Four Things to Avoid When You Have Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Insomnia is not fun. Even more, it's hard to know what to do when you are having trouble falling asleep, or you awaken in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep.

The truth is many people do the wrong things. They do things that make their insomnia even worse.

Here are some things you should avoid doing when you are awake and dealing with insomnia:

1. Continually looking at the clock

Glancing at the clock can become a bad habit when you are dealing with insomnia. Constantly checking the clock to see how much time you could sleep if you went to sleep right at that moment only makes the problem worse. It arouses the brain, anxiety, and it enforces negative sleep thoughts such as ‘sleep will never come.'

To stop yourself from looking at the clock, put in a drawer, turn it to the wall, or place it under your bed. Better yet, remove it from the bedroom entirely.

2. Lying awake in bed

One reason that people have trouble falling asleep is that their bed has become associated with things other than sleep.

People sit on their beds and pay bills, have discussions, eat, and so on. Your bed should only be a place to rest and to be intimate with your partner. Anything else is programming your mind to believe that your bed is not just for rest.

If you are awake at night and you cannot go back to sleep, do not stay in bed. Get up, leave the room, and do something quiet and soothing instead such as reading a book. This will start to program your brain to know that when you are in bed, you are there to sleep.

3. Engaging the brain

Many insomniacs who can’t sleep will get out of bed, which is the right thing to do. However, they then go on to undo that initial positive step.

Many opt to boot up the computer and surf the Internet or they will turn on overhead lights and get into projects that engage their brains – such as balancing their checkbooks or working on projects from the office.

All of these are big no-no’s when you have insomnia. You should avoid lights because they can disrupt the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.

You should also avoid activities which stimulate the brain. Read a boring book or simply sit in a recliner and listen to soothing music.

4. Eating

If one of the things that you do when you have trouble sleeping is heading to the kitchen to look for a snack to comfort yourself, don’t do it. Or, at least be wise in the food you do eat.

Overeating at night when you can’t sleep can quickly lead to weight gain. On top of that, the foods you eat could make your sleeping problems worse. Once your body has had a jolt of caffeine via chocolate, or a sugar rush off of a pastry or the fat off of a piece of pizza, sleep can be hard to come by in the coming hours.

If you feel a snack is a must, eat something such as oatmeal, sugar free cereal, a slice of turkey or chicken, or some cherries. All of these are known to help aid sleep, not hinder it.

Just as there are things you can do to promote sleep, there are things that you can do to hinder sleep. Make sure you aren’t doing any of the things that will make your sleeping issues worse. It all starts with you.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free online insomnia sleep training course. His course offers insomnia help for those with chronic insomnia. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.