Tired but can’t sleep? You’re not alone. Roughly 1 in 5 U.S. adults struggle to sleep every night, and over 1 in 4 adults aged 18 to 24 experience insomnia nightly. And tempting as it can be to pick up your phone, open a social media app, and start doom scrolling, that won’t do you any favors — even if you use “night mode” to combat the blue light, cell phones and other technology are overly stimulating and can make it even harder to fall asleep.
But that doesn’t mean you have to stare at the ceiling for hours on end.
Whenever you’re tired but can’t sleep, you may as well be productive as you try to get some shuteye. These non-screen activities can help.
1. Read a physical book (no, not a new e-book)
By reading a physical book before bed, you get to avoid blue light and take in that authentic book smell (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing). Better yet, reading can be a brain relaxer. No matter how captivating a fictional world may be, or how informative a non-fiction read is, reading is a low-key activity that can help you wind down when you’re not fully ready to sleep. And the advantages of reading don’t stop there. Research shows that regular reading can lead to physical and mental health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced stress and improved sleep quality.
So, if you’re tired but can’t sleep, bypassing your phone’s Kindle app and picking up a physical book might be the way to go.
2. Meditate in bed (or even before you jump into bed)
Learning and practicing meditation techniques, like deep breathing, can help promote a more relaxed response to stressful thoughts and feelings. And since stress can impair sleep, mindfulness meditation has the opposite effect, helping fight insomnia and improve sleep.
As such, while meditation might help you when you’re tired but can’t sleep, you don’t have to wait until then. You can practice sleep meditation to help prepare your body for sleep before you jump in bed to begin with.
3. Jot down your thoughts in a journal
Much like reading and meditating, journaling can make it easier to sleep by reducing stress. After all, putting your worries to paper can help you get them out of your mind. Alternatively, research suggests that expressing your gratitude before going to sleep ends the day on a positive note, increasing happiness and decreasing depression. So, jotting your day’s highlights in a gratitude journal may be particularly useful when you’re tired but can’t sleep. Or, like meditation, before you even try to go to bed.
4. Get down and do some push-ups
There’s no argument that working out can get your blood pumping and have you feeling more alive than ever. But it can also improve sleep, and not just by leaving you exhausted. Rather, research suggests resistance exercises like push-ups and sit-ups can lower anxiety and depression symptoms that hinder sleep.
It’s worth noting that the time you exercise can play a significant role in your sleep quality. In other words, late night pushup sessions aren’t for everyone. But if nothing else seems to work when you’re tired but can’t sleep, cranking out a few pushups might be worth a try.