Insomnia self-care involves using lifestyle strategies to encourage sleep. It is the first line of defense for treating insomnia, and doctors often recommend trying it before anything else.
Insomnia can be a short-lived problem, but it can also be a chronic condition. When behavior changes alone do not work, it is important to seek professional medical help.
Read on to learn 26 insomnia self-care tips that may help a person get better sleep.
Self-care, including good sleep hygiene, is one of the
In comparison to sleep medications, self-care for insomnia has fewer side effects and cannot cause addiction or dependency. However, it may not be enough to help all people with insomnia.
A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 studies found that education about healthy sleep practices had a small to medium impact on people living with insomnia.
Lifestyle changes alone were less effective than cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi), which is a specific type of therapy aimed at people with chronic insomnia.
This suggests that self-care for insomnia does help, but that additional therapies may be necessary for some people.
If the following changes do not improve symptoms significantly, people may wish to ask their doctor about CBTi.
A person’s sleep environment can affect sleep quality, so before trying other strategies, it makes sense to ensure that a person can rest in a comfortable, sleep-friendly space.
Where possible, make sure the room is:
- Cool: Ideally, a sleep space is slightly cool, but not cold. Layers of blankets and sheets can help a person choose the right temperature.
- Comfortable: A person should choose a comfortable bed and pillow that provides adequate support to their body. A mattress that is too soft or too hard makes it more difficult to sleep.
- Dark: Sleep in a dark room, avoiding blue light from phones or televisions. Some people may need to use blackout curtains or blinds to block out light from outside.
- Lacking sensory stimuli: Loud noises, movement, and other forms of sensory input can make it difficult to sleep. If a person cannot prevent this, they can consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine to drown out other sounds.
Sleep hygiene is a collection of behaviors that aim to promote consistent sleep. A good sleep environment is one aspect of sleep hygiene, but it also involves changes in routine.
People can try the following:
- Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
- Decrease or eliminate daytime napping and sleeping in late.
- Use the bedroom only for sleep or sex; avoid stimulating activities, such as playing games or watching TV.
- Limit exposure to blue light from screens and devices.
- Limit caffeine consumption, especially during the second half of the day.
- Reduce alcohol intake, especially in the evening.
- Exercise regularly during the daytime, but not in the evening.
- Eat evening meals earlier.
If a person is unable to fall asleep, it is best to get up and do a calming activity, such as reading or listening to music. This can help prevent a person from associating their bed with insomnia.
Try to avoid sleeping in as a way of catching up on sleep. Instead, go to bed earlier the next night.
Another component of sleep hygiene, and insomnia treatment more generally, is reducing stress.
Stress occurs when a person feels they do not have the resources to cope with something. They may feel worried, overwhelmed, or tense. This can prevent sleep.
Some people experience insomnia because of stress, but insomnia itself can also feel stressful, which creates a vicious cycle. To reduce stress, a person can try the following techniques:
- Prioritize: Think about how important a stressful task is. If it is important and urgent, try to prioritize it. If it is not urgent or important, consider whether it is possible to let it go.
- Delegate: If household responsibilities, work, or child care are a source of stress, think about ways to share these tasks with others. A partner, co-worker, or relative may be able to help.
- Write it down: Instead of ruminating on thoughts, write them down and come back to the problem the following morning.
- Set boundaries: To keep evenings stress-free, it can help to set boundaries. This may involve asking to postpone a stressful conversation to the next day, not answering emails after work hours, or agreeing on quiet time with family members.
If stress and anxiety do not improve with these measures or are interfering with other aspects of life, a person can consider talking with a therapist.
Beyond stress reduction is relaxation, which actively puts the body into a calm, restful state. There are many ways a person can induce relaxation. It may take trying different approaches to find ones that work, and then incorporating them into a relaxing bedtime routine.
Some ideas for this
- Guided imagery: This involves listening to a recording that helps a person imagine relaxing scenes. Think slowly and deliberately about each element of the scene, such as the colors, sounds, and sights.
- Breathing exercises: These help slow down breathing and the heart. One example is box breathing. It involves breathing in for a count of 4, then holding for 4 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold the breath for 4 seconds before breathing again.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: For this technique, while lying down, try slowly tensing and then relaxing each group of muscles, beginning at the toes and working up the body.
- Meditation: There are various meditation techniques. For example, mindfulness meditation focuses on observing the present moment without judgment.
Other relaxing activities that can be part of a bedtime routine include:
- taking a warm bath or shower
- doing gentle stretching, yoga, or tai chi
- practicing skin care or massage
- reading a book
A person’s lifestyle, diet, and activities during the daytime can affect their sleep at night. Pay attention to:
- Light exposure: Getting exposure to natural light during the daytime helps regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm, particularly in the morning. The body is especially sensitive to light during the
first hourafter waking up.
- Diet: Both hunger and feeling full may make it harder to sleep. Try to eat balanced meals throughout the day at regular intervals, avoiding eating large meals too close to bedtime. Some nutritional deficiencies can also affect sleep, so if this is a concern, a person should speak with a doctor.
- Smoking: Quit smoking or vaping. Nicotine
has linksto sleep disturbances, including from secondhand smoke. If a person in the household smokes, ask them to do so outside.
- Foreign travel: If a person travels abroad, they may experience jet lag, which can disrupt their sleep routine.
- Underlying conditions: Chronic pain, depression, and other conditions are
potential causesof insomnia. People can also experience sleep disruption during pregnancy and menopause. If managing the symptoms is proving difficult, a person should consult a doctor for help.
- Medications: Some medications can cause insomnia as a side effect. Check the labels of any drugs to see whether this is a possibility. If it is, a person can discuss alternative options with a doctor.
Insomnia is a common challenge that can leave a person feeling exhausted, impairing quality of life. It is important to take a proactive approach to treat it.
Insomnia self-care can be part of this approach. It may involve addressing sleep hygiene, reducing stress, practicing relaxation, and regulating the circadian rhythm via lifestyle changes.
However, self-care is not a cure in all cases. If insomnia persists, a doctor can recommend additional treatments.