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Sleep Problems

Can't Fall Asleep? Top 10 Fixes

By , Caring.com senior editor
91% helpful
Woman trying to sleep

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • You wake in the wee hours because the cat's scratching at the door or you have to use the bathroom, then you toss and turn for three hours before dozing fitfully the rest of the night.

  • Despite being up late the night before, you're wide awake at 6 a.m., feeling like something the aforementioned cat dragged in.

  • You seem to get enough sleep, but you sleep poorly, wake up irritable, and feel tired all day.

No matter how your sleep drama is playing out, chances are there's a physical problem -- or more than one -- at the root of it. The good news is, that also means there's likely a solution. Here, the top ten sleep problems and solutions that really work.

1. Middle-of-the-night waking

The bane of post-menopausal women, repeated waking in the middle of the night sabotages your sleep in two ways: It prevents you from achieving deep, restful REM sleep; and the lost hours of sleep cut into your beauty rest.

What to do: As soon as you notice this happening, take steps to prevent it from becoming habitual. (Naturally, worrying that you won't be able to fall back asleep makes it harder to sleep.)

  • Keep the room dark when you wake up. Keep a small book light or mini flashlight next to your bed and use it to navigate your way to the bathroom, or put a dim night-light in the bathroom and leave the door cracked, so you can find your way there. Whatever you do, don't turn on the overhead light in the bathroom once you're there.

  • Don't turn on the TV or computer. Nope, not even for a few minutes -- the light from the screen "resets" your internal clock, stimulating your central nervous system and making it harder for you to fall back asleep.

  • Don't eat unless you're truly hungry. Getting your digestive system revved up can keep you awake, so avoid snacking unless a growling stomach is going to keep you awake. Better yet, learn the foods that help you sleep as well as the foods that interfere with sleeping.

  • Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If you're often kept awake by racing thoughts and worries and you tend to make to-do lists in your head, keep a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper handy and write them down. As you put each item down on paper, imagine yourself setting aside that concern. (Again, use a book light; don't turn on the overhead or a bright bedside light to write.)

  • Do a simple isolation and relaxation exercise. Relax methodically, starting with your feet: Tense the muscles as hard as you can, then relax each area completely. Do the same with your calves, thighs, buttocks, hands, arms, and on up. By the time you get to your neck and head, you should have banished much of the tension.