Tossing and turning at night? Here are experts’ tips for overcoming seven common barriers to good sleep.

Like most physical needs, sleep isn’t just something you need — it’s something most of us genuinely enjoy. Rest is an integral part of your well-being, and there’s nothing like the bliss of rising refreshed after a good night’s sleep.

Then, there are all the health benefits of sleeping well, such as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Still, as much as you might desire quality shut-eye, sleeping like a baby is not always easy.

One-third of U.S. adults report that they sleep less than the recommended 7–9 hours per night. It’s not necessarily for lack of trying, either. Multiple barriers can keep you from falling asleep.

If you’re struggling to get good sleep, there’s hope. We’ve partnered with Olly® to bring you this article covering expert-sourced tips for conquering common sleep hurdles.

When people talk about tossing and turning, this is usually what they mean. Chronic insomnia is widespread, accounting for 5.5 million doctor’s visits per year.

There are all sorts of reasons why you may not be able to wind down at bedtime. Stress, caffeine use, medications, chronic pain, and other health conditions can all contribute to sleepless nights.

Solution

Conking out easily at night may depend on creating a sleep-friendly environment — both in your physical space and your headspace.

Consider how you might make your bedroom more calming and pleasant. This might involve purchasing comfortable bedding, removing anything that reminds you of work, or cleaning away laundry piles.

And rather than staring at the ceiling when sleep won’t come, try some relaxation techniques. Breathing and meditation exercises can clear the mental clutter that might keep you awake. A 2019 study suggests that mindfulness meditation interventions may help improve sleep quality.

That said, if you feel a medication or health condition is preventing you from falling asleep, be sure to mention it to a doctor. They may have recommendations unique to your situation.

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Maybe you get to sleep just fine at night (woohoo!), but suddenly, you’re awake at 3 in the morning.

Don’t worry about it too much, says Natalie D. Dautovich, PhD, an environmental fellow with the National Sleep Foundation. A few minutes of mid-sleep wakefulness is typical and won’t necessarily harm your overall rest.

However, she notes if you’re still wide-eyed after 15–20 minutes, you may want to try some strategies for returning to sleep.

Solution

Just like making your bedroom a calming environment can help you get to sleep in the first place, it can also help you return to sleep. Dautovich suggests keeping your room at a cool temperature of 60–67°F (16–19°C) and maintaining quiet and darkness.

If you’re still feeling restless in the middle of the night, it’s probably best to get up out of bed, says Rami N. Khayat, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of California, Irvine. “Leave the bed and engage in a very quiet activity such as reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or meditating. Then return to sleep only when sleepy.”

Khayat emphasizes that stressing over lost sleep will only keep you awake longer. Try not to watch the clock, reminding yourself that sleep will come sooner when you let go of anxiety.

Whether it’s you or your bed partner doing the snarfing and snuffling, snoring can be the bane of your bedtime.

According to Yale Medicine, occasional snoring affects up to 90 million Americans, while 37 million say they snore regularly. For some, it’s due to pregnancy, sleep apnea, or nasal obstruction. Other people simply have weak muscle tone in the throat and tongue, leading to the noisy noise that annoys.


Solution

If you or your partner snores regularly, it’s worth a visit to a medical professional, Dautovich says. There could be an underlying health issue behind loud nighttime breathing.

Outside of medical-level solutions, though, she encourages snorers to sleep on their side (since this is less likely to obstruct airways), avoid alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, and try nasal strips. “These can increase nasal airflow so there is less breathing through the mouth,” she explained.

Bedtime is here… but the last thing you feel like doing is sleeping. What’s that about?

Khayat says that it likely has to do with a lack of daytime activity. “As we become more sedentary, we are becoming less tired by the end of the day, which does not help with initiating sleep,” he explained.

Solution

The prescription for a regular lack of sleepiness might be as simple as upping your exercise. “Sleep practitioners recommend that people engage in a mild- to moderate-intensity exercise regimen in the evening about 4–5 hours before bedtime,” Khayat said. “This activity can be a short jog or 30–45 minute spirited walk.”

Working out has the double benefit of raising your energy levels in the short term but promoting tiredness later on, he explains.

In fact, studies show that regular physical activity can boost overall sleep quality and latency — aka how long it takes you to fall asleep.

About 7–10% of the population lives with restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. It’s typically most intense at nighttime, often disrupting sleep.

Solution

Once your legs relax, it’s more likely that you will, too. Khayat says exercise can not only promote sleepiness but also calm restless leg movement. “Exercising the muscles increases the production of a product called adenosine that appears to facilitate deep sleep.”

Additionally, he suggests trying a warm bath, massage, or stretching to encourage the leg muscles to relax.

Anywhere from 2–8% of adults experience problems with nightmares. Even if they’re only a once-in-a-while occurrence, they may be enough to jolt you out of sleep.

If you’re regularly having intense or scary dreams, it could be due to life stress, trauma, anxiety, or a medication you’re taking.

Solution

You might not be able to solve all your stressful problems when you’re lying in bed, but Dautovich recommends taking the edge off with techniques like meditation and deep breathing.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, for example, involves breathing in for four counts, holding the breath to the count of seven, and exhaling to the count of eight. Designed to calm the nervous system, this form of breathing could help calm you after frightening dreams (or prevent them in the first place).

Another of Dautovich’s suggestions: Take stock of your entertainment choices. “Minimize exposure to disturbing content, especially before bedtime. This includes stressful or activating content,” she said.

For many of us, waking up feeling a bit tired is a normal experience known as sleep inertia. Your brain wakes up gradually, taking its time to become fully alert. This can take anywhere from 15–60 minutes.

For some people, though, a feeling of un-restedness persists throughout the day. When this happens, it may actually be caused by poor sleep.

Solution

If you’re getting the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep at night but feel consistently groggy, it’s best to determine the cause with your doctor. They’ll help you get to the bottom of things with questions about your stress levels, sleep hygiene, diet, and more. They can also test for health conditions and might even recommend a sleep study.

Getting enough sleep isn’t just about feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next day — it’s a major component of good health.

If the problems above frequently plague your nighttime rest, it may be time to get serious about solutions. With the right techniques for falling (and staying) asleep, you can get the shuteye you need.