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How to sleep when you just can’t

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It’s a myth to think that you can “catch up” on ongoing sleep deprivation with one night of quality sleep. Instead, it’s important to prioritize healthy sleep habits every day.  Here are some tips that can help you get the rest your mind and body needs.

  1. Create a sleep routine.
    Whether you are in the hospital or at home, you can set up a routine to let your body know that it’s time to start winding down each night. Your body will respond to certain sleep cues, such as darkened or dimmed lights, taking a warm bath if possible (or having someone bathe you with warm washcloths), putting away electronic devices (better yet, plug your phone in across the room, so you aren’t tempted to reach for it in bed), and popping in some earplugs if you can’t make the room quiet. 
  2. Move your body as much as possible during the day.
    Regular exercise can be helpful in preventing insomnia, so if that is possible for you, try to get in a good amount of physical activity each day. However, for most survivors, an exercise routine will need to be modified to fit particular circumstances. Work with your healthcare providers to figure out the best way to help your body stay as active as it can. Seated yoga, taking a walk down the corridor, or gentle physical therapy may be the just the ticket for keeping your body active enough to feel sleepy at night.


  3. Kick the caffeine.
    Coffee or soda can feel like a much-needed remedy to the exhaustion that follows a sleepless night, but caffeine can set you up for another bout of restlessness, especially if you drink it in the afternoon. If you can avoid it completely, that’s great - if not, minimize your use and cut yourself off after lunch, to give your body plenty of time to get it out of your system before bedtime.
  4. Take a whiff of essential oils.
    Many people feel relaxed after inhaling specific essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile, and frankincense. You can try diffusers or aromatherapy sticks, or simply add a drop on a cotton ball and take some deep breaths.
  5. Listen to a guided meditation.
    Listening to a guided meditation or relaxing imagery on your headphones is not only a good way to block out distracting noises - it can also help you focus your attention on something pleasant and relaxing. This 5-minute guided relaxation, for example, helps you envision a peaceful forest as you drift off.
  6. Try acupressure.
    You can use acupressure to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.  See the box below for details on common acupressure points to use.  Keep the following tips in mind:
  • Pressure should be firm, steady, and noticeable, but not painful or uncomfortable. 
  • Avoid deep, unrelenting tissue pressure. It is possible to cause bruising and lingering pain if pressure is too aggressive. 
  • Avoid aggressive friction when applying pressure, i.e., excessive rubbing, rapidly rubbing in an isolated area. 
  • Acupoints can be gently massaged in a circular motion, or held with steady pressure, for 15 to 30 seconds. Duration can be extended to 1-2 minutes based on patient tolerance.
Acupressure Points to Use for Insomnia and Fatigue
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