Tips to help you fall asleep when you can’t

If you have trouble falling asleep in the evenings, you’ve come to the right place. I’m sharing tips to help you fall asleep when you can’t.

Shutting down after a long day isn’t as easy as just pressing a button. If only!

I used to be a night owl, partially because I function better at night when there’s calm around me and I can actually focus on something. The other reason was because I couldn’t fall asleep naturally.

When I say naturally, I mean getting into bed and dozing off within a short period of time.

I couldn’t just get in bed and switch off. My mind was just in constant overdrive, working and churning out thoughts. I would just lie wide-eyed, staring at the dark ceiling until eventually passing out from utter exhaustion a few hours later. The more I just lay there, the more fidgety I became, causing me to wake HB up with my restlessness.

I know one would assume that if you’re physically tired after a long day, you’ll fall asleep without any issues. That’s not always the key factor that lets you fall asleep. If your body is ready to ‘switch off’ but your mind isn’t, you’re not likely to fall asleep without a struggle.

Our brain send signals to our body when it’s time to calm down and fall asleep, but if our brain isn’t calm itself, there’s no way that process will ever come to work.

Sleep is very important for us to function correctly and with a lack of it, we develop side-effects that we’re sometimes not even aware of, and if we are, we tend to just brush them off. Yet they control our physical, mental and emotional responses every step of the way.

Side-effects and actions that can be brought on by lack of sleep:

  • Ageing in appearance
  • Increase in negative moods
  • Harming your relationships
  • Increased gain-weight
  • Lowered functionality

With sleep-deprivation, we do suffer tremendously.

I’ve been trying to maintain a sleep routine for a while (thanks to HB pointing out the importance of sleep to me), and not going to bed after 22H00 each night.

On weekends, I do push it a little, but only because I know I don’t need to wake up as early as I do during the week to prepare for school. Although in recent months, I can’t sleep late anymore, by 05H30 I’m awake each morning, without the help of an alarm clock. It’s a mystery to me. Even more so, my sleep routine should be managed carefully so I don’t lose out on even more sleep.

I’ve also picked up on a pattern on a difference in my moods; getting sleep in and not getting sleep in. If I struggled to fall asleep and lay awake for hours, I was more prone to being cracky in the mornings with every little thing irritating me. Not getting enough sleep caused me to be cranky with my family, which hurt our relationships.

Tips to help you fall asleep when you can’t

Let’s get to it: tips to help you fall asleep when you can’t.

Have a routine

By going to bed each night at a set time, you condition your brain and your body to the fact that you’re ready to sleep. You basically wire your biological clock to function to your needs. By sticking to the set time, your brain and body will know when it’s time to shut down for you to fall asleep naturally. It might take some time, especially if you have an irregular sleep schedule, but any habit requires putting it into practise.

Journal before bedtime

If our minds are busy, we’re more likely to be kept awake by them. Journaling and expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper allows your mind to settle and stop trying to make sense of what is going on. You could even try doing a Brain Dump, which is just writing out EVERYTHING on your mind on a paper to clear your mind.


While it might sound like a controversial suggestion, it really does work. Reading before bedtime is known to be a stress reducer and helps you fall asleep faster. In turn, if you’re submerged in a book you’re reading, it helps you turn away from your own worries by keeping you occupied with ‘another’s story‘.

I spend each evening reading for about 15minutes before bedtime, it’s already part of my evening routine and set time, and by 22H00, I’m ready to doze off.

Note: DO NOT read the news. It can instigate anxieties and worries, counteracting your chances of calming your mind. You also release cortisol, aka the stress hormone.

Comfortable environment

If you’re not comfortable in bed when you want to sleep, you’re not going to fall asleep. Getting too hot or cold, not having your pillow lying correctly – all these factors can contribute to not falling asleep. If you’re not comfortable, you’ll most likely be lying and thinking about it. Again, working mind, no sleep.

Before getting into bed, adjust your pillows and blankets as they should be for comfortable sleep, make sure you’re wearing the correct clothing and remove anything out the way that might affect you feeling comfortable.

Soothing music

Keep the hip hop tunes for the daytime.

Listening to classical music before bedtime has been found to help people fall asleep faster and sleeping for a longer period of time. If you’re not a fan of the genre, it might be time to try it out. Classic FM released a playlist with classical music that aids with falling asleep that you can use.

Chamomile tea

For many years, chamomile tea has been used to treat insomnia. It is in abundance with the antioxidant called apigenin, which ties to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.

If you’re not a fan of chamomile tea, you can drink any of these teas to help fall asleep.

Sound machine

I’ve personally never tried this (but I have tried it when my kids were babies), but I have heard of people using a sound machine to create white noise to help with calming down and falling asleep. White noise holds all frequencies at equal intensity and can conceal loud noises that stimulate your brain.

If you’re a parent, you probably had a doctor tell you to use a sound machine (or sound app on your phone) to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep – it can work for adults too.

Things to avoid:
  • Don’t toss and turn – the more you move around, the less signals your brain sends out to your body to shut down for the evening. The more movement, the slower the process of falling asleep will be.
  • Don’t be on your phone – phones emit a blue light which restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our wake-sleep cycles.
  • Don’t eat a late dinner – eating late at night may cause bloating and uncomfortableness.
  • Don’t exercise before bedtime – you should try and keep to your exercise routine at least three to four hours before going to bed. An elevated body temperature and adrenalin rush won’t aid with sleeping.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated drinks – caffeine is still present in your body for up to eight hours of consuming the beverage, which means you won’t be falling asleep as easily as you’d hope to. Try cutting out any caffeinated drinks by 16H00 each day for your body to absorb and work out the caffeine by bedtime.
  • Don’t drink lots of water – space out your water intake throughout the day instead of in the evenings. You won’t need to get up during the night to visit the loo, which could also keep you from falling asleep immediately again. Make sure to empty your bladder before going to bed.
  • Don’t watch anything exciting – horror and frightening movies release a steroid hormone called cortisol, aka the stress hormone which can elevate worrying and anxiety. Try watching a documentary, or if you must, something REALLY boring, to avoid stimulating your brain.
  • Don’t have serious conversations – late night chats about serious things cause your brain to react on emotions and feelings, which means stress and anxiety might set in, resulting in troubles relaxing and falling asleep.
  • Don’t have unnecessary lights on in the room – light decreases melatonin, which keeps you awake.
  • Don’t take certain medications – sleeping pills and other medication can have different effects on people. If you’re taking any prescribed medication, like antidepressants, speak to your doctor about taking them in the mornings instead of the evenings. If sleeping pills are keeping you awake instead of helping you sleep, speak to your doctor about alternative options.

There you have it: the do’s before sleep and the don’ts to avoid.

I hope you can find these tips helpful to help you cash in on much needed and relied on sleep.

Here’s how you can fall asleep faster in the evenings, and what to avoid.

Remember if one method doesn’t work, try another until you found the one that works best for you.

Routine is key, and it’s your starting point to getting your sleep routine on track.

Let me know which methods worked for you in the comments! Have you tried any methods I haven’t mentioned? Let me know too.

Happy sleeping!

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