Brain Featured Wellness

What to do if you can’t fall asleep

Written by Jennifer Palisoc

It’s generally recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but it’s estimated in Canada, one in two adults have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep. Insomnia can be short- term or long-term.

During the pandemic, getting a good night’s sleep has reportedly been more difficult with reports of increased insomnia.

“Many people can successfully manage their insomnia without drugs or medications by following a few key habits,” says Dr. Andrew Lim, sleep neurologist at Sunnybrook.

Tips to help deal with insomnia:

  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed. Get up and go into another dark quiet room and do something that doesn’t require bright light such as listening to the radio or reading by a dim light until you feel drowsy.
  • Avoid screens such as smartphones or tablets which simulate the brain.
  • Set your alarm and get up at the same time every morning. This routine will help your body develop a sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid daytime naps. They can disrupt sleep patterns. If needed, don’t nap for more than 30 minutes.
  • Limit caffeinated foods and beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and may make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Limit alcohol as it causes sleep to be more broken and less refreshing than normal.
  • Try regular moderate exercise such as walking, swimming or bike riding. Being active can help improve sleep quality.
  • Trouble sleeping over a long period of time may be a sign of other health issues. Reach out to a family doctor who can help provide support.

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About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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