Put Insomnia to Bed

Try these 8 med-free ways to get some sleep.

1 / 9

There are few things worse than lying in bed and staring at the clock. But you’re not alone in your sleep struggles. Around 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems like insomnia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Not only does insomnia leave you feeling lousy, it also has serious implications for your health, upping your risk for depression, heart disease and obesity, and lowering your immunity.

There are many over-the-counter sleep aids, supplements and prescription medications to help you sleep, but not everyone tolerates them well and some can become habit-forming.

Consider trying these 8 med-free ways to get some rest.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Have sex

2 / 9 Have sex

There's no arguing that a good roll in the hay beats counting sheep.

And while experts can't say conclusively that sex alone helps fight insomnia, we do know that the chemicals released during sex may help put us in the mood—for sleep.

During sex, our bodies up the production of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” and slow the production of the stress chemical, cortisol. Blood pressure also drops slightly, which may help us feel more relaxed. 

Sex also causes the release of prolactin, a hormone that can make you feel sleepy.

Keep a bedside journal

3 / 9 Keep a bedside journal

Nagging worries are one of the top reasons why people can’t sleep at night.

Instead of tossing and turning from anxiety, try keeping a worry journal on the nightstand. Before bed, take a minute to write down your thoughts or make a list of to-dos for the next day.

This helps de-clutter your mind, and sets the stage for sleep.

Get out of bed

4 / 9 Get out of bed

Are you guilty of staring up at the ceiling for hours, trying to get to sleep? It may sound counterintuitive, but leaving the bedroom might help.

Staying in the bed for hours unable to sleep increases our anxiety, and might actually be making it harder to get rest.

If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, go to a different room and busy yourself until you feel tired, and only go back to bed when you feel sleepy. Continue in this way until you're finally able to fall asleep.


Get some exercise

5 / 9 Get some exercise

Research has consistently shown that people who exercise roughly 20 minutes a day sleep better than people who don’t—up to 65 percent better, in fact.

Some experts believe this may be because your body temperature increases as you exercise, and once you're done, it begins to cool down. If you're exercising in the afternoon, or later in the day, this slight drop in body temperature can help induce sleep. Exercise also decreases stress and anxiety—known triggers for wakefulness—and helps regulate your circadian rhythm, so you're sleepy when you need to be.

Aim for a 20-minute walk after dinner (as long as it’s a few hours before bedtime) or some lunchtime cardio. 

Practice deep breathing

6 / 9 Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing helps lower heart rate and blood pressure, which can help you relax into sleep.

Not sure how to start? Try this.

Lie flat on your back, with one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Breathe in slowly for five seconds, as you imagine your lungs filling with air. When your lungs feel full, and a tiny bit uncomfortable, exhale slowly for seven seconds.

Nix blue light

7 / 9 Nix blue light

As tempting as it is to watch TV, read from your tablet or catch up on emails, the light emitted from screens is not conducive to falling asleep.

Blue light from electronic screens suppresses melatonin production, which impacts the body’s natural sleep patterns and makes it harder to feel sleepy.

Stick to an old-fashioned paperback or magazine instead, and save the work emails for the morning.

Load up on lavender

8 / 9 Load up on lavender

This little herb may offer sleep benefits when combined with a relaxing bedtime routine.

Studies have shown that lavender aromatherapy can slow down the heart rate and put you in a more relaxed state, making it easier to fall asleep.

Try adding 15 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil to a warm bath before bed, putting lavender in a diffuser in the bedroom or spritzing some on your pillow before turning in for the night.

Challenge negative thinking

9 / 9 Challenge negative thinking

Beating yourself up for still being awake is not an effective way to combat sleepless nights.

Instead, remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t fall asleep right way—sure, you might feel a little rough in the morning, but you will get through it.

Taking some of that pressure off of yourself could help you get some rest.

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