Thanks for your question! Not being able to sleep well is frustrating for sure. You may have already realized that lack of sleep makes it harder to focus which can affect how well you do in school, sports, and your ability to concentrate in general. Sleep problems can be caused by an irregular sleep schedule (going to bed at different times), stress (having lots of things on your mind), changes in your sleep environment (your bedroom is too hot or too cold, or too noisy), and by consuming stimulants (such as caffeine) too close to bedtime. We also know that exposure to electronic screens (phone, TV, computer) can also cause sleep problems and sometimes the cause is unknown. Although you have tried some different ways to fall asleep, you may want to try some of the following ideas to see if they help.
- Wake up the same time every day (or within 1 hour of your usual wake up time) EVEN on the weekends. A regular wake up time promotes sleep hygiene and prevents sleep problems.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine (soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc.) especially after 3pm.
- Have your evening meal at least 3 hrs. before going to sleep. It’s fine to have a small bedtime snack such as a glass of milk and a few crackers but don’t have a big meal.
- Plan on “winding down” before you go to sleep. Begin relaxing about 1 hour before you go to bed. Try doing a quiet activity such as listening to calming music, reading a book or meditating.
- Turn off the TV and ALL electronic devices including video games, tablets, laptops etc. at least 1 hour before you go to bed and keep them out of your room.
- Turn off your cell phone and all notifications (new email and text alerts) using a feature such as “do not disturb” or even better, leave your phone outside of your room while you sleep. Studies have shown that a part of a person’s brain continues to respond to certain lights and sounds even while they are sleeping.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. If you can’t control the noise, try wearing earplugs or using a fan to block out other sounds.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Try reading a book or meditating or write a list of what you need to do the next day so you don’t worry about remembering.
- Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana can all keep you awake. Talk to your health care provider if you need help with substance use.
- Reduce exposure to bright light in the last few hours of the day before you go to bed.
Hopefully these tips will help you enjoy more sleep in the new year! If you still have sleep problems after trying these suggestions, be sure to make an appointment with your health care provider.