How to Achieve More Balanced Sleep

May 2, 2024

Erica Sava Park, LCSW

How to Achieve More Balanced Sleep

Many people struggle with sleep. Whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep it is extremely frustrating since it is partly out of your control. Good news- there actually is a lot in your control to improve your sleep. 


  1. Stick to a bedtime and wake-up routine. While it’s understandable to want to stay up late and sleep in on weekends, try not to get too far off schedule. It’s a myth that we can “catch up” on sleep the next night. To get better sleep we need to have a better routine. It’s easy to get distracted by the activities we are doing and accidentally stay up later than we intended. To help with this, try setting an alarm on your phone 60 minutes before you want to sleep. This will be a cue to stop and start getting ready for bed as intended. Your bedtime routine can include a relaxing activity to help wind down for the night. This can be a mindfulness activity, reading, light stretching, taking a warm bath, or drawing. If you’re consistently going to sleep around the same time, it will be easier to wake up at the same time. 


  1. If you wake up at a certain time in the middle of the night consistently, set an alarm for a few minutes beforehand and then see if there is a particular noise that is waking you up. I’ve been woken up to printers and robot vacuums turning on and then learned they were accidentally preprogrammed to turn on in the middle of the night! Once we know what it is we can problem-solve and reset those devices! 


  1. If you wake up frequently in the middle of the night make sure you aren’t being productive- avoid work, laundry, meal preparations, etc. Although this may be tempting, it can accidentally train you to get up to tackle your to-do list!


  1. What to avoid right before bed: Heavy meals, drinking too many liquids, caffeine, nicotine, exercising, TV, or other screens. Note: Phones and smaller devices are even worse than TV because the screen is closer to your face. Also, it’s a myth that alcohol helps with sleep. While some people may report it helps them fall asleep, alcohol will decrease the quality of your sleep and prompt you to wake up earlier. 


  1. More things to avoid:
  • Naps! Even very brief naps can have a huge impact on your sleep, especially in the afternoon/ evening.  
  • Using bed for anything other than sleep. We want to train our brain to associate bed with sleep. The connection will be the strongest if your bed is only associated with sleeping and not other activities. 
  • Worrying about when you will fall asleep! The most frustrating part of sleep problems is that the more effort to fix it, the worse it gets. We must avoid all “sleep calculations.” This means counting the hours of sleep you will get if you fall asleep that instant (who has ever fallen asleep immediately after thinking that anyway?). It’s best to avoid looking at the clock altogether. Either remove the clock from your bedroom or turn it around- trust me you don’t need it!


  1. If you struggle to stop worrying and can’t fall asleep, it is recommended to leave your bed. Remember we are trying to only associate bed with sleep, not worrying. When you get up, assess if you’re hungry, and if so, have a light snack. Otherwise, try a relaxing activity, such as having a cup of decaffeinated tea, reading a book, listening to a podcast or music, or drawing. These are similar activities to help wind down before bed. Do the activity for about 30-60 minutes and then try falling asleep. Keep doing this until you can fall asleep.


  1. Lastly, avoid worrying about how bad the next day will be! We tend to think about how terrible the next day will be if we get poor sleep. We imagine doing horribly at our job or on a test or being so incapable of doing what we need to do. Unbalanced sleep increases our vulnerability ANDyou’ve survived every “next day.” We may not be performing at our best, we may need to be more compassionate with ourselves, and we will likely do just fine the next day. 


Sleep difficulties can be very frustrating. I hope these tips help you get more restful sleep. For additional help, contact a mental health professional who specializes in insomnia.



Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI). Stanford Health Care. (2017, September 12).

Rathus, J. H., & Miller, A. L. (2015). DBT®skills manual for adolescents. Guilford Press.