How to sleep when you are not tired

Kashif J. Piracha, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine and nephrology. He has an active clinical practice at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in Houston, Texas.

After carefully considering the difference between sleepiness and fatigue, you can now make an important choice—go to bed only when sleepy. Among people who suffer from difficulty falling asleep, a common occurrence as part of insomnia, this can be a life-changing decision. It also may defy common practice.

How to sleep when you are not tired

Fighting Sleep Cues

In early life, there is no decision made about when to go to sleep. A sleepy child is soon asleep. When the desire for sleep comes, no matter the timing, it is quickly indulged.

As people get older, sleep becomes complicated by behaviors. You may choose to stay awake, even fight sleepiness, to pursue pastimes. Alternatively, if you have trouble sleeping and feel like you need more sleep, you may go to bed early. You may stop listening to your body's natural cues.

Sleepiness or drowsiness is a cue to get ready to sleep. You should naturally prepare yourself by settling down into bed. Yoou make ourselves comfortable and, if everything goes to plan, you are soon asleep.

In contrast, other descriptions of how you feel—fatigue, tiredness, and exhaustion—may not reflect a desire for sleep if they do not promptly proceed into sleep.

If you crawl into bed feeling fatigued, but not sleepy, this may not result in sleep. Instead, you may be setting yourself up for insomnia.

People with insomnia often complain of feeling fatigued or tired, but if given the opportunity to sleep, they will struggle mightily. Insomniacs cannot routinely take naps, for instance. If they lie down to rest in the afternoon, they will lie there awake.

Insomnia is often described as feeling "tired but wired." Sleep is desperately wanted, but opportunities to sleep are corrupted by wakefulness.

What Happens When You're Not Sleepy

Let's imagine a common scenario that occurs with insomnia and how someone might end up going to bed when they don't feel sleepy. Insomnia may be provoked by a stressful situation, but it is perpetuated by the resulting changes that are made around sleep.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or sleep that is not refreshing (in the absence of another sleep disorder). Sleep may become fragmented due to anxiety, with normal awakenings stretching into prolonged wakefulness during the night.

By spending several hours awake in the night, it may seem natural to extend the time in bed. Rather than going to bed at 11 p.m. and getting up at 7 a.m., a person with insomnia may go to bed at 10 p.m. or even 9 p.m.

In an effort to get more sleep, the time spent in bed is lengthened. However, something inadvertent has happened—this person may now be going to bed when they are less sleepy.

There are two major contributors to the ability to sleep: Homeostatic sleep drive and circadian rhythm.   The sleep drive is the desire for sleep that builds throughout the day; the longer a person stays awake, the sleepier they become.

The circadian timing relates to when we should naturally be awake and asleep, and for humans sleep should occur overnight. Nocturnal creatures, on the other hand, should be sleeping in the day and awake at night.

By going to bed one or two hours early, there is less drive to sleep and the timing may be off. As a result, this insomniac may go to bed feeling less sleepy.

As a result, there is a diminished ability to sleep. It would not be unexpected for this person to now have a problem lying awake at the start of the night.

By going to bed before sleepiness or drowsiness has developed, the ability to sleep is likewise lost. Similarly, lying awake for prolonged periods in the morning can be detrimental. Even short periods of sleep will diminish the sleep drive and could affect the circadian rhythm.

Therefore, train yourself to go to bed when you are feeling sleepy, not because the clock says it is time to sleep or because you are fatigued. You will find that you fall asleep more easily and sleep better through the night. To help yourself feel more sleepy, you can also work on creating a relaxing routine before bed.

N erina Ramlakhan remembers when her daughter was a toddler, and how if she got too tired she would be unable to switch off. “There was a healthy level of tiredness,” she says. “But if she went beyond that, she would be running on a kind of false energy. And then she wouldn’t be able to switch off when she went to bed.”

Overtiredness is recognised the world over in young children – but it is seemingly more and more common in adults. Dr Ramlakhan should know: she is a sleep psychologist and is increasingly seeing people who remind her of her little girl when she was younger.

There’s certainly an irony that in our sophisticated, hi-tech, busy world we appear to be reverting to behaviour that we recognise and know how to treat in kids, but are somehow failing to deal with as adults. Overtiredness, sleep experts agree, is down to our always-on existence. In the past, says Ramlakhan, the author of The Little Book of Sleep, our days had naturally built-in downtime that gave us short snatches of rest. Today, that has disappeared for many of us. “We have become restless as a society – and that places more demands on us when we get into bed at night,” she says. “We have lost the rituals and practices that gave us little respites during the day. In the past, you would go to the supermarket and, while you were waiting in the queue, you’d daydream, be a bit bored, look around. Now, any window like that will be filled by looking at your phone, answering some emails, sorting out your Amazon account.”

You may think you are putting the time to good use – but that’s not how your brain interprets it. There’s a complex neurophysiology that requires breaks in tasks and concentration; if it’s constantly bombarded, the brain becomes overloaded. The result, says Ramlakhan, is that it goes into what we might call survival mode: it assumes that something bad is about to happen, it ups the adrenaline and it puts out an urgent call for sugary snacks to provide quick-release energy.

And there’s more: if your brain has become tuned to always reaching for the next thing to do, to never taking a moment to just pause and rest, then it will gradually become harder and harder to switch off at night. It’s almost as if we’re losing the ability to let go; and the biggest letting-go of all is falling asleep, which Ramlakhan describes as an act of trust. “There’s a growing tendency to hold on, to keep on going, and it’s manifesting in our sleep patterns as well. People say to me that they feel they’re on the edge of sleep all night. They’re getting up in the morning feeling exhausted. They say they keep waking up at night and can’t get back to sleep. But it’s normal to wake up at night; most of the time, we just go back to sleep.”

What are the signs that you may be overtired? If you get into bed at night and find your mind is still racing with what has been going on through the day, overtiredness could be to blame. During the day, you may find it difficult to concentrate or to see the wood for the trees in your professional and your personal lives. You perhaps catch a lot of colds, especially when you’re winding down for a holiday. You’re irritable and you find yourself reaching for sugary snacks to keep yourself going during the day.

Overtiredness is easy to spot in young people. Photograph: Yasser Chalid/Getty Images

Vik Veer is an ear, nose and throat consultant who specialises in sleep apnoea. But he has become something of a sleep expert because so many people who consult him turn out to have different sleep issues, including – he believes – overtiredness. “It’s about struggling to survive on less sleep than you really need,” he says. “We’re talking about people who typically have coffee in the morning to wake themselves up and then alcohol in the evening to try to switch themselves off for sleep. They’re those people who seem to just about get by – because if you do it enough, your body habituates to it. You see people looking haggard and tired, and only just making it through.”

Who is at particular risk of overtiredness? Veer says thirty- and fortysomethings are especially vulnerable: they often have a great deal on their plates and they feel they have to keep on going, however tough the terrain. They are less likely than older people to build breaks and switch-off time into their days; they have high expectations of their social life as well as their professional life, so a busy day at the office is followed by a busy evening out in a bar or meeting friends.

Even when they fall into bed at night, they remember that TV programme everyone is talking about, which they didn’t have time to see when it was on the telly. So, they decide to spend another hour watching the first of the box set; and then a second; and before they turn out the light, they reach again for their phone for a quick update on messages and news.

No wonder it has all gone pear-shaped for sleep: what we are doing, says the consultant clinical psychologist Dr Anna Symonds, who works in Nottinghamshire, is inverting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In 1943, the American psychologist put physiological requirements, including sleep, food, water and shelter, at the bottom of his pyramid; self-actualisation, such as seeking happiness, pursuing a goal, using our talents, are at the top. Today, we are inverting the triangle: we prioritise the top elements and skimp on what’s lower down. As it is harder to go without food, water and shelter, we have decided sleep is expendable.

But it’s not – and overtiredness is one of the signs that we are getting it wrong. Paradoxically, another society-wide symptom, says Ramlakhan, is our communal obsession with sleep. “We’re sleeping in better conditions than ever before; we know more about it than ever before; we have better duvets, more comfortable pillows,” she says. So, it’s not the mechanics of sleep that are failing us; it’s our inability to pace our day and to understand that some of the business of rest at night is actually done during the day – and especially during the evening.

How do we banish overtiredness? Symonds says we need to look at how we deal with the condition in kids and put the same wisdom to use in our own lives. “We’re good at knowing we should limit screen time for our children, but not so good with ourselves,” she says. Veer recommends sleep hygiene techniques, especially cutting out coffee in the second half of the day and having a wind-down routine, just as children do. Ramlakhan says we should also drink more water, get to bed earlier at least three nights a week – maybe as early as 9.30pm – and, crucially, cultivate a rather more healthy relationship with our technology.

We are, after all, mere toddlers in the digital world; like little kids who don’t know when they have had enough chocolate. We haven’t learned as a society when to say no to being “always on” – and overtiredness is one of the many consequences.

Rough night last night? Everyone has a bad night of sleep now and then.

Your life won’t wait until you’re rested, so you’ll need all the energy you can to get through today. Some of the nation’s leading sleep doctors offer tips on how to power through the day after a bad night’s rest.

1. Caffeine, in Moderation

Caffeine can help when you need an energy boost, as long as you don’t overdo it, says sleep disorders expert Joyce Walsleben, PhD, of the NYU School of Medicine.

Two cups of coffee, for instance, will give you about as much alertness as you’re going to get. Drinking more than that probably won’t make you more alert, especially if you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, says Jeffrey Durmer, MD, chief medical officer at FusionSleep Center in Atlanta.

That’s partly about your brain chemistry. When you’re sleep deprived, ‘[sleep hormones] collect in the brain all day and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine isn’t going to stop that process,” Durmer says. If anything, too much caffeine can give you the jitters, he says.

The same goes for over-the-counter supplements that promise to help you stay alert.

“Caffeine and supplements . do increase attention and focus and are fine once in awhile, but in no way replace a bad night’s sleep,” Durmer says. If you use stay-awake supplements regularly, you might need to check with a doctor to see if you have a sleep disorder.

Energy drinks can serve a purpose when used appropriately, but for the most part, usually do more harm than good, says Michael Breus, PhD, who writes WebMD’s sleep blog. Breus suggests sticking with plain black or green tea and coffee. Also, steer clear of all caffeine after 4 p.m. to avoid problems falling asleep at night, Breus says.

2. Don’t Rely on Sugar

When you’re sleep deprived, you may be tempted to reach for a candy bar. Don’t.

Sugar will give you quick energy. It doesn’t last, though, and you’ll just end up crashing later, Breus says.

Instead, stick to a balanced diet and put extra emphasis on protein-rich foods like nuts and lean meats, he says. Also, avoid large meals and simple carbohydrates, like having pasta for lunch, to avoid energy dips.

Breus suggests eating a salad with grilled chicken, or another lean protein, like fish with veggies for lunch and dinner.

For breakfast, Durmer suggests eating protein-rich foods like eggs and plain Greek yogurt. If you have a sweet tooth, choose fruit, not a doughnut. The natural sugar in fruit takes longer to digest than table sugar and won’t make your blood sugar swing as much, Durmer says.

3. Take Breaks

After a bad night’s sleep, your attention span may drag a little more than usual. To keep focused, take breaks throughout the day, Durmer says.

  • Go for a walk outdoors. You’ll get sunlight along with activity. “Movement stimulates alertness in the brain, and sunlight provides your body with natural cues to promote wakefulness,” Durmer says.
  • When you exercise, take it easy. Keep it light or moderate, not vigorous, when you’re exhausted. You’re much more likely to get injured if you do hard exercise when you’re fatigued, Walsleben says.
  • Take a brief nap, if you have time. Napping up to 25 minutes will help recharge your body and mind, Breus says. Napping longer than that will make you drowsier than you already are. For a supercharged nap, Breus suggests a “nap-a-latte.” Drink a cup of iced drip coffee as fast as you can then take a 25-minute nap and you’ll be good to go “for at least four hours,” he says. That way you’ll reap all the benefits of a short nap, but wake up just in time for the caffeine to kick in.

4. Simplify Your Day

Let’s face it, you’re not at your best when you don’t sleep well. So lighten your work load as much as possible. By doing fewer things, you can still do a quality job without stressing out, Durmer says.

Let’s say you have five tasks for the day. Shave them down to two or three, and focus on doing those really well, Durmer says.

You may also want to hold off on making any big decisions until after you’ve rested, Breus says.

5. Avoid Driving

Drowsy driving is dangerous, since it can lead to accidents. Stay off the road as much as possible if you haven’t slept.

If you absolutely can’t carpool or take transit, power nap before driving, Walsleben says. When driving, don’t wear your sunglasses since sunlight may make you feel more energetic, Durmer says. That won’t undo your tiredness, so you should still avoid driving, for safety’s sake.

Be particularly careful when driving in the early afternoon. “Most people naturally drift around 1 or 2 p.m., and those who are sleep deprived will take a bigger hit,” Walsleben says.

6. Sleep in, a Little, Tonight

When you go to bed tonight, you might be tempted to sleep longer than normal. Moderation, again, is the key here.

Sleeping in after a bad night’s sleep is OK, but you’re trying to get your sleep schedule back on track. Sleeping in too long can make that harder, because it shifts your normal sleep pattern.

If you sleep in, limit it to no more than two extra hours, Durmer says. If you normally get seven hours of sleep at night, aim for nine.

Going to bed too early can also disturb sleep patterns, says Walsleben. If you’re exhausted and want to hit the sack, try to wait until it’s about an hour before normal bedtime.

No matter how tired you feel, there’s no reason to sleep all day, since the most recovery sleep time you can get is 10 hours, Durmer says.

If you’re exhausted but still having trouble falling asleep, count backwards from 300 in multiples of three, Breus says. Doing math problems makes it hard to think about anything else and keep your eyes open, he says.

Show Sources

Joyce Walsleben, PhD, research associate professor, New York School of Medicine; former director, NYU Medicine’s sleep disorder center.

Jeffrey Durmer, MD, PhD, co-founder and chief medical officer, FusionHealth, Atlanta.

Michael J. Breus, PhD, author, Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.

In conversation, we tend to use 'tired' and 'sleepy' interchangeably but in reality they signal very different things and it is important to be able to tell the difference between them.

A person might feel extremely fatigued but, in fact, not be ready for sleep. As you may have experienced, feeling tired does not necessarily make sleep inevitable!

Feeling sleepy, on the other hand, is what is called a 'discriminative stimulus' for sleep; it predicts sleep is about to occur. So how can you tell if you really are sleepy-tired? Look out for signs such as: itchy eyes, a lack of energy, aching muscles, yawning and a tendency to “nod off”.

Heading to bed without having experienced any of these signs may make it less likely that you'll get to sleep quickly, and more likely that you'll find yourself lying awake, thinking about not sleeping.

An active mind
The 'racing mind', as it is known, is very common in poor sleepers. In fact, respondents to the Great British Sleep Survey revealed it to be the most frequent cause of their sleeplessness.

Whether you find yourself thinking about past or future events, or even trivial things that hold little importance, persistent thoughts can be enough to keep a very tired person from feeling sleepy.

The more your thoughts race, the more alert you become, even if you feel extremely tired.

Heightened arousal
It isn't just your thoughts that can prevent you from falling asleep – exercising shortly before going to bed or ingesting stimulants too late in the day can also deter sleepiness from setting in.

Whilst exercise has been shown to correlate with better sleep, intense aerobic exercise too close to bedtime may actually boost your energy, making it more difficult to get to sleep.

Similar effects can be caused by stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. As stimulant drugs they can make it more difficult to reduce arousal and initiate sleep. Caffeine consumption, in particular, has been shown to result in a longer time to fall asleep.

What should you do when you are tired but cannot sleep?
The key is to stick to activities and habits that you find relaxing and help to reduce over-arousal, allowing sleep to overcome wakefulness.

People with sleep problems often have difficulty relaxing and 'letting-go'. It is really important therefore that you learn to let it happen and do not try to force it.

Different people find different activities relaxing so experiment to find what works best for you!

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or 'CBT', works by addressing both the mental (cognitive) and behavioral factors that can prevent you from getting to sleep.

CBT trains you to use techniques that help overcome the negative emotions that accompany the experience of being unable to sleep. Alongside this, CBT can help you to establish a healthy sleep pattern and achieve a strong connection between bed and successful sleep, meaning that falling asleep becomes more automatic and natural.

The Sleepio course, based on cognitive and behavioral techniques, has also been shown to help people get to sleep faster and stay asleep through the night. In fact, participants in the clinical trial of the program, saw an average reduction in time to get to sleep of approximately 50% (Espie et al., 2012).

How to sleep when you are not tired

Have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or just feeling rested?

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The bad news is that it may be due to personal lifestyle habits. However, the good news is that those are easy to change to help get you on your way to sleeping better, says behavioral sleep medicine specialist Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.

What do my habits have to do with it?

Some people lay in bed staring at the ceiling in part due to chronic pain, depression, medications or other substances that can interfere with sleep. When you treat those issues, often it will naturally help improve your ability to sleep.

However, despite addressing other medical or psychiatric conditions, sleep difficulties often will persist. People who have chronic insomnia worry excessively about sleep and the effects of insomnia. They also become more and more agitated and tense as bedtime gets closer.

“If you’re very worried about getting good sleep, you can put a lot of effort into getting sleep and have a lot of anxiety at night,” says Dr. Drerup. “This makes you more alert and can keep you lying in bed wide awake.”

Help is available if you’re having trouble sleeping

Dr. Drerup offers some suggestions that can help improve your sleep habits, including individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia. Trying to break some of the patterns that you may have developed is often the key.

1. Keep your sleep schedule the same

You can improve your sleep by ensuring that you have a consistent sleep schedule. Avoid staying up late on weekends and sleeping in, then trying to go to bed at your regular time on Sunday night.

“We call it social jet lag because it’s like you’ve flown to California, and now you’re trying to adjust back to the time zone difference,” explains Dr. Drerup. “So, keep those times as consistent as you can.”

Going to bed early or sleeping in to catch up only leads to more fragmented and poor quality sleep. Typically, you go to bed two hours early and then just lay there wide awake, continuing to associate your bed with not sleeping.

2. Take some quiet time before bedtime

Quiet time is worth its weight in gold. Give yourself at least 30 to 60 minutes of quiet, relaxed time before bed as a buffer. Nix phone screen time and replace it with reading a book, listening to calming music, taking a warm bath or having some decaffeinated herbal tea.

3. Distract yourself if you can’t sleep

If you can’t fall asleep, get up and try to restart by doing something to distract yourself before going back to bed.

“It could be flipping through magazines, calming yoga stretches or some type relaxing hobby like knitting or coloring,” she says. “Avoid anything that’s goal-directed or too physically or mentally activating such as house chores, paying bills or working on a computer.”

While it may be tempting to grab your phone off your nightstand and scroll endlessly through social media, don’t. The blue light emitted from your phone or tablet screen can inhibit your natural melatonin production which is a hormone that is involved in the timing of our internal circadian sleep clock.

4. Learn how to relax

Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can go a long way in helping you fall asleep. A sleep specialist can help you learn this as well as ways to calm your mind and your muscles and reduce or eliminate all the racing thoughts and worries. Dealing with stress in a healthy way is important for not only sleep, but your overall health, too.

“Practice the relaxation techniques and develop them as a skill during the day when you feel good and are already calm, rather than trying to do them for the first time at bedtime,” says Dr. Drerup.

5. Keep a sleep log

Think of this as the adult sister to that diary you’ve kept in middle school.

“You can track the details of your sleep patterns and lifestyle habits,” she says. “This can help you see trends in your behavior and will be useful when you discuss your insomnia with your doctor or a sleep disorder specialist. “

If writing things down the old fashioned way isn’t your jam, try smartphone apps or your smartwatch to help you keep a log. The Sleep Foundation has a sample sleep log that you can download and print out, too. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated to work.​

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Waking up in the middle of the night is normal. Most of us experience mini-awakenings without even noticing them—up to 20 times per hour. When it comes to observable wake-ups, most people have about two or three per night. But up to one in five Americans have difficulty getting back to sleep—a frustrating, sleep-robbing problem that experts call “sleep maintenance insomnia.”

While we tend to stare at the clock, toss and turn for hours, or flip on the light and watch TV when sleep eludes us, there are much better ways to cope and help ourselves get back to sleep, says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M. Instead, try these six sleeping tips. They can help you get back to sleep tonight and pave the way for sound sleep tomorrow night and beyond.

Don’t watch the clock.

Turn your alarm clock to face the wall and resist the temptation to check the time on your smartphone. Counting the minutes of missed sleep since waking up in the middle of the night increases stress and anxiety, which could delay your return to slumber. In addition, exposure to blue and green light from your clock, phone, tablet or computer can make you feel more alert.

Get comfortable.

Visit the bathroom to empty your bladder if it might be full. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark and that your bedding is just right so that you don’t feel too warm or chilly. (For more ways to make your bedroom sleep-friendly, take this tour.)

Handle health needs.

If you have a chronic pain condition or even a short-term health issue that causes discomfort, follow your doctor’s advice for easing pain at night, for example.

Relax.

Try progressive muscle relaxation. Work your way through the different muscle groups in your body (e.g. arms, legs, torso, face) tensing the muscles in each group at about three-quarters strength for approximately five seconds before releasing the tension all at once. Skip any muscles that hurt and try to isolate the muscles as you contract them instead of, for example, tensing your chest muscles when you’re focusing on your arms. Take slow, deep breaths in between muscle groups.

Get up and go.

If you’re just not dozing off, get up after about 20 minutes have gone by. (It’s fine to just guesstimate how much time has passed.) “Sit in a comfortable chair in another room,” Buenaver suggests. “Read a book, with just enough lights on so that you can see the print comfortably. If your mind is racing (perhaps you’re going over a work presentation you’ll give in the morning or trying to solve a problem in your life), distract yourself by listening to quiet music or a recorded book for a few minutes. Don’t do anything stressful like working or paying bills.”

It’s important not to stay in bed, even if you’re reading, Buenaver says. “Doing this will lead your brain and body to associate your bed with wakefulness instead of with sleep. It can be difficult leaving a warm, comfortable bed after waking up in the middle of the night. But think of this step as an investment in better sleep—if not tonight then tomorrow night and in the future.” Go back to bed when you feel drowsy.

Follow your normal schedule tomorrow.

“Don’t sleep in, don’t nap, and don’t go to bed early the next night,” Buenaver says. “Get up at your usual time and go to bed at your usual bedtime. You may feel a bit more tired than usual during the day, but by increasing your body’s appetite for sleep you’re ensuring a better night—and you’ll put yourself on track for sound sleep after that.”

How to sleep when you are not tired

Sleepless nights happen to the best of us. Maybe you tossed and turned all night long, were up working on an urgent deadline or had a bit too much fun celebrating last night and it ate into your shuteye. Whatever the case, the reality is that you still have to face the next day on little to no sleep and still function at an acceptable level.

“When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t function at optimal speed,” says Leigh Winters, a neuroscientist and wellness expert. “Brain imaging research shows that sleep deprivation results in reduced blood flow to areas of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex [that’s] responsible for higher level thought processes like working memory. It’s also likely to make you more irritable and prone to mood swings.”

Getting through the day is bound to be a struggle. That said, it’s still possible to power through, and do it as productively as possible, until you’re finally able to crash into the sweet softness of your mattress.

Sit by a Window or Step Outside

“Nature is one of our most underutilized self-soothers both physiological and psychologically,” notes Winters. “Connecting with nature and being in fresh air can make you feel more awake. Also, getting some natural sunlight helps maintain circadian rhythms, which will help get your sleep schedule back on track.” She added that while blue-wavelength light — like that emitted by our phones and computers — can mimic natural light, actually being in nature can reduce your heart rate and stress levels and mentally invigorate you.

How to sleep when you are not tired

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Resist Sugar, Carbs and Processed Foods

Your tired body will crave an easily digestible and quick high, but with that high comes a gnarly crash, warned registered dietitian Maya Feller. “Skip the ultra-processed foods and beverages,” she advises. “They may sound good in the moment but will likely provide a rush of unsustained energy that may leave you more tired and hungry. It’s a cycle that your already tired body does not need.”

Prioritize Balanced Meals and Snacks

You should eat balanced meals every day, but doing so becomes doubly important on days when you’re completely wiped. “Create meals that supply all of the macronutrients from whole and minimally processed sources,” says Feller. “A great lunch would be a serving of fish — or really any protein of your choice — with a heaping side of greens topped with nuts and seeds.” An optimal afternoon snack, she adds, could be a slice of traditional dark pumpernickel bread topped with avocado and hummus. “The lunch is providing lean protein along with a boost of phytonutrients from the greens; the snack is providing a fiber-rich whole grain with plant-based fats and vitamins and minerals,” she explains.

Don’t Skip Meals

On that note: Don’t forget to eat altogether. It may slip your already groggy mind, so create an alert on your phone if you have to. “Skipping meals leads to glucose dips and increased moodiness,” notes Feller. Spare your officemate and family the extra dose of crankiness and carve out time to chow down.

Power Nap, If You Must

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“A power nap can be of value when there is an occasional interruption from the normal schedule of sleep,” says Dr. Steven Olmos, who is board certified in sleep-related disorders. “The greatest pressure to sleep is 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you are feeling an afternoon dip in energy, a quick nap can restore the body fatigue that is felt with the previous night’s interrupted sleep.” A power nap is simply 20 minutes of uninterrupted, comfortable sleep — no more, no less.

Stay Active

It may seem counterintuitive to hit the gym when you’re already low on energy, but all three experts say staying active can keep you alert. “Starting the day with your blood pumping is the best formula for energy for the day. Exercise increases your core metabolic rate and will sustain for hours after you stop exercising,” notes Dr. Olmos. Winters adds: “It can be a walk or dancing around — just make sure to move your body. It’s a bonus if you get your fitness on outside.”

Caffeine Is OK, but Don’t Overdo It

“Go easy on the caffeine,” Feller warns. “Yes, it will give you a boost, but for those that are sensitive to the side effects, having too much can lead to the decreased desire for food, the jitters and difficulty sleeping.” Coffee or tea should be your moderated caffeine of choice, she says, adding that you should stay far away from sugar-doused energy drinks because “the additives are more harmful than helpful.”

Press Pause on Big Projects or Decisions

The quote “Don’t push off what you can do today until tomorrow” does not apply when you’re sleep deprived. “If you pulled an all-nighter or have an enormous sleep debt, think twice about making any big decisions or engaging in high-level thought processes, like analyzing, evaluating and planning,” says Winters. “Sleep deprivation not only slows your cognitive speed but also decreases constructive thinking skills and logical reasoning.” So refine your to-do list, push off non-priority tasks until tomorrow and allow yourself an easier day.

READY TO GET MORE ZZZ’S? READ THESE AND REST BETTER

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Y ou’ve craved sleep all day. You fell asleep watching Netflix. But the second you get into bed you’re wide awake.

Lying in bed unable to fall asleep is often called conditioned or learned arousal, says sleep-medicine specialist Philip Gehrman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s one of the most common sleep problems, and experts think it happens because something in your sleep environment has told your brain that getting in bed should “arouse” you or wake you up, instead of put you to sleep.

“If someone is a good sleeper, then each night they probably get in bed and fall asleep. So when they get into bed it triggers this auto response of sleepiness,” Gehrman says. “But if you spend night after night tossing and turning not being able to fall asleep, then your body associates that with your bed instead.”

There are plenty of obvious things that can trigger tossing and turning, and thinking about work right before you try to wind down is one. Using a laptop in bed, which creates the idea of the bed as a place for work or entertainment, is another.

But even those with normally good sleep habits can get thrown into this kind of sleep cycle after a stressful event—a job loss, say, or the death of a loved one, according to Dr. Ronald Chervin, director of the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center. Worrying disrupts your sleep, and that pattern can cause your brain to associate your bed with wakefulness in the same way it would if you were using a laptop.

It’s sometimes called “psychophysiological insomnia” and once it starts, the cycle of sleeplessness tends to perpetuate itself.

The most effective way to treat it, say sleep experts, is through cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I. This typically involves regular visits to a clinician and is aimed at changing your sleep schedule and habits. “A key part of what we teach people is to keep the bed for sleeping,” says Chervin. Of course, you can still have sex in bed, he adds, but you should try to move other activities elsewhere.

That means no screen time and no lying around if you can’t sleep. Even limiting reading is a good idea. “If you’re awake in bed for 20 minutes or longer, get up and go do something else,” Chervin says. Don’t get back into bed until you feel genuinely ready to sleep.

Re-training your brain to see your bed as a place for sleep can take some time, Chervin and Gehrman explain, but if you find and stick with a routine that makes you tired before getting into bed, you should be able to stop the cycle. Most people who use CBT-I attend between four to eight sessions, so give yourself a few weeks before expecting to see a change. If you don’t live near a sleep clinic, Chervin says he has seen some patients use apps like SHUTi or Sleepio to do an at-home version of the therapy. Whatever your method, experts say it’s also important to follow general sleep advice such as keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, avoiding coffee and alcohol late in the evening and dimming the lights before bed.

For those who don’t think they have insomnia, Gehrman says feeling sleepy until you lie down might also be a sign you’re a night owl who has a naturally later body clock than other people. “Some people want to go to bed at 10, 11 o’clock, but their bodies are wired so that when want to be going to bed they get a second wind,” Gehrman says. “Then it’s tough for them to awake in the morning because their body thinks they should still be asleep.”

Fortunately, there are ways to shift your body’s clock earlier so that by the time you get in bed you can successfully fall asleep. An important step is avoiding bright lights in the hour before bed, says Gehrman. Light, especially the blue light given out by computers and phone screens, suppresses the production of melatonin, a chemical that helps your body sleep. The other main fix is to develop a consistent wakeup time so your body can get used to the rhythm you want. While this means you shouldn’t sleep in on the weekends, the steady pattern in the morning will be worth it when it helps you feel sleepy by the evening.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Many teenagers feel that they are always tired.

Why do teens need more sleep?

Sleep helps to fuel your brain and your body. Teens need more sleep because their bodies and minds are growing quickly.

Scientific research shows that many teens do not get enough sleep. To be at your best, you need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every day. While you might not always be able to get this much, it’s important to try and get as much as you can.

Why is it important to get enough sleep?

Although getting enough sleep may not seem that big a deal, teens who don’t get enough sleep and are overtired are more likely to:

  • struggle in school,
  • have trouble with memory, concentration and motivation (the desire to accomplish a goal),
  • be involved in car crashes and other accidents. Sleepiness (the feeling of wanting or needing to sleep in places and at times when you shouldn’t) affects reaction times, or
  • feel depressed, which can become a serious medical condition.

What causes my sleepiness?

Often the reason is obvious, such as too many late nights in a row. Although there are some medical causes of sleepiness, most sleepy teens just aren’t getting enough sleep.

How do I know if I’m getting enough sleep?

Signs that you need more sleep can include:

  • difficulty waking up in the morning,
  • trouble concentrating throughout the day,
  • falling asleep during classes, and
  • feeling moody or even depressed.

Why is it so hard to get enough sleep?

There are many reasons. Some you may be able to control and some you may not.

You probably have a very busy life, but you still need “downtime” to relax, unwind and spend time with friends. This usually happens at the expense of sleeping. Many teens also crave the quiet privacy of a late night after parents have gone to bed.

When you think about all the other things you need to do (homework, socializing, sports, chores, part-time jobs, etc.), getting to bed early enough to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep can seem pretty hard.

All of us experience a night of poor sleep sooner or later. You have a test the next morning, your baby is fussy—and before you know it your alarm goes off and it’s time to start the day.

Below we discuss the best strategies to survive your day when you didn’t sleep the night before:

Proactive strategies

When you are operating on little or no sleep, there are several proactive strategies you can engage in to increase your alertness. These include:

    Drinking water. Dehydration will increase your fatigue, so it is important to drink lots of water. In addition, the resulting trips to the bathroom will increase your activity level and keep you more alert.

Of course, every person is different; so not all of the above proactive strategies may work for you. Don’t let this discourage you, as through trial and error you can find the strategies that work best for you.

Bad habits to avoid when you haven’t slept

In addition to the above proactive strategies, there are several bad habits you should avoid when operating on little to no sleep. These bad habits include:

    Eating large meals. Eating a large meal, especially one full of carbohydrates, will make you drowsy. Instead, try eating several lights meals over the course of the day—and choose moderate portions of lean meats, eggs, nuts, and beans.

Remember that all of the above strategies for surviving on little to no sleep are only useful over the short term—there is no long-term strategies to effectively function on little or no sleep.

Lianne Williams/EyeEm/Getty Images

When I was a kid, I went through an “I can’t sleep” stage—I’d lie awake until three in the morning before hysterical crying for my parents to comfort me. This happened every night for probably several months. Let me just say, it’s my least favorite memory (and my parents’).

But one of the things that stuck out from that time was a trick my mom taught me to help calm me down. She’d tell me to close my eyes and picture a treasure chest. Then, she’d tell me to take all of my thoughts, one by one, and put them in that chest—and when I was done, lock it up.

I’m not saying this is the ultimate solution to falling asleep (although I’ll admit I occasionally still use it when I’m homesick). But I know how hard it can be to struggle with rest when you’re stressed, anxious, or worried what tomorrow will bring for you.

So, when you just can’t seem to turn off, it’s always best to have a back-up strategy—and I’ve got 19 options for you to try right now (unless you’re reading this at the office, in that case, do not try to fall asleep).

1. Think Positive

It’s that easy—science says ridding your mind of those negative thoughts (“It’s so late, I’ll never get to sleep at this rate,” “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow at work,” “This stinks”) calms you down and makes you more likely to fall asleep.

2. Pick One Thing to Focus On

You know how they always say to try counting sheep? Well, focusing on something specific (like filling a treasure chest) could be just what you need to get sleepy. Choose to focus on your breath, or repeat a calming mantra over in your head—as long as it’s not “I can’t sleep,” because see above.

3. Pretend to Be Tired

Trick your brain into thinking you’re exhausted by, well, pretending you are. Concentrate on the kinds of things you would feel if you were tired, like drooping eyes, the room darkening, or the sensation of sinking into your bed—and before you know it, you just might experience them!

4. Adjust Your Temperature

What’s your ideal sleeping environment? Even if you can’t completely control the heating and cooling system in your home, you can control your body. So, put the fan closer to your face when you’re too hot or bundle up when you’re too cold. Science proves that the ideal sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, so best to shoot for that!

5. Read

No, not on your Kindle or phone, but with a solid, made-of-paper book—to help you out, here are 21 books that career coaches recommend. Dim the lights in your room (or use a lamp) just enough so you can see comfortably, and read—don’t worry about remembering the story or getting to a certain page, just take it in until you feel yourself getting sleepy.

6. Listen to Music

Now, I’m not suggesting you go blasting an intense album (unless that works for you), but some simple, acoustic, minimal percussion music might be perfect for getting your eyes to droop.

7. Or Try a Podcast or Audiobook

Choose your favorite podcast or a non-action-packed audiobook, preferably one that’s dense, and let the soothing voices quiet your mind. It’s not about retaining the information—it’s about giving yourself some comforting background noise.

Bonus tip: Try out the Sleep With Me podcast that’s literally meant to bore you to bed (you’ll be surprised how well it works).

8. Or White Noise

Sometimes the unbearable silence is what’s keeping you up—so, try a white noise app to fill the space with subtle sounds.

9. Or a Meditation App

Download a breathing app like Headspace, or a nature sounds app that will soothe your thoughts and make feel like you’re napping on the beach.

(For more apps, try out these eight free ambience apps!)

10. Stretch

Yes, you can try this sleep hack without getting out of bed. Put your legs up against the wall to calm your central nervous system, or try happy baby pose or child’s pose to relax your body. Alternatively, do some light leg and arm movements and exercises on your back to release any excess tension.

11. Relax From Head to Toe

A colleague swore by this: Concentrate on each muscle, starting from your toes, and tell yourself “My feet are getting sleepy,” “My right leg is getting very sleepy,” “My stomach is asleep,” while you relax each body part. She says she never makes it past her hips!

12. Try the 4-7-8 Exercise

According to science, focusing on your breathing decreases your heartrate and blood pressure, which is prime for sleepiness.

  • Inhale for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for seven seconds
  • Exhale for eight seconds
  • Repeat!

13. Journal

If your mind’s racing, grab a notebook and jot down every thought you have—don’t make it linear or pretty, just get everything out until you’re out of ideas and start to tire.

14. Work on the Thing That’s Keeping You Up

If you find that there’s something really nagging you and keeping you awake, don’t just pretend it’ll go away. Whether it’s responding quickly to an email (or writing it and saving it for the morning when you can properly spellcheck it), jotting down some ideas for your upcoming presentation, or even taking out the trash before you forget, getting it over and done with will make sleep a heck of a lot easier. Just don’t spend all night working on it!

15. Do Your Least Favorite Task

As Muse writer Varci Vartanian says in an article about simple sleep solutions, “‘If it’s after bedtime, do something that you enjoy a lot less than sleep!’ [says Dr. Stein] If it’s been 20 minutes and you still haven’t drifted off, get out of bed and attack the most boring, least stimulating task imaginable. Sleep might seem more welcoming after spending a lively half-hour with a dusty college textbook on literary theory.”

Or, even just thinking about the task might be enough to make you fall asleep.

16. Drink Something Hot

Making yourself a glass of hot milk with honey (I swear it’s delicious) or decaffeinated tea could warm your body up for rest. Want more options? Here are 10 drinks that’ll help you get to sleep, backed by science!

17. Stick Your Feet Out

Yup—research says that keeping your toes cool makes you more likely to fall asleep. So pop them out of the covers and get snoozing!

18. Cover Your Eyes

Even if your room’s pretty dark, there’s probably some light that makes its way in. So, if you don’t have an eye mask, grab a warm washcloth (soak and microwave for a few seconds) or a t-shirt and cover your eyes so that all you can see is sleep.

19. Watch a Good Movie or Browse the Web

I don’t want to be the one who says browse through social media or watch Netflix, because glaring screens are probably not the best idea—but I’m also not going to say they don’t work. Because sometimes, you just need a comforting movie or TV show or an endless scroll on Imgur to distract you from insomnia.

That being said, try everything else above first, because it could also backfire and turn into a long, unproductive night of technology.

What’s your trick to falling asleep fast? Do you have a childhood memory like mine? Tweet me!

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) is a disorder where you find it harder to go to sleep until very late at night. This can be as late as 4AM. In the morning, you will want to sleep in for longer, perhaps until the early afternoon. If you have to wake up earlier than this, then you will feel groggy, but as the day goes on, you will get more energy. Even if you wake up early, in the evening your body will still only want to go to sleep late at night. On the weekend, many people with DSPS will sleep in even later in the afternoon.

What causes delayed sleep phase syndrome?

Your body contains a kind of internal clock that tells you when to wake up and when to go to bed. Scientists think that if you have DSPS, this clock is not running properly. A hormone called Melatonin might be involved here. Your lifestyle can also be involved. Young adults often don’t feel very sleepy at night, so they stay up too late, and this moves the timing of their Body Clock.

What is Melatonin?

This is a hormone that your body makes to help control your body clock. Having the wrong amount of Melatonin at the wrong time can cause problems with your sleep. Melatonin levels increase at night and makes you feel sleepy. The blue light from computer screens can suppress your natural melatonin levels and stop you feeling as sleepy at night.

How common is DSPS?

It is most common in teenagers. About 7% of teenagers have it. It can occur at other ages, but it is less likely.

How does it affect people?

If you have DSPS, you have a higher chance of getting depression and Insomnia. Also, many people have to get up early in the morning for work or study. This can cause problems if DSPS is present.

How is it treated?

For some people DSPS will go away by itself. If not, then you can see a Sleep Specialist. The specialist will suggest changes in your sleep routine to regularise the hours of sleep. He or she might suggest bright light therapy – either from morning sunlight or from a light box that is designed for the purpose. This is normally done for about an hour after you wake up. The specialist might also suggest that you take Melatonin just before your bedtime. A further treatment for DSPS is called chronotherapy.

What is chronotherapy?

This involves going to bed at slightly later times each day. You will also wake up at slightly later times each day. You will keep doing this until you are going to sleep in the evening and waking up early in the morning. For example, say you are going to bed at 5AM each night, and waking up at 1PM. On the first day of chronotherapy, you might stay up until 8AM, waking up at 4PM. On the second day, you would stay up until 11AM, waking up at 7PM. On the third day, you would stay up until 2PM, waking up at 10PM. You would keep staying up 3 hours later each day, until after a week you were going to bed in the evening and waking up in the early morning. Some people take things more slowly and might stay at the same bedtime for more than one day, to help them adjust.
People with mild symptoms may find it possible to gradually move their hours of sleep to an earlier time of night, allowing them to avoid chronotherapy. See Teenage Sleep.

Can I prevent it happening again?

Once you are at the right bedtime and wake-up time it is very important that you keep the time of getting up as constant as possible. This includes week days and weekends. It is also important that you get plenty of good light in the mornings. This will lower your melatonin levels. Open your curtains and have your breakfast next to a brightly lit window. Stop using your computer any closer than an hour before your planned bedtime.

What helps to cope with DSPS?

Some people find it very hard to overcome their DSPS. Some changes to your lifestyle may help you cope. These changes won’t stop DSPS, but will make your life easier. You can try to work in the evening, or do night shifts. If your work hours are flexible, then DSPS will be less of a problem. Some people with DSPS find that naps are helpful but they need to be kept short. If you are feeling sleepy during the day, then try to avoid driving. The same goes for using dangerous machinery.

What else might cause the symptoms?

Some people with DSPS think they have Insomnia. This is because they can’t fall asleep at the expected time. If you have a good night’s sleep when you are allowed to chose your own sleeping and waking times then DSPS is a more likely diagnosis.

When should you seek help?

Sleepiness in the mornings, including when driving, can be a major problem. If the timing of your sleep is affecting the quality of your life and/or your safety then you should get help (see Drowsy Driving).

What might your doctor do?

Your GP might see if you can change your sleep and wake times using Melatonin at night and light exposure in the morning. They can refer you to a Sleep Specialist if this doesn’t work. To get an accurate diagnosis you will need to keep a sleep diary. This is where you write down all the details about your sleep, every day.

We often say that we feel tired but actually in order to fall asleep we need to be ‘sleepy’. But how can we tell the difference? As you probably have experienced you may feel exhausted but then you get into bed and sleep doesn’t come. This may be because actually you have associated your bed with vigilance and anxiety around sleep so as a result, your become wakeful- at the wrong time.

Adrenalin and sleep

The biggest barrier to sleep is when you associate your bed with anxiety and so when you go to bed you suddenly feel alert or unable to drop off. This is because you have spent so much time in bed feeling negatively towards sleep that now your body thinks you are in danger.

Step 1

If this is the case then the first thing you need to do is to learn how to use your bodies natural sleep drive to help you drop off. Set your alarm earlier than usual and go to bed a bit later. Although this sounds crazy, actually this helps as you will build a much stronger ‘appetite’ for sleep.

Step 2

We have all laid in bed at night and felt like sleep is never going to come but what is the best thing to do? My mum always used to say, ‘just lie there, at least you’re resting’. Bless her, she was trying to be helpful but now as an Insomnia Specialist I realise how damaging to sleep this advice can be.

Poor sleep is a ‘learnt’ behaviour which means we basically train ourselves to sleep poorly. If we can’t sleep one night, let’s say because it’s too hot or too noisy, we end up lying in bed for ages and become irritated and inevitably start to worry about the lack of sleep. If we continue to connect our bed with these types of negative feelings night after night then soon our bed becomes a cue for these types of feelings and simply by going to bed we start to feel wound up and worried.

If you are wide awake and in bed the best thing that you can do is leave the bedroom. Go downstairs and get a glass of water, watch TV for a while or read a book and when you feel sleepy go back to bed again. This way, you are reducing the amount of time you spend in bed awake and keeping the relationship between bed and sleep strong.

Step 3

Clear your mind

Some people find that even if they are sleepy they are still unable to fall asleep due to their minds working overtime. We suddenly think of all the things we have on our to- do list, worry about the future and start stewing on all our past regrets and mistakes! This ‘racing mind’ is very common and one of the best ways to begin to quieten your mind is to get into the habit of writing things down. Make time each day to sit and write down all your thoughts and worries and then after 20 minutes close the book and go and do something pleasurable. Often seeing things in black and white can give a different perspective and once it’s on paper we are less likely to keep going over it in our heads.

CBT for insomnia

If you need more help then CBT for insomnia is the recommended treatment for insomnia and at The Insomnia Clinic we have already helped thousands of people to fall asleep easily and sleep through the night so that they can live their to the fullest.

Next Step- I would love you to register for my FREE sleep webinar, you will learn-

How to sleep when you are not tired

A bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling pretty tired the next day. Put a string of those together and nagging fatigue starts to set in.

Getting good sleep, in the right amount, can make a big difference in how you feel. Too little or too much sleep can increase your perception of fatigue. And even if you get enough hours of sleep, you might find yourself dragging the next day if that sleep was interrupted by frequent awakenings or was of poor quality.

Although most of us need about eight hours a night to feel refreshed during the day, what counts as sufficient sleep is highly individual. It makes sense that getting less sleep than you need might leave you feeling tired, but you may be surprised to learn that getting more sleep than you need may not leave you refreshed and energized. In fact, many people find that on days when they hit the snooze button more times than usual, they feel more lethargic and unmotivated.

Research bears out the connection between too much sleep and too little energy. It appears that any significant deviation from normal sleep patterns can upset the body’s rhythms and increase daytime fatigue. The best solution is to figure out how many hours of sleep are right for you and then stick with it — even on weekends, vacations, and holidays.

For more information on the role of sleep in feeling energized, read Boosting Your Energy, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Image: © Mladen Zivkovic/Getty Images

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Sleep is important for your mental health. Most people need between 5 to 9 hours sleep a night. The ideal amount is 8 hours, but everyone’s different.

Sometimes it’s not always possible to get as much sleep as you would like. If you don’t sleep well, you won’t feel as alert as you should. You will feel easily agitated and your actions may seem slow.

Stress and anxiety can lead to sleeping problems. You can experience stress or anxiety at work, with family, or in daily life. As the stressful situation passes, a more regular sleep pattern should return.

Try not to worry if your sleep is disturbed for a short while. This can be perfectly normal.

If you’ve been feeling down for a couple of weeks and have been unable to sleep, speak to your GP.

Disrupted sleep

Difficulty sleeping is often called insomnia. The odd night without sleep won’t cause you any damage. But insomnia can leave you tired and moody. You might also be unable to focus on tasks.

Things that can disrupt sleep include:

  • asthma
  • breathing problems
  • pregnancy
  • stimulants like caffeine and nicotine
  • some types of medication
  • some forms of the contraceptive pill
  • pain and cold relievers
  • jet lag
  • stress and worry

Better sleeping tips

You can take steps to improve your sleep.

  • keeping active
  • avoiding stimulants
  • keeping to a routine
  • avoiding naps
  • relaxing your body and mind

Keep active

Regular exercise can help improve your sleep. But try to avoid exercise in the hour before bedtime.

Related topics

Avoid stimulants

Avoid tea and coffee, or foods high in sugar, in the evenings.

Routine

Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. This helps your body clock get into a rhythm and makes sleeping feel more natural.

If possible, avoid naps during the day. This is because it makes it harder to fall asleep at night.

Relax

Process the day’s thoughts and feelings and then let go of them. If it helps, write things down or talk about them with someone you trust. Reading in bed can focus your mind and empty it of the day’s worries.

Your bedroom should be a comfortable temperature. If it’s too hot or too cold, it may make it more difficult for you to sleep.

Turn off all technology and do something restful such as gentle stretches or taking a warm bath.

Deep breathing exercises can help you to relax. The smell of lavender oil also helps. Try sprinkling a few drops on your pillow. You can learn about other relaxation tips here.

Learning meditation is a very useful tool for stilling the mind and relaxing the body.

Sleep and mental health

Lack of sleep can affect your general wellbeing. Long-term lack of sleep can either be a cause or a result of depression or anxiety.

Struggling to sleep over a long period of time may lead to more challenges to your mental health. It could also make any existing challenges worse.

Challenges to your mental health

Being tired makes it harder to cope. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health.

You may become lonely and skip social occasions. You might see fewer people. Isolation can lead to mental health problems.

Lack of sleep may also impact your mood and energy level. This could lead to negative thoughts.

Existing mental health problems

Mental health problems such as stress, depression or anxiety can make it harder to sleep.

Depression can make it more difficult to cope. You may over-sleep to avoid daily tasks. This can make it harder to sleep at night.

If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you may be more prone to disturbed sleep or nightmares.

Some medication may cause sleep disturbances.

It is important to let your GP know if your medication keeps you awake or makes you too sleepy.

Sleep disorders

You may have a sleep disorder if you:

  • feel very sleepy during the day or groggy in the morning
  • have irregular breathing
  • move a lot during sleep
  • can’t sleep and have night sweats
  • have unusual sleep behaviours

If you’re struggling with your sleep on a regular basis, you should talk to your GP.

The most common types of sleep disorders are:

  • insomnia
  • sleep apnoea
  • circadian rhythm sleep disorder

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects a person’s ability to get to sleep at night or stay asleep at night. As a result, someone with insomnia may find it harder to function during the day.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a disorder. It affects your breathing when asleep. It makes your breathing stop and start irregularly when sleeping. This can be pretty serious.

Circadian rhythm disorder

Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles in your body. Some people call them your ‘body clock’. They help to manage your appetite, energy, mood and sleep.

Your body clock can change depending on your environment. It responds to light and changes from night to day.

When your body clock is out of sync, this has an impact on you. It can cause circadian rhythm disorder (CRD). This sometimes triggers depression.

How to manage your body clock:

  • try not to take naps during the day
  • allow yourself time to wind down before going to bed
  • get some exposure to light in the mornings
  • exercise regularly
  • eat a healthy diet

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is linked to CRD (your body clock). During the winter, our bodies don’t get enough light. This can mean your body produces the wrong hormones at the wrong time of day.

The symptoms usually pass as the days get longer. But many SAD sufferers have 1 to 2 weeks of SAD-like symptoms in the summer. Read more about SAD.

Impact on bipolar disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, you may enter a depressive (low) phase in autumn and winter. You may have episodes of euphoria or mania (intense excitement and happiness). This is due to fewer daylight hours. You will need more help to manage your condition.

You may also suffer from sleep problems and feel worse at a particular time of day. Sometimes using a bright light can help these symptoms.

Recharge app

Recharge is an app for your mobile device. It offers a 6-week program to helps improve your sleep and health. Download the Recharge app.

Getting enough sleep, and the right type of sleep, is vital for our overall health and wellbeing. While you sleep, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. And for children and young people, sleep is how their bodies and minds grow and develop.

When you do not get enough sleep, you feel tired, you find it hard to concentrate and remember things and you may be grumpy. Lack of sleep can also impair your judgement and impact your physical coordination. So not getting enough sleep affects the way you feel, think, work, learn and get along with other people.

If you are having problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, or if you often feel tired during the day, you may need to work out what’s happening. But the good news is most sleeping problems are easily fixed.

Sleep and moods

Think about how one bad night’s sleep, or not enough sleep, makes you feel the next day. For many of us, we’re grumpy and irritable, we find it difficult to concentrate, and we have no energy. We can overreact when things don’t go our way, and we may find we’re less excited if something good happens. So it is easy to see how ongoing sleeplessness can be a worry.

Long term sleep deficiency can increase the risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. It can also significantly affect your mood.

Sleeplessness and mood disorders are closely linked. And it can work both ways – sleep loss can affect your mood, and your mood can affect how much and how well you sleep.

Studies show people who are sleep deprived report increases in negative moods (anger, frustration, irritability, sadness) and decreases in positive moods. And sleeplessness is often a symptom of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It can also raise the risk of, and even contribute to, developing some mood disorders.

Your mood can also affect how well you sleep. Anxiety and stress increase agitation and keep your body aroused, awake and alert. You might find you can’t turn your brain off, your heart beats faster and your breathing is quick and shallow.

So getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep is important.

How much sleep do you need?

How much sleep you need depends on your age, physical activity levels, and general health.

  • Children and teenagers need 9–10 hours of sleep a night. Younger children tend to go to sleep earlier and wake earlier. As children grow into teenagers, they seem to get tired later and sleep in later.
  • Adults need around 8 hours sleep each night. We tend to need less sleep, as we get older.

These are some general guidelines. If you (or your children) are tired during the day, you may need more sleep.

Some tips on getting a good night’s sleep

If you’ve been having trouble getting enough good sleep, the good news is there are many ways you can improve your sleep habits

  • Get a routine and stick to it. Try going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid drinking coffee and alcohol too close to bedtime. And finish eating at least two hours before your head hits the pillow.
  • Keep TVs and iPads out of your bedroom.
  • Make your bedroom a haven. Make sure your bed is comfortable. Turn the lights down as you get into bed. Read using a bedside light.
  • Try some simple meditation, like closing your eyes for 5–10 minutes and focusing on taking deep, slow breaths.
  • Enjoy a warm bath.
  • Don’t lie awake watching the clock. If you are tossing and turning, try getting up and reading a book for half an hour or so before trying to go to sleep again.

And if you still can’t sleep?

So what can you do if you can’t sleep when you want to, or if you can’t stay asleep?

The first step is to talk to your GP

. They will help you work out whether a common condition

is affecting your sleep, such as:

  • insomnia
  • jet lag and shift working
  • sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors
  • restless legs
  • snoring
  • sleep apnoea.

Your GP can talk to you about some non-medical treatments for sleep disorders, such as relaxation training. Smiling mind

has useful techniques for children and adults. Other strategies include stimulus control and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

Your GP may also prescribe you medication or sleeping tablets, which can help you fall asleep. But medication will not be enough in the long run. It can help you fall asleep, but it won’t help you with an underlying problem like stress or anxiety. It also becomes less effective over time (as your body gets used to it). And it can be addictive.

We can all tell the signs of an overtired child—hyperactivity, fussiness, clumsiness, mood swings, and more. As soon as we see these signs, we know it’s time for bed. What about as we become adults? Do we experience signs our body is overtired? Absolutely, and all too often we avoid recognizing the issue. The countless restless days always start with a cup of coffee to wake up and a drink or two at night to unwind. You’re officially too tired to sleep and are now escalating the problem. Sound familiar? We’re here to tell you why you might be too tired to sleep, the signs to pay attention to, and how you can get back on track.

What’s the Difference Between Being Sleepy and Being Tired?

First, let’s discuss the difference between being sleep and being tired. Is there a difference? We often use both terms interchangeably, but they most definitely don’t mean the same thing. When you are sleepy, you’re probably yawning constantly, can’t focus, and struggling to keep your eyes open. Sleepy is a forerunner to sleep. Your body is experiencing these symptoms to signal you that it needs sleep or that it’s close to bedtime. On the other hand, when you are overtired, your body doesn’t get to this step. You can feel mentally and/or physically tired, but still won’t be able to fall asleep. Nights will be filled with tossing and turning, and you’ll wake up in the morning feeling no more rejuvenated.

Why Am I Too Tired to Sleep?

Being overtired is not limited to just children. As adults, our brains are always running thinking about the next task we must finish or figuring out what the next day’s agenda is. Smartphones and new technology continue to become a larger part of our days making communication easier now more than ever. We are always available when someone may need us, even if that means giving up rest making it difficult to find the “off-switch.” The work/life balance is always being pushed to new limits and we may be sacrificing more than our bodies are ready to handle. The more we refuse to recognize these signs that we are overworking our brains and are too tired to sleep, the harder it will become to fall asleep at night. So, how do we reprogram our bodies to know when it’s time to go to wind down? The first step is recognizing the signs you’re too tired to sleep.

What Are the Signs of Being Too Tired to Sleep?

Sleep isn’t about only getting enough to function but giving the time your body needs to recharge. When you continuously cut yourself short on several hours of sleep, your body starts to send you these signs. After every busy day that passes you wait for the moment to relax in bed, but when you’re finally there your mind can’t help but race. Even throughout your days, you find it hard to focus your attention. Maybe you’re starting to catch colds more frequently than normal. All of these are indications that your body needs a break. Some additional symptoms include anxiety, muscle tension, and poor coordination. So, we’ve concluded that you’re too tired to sleep, now what?

Tips to Try When You’re Too Tired to Sleep

Undoing weeks or even months of putting off the fact we’ve been depriving our bodies of the sleep it desperately needs goes beyond just cutting out coffee after lunch and putting the technology down at a reasonable hour. Let’s analyze a couple more cognizant solutions on what to do when you’re too tired to sleep.

• Relax. There are days when everything is a breeze and then there are days when a million things are happening at the same time, but never an in-between. When you find yourself in those tense days, it is essential to give yourself little moment, even just 5 minutes, to unplug and regroup. Take a walk outside or step away from your desk to just focus on relaxing your mind and muscles. We recommend trying deep breathing exercises. If you have an Apple watch, take advantage of the Breathe app. And if you have enough time for a quick yoga class during lunch, A+ for you!

• Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of complete awareness–physically, mentally, emotionally—without judgment. When you find your mind racing, take a moment to ground yourself by being mindful in the present moment. Look at your surroundings and see where you are. Pause your thoughts hold for a second and review them from a step back without the emotion.

• Turn Notifications Off. Technology is a love/hate relationship. We know it’s brought a lot of positives and we are still learning about some of the negatives. When it comes to sleeping at night, give yourself the time your body needs to decompress so it can start to feel sleepy.

• Get Out of Bed. It’s been said before your bedroom should be for only two things: sleep and sex. When you get in bed, your body should feel comfortable and signaled to relax. If you’re going through a stressful time and your mind is constantly racing, you don’t want to associate your bedroom with negative emotions. Don’t be afraid to go into another room, make a note, get your thoughts down, and cleanse yourself of the stress before getting back to bed.

Visit Our Sleep Center in Jacksonville, FL

Getting enough sleep often gets overlooked and we don’t start to take notice until the issue has been going on for a while. If you’ve tried every tip and trick in the book, it may be time to seek out professional help. At Jacksonville Sleep Center, we are dedicated to helping patients improve their quality of life through a better night’s sleep. When you’re too tired to sleep and can’t seem to get back to your normal sleep patterns, schedule your complimentary consultation with us. We will work together to find the best solution and treatment option for you. Contact us today.

How to sleep when you are not tired

Drowsy driving is a major problem in the United States. The risk, danger, and sometimes tragic results of drowsy driving are alarming. Drowsy driving is the dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue. This usually happens when a driver has not slept enough, but it can also happen due to untreated sleep disorders, medications, drinking alcohol, and shift work.

What is Drowsy Driving?

Operating a motor vehicle while fatigued or sleepy is commonly referred to as “drowsy driving.”

The Impact of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving poses a serious risk not only for one’s own health and safety, but also for the other people on the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 1 that between 2005 and 2009 drowsy driving was responsible for an annual average of:

  • 83,000 crashes
  • 37,000 injury crashes
  • 886 fatal crashes (846 fatalities in 2014)

These estimates are conservative, though, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers. 2-4

How Often Do Americans Fall Asleep While Driving?

  • Approximately 1 out of 25 adults aged 18 years and older surveyed reported that they had fallen asleep while driving in the past 30 days. 5,6
  • Individuals who snored or slept 6 hours or less per day were more likely to fall asleep while driving. 5

How Does Sleepiness Affect Driving?

Falling asleep at the wheel is very dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. Drowsiness—

  • Makes drivers less attentive. 7
  • Slows reaction time. 7
  • Affects a driver’s ability to make decisions. 7

The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

  1. Yawning or blinking frequently.
  2. Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
  3. Missing your exit.
  4. Drifting from your lane.
  5. Hitting a rumble strip.

Who Is More Likely to Drive Drowsy?

  • Drivers who do not get enough sleep.
  • Commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.
  • Shift workers (work the night shift or long shifts).
  • Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as one where breathing repeatedly stops and starts (sleep apnea).
  • Drivers who use medications that make them sleepy.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

There are four things you should do before taking the wheel to prevent driving while drowsy.

  1. Get enough sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, while adolescents need at least 8 hours. 8-9
  2. Develop good sleeping habits such as sticking to a sleep schedule.
  3. If you have a sleep disorder or have symptoms of a sleep disorder such as snoring or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your physician about treatment options.
  4. Avoid drinking alcohol or taking medications that make you sleepy. Be sure to check the label on any medications or talk to your pharmacist.

For healthy sleep tips and more information about sleep disorders visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s sleep education site: http://www.sleepeducation.com/ External

Drowsy Driving Is Similar to Drunk Driving

How to sleep when you are not tired

Your body needs adequate sleep on a daily basis. The more hours of sleep you miss, the harder it is for you to think and perform as well as you would like. Lack of sleep can make you less alert and affect your coordination, judgement, and reaction time while driving. This is known as cognitive impairment.

Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol.

  • Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%. 10-12
  • Being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states. 12-13

Additionally, drowsiness increases the effect of even low amounts of alcohol. 14-15

Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. (Institute of Medicine, 2005). 16
Infographic Cdc-pdf [PDF-152 KB]

Not everyone can dance out of bed when it's time to start the day. But if it's a struggle to drag yourself from under the covers on a regular basis — even after a good night’s sleep or that tiredness persists for a prolonged period — it can start to have a negative impact on your ability to live your life to the fullest.

So if you regularly find yourself asking, “Why am I so tired in the morning?” then maybe it's worth reviewing your habits — in the day and at night — that could be contributing to that grogginess.

Here, we will look at the reasons you could be waking up tired and what you can do to start the morning by placing your best foot forward and continuing that momentum throughout your day — whether you're naturally a morning person or not.

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Reasons for waking up tired

In the last hour or so of sleep, your natural body clock releases cortisol and other hormones that prepare you to wake up, leading to you waking naturally, during a period of light sleep. But if you're woken by an alarm, it could go off during a period of deeper sleep which might leave you feeling more groggy.

For most people, feeling tired when you wake up is the result of sleep inertia, which is a natural feeling you experience as you transition between being asleep and awake. This feeling generally dissipates between 15 and 60 minutes after waking, but for some it can last longer. So if you are wondering why you’re still tired after 8 hours of sleep, this perfectly normal occurring phenomenon could be one explanation.

That said, sleep inertia can affect our motor and cognitive skills, so it can be frustrating if you have to be alert soon after waking. In some cases, it can even be dangerous — especially for anyone who has to drive for work, be on call, or perform safety-critical tasks.

But for some people, there could be an underlying medical or sleep condition playing a part.

These conditions include insomnia, which is when you have trouble falling or staying asleep. Primary insomnia is not linked to a health problem. It is caused by factors that can include stress from significant life events, or changes to your sleep schedule. Or it could be secondary insomnia, which is linked to health conditions like mental health issues, other sleep disorders, illness, or pain — and it can be acute or chronic. Acute insomnia lasts anywhere from one night to a few weeks and often needs no medical treatment. But chronic insomnia is when it occurs at least three nights a week for three months or more, and you should consult your doctor.

For many people asking, "Why am I so tired when I wake up?” there are steps you can take to ensure you are giving your body and mind the best chance of waking up feeling fresh by improving your sleep hygiene and other habits in your life.

Sleep hygiene

To wake up feeling refreshed, it is important to sleep well. The recommendation of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is that adults should sleep for at least seven hours each night. But a third of Americans are getting less.

Sleep hygiene consists of good practices you can follow to create the ideal conditions for a quality night’s rest.

These include keeping a consistent sleep schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends), keeping your room cool and comfortable, and avoiding coffee, alcohol, or eating too soon before bed.

Melatonin is a natural hormone released in your brain after dark to aid sleep, so it is best to take steps to ensure you do not interfere with that. This includes dimming the lights in your home after dark and keeping your bedroom dark at night, or wearing an eye mask. And, of course, turning off our electronic devices at least an hour before bed. As well as stimulating the brain at a time we are trying to log off, the blue light emitted from these devices disrupts melatonin production.

You can also try to maintain your room as your sanctuary for sleep. Have a comfortable mattress and pillow, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to train the mind that this is the place and time of rest.

Eating healthy foods for breakfast like proteins, whole grains, nuts, and lower-sugar fruits can help fight morning fatigue. And a short nap in the afternoon, ideally between 10 to 20 minutes, can also help to keep you feeling refreshed around the clock.