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Twelve Tips for the Tired

Lisette Lahana, LCSW,

January 11, 2024

“Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee!”

Woman in filled tub looking exhausted with her hands over her face.

Is this your morning mantra? Sleep is a major, and often invisible factor, in how we feel about ourselves and relate to others. In a fast-paced culture, we try to fit in as much as possible at night, making it hard settle down when bedtime comes around. You might tell yourself that it will be different tonight, that tonight you’ll get to sleep early—but you still find yourself online, texting, reading, or watching television until the wee hours.

My therapy clients talk about wanting to feel energetic but being stuck in a daily grind of work, errands, or taking care of others. Staying busy has become the enemy of a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend the average adult get between 7-8 or more hours of sleep a night (1). Whether you sleep a short time or sleep too much (over 8 hours) is associated with chronic disease like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in adults(2).


  1. Design a soothing nighttime routine. A calming 20-30 minute routine may include restorative yoga, writing, meditation, listening to a guided visualization, reading for pleasure, self-massage with scented lotion, acupressure points, or a bath. Have a ritual you do every night so that your body can learn to depend on that time to unwind and associates it with relaxation.

  2. Journal before bed. Use a prompt to review your day and off load your stress or worries. Here are some good prompts to get you started.

  3. Write a to do list before bed. One study found writing a to do list before bed helped people in their study fall asleep more quickly. The key piece of applying this to your sleep is to not just think about what you have to do but to actually write it down (3).

  4. Create a calming sleep space. Avoid having a pile of things to do, like work projects, on your bedside table. Those tasks may stimulate you to think or plan, which will make it hard to relax after your day. Remove all clutter from your bedroom whenever possible. This includes avoiding storing things under your bed. Your bedroom and bed should be primarily for sleeping and sex.

  5. Napping is a no-no. Avoid daytime napping if you suffer from insomnia. Even though it seems like a good idea to nap when you are exhausted, it may impact your body’s natural sleep rhythms. You want to be as sleepy as possible at bedtime. Some specialists recommend you eliminate daytime naps altogether. If you must nap, keep them to under thirty minutes and before 3pm (4).

  6. Schedule worry time. If you have anxious thoughts before sleep, put a notebook by your bedside table where you can make a list of your worries. It is rare that trying to solve problems before sleep results in brilliant ideas. When you return to those worrisome thoughts, gently remind yourself, “It’s on the list, I can worry about it tomorrow."

  7. Eat a little something. Try a small snack 30 minutes before bedtime. The Sleep Foundation reported that adults who snacked on nuts, seeds, popcorn, and fruit slept 30 more minutes each night than those who snack on sugary and salty snacks. Its important that your blood sugar is stable in order for you to sleep well (5).

  8. Limit your intake of substances like caffeine and alcohol. Many of my tired-out clients tell me that an after-dinner coffee doesn’t affect them. Even if you can fall asleep, substances like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine affect your body's experience of the important stages of sleep. (6)

Arm in yellow jacket and brown glove dumping out coffee onto snow

9. Ask your primary care provider about sleep medications that could help or whether you may have a medical condition that impacts your sleep. Sometimes a short course of sleep medications can help to interrupt your cycle of insomnia. And, going outside of Western medicine may help, like seeing an herbalist or acupuncturist.

10. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Exercising before sleep may be OK but it is recommended you do not exercise within one hour before bed. Research has found that people who do high-intensity exercise, like interval training, less than one hour before bedtime, take longer to fall asleep and had poorer sleep quality. Figure out what amount of exercise and at which time of day helps you sleep by keeping track. Watch for any patterns that emerge (7).

11. Learn about 'Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia'. There is a free program designed by the Veteran's Administration to help with insomnia. It is best done in conjunction with therapy but may be able to help you on your own. Download the application to your device.

12. Learn about blue light. Decreasing blue light before bed and learning what type of light you should get during the day can help sleep.Learn more

Don’t give up! Try a few of these tips at a time to find a combination that works. Those precious hours of sleep will ultimately help you become more present in your waking hours with those you love. If you have tried every tip, but still feel keyed up or anxious when night rolls around, talk with a licensed therapist who can help you find a solution.


  1. (Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: a joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 2015;38(6):843–844)

  2. Buxton OM, Marcelli E. Short and long sleep are positively associated with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease among adults in the United States. Soc Sci Med. 2010;71(5):1027–1036.

  3. Scullin MK, Krueger ML, Ballard HK, Pruett N, Bliwise DL. The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Jan;147(1):139-146

  4. Mayo Clinic, Insomnia Diagnosis and Treatment Page.


  6. Angarita, G.A., Emadi, N., Hodges, S. et al. Sleep abnormalities associated with alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and opiate use: a comprehensive review. Addict Sci Clin Pract 11, 9 (2016).



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