Problems sleeping

Lots of young people struggle to fall asleep at night. Thinking about school, people or events can leave you feeling restless. Even your diet or routine can affect your sleep. But there are things you can try to help you sleep better.

Why sleep is important

Everybody needs sleep. It’s an important time when the mind can fully repair itself, digest information and get ready for the next day. How much sleep do you need? It’s recommended that you aim for 8-9 hours a night. 

Remember – if you can’t sleep because you’re worried about something, you can always contact a Childline counsellor on 0800 1111 or on a 1-2-1 counsellor chat

Benefits of getting enough sleep:

  • better concentration
  • clearer skin
  • healthier weight
  • happier mood
  • better health.

7 tips for falling asleep

  1. Make sure you're comfortable
    Not too hot, not too cold, not too noisy or bright.
  2. Do some exercise
    Don't overdo it, but try some regular swimming or walking. The best time to exercise is in the daytime – particularly late afternoon or early evening. Later than this can disturb your sleep. Exercise burns off excess energy and releases endorphins – natural chemicals that help you de-stress, feel less anxious and relax better.
  3. Write it down
    If something is troubling you and there’s nothing you can do about it right away, try writing it down before going to bed. Once it’s written down, you can tell yourself you’ll deal with it tomorrow.
  4. Relax properly before going to bed
    Some young people find reading helpful. But stick to paper books – the light from computer screens and some e-readers can make it harder to fall asleep. It’s best if you have no screen time for the last 2 hours before you plan to go to sleep.
  5. Keep your phone away
    If you’re being kept awake by friends ringing or texting you, you could ask them to stop. Or just switch your phone to silent or ‘do not disturb’ – or even turn it off. 
  6. Picture yourself in your favourite place
    Close your eyes and imagine you’re in your favourite place or where you want to be one day. Imagine yourself happy and relaxed. Slowly breathe in and out, relaxing your muscles until you feel a sense of calm.
  7. Email a Childline counsellor
    Why not put all of your worries in an email to a Childline counsellor? Once it’s sent, you can rest easy, knowing someone’s there to support you and that they’ll get back to you with help and advice.

8 things to avoid

  1. Don't go without sleep for a long time
    Go to bed when you feel tired. Stick to a routine of getting up at the same time every day, whether you still feel tired or not.
  2. Try not to have too much caffeine
    Caffeine hangs around in your body for many hours after your last drink of tea, coffee or cola. Don’t have any caffeinated drinks later than mid-afternoon. If you want a hot drink in the evening, try something milky or herbal (but check there's no caffeine in it). 
  3. Cut down on sugar
    Sugars in chocolate and fizzy drinks are stimulants – they’ll prevent your body from sleeping. Nicotine, found in cigarette smoke and e-cigarettes, has a similar effect.
  4. Steer away from alcohol
    Alcohol at night will force your body into a deep sleep too soon. It disturbs your sleep patterns, making you wake up after a few hours. 
  5. Don't eat or drink a lot late at night
    Try to have your supper early in the evening rather than late. Your body needs time to digest properly. 
  6. Don't lie in too long
    If you've had a bad night, don't sleep in the next day. It’ll just make it harder to get to sleep the following night.
  7. Avoid looking at an electronic device just before bed
    Try not to play computer games or overuse your phone and other devices before bedtime. Screen time may help with boredom but it can make it harder to get to sleep as your mind is stimulated. Stop a couple of hours before you plan to sleep.
  8. Try not to watch too much TV in bed
    Or even watching TV in bed at all.

Getting out of bed

Problems sleeping can make it hard to get out of bed in the mornings. This is especially true during the winter months, when there are fewer hours of daylight.

If you struggle with getting up in the mornings, here are a couple of tips that can help:

  • put your clock or mobile phone on the other side of the room, so you have to physically get out of bed to turn your alarm off
  • find a small reason to get out of bed - like a tasty breakfast, exercise, meditation, writing a mood journal, or watching an episode of your favourite programme while you get ready.

Waking up early gives you some breathing space to think about what you want to achieve that day. Once you start getting into a routine, you’ll start to find that waking up each morning becomes slightly easier.