Got Insomnia? What Not to Do at 3 a.m., and What to Try Instead

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  1. Don't look at the clock.
    Do this instead: Turn the clock around to face the wall, or hide it in a drawer or under the bed. Constantly checking the time will only arouse you and reinforce the idea that you'll "never" get back to sleep.
  2. Don't stay in bed more than 15 minutes.
    Do this instead: Leave your bedroom and do something quiet, such as reading a book or watching boring television in a comfortable chair. It's important to remind your brain that your bed is for sleeping, not for lying awake and worrying.
  3. Don't sit in bright light.
    Do this instead: If you do need to get up, turn on only a dim reading light, or go sit in the glow of your television or computer monitor. Keep bright overhead lights turned off, because light disrupts the production of melatonin—a hormone that regulates sleep—in your brain.
  4. Don't do anything too stimulating.
    Do this instead: Find something that occupies your time but gives your brain a break, such as knitting or a boring book or TV show. Whodunits or balancing your checkbook, on the other hand, may keep your mind working and alert.
  5. Don't go back to bed too soon.
    Do this instead: Wait until you feel yourself starting to nod off. If you climb back under the covers before you're physically ready to sleep, you'll just be back where you started.
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Last Updated: April 15, 2008

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