Fourteen Tips for Getting More Sleep — and Why It Matters.

Since I started my happiness project, I’ve become more and more convinced of the importance of sleep to happiness. That’s why I proposed “Get more sleep” as the very first resolution of the 2010 Happiness Challenge (see the video here). Many researchers argue that not getting enough sleep has broad health consequences, such as raising your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity, but in addition to those, it has a profound effect on happiness and energy level. We get accustomed to being sleep-deprived, and although at first, we notice the effect on mood and alertness, before long, we adjust to that state as normal. So even if you insist that you feel fine, if you got more sleep, you might feel a lot better.

I usually sleep well once my head hits the pillow, but until I started my happiness project, I would often stay up late to read, answer emails, watch TV, talk to my sister on the west coast, or cruise the internet. I had to wait until my children were asleep before I could start my real leisure time.

I was fine at night, but I suffered the next morning. I feel crabby when I’m jarred out of sleep by the alarm, and I dislike racing around on weekday mornings, with no time to spare. I realized that to have more energy and more calm, I needed to go to sleep earlier (and also to wake up earlier). I looked for ways to prod myself to turn off the light and to get better sleep.

Here are 14 tips for getting more sleep – and why it matters:

1. Set a specific bedtime for yourself.

Many people have no idea what time they “should” go to sleep in order to feel well-rested. Be realistic! If you have to wake up at 7:00 am, staying awake until 1:30 am each night is unlikely to be sufficient.

2. Get ready for bed well before your bedtime.

Sometimes, paradoxically, I feel too tired to go to bed. I try to wash my face, take out my contact lenses, and brush my teeth well before I plan to turn off the light.

3. Make your room very dark.

Shut the blinds, block out the lights from your computer, clock, phone, etc. Even the tiny light from a digital alarm clock can disrupt a sleep cycle.

4. Stretch.

A study showed that women who were having trouble sleeping fared much better when they stretched four times a week.

5. Keep your bedroom a little chilly.


6. If your mind is racing with worry, make a list of everything you need to do the next day.

This really works for me. I can make myself crazy fretting that I’m going to forget to do something important; if I make a list, I can relax.

7. Tidy up your bedroom.

It’s not restful to be surrounded by clutter.

8. Exercise.

Studies suggest that people who exercise fall asleep faster and stay sleep longer – and this is particularly true for people who have trouble sleeping.

9. An hour before bedtime, avoid work that requires alert thinking.

I try to stop myself from checking my emails before I go to bed, because it wakes me up. I made this mistake just last night, in fact. I got some emails answered, but I was so wound up that it took me forever to go to sleep.

10. My personal sleep-inducing innovation: Slather myself with body lotion.

This feels good and also, if I’m having trouble sleeping because I’m hot, it cools me down.

11. My other sleep-inducing innovation: Put on socks if my feet are cold.

I feel frumpy, but my husband won’t let me use his legs as a foot-warmer.

12. Yawn.


13. Tell yourself, “I have to get up now.”

Imagine that you just hit the snooze alarm and in a minute, you’re going to be marching through the morning routine. Often this is an exhausting enough prospect to make me fall asleep.

14. Give up, and re-frame your sleeplessness as a welcome opportunity to snatch some extra time out of your day.

If I wake up and can’t get to sleep after 4:00 a.m, I get up and start working. Instead of starting the day feeling annoyed, I have a wonderful feeling of having accomplished a lot before my usual wake-up time of 6:00 am.

What other strategies have worked for you — to get yourself to turn off the light, or once in bed, to get more restful sleep?


* I spent a leeeetle too much time this morning catching up on posts on To the Max — “a blog about parenting, extreme honesty, chocolate ice-cream, and life with my little boy, who had a stroke at birth and kicks butt.”

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 33,000 people get it)
Buy the book
— Join the 2010 Happiness Challenge to make 2010 a happier year
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
— Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Excellent tips, Gretchen! Especially #13 which I’m sure you already know is what psychologists call a paradoxical intervention (I think made popular by one of your favorite authors, Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search For Meaning), which I wrote about myself at

    Thanks for highlighting this important issue for our chronically sleep-deprived society.

  • diane

    Great tips! I totally agree with the keeping the room cold to help sleep. Although my partner likes it warm – so we have heat wars! A naturpath recommended drinking magnesium in the evening, as many women are deficient. When I drink that, it helps me fall asleep quickly (make sure it’s not citrate).

    Would love some tips about how to pull yourself out of bed in the morning – that’s the issue I have!

  • Sandra McGechan

    I’m actually going to disagree with your title. I think it should be titlted Fourteen Tips for Getting a Good Quality Sleep and Why It Matters.

    Not everybody needs to get *more* sleep than they currently get. My mother-in-law is an excellent example of someone who gets too much sleep and is in a cycle of feeling sleepy all the time, going to bed earlier and getting up later. She is depressed and has no energy and constantly complains about how tired she is, despite spending more than half her life in bed. She thinks the solution is more sleep but really she needs some decent exercise.

    It’s a cycle I’ve been caught in myself, and it wasn’t until I became more disciplined in getting up at a set time in the mornings that I began to feel better and have more energy.

    The best way I’ve foudn of working out how much sleep I need is by getting up at a set time every morning, regardless of whether it’s a work day or not. My body gets used to this routine and starts to tell me in the evenings when it’s ready for bed. Much better than going “It’s 11pm so I have to go to bed now” and spending a couple of hours tossing and turning and worrying about the fact that I haven’t gone to sleep yet.

    And the best trick for getting up in the morning? Have your alarm out of arms reach so you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a very good point! You need to get the RIGHT amount of sleep for you,
      not necessarily MORE.

      • You tend to require less sleep as you get older as new neural connections aren’t being generated in the same quantity as when you’re younger. That’s why children need their sleep; it doesn’t just make them cranky it’s vital to their mental development.

        To pick up the point of too much sleep, your circadian rhythm is key and if you have too much sleep, your body will be on a low and you will feel lethargic and tired. Disruption to the rhythm has been linked with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and depression!

    • Brissygal

      Suggest to your mother in law that she gets her thyroid checked – big effect on sleep/energy etc. Endocronologists say women especially should get their thyroids checked every 5 years starting at age 35.

  • I learned the hard way to never open bills or any other mail before bed. I can better handle issues and surprises in the morning when I can take action.

  • Some interesting ideas in this which I hadn’t thought of before, especially #s 10 and 13. (And I think I’ve just started recognizing #2 myself. Good to see it verbalized, thank you. It’ll reinforce that habit in myself, I think.) I think I’ll be recommending the lotion trick to patients from time to time. That one looks incredibly practical.

    I’d like to expand on #3 & #9 if you don’t mind. It’s not just don’t keep the bedroom dark & don’t think (like email) before bed — it’s don’t stare into major sources of light like the computer and the television for an hour or three before bed. Our sleep cycles are primarily set by light and doing either of those will keep you from feeling sleepy until it’s waaay later than you really should go to sleep.

    • Nicole Larsen

      This is a great tip. I think too many of us watch tv TO WIND DOWN, instead of shutting it off completely. I have been in such a bad habit of this, that often I just crash at any time of day if I watch tv. Interesting how using light to teach your body waking time vs sleeping time can really help get things on track. Thanks for sharing that!

    • jazzercollins

      Some excellent points here! I read somewhere that the blue that’s used for the ribbons on the computer screen and the back ground in word processing programs and others acts as a stimulant on our brain. Word to the wise; don’t use your computer as a way to wind down. Best to stick to an old fashioned book.

      My routine includes a warm bath then directly to my bedroom which is quite cold. My body cools from the hot bath while under the blankets and that alone is a relaxing feeling. I also make sure I have a book on the go. It clears my head from the daily distractions. Even if I only take a 5-10 min. bath and read a page or 2 it seems to work wonders for me.

    • Brissygal

      So – how come I’m always falling asleep 10 minutes into the TV program I really wanted to watch???

      • *laughter* Off the top of my head, (and this is purely speculation — a complete wild guess given that I don’t know you, haven’t examined you or done an intake, etc) is that you really are just so busy that watching your favorite show is the first time all day you stop moving, so you pass out from sheer exhaustion. Alternately, you’re SO sleep deprived and stressed out that the second you have a distraction to let your brain STOP WORRYING, you pass right out from exhaustion.

        Or maybe it’s your favorite show because it’s really really soothing. My dad likes some truly bad movies because they bore him to sleep. 😀

  • Mella

    I’ve had trouble falling asleep for most of my life – I remember struggling with it even as a very small child (yes, I’ve checked that the cause isn’t medical) – and can vouch for almost all of these recommendations. Other things that have worked for me:

    – Akin to #6 – instead of a to-do list for tomorrow, you might need to just write down everything that’s bothering you about today. Putting it on paper somehow lets my brain know that it’s ok to stop dwelling on it – it helps me get over things that are bothering me even when I’m not trying to fall asleep.

    -And, akin to 9, consider shutting off any stimulating media an hour before bed. If you have the active mind problem, cutting off the flow of input lets you process the day and relax before you try to sleep. Also, facing a source of bright light (like from your TV or computer monitor) promotes wakefulness.

    -Consider the condition of your bedroom – is it orderly and clean? It sounds like something that shouldn’t matter, since you can’t see clutter with the lights out, but it makes a difference for me (not because I’m a neat freak – I’m very much not, so this issue is often my downfall).

    -Related – in extreme cases, experts advise removing everything from the bedroom that isn’t directly related to sleeping, dressing, or sex. I doubt this is practical for most people, but the idea is to get your mind and body to more strongly and exclusively associate bed with sleep. I’ve sometimes had to resort to a less extreme version of this by avoiding bed as a place to lounge, etc. – for example, if I want to read before bed, I have to do it sitting in a chair or on the sofa, and only get into bed when I’m ready to lie down and shut off the light immediately.

    -Along the lines of “counting sheep” – I sometimes have success with a technique recommended by James Maas: Slowly count down from 100, while visualizing each number being written. I think the idea is to keep both left-brain-type and right-brain-type functions occupied at the same time with something fairly dull.

    Sorry to go on at such length, but, unfortunately I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time and effort on this problem.

    • Katenz

      Thanks Karoline and Mella. I didn’t think about computer and tv light the hour or so before bed. I do take an hour or two to drop off. So feel sleep deprived frequently. I must try that. Does reading by light count do you think?

      • brooklynchick

        I’ve been advised by my doc that computer and tv light have a quality to them that essentially tells your brain “wake up!” He said reading light is not the same.

      • Probably not the same. The difference is that you’re not looking directly INTO the light source when you’re reading like you do with TV and computer. Personally, I find that the light from reading before bed doesn’t have the same effect at all. I can read and feel *tired* reading and want to sleep whereas the computer can keep me from feeling tired until dawn.

        EDIT: Which isn’t to say that I can’t get stuck on a good book and WANT to stay up until dawn, but that I can at least feel that I’m tired properly while doing so. 🙂

  • TracyW

    For me, make sure I’m warm. The room can be chilly, but quite often I’ve been lying in bed, feeling just slightly chilled, not something I’d normally put on a jersey for, and then when I’ve eventually put on another layer and gone back to bed I’ve fallen asleep instantly.

    My other one is change jobs – if I’m not learning stuff I need about 8 hours of exercise a day to fall asleep at a decent hour. This is probably very idionsyncratic.

  • leslieschmitt

    Whenever I think I don’t need sleep and get a little prideful about it, I think of Martha Stewart and how proud she is that she doesn’t sleep and how the people around her suffer for it!! Then I envision how well my household functions when I do get the sleep my body and psyche need! I believe sleep deprivation is a way bigger problem than most people realize! Thanks you for your ideas to help!

  • NathanCarriker

    Pilots become adept at what we call “compartmentalization.” Basically, putting things that can’t be dealt with at that moment (without compromising safety) into mental files, to be ignored for now and dealt with later, when it’s safe.

    This strategy works well for me at “bedtime” (which for me must often vary by as much 10 or 12 hours!). Regardless of how many things I have on my mind, I know that none of them are as crucial to my long term well-being right then as sleep. I also know that without adequate rest, I could be buying myself an entire day of low mental function and possibly even a week or so of illness from sleep loss. It isn’t a rational trade.

    So, I put the problems (and I do have my share!) away for the night. Stick them in their little files, to be ignored so I can empty my mind and drift off, confident that doing so is the single best, most important thing I can do right then to solve those problems and prevent the occurrence of more.

    Flip the switch. Turn them off. Treat sleep as an activity that MUST be done in order for you to be all you can. Put it on your to do list, and when its time comes, drop everything else for it, just like you would any other priority.

    Sweet dreams!

    • Wait… wait… I am interested in hearing how you just flip the switch when you bring priorities and problems with you to bed?

  • ktv
  • Tracey

    Well, given that no adult member of my family (on either side) has had a good night’s sleep in about 40 years, I am kind of screwed. They tell me it gets worse as we get older.

    Since I get up at 5 am I SHOULD be going to bed at 9 pm, but I usually am closer to 10-11. And honestly, I can do really well on 6.5-7 hours a night when its good quality. But mine usually isn’t. There are restless legs, aching back, and trips to the potty. I’ve tried medicine which just made me feel worse, herbal teas made me groggy the next morning, and pm meds tend to make me hyper and frantic.

    I know my happiness would get a boost from getting more high quality sleep but I’m not sure what to try next. I know I need more exercise so maybe I’ll start there. That and making the room darker. We don’t have any electronics in there, but the blinds aren’t thick enough to block the lights from outside, and we keep the bedroom door open for the cars so I can see the nightlight in the hall. Maybe I’ll cover the window with a blanket and unplugs the nightlight for a few nights and see if that helps.

  • Camilla

    One thing you don’t mention in your book, or in this list, about making your room very dark is a quite simple solution. Wear a sleep mask! The beauty of it is that it is portable, so you can travel with it and ensure that wherever you are, your room will be completely dark. 🙂 I can’t live without mine.

    • Lena

      I actually had to laugh when i read this. My boyfriend likes to sleep with a dimmed light, but even little light sources won’t let me fall asleep and wakes me up early in the morning. So I got the absolutely same solution! I use sleeping mask since years now and everyone is happy: my boyfriend gets his lights and I’m not a grumpy zombie all day long. Now i just need to get use to having a certain place to put my sleeping mask, cause I’m regularly loosing mine…

  • A friend of mine told me to pursue the old Catholic tradition of ‘offering it up’.

    I never quite understood what that meant until she explained that when she really can’t sleep, she prays and offers her wakefulness to God in the hope that He’ll grant some extra sleep to someone who really needs it: a new mother, someone in chronic pain, someone who is worried.

    I’ll never know if it works for the other person, but it certainly makes me feel calmer and happier about myself when I remember to do it.

  • I used to have pretty bad insomnia and eventually had to see a sleep psychologist to get me back to a regular sleeping schedule. One of the suggestions he made that has really helped is saving your bedroom only for sleeping. Don’t spend a lot of time in the bedroom to do other things, like emailing, reading, or especially working. It’s a pavlov’s dogs kind of thing I guess — when you go in the bedroom, it triggers your body to remember it’s sleep time.

  • Jen

    Speaking of sleep…

    I had a very early morning yesterday as I had to catch a flight at 6:00 a.m., on Southwest. The Happiness Project was profiled in the in-flight magazine for the month of January!

    Just thought I’d let you know.

  • Good stuff. Reading has always worked for me. Cute…I remember a couple of years ago my now teenage daughter (who’s wound a bit tight like her old man) came to me with problems falling asleep. Of course, I recommended reading; which she scoffed at. Guess what she does every night now…yup. She reads…and zonks.

  • I am all about spreading the word today. LOVE this post. Lately in an effort to have some “me” time I have slipped into a semi-nocturnal routine. It’s lovely when my kiddos are snoozing and I can do whatever I please but mornings are a struggle and I am not very fun for the kiddo I still have at home. I am also very unproductive for the first part of the day. Taking your advice for sleep and I am committing to being in bed by 10:30 from here on in. This post convinced me. Maybe one day soon I can actually claim to be one of those cuckoo ‘morning persons’.
    I will share this with full links on Snickerdoodles today, it’s also the last day for our Happiness Project book giveaway. I’ve loved all the comments that have come in so far.

  • I just posted about sleep deprivation and weight gain this morning.

    Sleep is so very important!

  • patrisha

    What really works for me in terms of getting to sleep if I wake during the night is not only to keep the bedroom cold, but to deliberately pull the blankets back to make myself feel cold. Once I have attained this on-the-edge-of-shivering condition, I then re-cover myself and as I warm up, I relax and sleep!

  • jan_m

    #2: “too tired to go to sleep” I just discovered that having cold feet when I’m *not in bed* keeps me from achieving the sleepy feeling that compels me to go to bed. So down slippers are now early evening attire. Also, cream on feet in lieu of socks works to warm them up.

  • eileen216

    Great tips! One of my new year resolutions is go to bed earlier. But I haven’t been able to do so…. I go to bed late so I wake up late…. it’s like a never ending bad cycle. I am going to follow your tip starting tonight. Hopefully I will be able to adjust my sleeping schedule soon.

  • Nicole

    Excellent, wonderful advice! I used to be one of those people who very rarely got a proper night’s sleep, and as a result I went through most of my days at less than full capacity. I just became so accustomed to the feeling that I thought it was normal. Then I spend a year living and working in the Japanese countryside, where I was able to get a great sleep almost every night. Once I got used to feeling better every day, I can never go back to my old sleep-deprived ways.

    My ladies book club voted last night to read your book next. Very much looking forward to it!

  • There are a few additional things I’ve discovered to help with a good nights sleep.

    Like your #1, have a specific time you wake each morning. So how do you know what time you need to get to bed? Keep a sleep diary for a few weeks. Write in it when you went to sleep, when you woke, how effective was your sleep and how easy/hard it was to wake up.

    After a few weeks you’ll have a great resource for how much sleep _you_ actually need. Some people can survive on 6, others need 11. This gives you hard and fast numbers on what you need. Although be aware the timing can change when you’re on holidays, travelling, under stress and more.

    These numbers can also hint at your REM cycles. Maybe you cycle every 90 minutes, and as such have a better nights sleep sleeping 6 hours, rather than 8 hours because after 6 you wake between cycles and with 8 you wake in the middle of one.

    Tense and relax. Often we have stored tension. For me, it’s my shoulders. This tension keeps me awake when I should be sleeping. Consciously tensing and relaxing overrides the unconscious tension.

    If you share a bed, and your partner has no problems sleeping, you can easily follow them into sleep by matching their breathing. When they breathe in, you do the same. When they breathe out, follow along. Within minutes you’ll be asleep.

    Another, counter-intuitive method: If you don’t get to sleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get out of bed. Do something – anything – else. This doesn’t really help you get more sleep tonight, but instead stops you from conditioning yourself to have or worry about insomnia in your own bed.

  • kt

    there is an interesting post about Happiness and what it is
    scroll down to dec 28 2009

  • It is so true that not getting enough rest can mess up your day and mood!

    *Meditation works really well too. It is a great way to quiet the mind- sometime you can use a guided meditation, or just let yourself relax to some soft music (Target has a great selection).

    * Taking a warm shower can help wash off the stresses of the day as well.

    * I recently have been trying a new technique that has me drifting off even sooner than I’m aiming for- As I lay my head on the pillow I go through my whole day- from the moment my feet hit the floor that morning. I walk through my day and the funny thing is that before I even get to the end of the day- I am out! Here is an important tip though- if there was a part of the day that didn’t go so well- play it in your head the way you would have liked it to go. A lot of what our mind does when we fall asleep is catalog the day- which is why so much of what goes on in our day often ends up in our dreams in one way or another.

    I hope this helps! Happy sleeping!

  • heatherconroy

    And don’t eat anything sweet before bed! I robbed myself of a good night’s sleep last night because I ate JellyBabies before bed! I spent the night revved up but tired-not good!

  • Rob_Mk_II

    Numbers 1, 2 and 8 should work for me. The problem with 1 is that I find myself extending the time by “just a little” until it’s way too late all too often, especially since I’ve finally gotten high-speed computer access.

    In general, though, the idea that sleep is important has made sense to me for a long time. It seems to me to be an acknowledgment of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” in action. If your lower level needs (e.g. for food and sleep) are not being met, you can’t expect that your higher level needs (i.e. happiness in this case) can be addressed effectively.

    That said, I’ve got about 40 minutes before I need to be asleep…

  • Tina

    Great tips Gretchen, but I beg to differ on the idea of setting a specific bedtime each night. The approach I prefer to take is to wait until sleepiness genuinely sets in (the struggling to keep eyelids open stage), immediately turn in at this point and then it is effortless to drift off to sleep. The theory is that energy levels vary, and perhaps on different days we need different amounts of sleep.

    My approach does make your #2 rule about getting ready for bed early all the more important though, as it’s relatively easy to push through the sleepiness phase and come out the other side alert (something my comprehensive pre-bed regime could easily accomplish, I suspect!)

    PS: My copy of The Happiness Project just made it’s way to me here in New Zealand today, looking forward to diving in!

  • rebecca

    Strange, slightly awkward, but true:

    I purchased one of these adult “onesies” – – for my husband, who woke up every night, freezing…

    Not only does he look cool (in his dreams), but he stays warm through the night (this perhaps slightly contradicts Gretchen’s point about keeping the room cool..)

  • dave_WAustralia

    As a medical professional with a mild sleep disorder, I can attest to the benefits of more, or rather, better quality sleep. It affects EVERYTHING! I suspect the majority of the (adult) population in the Western World don’t get enough good quality sleep for many different reasons, not the least being poor sleep hygiene; the gist of your article.PS Just ordered you book from Amazon – hope it doesn’t take too long to arrive ‘downunder’. So, my t’uppence worth – exercise is fantastic but particularly not high intensity exercise within several hours of your bedtime. Try meditation – it doesn’t need to be spiritual. i.e. the ‘westernised’ mindfulness stuff focusing on breathing, relaxing, whatever. If you get this to work (and it takes practice) 10 min is usually more than enough. I suspect that prayer and say listening to Baroque music have similar effects as you focus on something and forget about your stress/anxiety/work deadlines / inability to sleep or whatever.

  • My first monthly goal for 2010 is to get up at a consistent time daily (9am) and it’s going great so far. It makes such a huge difference to my happiness levels it’s been incredible. I actually feel alert when I wake up.

  • 1948baby

    I used to not be able to sleep because of the anxiety caused by “not being able to sleep!”. Telling myself that the only consequence of not sleeping is simply being tired the next day, which I will survive, helped a lot. Besides all of the tips you mention, my current method of blocking out the thoughts of a racing, terrified mind is to turn on my TV to a channel that is interesting enough to draw my attention, but not so exciting to keep me awake (for me the History or Nat Geo channels). I am usually asleep in minutes.

    I love this blog, thanks.

  • Janney

    I am one of the lucky ones who usually have no trouble falling asleep. However, if my mind keeps buzzing with thoughts in bed and sleep does not come, I find it very helpful to breathe deeply and concentrate on all body parts one bit after another (starting with toes and going up) to make all my muscles relax. I cannot remember last time I made it above my waist – most times I’m asleep before I’ve finished with my legs. The trick is, I guess, to get both your body and your mind relaxed, and this seems to do both at the same time.

    Still, as some of the people above, I could use some tips to get out of bed in the morning…

    • Mstuck1

      I find it good to start at the top of my head and work my way down. I really see a difference when I’m done with my face.

  • Debbie

    I totally agree with #2!! I’m going to start washing my face as soon as I put my girls down to sleep. That way, when 10:00 rolls around, I won’t drag my feet dreading that nighttime ritual! Great idea!

  • Thanks for this post. I’ve just forwarded it to my wife, who’s struggling a little in the sleep department these days.

    I like the one about a chilled room. I saw a documentary a year or so ago that explained that it’s good to warm up a little first and then your body falls asleep as it cools. People think being in a warm bed helps you to sleep, but it’s actually the reverse.

  • Nicole Larsen

    Clean, straight sheets! Even if the bed doesn’t get made in the mornings, making it before I get in does wonders for me. I find myself quasi-conscious trying to pull the sheets straight with my toes or fighting the bunching of covers in the middle of the night. Plus, when they’re clean, they are so soft and smell good. Very relaxing!

  • Regarding suggestions #4 and #8. I have recently begun doing Tai Chi an hour or so before bedtime. Tai Chi incorporates both stretching, exercise, deep breathing meditation, and it feels great to boot.

    Additionally, I have began taking Green Tea capsules containing hops and L-Theanine before getting into bed. Green Tea capsules ease unwanted stress and tension out of the body. I recently wrote a blog post about Green Tea capsules on my blog. It is helping me tremendously.

    Regarding suggestion #10 of lathering on body lotion, I put on some hand cream every night before bedtime, something about the soothing feel of it is very comforting and helps with bedtime.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • boots

    I know this sounds silly, but going to bed early and waking up early actually required a change in how I saw myself. I used to stay up as late as possible, I think as a hangover from college and my early 20s when the most fun conversations with my housemates would happen late at night. It took me until my early 30s to believe that it was totally okay (and kind of a luxury) to go to bed at 9 or 10 PM, that I wasn’t going to miss something exciting.

    • I completely identify with that! I’m in my 20s right now. My fiancé loves to stay up late, and anytime I go to bed early, I find myself berating myself for being such a party pooper. I start thinking about how much of a “grown-up” I’m turning into, how I’m not “cool” or fun anymore. So I stay up late. And then I’m a tired, sleep-deprived monster the next day.
      …reading your message makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I can feel a little bit better about being sleepy around 10am…

  • Sandra

    Especially women often have iron deficiency. Strangely enough this can also cause troubles with sleeping.

  • I would echo Elizabeth Lozano’s tips for getting more sleep. I’ve been a night showerer for years, so I’ve conditioned myself to associate hot showers with sleepy time. Unfortunately that doesn’t work out well for me if Iwork out and then shower in the morning!

  • Eliminating distractions before going to sleep is the best way to wind down. Also, creating a “going to sleep” routine should help you get rest easily during the night instead of staying up watching TV, shows, answering e-mails or reading news.

    One you create a routine that relaxes you, your body will know that it is time for sleep 🙂

    Also, do not try to force yourself to sleep as it will only waste energy and time. Instead go to sleep when you are tired and try to wake at a set time every day.


  • Beth

    I’d like to echo the requests for tips on getting up in the morning! I can’t sleep at night because I slept in too late in the morning- which leads me to sleep in again the next morning!

  • Julia

    Thanks Gretchen!

    A tip my boyfriend taught me that works great. Pretend you are work or the library or in a boring meeting. You’re having trouble keeping your eyes open, you can’t stop yawning and you’re not allowed to sleep. Now pretend you could just climb under your desk and fall asleep. Such a relief.

  • Sleep is so important. Especially if you have kids.

    To help me get to sleep I developed a little mantra:

    “I fall asleep easily and sleep deeply all through the night. I wake up refreshed, full of energy and ready to start the day”

  • standingquietintherain

    I have found that lack of sleep has definitely been a factor in my own anxiety. For almost 3 years I was dealing with depression which kept me from sleeping. I was getting 3-4 hours every week night. On the weekends I would sleep 12-14 hours, because I would sleep well into the day. As a teacher, my students really suffered the most.

    I have since found some solutions and I do get more sleep. My partner works late into the night, however, and often wakes me between 3 am and 5 am which then makes it difficult to fall back asleep. I don’t want to tell him not to wake me, but at the same time, really want and need the sleep!

  • Tracy

    In regards to cold feet a night, I was recently given a hot water bottle and I am in love with it. For those of you who have cold toes but don’t like wearing socks to bed, a good old-fashioned hot water bottle makes getting into bed instantly comfortable and relaxing.

  • #2 and #6 are very useful for me, if I can be disciplined enough to do them. I also love Tracy’s hot water bottle tip.

    In addition, for those having trouble falling asleep, I read somewhere that if you drop off for less than 10 minutes, you don’t actually realize you were asleep. So I like to tell myself I’ve probably been asleep already; somehow it takes the pressure off. And I’m not sure I even care whether it’s true or not; just believing that I’ve already been drifting in and out of sleep seems to help!

  • diasong

    My mom’ s ‘count to 100’ tip was to go thru the alphabet with girl’s names, then (if you’re still awake) with boy’s names!
    I’m also a PM showerer – with candles & epsom salts (with essential oils added) – or a hot water bottle if it’s really cold out; & I do read in bed! I grew up sleeping in a cool room, & find it harder to go to sleep if the room is too warm. & also get up if I pop awake after 4 AM & get some things done! I’ve recently begun taking my cal/mag (with some extra magnesium – most women in the US only get 1/2 the RDA of Mag!) before bed. Because sufficient Mag. can increase your energy levels, some folks find they need to take it earlier in the day . . .

  • I agree completely, sleep is indeed very important. Somehow, you never quite know how valuable it is until you don’t get much of it, but that still doesn’t keep people for taking it for granted – including me unfortunately. I’m guilty of not getting enough of it and abusing my sleeping habits. It has definitely taken a toll on my disposition and daily work and life functions. However, I am looking forward to making some changes now. Thank you so much for the tips above! 🙂

    P.S. See and sleep better while knowing how to pursue your purpose this 2010.

  • elise11

    Have you ever looked into a weighted blanket? They are a wonderful drug free natural sleep aid tool. We originally heard of them to help our son who suffers from Autism a way to sleep. It not only worked very well for him but everyone in our family now owns one as well. Ours came from a company called DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets. It is a company started by the parents of a young child with autism. The company has a drawing for a FREE weighted blanket given a way each month. It might be something you and your readers might benefit from. The website is

  • gringamama

    I am a forty year old woman with four kids and felt tired all the time. I recently took sugar and white flour completely out of my diet for the month of January and I have never had so much energy or slept so well in my life.

  • Glad to see it’s going so well—congrats. Hope success will help you sleep well—and your readers, who if they achieve happiness, may never need to buy the book I’m shlepping along the publishing road with (and this would more than please me) or any more of the endless self-help books.

    My clients tend to get all excited about the newest breakthrough, but then forget about it a week later. Hopefully people will trust the “age old wisdom” by actually practicing it.

    The new wrinkle is, perhaps, that we’re all in this together in ways that were formerly unthinkable (i.e. blogs).



  • David

    Totally agree about email and the like. I find I wake up at pretty much the same time no matter when I go to bed, so I can’t count on sleeping late to catch up — I have to go to bed at a reasonable time. So I tell myself I’ll allow myself some time to check email and check out web sites in the morning, and resolve to go ahead and go to bed.

    As for staying asleep, I especially like No. 14. If you can’t sleep in about 15, 20 minutes, get up, do something else. Go back to bed feeling you got something accomplished or did something you enjoy; either relaxes you, at least they do me.

    Similarly, if something’s bothering you, deal with it. Invest some time in erasing the worry so it doesn’t keep you up. Or at least decide you don’t need to deal with it now. Then go back to bed.

    I also like socks. I skipped them one night, and I didn’t sleep well. I’ll stop when the weather gets warm, but until then, it’s socks for me! Just some loose-fitting thick cotton socks. I find a cool bedroom but plenty of covers does it in the winter, but in summer, hot and muggy equals insomnia. Temperature makes a difference, winter or summer, so you have to think about it. In summer, I sometimes just give up and sleep downstairs on the couch, which is always cool after midnight even on the nastiest hot days. (no air conditioning)

    Listen to the radio (or music on an iPod or something like that.) A local public station carries the BBC World Service overnight. Some stories are great and keep me alert, but others go on and on, and the voices are monotone and I drop right off. You kind of have to decide what you want. Distant-city AM stations’ talk shows can do it, too — as I kid, I had an AM tube radio and in summer, I could tell when a thunderstorm was coming by how close together the blasts of static were. When I could see the lightning then hear the static, I knew a cool storm was coming.
    Music, though, especially in ear buds, almost always sends me to sleep. I don’t travel without my ear bud radio or iPod shuffle. They work better than a clock radio, though there’s no sleep switch on them.

  • obiezmom

    Regarding Tips for falling asleep: I put on “Patti Page”. I love her. I listen to her, and fall asleep before the end of the CD usually.

  • obiezmom

    Hmmmm. Well, I made a comment, but I dont’ see it here. Here’s what I said, though:
    In order to help me get to sleep: I listen to my music. Patti Page. I love her. And usually, I fall asleep before the end of the CD.

  • Anne Theresa

    Something that’s very helpful for me: When I absolutely cannot fall to sleep, I try to mimic sleep by lying in bed and relaxing my body completely.

    When feigning sleep is as near to the real thing as I can get, I believe I’m doing my body some good, at the very least giving my muscles a rest. The added benefit is that the relaxed state of mimicking sleep often results in my actually nodding off.

    God bless,
    Anne Theresa

  • Abe

    Does anyome have any suggestions for people working graveyard shifts?

  • httplittlemarymixupblogspotcom

    thank you for helping me to be motivated to get some sleep. ironically, i have been getting less sleep since i started my blog. i love writing it and adding my pictures…it allows so much creativity…and i get lost in the fun.
    i really write my blog for me…it’s not like i’m doing it for followers….lots of people who read my blog don’t even know how to “follow”!
    i need sleep! i hope your information will help! did you ever hear of the happiness club…i’ve gone to meetings in wallingford ct. at choate….it’s been wonderful!

  • Great set of tips to get more sleep. From all the tips listed I found out that exercise is the best tip. This is already proven not by scientists but also other people including me.

  • valerian42

    Number 9 is probably my biggest weakness, I always stay awake thinking about work and creative ideas I want to make one day. My bed is also a problem causing regular back pains, I’m thinking to get a memory foam mattress and see how much it helps.

  • Jaymac

    I learned an unusual sleep strategy from my mother. She told me she imagines a screen in her mind and starts watching images appear on it. I think she is generating something like hypnagogic images to transition into sleep. I found that for me it works best to remember a dream I have had recently and watch it.

  • Great post Gretchen,

    could I add a 15th tip?  It’s this: have a proper bedtime snack.  Don’t go to bed hungry, but also, don’t overeat, or eat junk before going to sleep. 

    If you overeat, eat junk, or even go to bed hungry, it can interfere with BOTH the quality of your sleep, and the quantity.

    So many of us tend to get cravings in the time between dinner and bed…cravings are usually NOT for healthy food 🙂

    Most people either try to fight the cravings, and go to bed hungry (which is bad), or they give in and eat cookies or ice cream (which is also bad).

    There are healthy options. In addition to NightFood bars ( , there are things you can whip up in the kitchen…keep your portions down under 200 calories, and make sure to try to include lots of complex carbs, fiber, and also some protein (just don’t overload the protein, or it may keep you awake).

    Enjoy & sleep tight!

  • Daisy Howell41

    I find myself taking pills to help me sleep at night.  Someimes I take sleeping pills or cold sinus tablets. I know that this is not healthy for me but I have problems sleepin at night. I just read some tips on sleeping better. And I’m going try some of the tips. Thank you for giving me better ways on sleeping.

  • I like the tip about starting to work when you get up too early. Often times I get up at 4, when I’d like to get up at 6. So, I just start working on the day’s work. That being said, often on those days I need a little mid-day nap.

  • Sumdawson

    sleep with a nice warm heating pad for your feet!!!
    also, a great cat or two to lay beside you and purr is also a wonderful way to settle in and feel content!

  • Sumdawson

    Listening to a book on tape, very low, (I never get past one chapter!)

  • Adrian Freud

    Brilliant post and website

  • I work nights (i have a 2am shift) and that’s always my excuse for being sleep deprived. But I do know that no matter what time it is, I shouldn’t make excuses and instead make adjustments to assure myself a complete and restful sleep. Thanks for your tips!

  • sporcupine

    For at least 47 of my 52 years, I think I spent at least a little while battling my top sheet and blankets every single night.  For Christmas this year, I switched to a comforter with flannel covers I wash just like sheets and just as often.  And stopped, 100 percent stopped, twitching with the covers, the very first night.  I’m unwinding and sleeping sooner, and if I wake in the wee hours, I’m relaxing and drifting back to sleep sooner too.  

  • Randa Bacha

    Very very interesting. Will try to follow. I hope it will work. Thank you anyhow for sharing your experience.

  • Daria Sorokina

    I have a regular routine. I go to bed at 9-9:30pm knowing I have to get up at 5:30-6am is enough for me to stick with my nightly routine.

    I love going to bed early and getting up at dawn. I feel well rested and I have enough time to do my morning run with dog, yoga and prepare for work.

  • Ayelet from Israel

    Great tips!
    I try deep breathing and empty my mind.

  • Jmh184

    Not getting enough sleep was a big problem for me. Just about everything you mentioned was also the cause for me. One thing I found out was, I was very, very low on magnesium. Now I take, over the counter, magnesium before bedtime. My doctor did blood work to find this deficiency. 

  • Ctgish

    The best sleep is BEFORE midnight – seriously! Even two hours helps one feel refreshed and fully awake the next morning.

  • Rosy

    u didn’t say how u moron u just said y we need extra sleep

  • Micheal Hussey

    The blog is good enough, keep up writing such type of posts.

  • Tomas Porter

    I went over this website and I conceive
    you’ve got a large number of splendid information,

  • Tara Tompson

    I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping. I need to fix it soon before I’m too sleep deprived! Thanks for all the great advice!

    Tara |

  • Syed Ali

    Very true. A great service to troubled humans as I have been through it for one third of 68 years of my life. Thanks and God bless you.

  • I found a list of 12 tips one not on your list was take a warm shower right before bed. The other things I’ve done lately started using the Earthing Mat, and Afformations. Both do a good job. Then, finally my doctor gave me a product for hypothalamus and pituitary

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  • Well said

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