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  • Writer's pictureClaire Clarkin, LMHC

Tired of Not Sleeping Well? Try These 4 Strategies for Quality Sleep

Sleep is as elusive as it is vital to living a healthy life. Research has shown that insufficient sleep can increase anxiety and depression symptoms, impair daily functioning at home and at work, and even cause psychosis in extreme cases.

Sleep is so crucial to our functioning that it is built into our bodies’ survival skills. This means your body will fall asleep eventually, whether you’re in a safe place for it or not, increasing your risk of accident or injury.

It can be a tricky task to begin building a healthy sleep cycle. Here are some strategies that may help you catch some more shut-eye tonight:

  1. Set the Mood- turn down your temperature, incorporate essential oils, have little to no light in the room, turn off the TV

  2. Train Your Brain- build a strong association between sleep and your bed

  3. No More Naps- less sleep during the day means more sleep at night

  4. Consistency is Key- go to sleep and wake up at the same time, yes, even on the weekends

Set the Mood:

Whether it’s a romantic dinner or an energetic dance party, setting the mood is crucial to a successful night and a night of sleep is no different.

First, turn your thermostat down! Creating a cool environment allows your body to remain comfortable as it relaxes. If your environment is too warm it will induce the body’s natural function of producing sweat to cool itself down.

Essential oils, such as lavender, are another powerful way to evoke sleep. Essentials oil can be used in many forms such as in lotions or in diffusers to help relax your mind and body.

Next, it’s time to turn off the lights. Although some people swear by using the TV to help them fall asleep, the blue light disrupts the natural circadian rhythm that helps regulate sleep/ wake cycles. Plus, who likes to wake up to the sound of infomercials at 2 a.m.?

If you typically fall asleep to a TV show, consider downloading a meditation app (ie: Insight Timer or Headspace), or using an app like YouTube to find one you like. Once you have found a meditation or white-noise of your choice, you’re ready to peacefully drift to sleep. Here’s another tip: set your phone timer to 20 minutes and select “Stop Playing” instead of an alarm. This will stop the meditation once you are asleep.

Train Your Brain:

Your bed should be used for only two things: sleep and sex. The goal is to build a strong association between your bed and sleep. This is achieved by spending as little time awake in bed as possible. So, what does this look like on a typical night?

Do your nightly reading on a couch or chair in a quiet, darkened space. Move yourself to your bed when you begin to feel yourself become drowsy. If you watch TV, do so in your living room instead of your bedroom.

If you find yourself tossing and turning, get out of bed and find a cold, dark place to sit. When you begin to feel drowsy you then should return to bed. It is important that during this time you do not scroll on your phone.

If you are taking a nap, do not take it in bed. Leave the bed exclusively for your long, peaceful nights of sleep!

No More Naps:

Think of your night of sleep like a checking account and every day you have a balance between 7 to 9 hours. Your unique balance in your account for restorative sleep is dependent on various life factors such as age, activity level, etc. It may take some trial and error to figure this out, but you can safely assume it falls within this range.

Naps are withdrawals from that account and leave you unable to achieve the consecutive hours of restorative sleep you need at night. This leaves you feeling tired the next day and wanting to nap again. And so the cycle continues.

A short nap on occasion will ultimately not bankrupt you. However frequent, lengthy naps may cause a sleep debt that is difficult to pay down, no matter how hard you try. Keep yourself out of the cycle and cut naps out of your daily routine.

Consistency is Key:

Have you ever seen how a dog sits by the food bowl 5 minutes before dinner time? It has learned what time dinner is without being able to read a clock! Just like your furry companion, you can train your body and brain to learn when to begin to wind down for sleep naturally.

The idea is simple: wake up at the same time every day and go to sleep at the same time every night. Yes, even on the weekends.

The execution is not as easy as it sounds. Try these tips:

  • Get your partner on board. If you don’t feel like you are missing out on the rest of the next episode of the show you’re watching together you will be more motivated to go to bed.

  • Commit to waking up at the same time no matter when you went to sleep. This makes waking up a habit so that the 6:30 alarm Monday thru Friday does not feel as dreadful.

  • Commit to not napping during the day. Adding sleep somewhere else works against your goal.

If difficulties with sleep continue to persist, seeking professional help to work on underlying issues with a mental health professional can help.

Working with a therapist can help address anxiety, trauma, and unhealthy habits that may be impacting your ability to sleep. Improving your health overall, including your mental health, is likely to improve your quality of sleep.

In addition to the strategies listed above, I encourage you to seek counseling to promote better sleep. I invite you to contact me for a complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305 so we can discuss how I can help.

I provide counseling for adults in our east Fort Lauderdale office as well as online therapy via our secure telehealth platform. For more information about my approach or my services, click here.


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