Self-help tips for insomnia 

Insomnia can often be improved by changing your daytime and bedtime habits or by improving your bedroom environment.

Making small changes may help you to get a good night's sleep. Try some of the methods below for a few weeks to see if they help.

See your GP if you're still having difficulty getting to sleep after trying these techniques.

Daytime habits

  • Set a specific time for getting up each day. Try to stick to this time, seven days a week, even if you feel you haven't had enough sleep. This should help you sleep better at night.
  • Don't take a nap during the day.
  • Take daily exercise, such as 30 minutes walking or cycling. But don't exercise for at least four hours before going to bed, because this may make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Bedtime habits

  • Stop drinking tea and coffee for a few hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking, particularly shortly before going to bed. 
  • Don't eat a big meal just before bedtime.
  • Only go to bed when you're feeling tired. If necessary, go to bed later than usual if it means you might be able to fall asleep more quickly.
  • Don't use back-lit devices shortly before going to bed, including televisions, phones, tablets and computers.
  • Try to create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a bath, listening to soft music, and drinking a warm, milky drink every night. These activities will be associated with sleep and will cause drowsiness.
  • Avoid regularly using over-the-counter sleeping tablets. It is not clear how effective these are, they don't tackle the underlying problem, and have potential side effects. Read more about treatments for insomnia.
  • Don't lie in bed feeling anxious about lack of sleep. Instead, get up, go to another room for about 20 minutes and do something else, such as reading or listening to soft music, before trying again.
  • Avoid watching the clock because it will only make you anxious about how long it's taking you to fall asleep.
  • Write a list of your worries and any ideas to solve them before going to bed. This may help you forget about them until the morning.

Bedroom environment

  • Use thick blinds or curtains or wear an eye mask if the early morning sunlight or bright street lamps affect your sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature for sleeping.
  • Wear ear plugs if noise is a problem.
  • Don't use your bedroom for anything other than sleeping or sex. Avoid watching television, making phone calls, eating or working while you're in bed.
  • Make sure your mattress is comfortable and that you have a pillow you like, as well as adequate bedding for the time of year.

Page last reviewed: 09/12/2015

Next review due: 09/12/2017