When You Can't Sleep

Insomnia is a common sleep disturbance that affects almost everyone at one time or another. Fortunately, it tends to be temporary. Recent advances in understanding insomnia have made it possible to help the majority of those who have difficulty with their sleep.

How much sleep do you need?

Sleep needs are different for different people. There are a few individuals who can wake up refreshed after 4 to 5 hours of sleep, but most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Here are some tips that can help:

Set a Schedule

Going to bed early one night and late the next can confuse your biological clock. It is best to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day. Do not nap during the day or evening.

Get Some Exercise

Regular workouts make is easier for most people to fall asleep and stay asleep. Athletes tend to experience more or the deepest phase of sleep than do non-athletes, but exercise promotes sleep in everyone. The exception to this is athletes who overtrain. This kind of psychological addiction to exercise can disrupt sleep patterns.

Watch What and When You Eat

Eat lunch and dinner at the same time each day. Heavy meals eaten too close to bedtime can keep you awake. On the other hand, a glass of milk before bedtime seems to be useful for inducing drowsiness. Alcohol should be avoided for several hours before bedtime because it disrupts the normal stages of sleep and disturbs sleep quality.

Greet the Sun

Your natural clock is reset each day, primarily by exposure to sunlight. Try to expose yourself to an hour of morning sunlight daily.

Skip the Stimulants

Reduce or eliminate caffeine. This sleep-depriving stimulant is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many soft drinks, and some over-the-counter medication for pain, allergy, and cold relief.

Do Not Just Lie There

If you do not fall asleep in 10 or 15 minutes, get up and go to another room or do something else – read, watch television, sip warm milk – until you feel sleepy. It may also be helpful to place your clock where you cannot see it from your bed.

Do Not Bed Down With Worries

Set aside a time and place other than the bedroom at night to do your worrying. If it is difficult for you to release the tensions of the day, relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualization might help.

Still Can’t Sleep? Get Help!

If you try all the suggestions for getting a good night’s rest and still lie awake night after night, it is time to consult a professional. Contact the UNC Student Health Center at (970) 351-2412.