5 Tips to Help You Stop Tossing and Turning at Night

Are you awake at night? These practical tips can help you ditch the discomfort and grab some shut-eye.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
3 min read
Woman sitting awake in bed while unable to sleep
Getty Images/demaerre

When you can't sleep, you'll tell yourself that flipping over is the secret to drifting off. And when that doesn't work, you'll convince yourself that it wasn't the right spot and one more time is the key. Then, you spend all night tossing and turning, chasing that ideal position that leads to sleep. 

There are several reasons why you might toss and turn at night -- stress, misaligned circadian rhythm or sleep disorders. Or maybe your old squeaky mattress makes too much noise when you move. Constantly changing positions while sleeping can severely impact your ability to get quality rest. Use these tricks to end tossing and turning for good. 

Address what's stressing you out

Stress and anxiety can make it harder to fall asleep at night and exacerbate your tossing and turning. Not getting enough sleep can make anxiety worse, so it becomes a vicious cycle of worry and insufficient sleep, both egging the other on. 

Managing stress and sleep doesn't have one solution -- it has several parts that work together. For example, if you've had a particularly stressful day, give yourself time to reflect before heading to bed. Journaling is a common way to cope with stress from your day. 

Once you get in bed, try sleeping with a weighted blanket to decrease feelings of anxiety. Think of weighted blankets as a big hug -- they use deep pressure stimulation to reduce stress hormones and increase serotonin. Weighted blankets can cost upwards of $100, and understandably, you might not be ready to spend that money yet. Don't worry; you can easily make your own weighted blanket instead. 

Read more: Best Weighted Blanket

Get out of bed

If you've been in bed for over 20 minutes and haven't fallen asleep, get up. I know how it sounds, but trust me. The only thing you want to associate with your bed is sleeping, not scrolling on your phone or reliving every embarrassing moment of your life. 

Get out of bed and do something you find relaxing. It may be journaling, reading or taking a bubble bath -- whatever will relax you. Don't get back in bed until you feel sleepy. 

Stay consistent with your sleeping schedule

Remember when you were a kid and had a bedtime? Turns out your parents were on to something. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day gives your body a routine to live by. Typically you want to keep it within the same 20-minute window. Yes, that even means on the weekend. 

You should also be careful with naps. Naps aren't evil, but they can impact your ability to fall asleep later. When it comes to napping, you want to do it in the early afternoon and keep it short. 

Sleepy woman eating a sandwich in her kitchen
Getty Images/nicoletaionescu

Watch what you eat

Eating a balanced diet is important for several reasons -- including your ability to sleep. Some foods can keep you up -- whether from acid reflux or general discomfort -- while others can help you fall asleep fast. 

Foods that promote sleep:

  • Whole grains: oats and quinoa
  • Proteins: fish and poultry
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews and walnuts
  • Dairy: milk and yogurt. 

Foods to avoid before bed:

  • Caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol 
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried and greasy foods

Get a new mattress

I know, this is the one no one wants to hear, but if you're tossing and turning at night, your mattress might be to blame. The average lifespan of a mattress is seven to eight years. Once it reaches that point, it stops giving your body what it needs, and you need to buy a new mattress. The springs start to squeak, and it may be a little lumpy or start to sag in spots. When this happens, it's really hard to get comfortable on your mattress. 

The reality is that you might not be in the position to buy a new mattress right now. And then one you could afford may not be better than your old one. Mattress pads or toppers can be a bridge to comfort if a new bed isn't in your current budget. Mattress toppers can help make your mattress more comfortable and keep you from tossing and turning. The best part is that there is a wide variety of price points -- all of which are cheaper than a new bed. 

Read more: Best Mattress Toppers

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.