn off all electronics.  Try and come up with a calm, relaxing bedtime routine. For example, take a warm bath/shower, have a light snack, listen to soothing music, do some relaxation exercises, and read a book. 

Worrying, especially about not sleeping, is guaranteed to keep you awake. Instead, accept that you can’t sleep, get out of bed, and do something relaxing. Keep the lights dim and try meditating, reading, or listening to soothing music. Try to avoid stimulating things that might keep you awake (like watching TV, playing a video game, or going on social media). Try writing down your worries so that you don’t have to keep them in your head. Tell yourself that there’s nothing you can do about them right now and you’ll deal with them tomorrow. When you do start to feel drowsy, try going back to bed.  

Try not to catastrophize when you don’t have a good sleep – you may not feel 100% the next day, but it’s still manageable. You’ve done it before.  Remind yourself that with the right strategies, you will have more good nights and fewer bad nights. 

For more help and ideas on getting a good night’s sleep, check out the Making Sleep Count section and our MindShift CBT app.