Problems sleeping

Lots of 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.

Getting to sleep

When you’re struggling to get to sleep it can have a big effect on you. It can make it harder to concentrate during the day, or make you feel low and less able to cope.

There are lots of things that might make it difficult to get to sleep, including:

But there are ways you can cope. And remember, our counsellors are here for you at any time if you need support.

Things to try right now:

  • get into a comfortable position
  • take some slow, deep breaths
  • listen to calming music or white noise
  • close your eyes and picture yourself in your favourite place
  • when you feel comfortable, turn off your phone.

Can't sleep because of stress?

When they are lots of things on your mind, getting to sleep can be hard. You might be worrying about exams or homework, struggling with things at home or feeling anxious

Learning how to relax and manage stress can help you to cope when things are getting too much.

Try to:

  • focus on your breathing
    take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Some people find it helps to close their eyes and count to 4 when they breathe in, and to 7 when they breathe out.
  • turn off social media
    it can tempting to look at your phone when you're worried or stressed. You might want to distract yourself or be worried about missing something. But taking a break can help you to relax.
  • email a Childline counsellor
    why not put all 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 will get back to you with help and advice. Counsellors reply to emails within 24 hours.

8 tips for better sleep

  1. Relax before going to bed
    Some 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 at least 30 minutes before you plan to sleep.
  2. Make sure you're comfortable
    Not too hot or cold, and that the room you're in isn't too noisy or bright.
  3. 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 more relaxed.
  4. 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.
  5. List things that make you feel good
    These don't have to be big things - they could include the weather, your favourite song or someone in your life that you enjoy seeing. Keep the list nearby.
  6. Only use your bed for sleep
    If you can't get to sleep after about 20 minutes, get up and do something that relaxes you. When you feel ready, go back to bed.
  7. Turn off your phone
    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. 
  8. 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 things to remember about sleep

1. Try to get 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
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. The more you do this, the easier it will be to get to sleep.

2. Caffeine and sugar will keep you awake
They're stiumulants, which means they'll stop you from getting to sleep. Caffeine can stay in your body for hours after you've had chocolate, a fizzy drink, tea or coffee. Try not to drink caffeinated drinks after mid-afternoon and cut down on sugar in the evening.

3. Alcohol doesn't help with sleep
Drinking 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.

4. Eat earlier for a good night's sleep
Try to have your dinner early in the evening rather than late. Your body needs time to digest food properly.

5. Sleep helps physically and emotionally
Getting enough sleep is really important. It helps you to concentrate and learn, can help you maintain a healthy weight and feel more able to cope with difficult feelings.

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. Set an alarm 10 minutes before you'd usually get up to give yourself more time in the morning.

7. Have screen-free time before bed
Stop playing computer games, watching TV and using your phone before bedtime. Even though these can help with boredom or distract you, they can stop you from falling asleep.

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.