Being unable to sleep well can be a frustrating experience. Sleep problems can have a negative effect on your mood, causing you to feel anxious or stressed. However, this simple, three-step strategy can help you discover how to enjoy going to bed again.

Step 1: Relax

The first step is to relax. This can be the hardest thing to do when you’re struggling to sleep. 

Understand that sleep disturbances are common. It’s normal to wake up occasionally during the night. Sometimes it takes longer to fall asleep, and other times you wake up earlier than planned. That is OK. 

You can stop striving for “perfect” sleep. Don’t compare yourself to others, because not everyone is the same when it comes to their sleep type. Stop staring at the clock during the night; in fact, covering it up may help you be more relaxed in bed.

Step 2: Reflect

If you’re struggling to sleep well on a regular basis, then the second step is to reflect. Think about how your habits and bedroom environment are affecting your sleep. 

Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet while avoiding large meals late at night. Eliminate caffeine after lunchtime and avoid alcohol before bedtime. Dim the lights at night and make sure that your bedroom is a dark, relaxing and comfortable environment. Avoid napping or dozing in the late afternoon or evening. Keep your wake time as stable as possible every day of the week and get lots of bright light in the morning. 

Step 3: Request

If you’re doing all the right things but are still unable to sleep well, it may be time to request help. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she may be able to identify the cause of your sleep problem. For example, a medical disorder (such as those causing pain, depression, or anxiety) or a medication that you take may disrupt your sleep.

Your doctor also may check to see if you have symptoms of a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. Warning signs of these disorders include snoring, episodes of stopped breathing during the night, excessive daytime sleepiness or leg discomfort in the evening that resolves with movement. 

If you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, your doctor may refer you to an accredited sleep center for help. The sleep specialists at a sleep center have expertise in detecting and treating sleep disorders. They’ll help you sleep better so that you can feel your best again.