How to Get Better Sleep

Everyone deals with sleeping problems from time to time. Schedule changes, stress, illness, and even excitement can all get in the way of a good night's sleep. Sometimes, it just takes a day or two to get back into a regular sleeping cycle, and other times, sleeping problems will linger. If you find yourself having a hard time getting to sleep even when you're tired, waking frequently at night, or waking up feeling like you didn't rest at all, a few simple changes to your sleeping routine and environment can help you get better sleep - without medication.

Try these tips for getting better sleep:

Help support your body's internal clock by going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time (+/- 20 minutes), even on holidays and weekends. Make sure to get up at your schedule wake-up time even if you're tired and avoid naps. If you need to take a nap, keep it under 30 minutes and before 3 p.m.

Seeing natural sunlight around sunrise/early morning and sunset helps support your internal clock. The sunlight gives your body the natural cues it needs to know when it's time to feel alert and when it's time to feel sleepy.

Whenever possible, stop your screen time about an hour before you intend to go to bed. The light from an electronic screen disrupts your body's production of melatonin and inhibits your natural sleepiness. If using a screen before bed is unavoidable, use the night mode whenever possible. Opt for other relaxing activities and routines before bed, like reading, stretching, or listening to relaxing music. Building this into your daily routine is another way to help support your body's natural rhythm.

This is the ideal setting for your body to fall asleep and stay asleep. Experiment with covering any light from electronics, hanging curtains, using an eye mask, or using a fan or white noise machine to help achieve the ideal sleeping environment. You can also test out different kinds of pillows or levels of mattress support to help your body feel comfortable enough to fall and stay asleep.

A good rule of thumb is keeping the bed for sleep and sex. The goal is to strengthen your brain's association between the bed and sleeping and break the link between the bed and not sleeping. This means no computer, phone, or tablet in the bed and getting out of bed if you can't fall asleep.

Worrying about whether you'll get to sleep only creates a vicious cycle of more worry and less sleep. If you find yourself checking the clock, tossing and turning, or worrying about how tired you'll be in the morning, get out of bed, leave the bedroom if you can, and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. Try to keep the lights dim when you do this. It can help to move the clock so you can't check the time and talk yourself through your worries with a calm, encouraging response. For example, remind yourself that lots of people struggle with sleep sometimes and that you can improve your sleep with practice. When you come back to bed, make staying relaxed your goal rather than trying to sleep. Practice deep breathing or visualize a relaxing scene.

All of these disrupt your natural sleep cycle and the decrease quality of your sleep.

Ready to learn more?

Download this sleep hygiene handout:


Enroll in TAO Self-Help. (It's free!)

Sleep can be affected by stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological concerns. Try out the self-help modules in TAO to calm your worried thoughts and let go of stress. Enrollment in TAO is free for UA students!


Find out more about sleep with these articles:

Insomnia Tips on Help Guide

Insomnia on Mayo Clinic

A 4-Week Program for Better Sleep on Very Well Mind


Or try one of these free apps for Android and iPhone:

Ipnos relaxation and sleep tools: relaxation melodies, relaxation meditation, relaxing yoga music, wake-up and sleep-aid clock app

Omvana by Mindvalley: 500+ transformational audios for body, mind, lifestyle, productivity, relationships, hypnosis


Go back for more self-help resources from CAPS