Self-help for insomnia 

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

Making small changes may help you get a good night's sleep. Try some of the methods below for at least three to four weeks.

Daytime habits

  • Set a specific time for getting up each day. 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, at least four hours before you go to bed. This will allow your body temperature to cool down.

Bedtime habits

  • Stop drinking tea and coffee four hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. Like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are also stimulants. Alcohol may make you sleepy at first but will wake you up when the effects have worn off.
  • Don't eat a big meal or spicy foods just before bedtime. A small snack containing tryptophan (a natural sleep-promoting amino acid) may help, such as turkey, banana or fish.
  • Only go to bed when you're feeling tired.
  • Try to create a bedtime routine, such as taking a bath and drinking a warm, milky drink every night. These activities will be associated with sleep and will cause drowsiness.
  • Don't lie in bed feeling anxious about sleeping. Instead, get up and go to another room for a while and do something else, such as reading or watching television, before trying again.
  • Don't watch the clock because it will only make you anxious.
  • Write a list of your worries and any ideas to solve them, then try to forget about it until the morning.

Bedroom environment

  • Use thick blinds or curtains or wear an eye mask if the early morning sunlight or bright streetlamps affect your sleep.
  • Wear ear plugs if noise is a problem.
  • Don't use the bedroom for anything other than sleeping or sex. Don't watch television, make phone calls, eat or work while you're in bed.
  • Make sure your mattress is comfortable and that you have a pillow you like, plus adequate bed covers for the time of year.

When you find that you're asleep for most of the time that you're in bed, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier but make sure you get up at the same time in the morning.

Page last reviewed: 09/12/2013

Next review due: 09/12/2015