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Can’t Fall Asleep? Avoid These Behaviors

Amanda Gregory, LCPC

You have to get good sleep. If not, you’re risking your physical and emotional health. But, what if you simply cannot fall asleep in the first place. Perhaps you’ve tried new methods to improve your sleep. Yet, you may need to focus on cutting out certain aspects that could be hindering her ability to fall asleep.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep consider avoiding these behaviors:

Raising Your Body Temperature. Your body temperature naturally cools at night, and this cooling helps your body to fall asleep. If you disrupt this process, it could make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Some people prefer exercising or bathing in warm water in the evenings which increased their body temperature. Are you doing anything at night that increases your body temperature? If so, consider engaging in these activities in the morning or allow at least an hour of cool down time before you plan to get ready for bed.

Consuming Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which is designed to keep you awake. Consider cutting out or decreasing your consumption of caffeine and see if it impacts your ability to fall asleep. Caffeine isn’t only present in beverages as it can be found in food, such as chocolate. Also, decaffeinated beverages often still contain some trace amounts of caffeine. If you decided to continue to consume caffeine try identifying the time when you need to stop consuming caffeine for the day so that it doesn’t impact your sleep. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s best to stop consuming caffeine 6 hours before you pan to sleep. Here a guide to follow to identify when your caffeine consumption:

Bedtime                        Caffeine Cutoff Time

9pm                               3pm

10pm                             4pm

11pm                             5pm

Midnight                       6pm 

Looking at Blue Light. Blue light is especially disruptive to your body’s natural sleep cycle. Blue lights are found in many electronic devices, such as smartphones, TV screens, computer screens, and e-readers. Harvard Health reports that blue lights subdue the body’s production of melatonin, a chemical hormone that positively impacts our sleep cycle. Harvard recommend that following in regards to improving your ability to fall asleep

  •       Use dim red lights for night light as red light is less likely to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
  •       Stop looking at bright screens 2-3 hours before bed.
  •       If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
  •       Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day which will improve your ability to sleep at night.

Engaging in Entertaining Activities. Avoid participating in activities that are enjoyable. Why? These activities stimulate your brain and can make it difficult for your brain to slow down and prepare for sleep. It’s tempting to engage in activities or hobbies that we enjoy late at night, especially if we have a busy schedule during the day. Yet, when we prepare for bed, we need to focus on helping the brain to slow down. Cease your participation in stimulating activities at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. If you’re having difficulty slowing down after engaging in stimulating activities, try engaging in a boring activity before bedtime. For example, you might read an uninteresting textbook, memorize the names of all the US presidents, or complete math problems. These boring activities are unlikely to simulate your brain and might help it to slow down, which will help you to fall asleep.

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, it may be helpful to speak to a counselor in Chicago. For more information, contact Symmetry Counseling today.

Harvard Health Letter. (7/2020) Blue light has a dark side: What is blue light? The effect blue light has on your sleep and more. Retrieved from

Sleep Foundation. (1/2010) Caffeine and Sleep. Retrieved from

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