by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Lifestyle activities can play an important role in overcoming insomnia.

To help ease problems sleeping:

Long term disease and pain can make it hard to sleep. Diseases or conditions that may disrupt sleep include:

Treatment for these conditions may lead to improved sleep.

Certain medicines can disrupt sleep. Some examples are:

  • Decongestants and other cough and cold remedies
  • Headache remedies that contain caffeine
  • Diet pills
  • Steroids
  • Some high blood pressure medicines like beta-blockers
  • Theophylline for asthma
  • Phenytoin for seizures
  • Levodopa for Parkinson disease

The doctor may advise switching to a different medicine to improve sleep.

Stress is a common cause of short-term sleep problems. Stress may be due to problems with work, school, relationships, health, and other events. Some ways to ease stress are:

  • Exercise—but not too close to bedtime
  • Listen to music
  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditative movement—especially for older adults
  • Deep beathing

Habits and activities can interfere with sleep. It may help to avoid:

  • Exercising close to bedtime
  • An irregular morning and nighttime schedule
  • Doing mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed
  • Napping during the day
  • Eating large meals close to bed time

Regular exercise may improve sleep in adults who are inactive.

Spending at least 30 minutes a day in daylight may also help sleep. It can help regulate a person's internal clock.

Nicotine and caffeine stimulate the nervous system. They may give a sense of energy during the day. However, they can disrupt sleep. Alcohol depresses the nervous system. It makes a person feel drowsy at bedtime but interferes with normal sleep. Poor sleep can result from using tobacco, caffeine, or alcohol later in the day.

Night shift work can disrupt sleep. This is because workers often sleep during the day. Sleeping during daylight works against the body's internal clock. Night shift workers need to create a proper sleep environment. This may mean reducing noise and light and keeping a regular sleep schedule.

  • A room that is too hot or cold
  • A room that is too noisy or brightly lit
  • TVs or computers in the bedroom
  • Interruptions from pets or family members
  • The comfort and size of the bed
  • A sleep partner's habits or snoring

Small changes in the environment can often improve sleep. This may include using shades to block light. Playing soothing music or “white noise” (such as a fan) can block noise. Separate sleeping arrangements can help, if a partner snores.

A relaxing bedtime routine helps sleep. This includes:

  • Avoiding bright light before bedtime.
  • Not using the bed for anything other than sleep or sex
  • Not watching the clock after going to bed
  • Not drinking fluids just before bed
  • Reading until tired—if you cannot sleep (but not on an electronic device)
  • Jet lag is a problem sleeping. It is due to crossing time zones in a short period of time. This disturbs the body's natural rhythms. It helps to get a good night’s sleep before traveling. It may also help to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol during the trip.

    Short term or bouts of insomnia are often due to a short-term event. Sleep usually gets better in several days. However, insomnia that lasts longer than a week needs care.


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    Insomnia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 15, 2022.

    Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 15, 2022.

    Kelley GA, Kelley KS. Exercise and sleep: a systematic review of previous meta-analyses. J Evid Based Med. 2017;10(1):26-36. .

    Shift work and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: Accessed March 15, 2022.

    Your guide to healthy sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: . Accessed March 15, 2022.

    Revision Information