If you're having sleep problems, there are simple steps you can take to improve your sleep hygiene, get into a daily routine and ease those restless nights.
Find out how to get to sleep and how to sleep better.
Understanding sleep problems and insomnia
We all have evenings when we find it hard to fall asleep or find ourselves waking up in the night. How we sleep and how much sleep we need is different for all of us, and it often changes as we get older.
Sleep problems usually sort themselves out within about a month. But longer stretches of bad sleep can start to affect our lives. Poor sleep can cause extreme tiredness and make usually manageable tasks harder.
If you regularly have problems sleeping, you may be experiencing insomnia. Insomnia can last for months or even years, but usually improves if you change your sleeping habits.
Sleep problems are common, and the tips on this page should improve your sleep hygiene and help you create a daily sleep routine.
But if nothing helps you to sleep better, or you've had sleep problems for months and tiredness is affecting your daily life in a way that makes it hard to cope, you could benefit from further support.
Top tips to get to sleep and sleep better
Keep regular sleep hours
Making a habit of going to bed when you feel tired and getting up at roughly the same time helps teach your body to sleep better. Try to avoid napping where possible.
If you are lying awake unable to sleep, do not force it. Get up and do something relaxing for a bit, and return to bed when you feel sleepier.
Create a restful environment
Dark, quiet and cool environments generally make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Watch our video for tips on how to sleep better. Video: Tips for sleeping better
Write down your worries
If you often lie awake worrying about tomorrow, make it a part of your daily routine before bed to write a list for the next day. This can help put your mind at rest. Video: Tackle your worries
Move more, sleep better
Regular exercise is good for your physical health and your mind too – and being active during the day can help you sleep better. Just remember to avoid vigorous activity near bedtime if it affects your sleep. Better Health: Home workout videos
Put down the pick-me-ups
Caffeine and alcohol can stop you falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Try to cut down on alcohol and avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
Find what works for you
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Video: What you can do for sleep problems
Professor Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford, says: "It really helps if you're on a wind-down curve some while before you go to bed."
Signs of sleep problems
- find it difficult to fall asleep
- lie awake for long periods at night
- wake up several times during the night
- wake up early and be unable to get back to sleep
- feel down or have a lower mood
- have difficulty concentrating
- be more irritable than usual
- feel like you have not slept well when you wake up in the morning
Long-term sleep problems can lead you to:
- feel your relationships are suffering
- struggle to maintain a social life
- have a hard time doing everyday tasks
- feel hungrier and snack more
- feel tired during the day
Possible causes of sleep problems
There are many reasons why you might not be able to sleep well.
Some people are naturally lighter sleepers or take longer to drop off, while some life circumstances might make it more likely for your sleep to be interrupted, like stressful events or having a new baby.
There are lots of things that can influence our mental health, such as our upbringing, things that happen to us and even our temperament.
Learn more about what affects our mental health and what support is available for life's challenges.
Support for sleep problems
Seek NHS support
If poor sleep is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, call NHS 111 or talk to your GP.
Charities, helplines and communities
The following organisations offer advice on their websites:
Books on mental health and wellbeing
Check out Reading Well’s list of books on mental health that should be available free from your local library. The list has topics including mindfulness and other subjects.
Helping someone else
Get tips and advice on helping others struggling with their mental health.
If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, it's important to get support.