Sleep Help: What Can I Do To Sleep Better At Night?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated July 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Research shows that humans spend around one-third of their lives sleeping or trying to get to sleep. When you aren’t getting the proper amount of healthy sleep at night, it can start to affect your health both mentally and physically. There are many reasons for a lack of sleep quality, including medical conditions, mental health concerns, your environment, and more.

Addressing the root cause of your sleep concerns can be vital to making improvements. If you’d like to sleep better at night, it may be helpful to try various evidence-based strategies, some of which we’ll discuss below. This can look different for everyone, and you may find the right combination of sleep strategies that work for you.

Getty
Struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get quality rest?

Strategies for addressing insomnia

There are several different options you might consider when attempting to improve your sleeping patterns. The following are just a few: 

Try to avoid relying on naps

While naps are not inherently harmful, they can become problematic when you’re relying on them often. Studies have shown that frequent napping can lead to negative physical health effects like heart disease, high blood pressure, and risk of stroke. While naps can be beneficial in some cases, they may be most beneficial when you keep them short, as taking naps during the day may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. This can become a cycle in which you try to catch up on sleep by taking a nap, but then can’t get good sleep at night and end up needing to nap again the next day. Avoiding long naps could help your sleep schedule remain more consistent.

Stick to a schedule

A sleep schedule can be important to your success when you want to get the proper amount of rest at night. Many experts advise adhering to the , which provides for 16 hours of being awake during the day and eight hours of sleep at night. If you make an effort to stick to this schedule, it might be easier to fall asleep. 

Exercise

Getting exercise may help you grow tired during the right times of the day. At the same time, you may not want to engage in strenuous exercise in the 60 minutes leading up to your bedtime. It is recommended to exercise at a time that allows you to relax and unwind without having to worry about squeezing in your workout routine late at night or last minute. There may not be one right time to exercise, as your age, health, and natural inclinations toward sleep can all affect your needs.

Limit distractions at night

You may have heard that it’s best not to have electronic devices in the room when you’re trying to sleep. This may be because the blue light from screens can keep the body from excreting melatonin.

You might also want to consider using ambient light when it’s close to bedtime. It can be relaxing to read a bit before bed, but if you do, you may want to consider using a small lamp to read with. Being around bright lights when you are trying to signal to your brain that it’s time to relax and fall asleep can make it more difficult to feel sleepy.

Make sure you’re comfortable

There are steps you can take to make sure that you are comfortable in your bed before you attempt to rest. This means having the right number of blankets and pillows and ensuring that the air in the room is at the proper temperature. You might want to adjust the room’s environment so that it’s not too hot, too cold, or too humid. You might also consider pulling the curtains closed to block out any light, putting on a sound machine, or sleeping in a comfortable set of pajamas.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

Relax before bed

If you need to relax before bed, there are several different things you can try. You might take a hot bath or shower to wind down or lay in a dark room for a few minutes before you intend to go to sleep. Some people opt to use essential oils for aromatherapy purposes. You could also listen to music, do yoga, read a book, or meditate. You can take some time to find what works effectively for you.

Confide in a professional

If your sleep concerns get out of hand or are happening more often than you feel comfortable with, it may help to seek treatment. They may try to rule out physical problems or conditions before recommending sleeping aids. You could have a sleeping disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea.

Some people feel depressed at night, which may prevent them from getting high-quality sleep. If you think that your thoughts, worries, or anxieties are keeping you awake, you may want to discuss them with a mental health professional. A therapist may be able to help you address your concerns and thinking patterns and work with you to develop an effective treatment plan to get your sleep back on track.

Addressing sleeping problems

When you are having difficulty getting healthy sleep, it may be helpful to take a closer look at your daily habits and overall health. There may be lifestyle choices, stressors, mental health concerns, or certain aspects of your routine that are affecting your ability to get quality rest. For example, drinking coffee before bed, experiencing uncontrolled stress, or eating too late may make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. You may also have a medical condition that makes getting a full night’s sleep challenging, such as sleep apnea.

Other reasons for your sleeping difficulties may not be as obvious. If this is the case, it may take more time for you to figure out what is going on in your body. You might even need to consult a professional to discover the root of your sleeping problems.

Noticing patterns in your sleeping schedule can give you a clue as to what is going on. When possible, you can consider writing down the times and dates when you can’t sleep in a journal. Over time, these entries may help explain why you can’t fall asleep. Perhaps it is after a certain time of the month (e.g., when you’re busy with work) or when your allergies are acting up. There may be a wide range of explanations, each of which can vary among different people and affect them to different degrees.

Getty
Struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get quality rest?

Online therapy with BetterHelp

Sleep problems can cause disturbances in various areas of life, and it may be difficult to function as usual—whether physically, mentally, or both. If you’re experiencing challenges as a result of your sleeping patterns, it could be beneficial to speak with a mental health professional. If you don’t feel like visiting a therapist’s office, you might consider online therapy. 

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that allows you to seek care from the comfort of your own home. You can talk to a therapist through phone calls, live chat, or video chats, and they may be able to help you identify the root cause of your sleeping concerns. With BetterHelp, you can also write to your therapist at any time—day or night—via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can. This may prove especially helpful if you experience insomnia and want to discuss something with your therapist during the night.

Research suggests that individuals experiencing insomnia may benefit from online therapy. A five-week study found that an online intervention “produced statistically significant improvements in the primary endpoints of sleep quality, insomnia severity, and daytime fatigue.” The treatment also “produced significant changes in process variables of pre-sleep cognitive arousal and dysfunctional beliefs about sleep.”

Takeaway

Getting the appropriate amount of sleep each night may significantly benefit your overall health and well-being. If you find that you are often struggling to get to sleep or aren’t getting quality rest, it may be useful to seek help from an outside source. There are various techniques and effective treatments available to help you overcome the sleep problems you’re facing. An online therapist can assess your sleeping environment and give you advice for improving your sleep habits and routine. Over time, you may be able to experience higher-quality rest, which can benefit many different areas of your life. Take the first step toward getting better sleep and reach out to BetterHelp today.
Learn the impacts of sleep deprivation
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started