Stop Tossing And Turning All Night With These Tips

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated November 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Waking up in the middle of the night or struggling to fall asleep can affect your physical and mental wellness. In addition, insomnia may wreak havoc on your mood, energy, and ability to focus. You might find you're short-tempered or struggle to finish your daily tasks. Chronic sleep deprivation can also be catastrophic to your health. However, there are a few ways to reduce the impacts of insomnia through sleep hygiene and lifestyle changes. 

Sleep Quality Can Impact Physical And Mental Health

Insomnia And Sleep Deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation occurs when persistent restlessness leads to a pattern of poor sleep. Chronically sleep-deprived people may be at risk of more accidents at work, auto accidents, and higher rates of illness.

Insomnia, the formal term for difficulty falling or staying asleep, takes many forms. Insomnia can involve difficulty falling asleep until the early hours of the morning, frequent waking up during the night or waking up early without having sufficient sleep. It may be paired with other sleeping challenges, like sleeping during the day or sleepwalking. You're not alone if you're not getting sufficient sleep. 

One study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that 25% of people struggle with insomnia yearly. The researchers also found that the vast majority of those people could recover with the proper treatment.

Causes Of Poor Sleep

Lifestyle habits, major medical concerns, chronic pain, mental illness, and many other areas can cause poor sleep. Below are a few causes of poor sleep. Understanding the causes can help you better consider which treatment may be most effective. If you believe you might be living with a sleep disorder, consult your doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic or specialist. 


Stress is one of the most common causes of sleep deprivation. During sleep, your body repairs damage on a cellular level while your brain gets a chance to relax and recharge. Sleep can boost your mood and improve your disease resistance. Lack of sleep deprives your body and brain of that much-needed downtime. You may get sick more often or feel unwell.

Stress can cause a cycle for many people, making it difficult to sleep. When you don't sleep well, you might be less able to cope with stress. By reducing stress during the day, you may have a better chance of sleeping well. 

Stress can cause racing thoughts and a general sense of being on edge. During the day, you might feel distracted by work, bills, friends, or what to make for dinner. In the still of the night, the worry from the day may crowd your thoughts. At times, stress and worry turn into anxiety. Research has shown that there is a strong link between anxiety and sleep deprivation. In these cases, talking to a therapist can be beneficial.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Other common causes of tossing and turning are related to poor sleep hygiene. Examples of poor sleep hygiene might include the following: 

  • Too much caffeine
  • Eating late
  • Substance use 
  • Watching or listening to overstimulating information before sleep
  • Blue light from screens
  • Being too warm 
  • Not having enough activity during the day 
  • Not having a consistent wake-up and bedtime schedule

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Daily Habits And Tips To Help You Improve Your Sleep

Proper sleep is health-promoting and lifesaving. Sleep is a primary defense against stress, illness, and mental health conditions. If you're experiencing insomnia, it may signify an underlying concern. When an erratic schedule, shift work, or stress interrupts your ability to sleep, your health is on the line. Review the following habits to help you sleep soundly.

Stay Awake In The Daytime, Go To Bed At Night

Adjust your schedule and stick to it. Set a time for bedtime before 11 pm. In addition, try to wake up before 8 am. As most adults need around seven hours of sleep, try to set your alarm for seven hours after going to bed. Although it can feel tempting to sleep more than seven to eight hours, sleeping over this amount may be associated with a feeling of fatigue or grogginess. 

Sunrise waking can often enhance productivity. Once you start falling asleep at a particular hour and waking up early, your body may stop needing an alarm. Your biological alarm may wake you up at a particular time when you start to maintain a healthy routine. 

Ensure Exposure To Sunlight When You First Wake Up

Exposure to light can be essential for boosting metabolism, improving mood, and alerting your mind. Open curtains or blinds or turn on lights when you are awake. You can also use light bulbs that mimic sunlight on dark winter mornings. Light therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression. If you notice yourself struggling with insomnia or sleepiness in cold or rainy weather, consider buying a sunlight-mimicking lamp. 

Make Mornings Your Time For Self-Care

Consider giving yourself an hour each morning to prepare for your day. Take vitamins, supplements, and probiotics in the morning with plenty of liquid, and eat a healthy meal. If your stomach can tolerate it, try some lemon water in the summer. You can also switch to hot lemon water with honey in the winter for an immune booster. 

Morning may also be an opportune time to take a shot of apple cider vinegar (non-alcoholic). Plan for success and set out your food and supplements the night before. In addition, try not to rely on remembering what to do when you're foggy from sleep. 


Exercise Consistently 

Exercising habitually may ease trouble falling asleep. Vigorous outdoor exercise in the morning can boost your metabolism. If you can't exercise vigorously, focus on movement. Walking can be a valuable form of physical activity if you have trouble working out early in the morning. Cycling is not weight-bearing and can be ideal for sore feet, back, knees, and hips while still benefiting the legs and core. If music gets you out the door, you can also consider going for a walk with headphones in. 

Try Essential Oils 

Prompt your wake cycle with peppermint oil or your favorite citrus-based essential oils. Stimulating scents can be added to your shower or body care routine to keep you awake during the day, and you can help yourself relax at night by using lavender oil in a diffuser or putting a drop under your pillow. 

Avoid Social Media 

Avoid social media when you first awake and at least an hour before bed. Scrolling social media in the morning may cause you further stress or procrastination before your day starts, and using it at night can cause your device's blue light to keep your mind awake. 

Take Baths At The End Of The Day 

Save hot showers or warm, soothing baths for later in the day. Doing so may help you wind down. If you like to bathe in the morning, take a cool and refreshing shower to wake yourself up. 

Cut Out Caffeine 

Reduce or eliminate caffeine after 2 p.m., including soda, coffee, and tea. In addition, try to limit yourself to two to three cups per day and avoid energy drinks. Not having too much caffeine may reduce stress and anxiety and help you sleep. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep you awake when you're tired. 

Create A Routine 

By creating a bedtime routine, you can let your body know when it's time to sleep and wake up. Make a ritual to show yourself you're going to sleep, such as drinking decaf tea, practicing stretches, journaling, or reading before bed. After some time, your body may associate these activities with sleeping, making you sleepy. 

Have A Light Lunch 

Keep lunch light, tasty, and crispy to avoid post-lunch fatigue. Smaller meals with protein, less sugar, and fewer carbs can help mitigate exhaustion. A salad can be tasty in the summer, while soup with crackers and fruit may be preferable in the colder months. 

Don't Take Long Naps 

Keep afternoon naps under an hour, and set an alarm to prevent sleeping too long. Short naps may be more effective than long ones, and you can ensure you're still tired when you sleep at night. 

Reduce Sleepiness During The Day 

If you're tired during the day, it might help you wake up if you drink a cold beverage, suck on ice, eat crunchy food, chew gum, splash your face with cool water, sit outside, stretch, or exercise. If you sit at work, attempt to get up every 15 minutes or once an hour if possible. If it's not possible, using a fidget toy or stretching in your chair may be possible. 

Eat Dinner Early 

Try to eat dinner before 7 pm. When you eat dinner, limit your alcohol consumption to one drink or none. Alcohol can interfere with sleep quality and has been associated with a higher possibility of confusional arousal or sleepwalking.

Use Dark Shades And Reduce Distractions At Night 

Darkening shades or blackout blinds may activate your natural circadian rhythm and improve sleep patterns. You can also use heavy blankets or towels or try wearing a sleep mask to bed. The less light pollution there is, the better, as environmental factors can significantly impact your circadian rhythm. 

Ensure no sounds or flashing lights from phones, computers, printers, air conditioners, or other devices exist. Blue light from a TV can be particularly problematic and disrupt sleep. Therefore, stop using devices at least an hour before you sleep. You can also shift your phone's screen to night mode at a particular time each night to ease your eyes. You can use your phone to play relaxation music or a guided sleep meditation at night, but avoid using social media, texting, or email.  

Consider Supplements 

Various supplements, including melatonin, chamomile, valerian root, and magnesium, may improve sleep quality. These are available in teas, powders, capsules, liquids, and tablets over the counter. However, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or natural food consultant to find out which might suit your needs. In addition, note that supplements can interact with medications and substances, so do not take a supplement or vitamin without prior approval if you are on medication. 

Take Sleep Aids Early 

If you use an OTC (over-the-counter) sleep aid or medication for sleep, try to take it before 9 pm. Be aware that it may be more challenging to wake up in the morning if you take these supplements, as they can last throughout the night. However, it can be effective if you are experiencing severe insomnia. 

Keep Your Room Cool 

The Sleep Foundation suggests keeping your room around 65 degrees to sleep. If you are overheating or too cold, you might wake up during the night due to discomfort.

Keep Books By Your Bed 

Keep a stack of books by your bed and read until you feel sleepy. If focusing on a book is difficult, try magazines or audiobooks until you feel tired and ready for sleep.

Explore Meditation Apps 

Explore apps that teach you mindfulness, meditation, and other skills to reduce stress during the day.

Try A Sleep Study 

If your sleep concerns persist or are chronic and severe, you might also benefit from trying a sleep study. Although you may require a doctor's referral to receive a sleep study, sleep doctors can monitor your sleep and help you understand why you might awaken during the night.

Insomnia can significantly contribute to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression and impact physical health. Improving your sleeping habits may be beneficial if you have sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing that negatively impacts sleep. However, talking to a sleep doctor can ensure you receive the support necessary for your condition.  

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Sleep Quality Can Impact Physical And Mental Health

See A Therapist

If stress impacts your ability to get a restful night's sleep, consider contacting a therapist. If you struggle to find a provider in your area that you can afford, you may also consider an online therapist through a platform like BetterHelp, which offers online therapy at an affordable price. As you can partake in sessions at home, online therapy eliminates the need to travel. Working around in-person therapy sessions at a less-than-optimal time may only lead to more stress. 

Research shows that online therapy can significantly reduce depression symptoms, which in turn can help individuals fall asleep and stay asleep. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. Individuals in the face-to-face group showed "significantly worsened depressive symptoms" over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment options compare to frequent face-to-face therapy.

Counselor Reviews

"Dr. Marote is great! She has helped me a lot. I have noticed a huge improvement in just two weeks. I feel comfortable during our weekly sessions and she is a great listener. She has also provided me with many helpful tips to overcome my anxiety and insomnia. I am truly happy I found her here on BetterHelp."

 "Dr. Broz had made a significant impact on my life. After just one session with her I was able to get more sleep and handle issues with my husband and young kids better. She's empathic and very easy to talk to. I would recommend her to anyone looking for help with stress, sleep issues, anger or relationship advice. Thanks, Sandra for everything you do for me and all your patients."


There are many causes of poor sleep and insomnia. You're not alone if you are experiencing stress, difficulty falling asleep, or other mental health concerns. Consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for further guidance and support.

Learn the impacts of sleep deprivation

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