Can’t Sleep? Here Are 7 Simple Tips To Use Tonight

Have you ever wanted to kill sheep instead of counting them?

can't sleep

I mean, people tell me to imagine sheep going by in my head, and that will help me sleep.

But one night on a vacation in lower Michigan, I was so frustrated I felt I could kill those imaginary sheep!

Don’t worry, I’m not a sheep killer, and I love animals.

But maybe you have felt just as frustrated as I have tried to fall asleep.

Here’s a fun video that describes Superwoman’s frustration with insomnia.

In my last post, 5 Startling Ways That Lack of Sleep May Cost You, I shared that Asperger/Autistic adults often struggle with insomnia and poor sleep. (Bmcpsychiatry and Science Direct)

After reading about the how lack of sleep may cost you, you’ll realize how important it is to invest in a good night’s sleep.

Can’t Sleep? 7 Simple Tips You Can Use Tonight

I adapted my current nighttime sleep routine from the article titled A Bedtime Routine For Adults: 10 Calming Activities.

Stop Using Screens To Fall Asleep

This has been the hardest habit for me to break. But it’s true.

Scientific American shares why the light our smartphones emit before bedtime is bad for sleep.

Light is a powerful cue for shifting the phase or resetting the time of the circadian clock.

Humans display a peak sensitivity to light in the blue wavelength region of the spectrum.

When our circadian clock gets interrupted, so does our sleep.

Get In The Habit of Taking Baths or Showers about 1.5 Hours Before Bed

“Showering earlier in the evening gives your body a chance to cool off and can even trigger sleep, says Shelby Harris, director of behavioral sleep medicine at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center. Severalstudies have shown that warming your body by taking a bath can help induce sleep when there’s enough time to cool off afterward. While much of the research has focused on baths, a 20-minute shower would have similar effects, Harris says.” source – Time Magazine

If you want to try something even more “interesting” experiment with taking a cold bath before bed.

Stay Out of Bed Before Bed

Sleep and behavior experts tell us that we need to associate our bed with sleeping only, instead of eating, reading, or just lying around.

I set up a “sleep routine” corner in my room where I can read, journal, and listen to music before going to bed. Once I’m in bed, I do listen to a meditation on my phone, but my eyes are closed and the lights are off.

Buy a Sleep Journal and Use It

Buy a simple journal from Wal-Mart or another store. It doesn’t have to be expensive. But make sure you get one.

Here are questions I answer every night in my journal:

  1. Did I make progress toward my goals?
  2. How can I do better (at making progress toward my goals)?
  3. What were three things great about today? What did I carry out?
  4. What three things am I grateful for tonight?
  5. Are there any to do’s, worries, or reminders I need to write for tomorrow?

Listen To Music

I like to listen to classical music. Others I’ve spoken to prefer jazz. Whatever music will calm you down and get you into a sleepy state is best.

Read

Pick out something non-digital, like a paperback or hardcover book (remember those? 🙂

Choose something that’s not overly stimulating. (For example, if the book is a thriller or suspense, I have a hard time putting the book down, and I actually become more awake).

I alternate between fiction and non-fiction material. Right now I’m reading, They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky, a true story of three Lost Boys from Sudan.

Or I’ll read more technical books related to my field of counseling.

Listen To A Bed Time Story

Bedtime stories aren’t just for kids!

I like the bedtime stories in meditation form from Calm.com. (you do have to pay around $60 for the year subscription).

If you’d like a free option, just search podcasts for “sleep”. The Sleep With Me podcast is one that’s put me to sleep a few times.

Resources and Articles

How To Fix All Your Sleep Problems With Science

Easy Breathing Exercises To Help You Sleep

Here’s an article about a gravity blanket that helps with sleep

Sleep Expert Tips

Here’s a Well-Rated and Reviewed Premium Blanket for Adults and Kids

Experiences and Tips From Thrive with Autism/Aspergers Community Members

Quotes from the community –

“I do have issues sleeping. I just assumed it’s anxiety related. It goes back to childhood. Kind of just accept it is what it is now. If I need to I read, or put headphones in ears and listen to music, or podcasts. Stop trying to sleep but try and rest body. Eventually I usually sleep, although I’m likely to come to the surface again. Is what it is. I get fatigued sometimes, so if it’s really bad, old style antihistamines cause enough drowsiness to give me a few nights break from the insomnia. Having said this, anti anxiety medication helps with sleep”


I was on sleeping pills every night for nine years but decided 14 months ago that had to stop. The things that helped me:

1. Just don’t worry about it. Like with food, we would not intentionally starve ourselves, and sleep is a natural human need. I just told myself that I would sleep eventually before lack of sleep killed me.

2. I listen to podcasts. I am a musician and if I listen or play music at or near bedtime I can’t get it out of my head. (I never slept a wink after Thursday youth orchestra nights when a school girl and Friday was always a write-off). But listening to the spoken word helps me enormously to be interested in something that takes my mind off my worries. And of course podcasts is how I found Steve! I listen to comedy, things like “no such thing as a fish” and also a lot of BBC Radio 4 and World Service “The Inquiry” for example, or the Friday Night Comedy from the BBC.

3. I wake up in the middle of the night often, having gone to sleep okay. I don’t let myself look at phone or tablet screens, except to turn on my podcasts again with sleep timer. When with a partner, we both listened. (He had Aspergers too, and was responsible for helping me with these things). Or I listen with an in-ear headphone on whichever side of my head is not on the pillow.

4. I also sleep better with routine and exercise and not excess alcohol. But never any more thinking “Ive exercised today, so I should be sleeping, why aren’t I”. I just tell myself to stop worrying and that is probably the biggest single change. Not worrying about it.

5. Also, if I have too hot a bath before bedtime, or exercise too soon before bedtime, that’s bad.

It took me just two weeks of no sleep (or so it felt) when I came off sleeping pills and then I found I fell asleep okay. Just two hellish weeks after nine years of nightly dependency…

I also have a step and sleep tracking watch (I have the Withings). I invariably find that I’ve slept better than I thought I did! That makes me feel better!

I still suffer at times. But I don’t worry. And I’m not a zombie during the day anymore, and safe to drive because I am alert having not taken pills.

So that’s the insomnia bit of my story!!! I’m a terrible worrier and I had had insomnia since I was 8.

I used also to worry terribly about caffeine intake. I am still careful but I don’t worry about it. “

I have to lie down about 30 minutes before I intend to fall asleep. I usually read a book that’s not too stimulating – lately “chick lit” or “beach reading”. I use Ambien (Zolpidem) almost nightly. It helps, but if I’m really worked up about the day – whether excited in a positive way or stressed and perseverating – it doesn’t always work. Also, it helps sleep initiation and doesn’t necessarily help sustain sleep. Therefore, some nights I’m able to fall asleep, but wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I can fall back asleep and sometimes I cannot.

I work full time and I’m a parent. I’ve never called in ill to work due to being tired. I am often tired. I’d say sleep is adequate about half the time and inadequate the other half.

My fuse is shorter when I sleep poorly. I am likely on autopilot, as I still have to work and be a parent and all those adult obligations.

Sometimes I’ve noticed that I’m less anxious when I am tired, almost like a drunken state of disinhibition.

Often after a night of poor sleep and having to fake alertness, I will sleep poorly the next night too. It’s as if I cannot turn off the stream of faux alertness I’ve utilized all day.

Insomnia and fatigue are awful. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.”

” I take medicine but it’s often not enough or effective. I have a very strict sleep routine. I also read chick lit to calm down before sleep. I’m so sensitive to light, sound, and temperature. I also have ptsd and nightmares”

In Conclusion: Don’t Give Up!

If you’re discouraged with chronic sleep problems, don’t give up. Read over all these tips and try one small action at a time.

Talk to your doctor about whether you need to see a sleep specialist if your sleep problems don’t improve over time.

I hope that over time your sleep will be restored.

Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

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I'm Steve Borgman. I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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  • Stu Mountjoy

    It sounds like the start of a song, but “When I was young…” I had no difficulty falling asleep at the normal expected time, based on regular routine in my parents’ house. If I started a job, or had a job interview or test, then I would not sleep that night at all. Sometimes I crash, in the afternoon, yeah like a “nana nap” or cat nap, but even though it CAN throw my sleep pattern out, I tend to sleep properly the next night.