Insomnia Cure: How to Fall Asleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Refreshed

Written by Dr. Paul Kelly, C.Psych.              April 15, 2024


Would you like to Sleep Better and Wake Refreshed?

It is Simple and Possible.

Read this article to Learn How


Table of Contents


Why is Sleep Important?

You already know one reason: You feel better after a good night’s sleep. Sleep also has other benefits. Let’s have a look.

  1. Physical Health: Sleep gives your brain time to rest and restore itself. During sleep, toxic proteins are cleansed when the cerebral spinal fluid flushes through your brain. Cellular damage is repaired. Hormone levels are rebalanced. Your immune system is boosted. Sleep helps regulate insulin. This reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.
  2. Mental Well-being: A good night’s sleep can improve your mood. It reduces the likelihood of depression and anxiety. You can control your emotions better when you get enough sleep. This helps a lot with anger management.
  3. Cognitive Function: Sleep is essential for brain function. It enhances learning and problem-solving. Lack of sleep can affect concentration, decision-making, and creativity. Sleep locks new experiences into long-term memory. Creativity is enhanced.
  4. Weight Management: Sleep affects the hormones that control appetite. When you are sleep-deprived, your body makes more ghrelin (a hormone that signals hunger) and less leptin (a hormone that tells you when you are full). This imbalance can lead to overeating and weight gain.
  5. Safety: Sleep helps you stay alert. A lack of sleep can lead to microsleeps—brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake. This can be dangerous if you are driving.


Woman with insomnia


How to Fall Asleep Quickly

How long should it take to fall asleep? Between 10 and 20 minutes is a good range. This period of time is called your “sleep onset latency.”

If it takes less than 10 minutes, you may be sleep-deprived or overly tired. If it takes more than 20 minutes, you are going to feel frustrated and stressed about getting to sleep.

Here’s the good news: You can improve your sleep latency. You can regain control of your sleep. Let’s look at some simple changes that will cure your insomnia and help you to fall asleep quickly.


1. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Insomnia cure - How to fall asleep quickly

You need time to wind down so your body can prepare for sleep. When you follow a bedtime routine, your brain anticipates sleep, and you will be able to fall asleep when you wish.

You might start with a skincare routine. If you do, be mindful and enjoy the sensual feeling of lotion and self-massage. Would you consider a warm bath?

Change into sleepwear. This signals your brain that it is time to sleep.

Spend some time with a calming activity. Listen to a podcast, read a book, or do light stretching or breathing exercises.

Write in your journal. When your thoughts are on the page, they won’t be bouncing around in your head. You will sleep better.

It is more effective to write on paper with a pen or pencil. Note something from the day that you appreciated. A gratitude journal is a wonderful keepsake.


Insomnia cure - Woman writing in journal


2. Optimize Your Sleep Environment

Set up your bedroom to promote sleep.

Keep it dark. Put up blackout curtains or use a sleep mask. Keep things as dark as possible. If you need to get up to the bathroom during the night, use a dim nightlight. Don’t turn on the overhead lights.

Keep it quiet. If there are sounds you cannot control, use earplugs, or run a white noise machine. I keep construction-grade earmuffs by my bed. I use them when the garbage truck is banging away in the early morning or when someone on the street is howling at the universe.

Keep it cool. Your body will sleep better in a cool room. Try letting your body cool before sleep and then flipping on an extra blanket when you feel ready to sleep.

Keep it comfortable. Invest in a good mattress. Consumer’s Report has a good list of recommended mattresses. Look them up. If you sleep with a partner, consider a king-size mattress with separate duvets. That way, you can adjust your bedding to suit your temperature without disturbing your partner. Some couples, still very fond of each other, find that separate beds, or separate bedrooms, make for the best sleep. This is worth considering if one of you snores loudly or if you have different schedules.

3. Limit Screen Time to Reduce Insomnia

This might be a tough one, but it is important. Our screen devices, phones, tablets, computers, and televisions emit blue light. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. It tells your brain that it is time to sleep. So, it is best to avoid screens for at least an hour  or two before bedtime.

What about blue light blockers? Your phone and computer have a “night mode.” People sell blue light-blocking glasses or contact lenses.

A sleep specialist, Dr. Sara Mednick says they may “just give you a false sense of security.” She is not sure how much they really help. It is best to avoid screens for an hour or two before bedtime. Perhaps try a podcast instead of a video or pick up a book.


How to Stay Asleep Throughout the Night

1. Mind What You Eat and Drink

Caffeine can affect your sleep for up to 12 hours after you drink it. Try to stop drinking coffee or green or black tea by noon. Experiment to see what your cutoff should be. I can have a small coffee at 2:00 p.m. and still sleep okay. If I have a coffee at 4:00 p.m., it will keep me awake.

Nicotine is a stimulant. It reduces total sleep time and messes up your sleep cycle, causing poor-quality sleep. It is found in cigarettes, e-cigarettes, snus, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products. Try to reduce nicotine use later in the day. That will help you to sleep better. Try to cut down or stop using nicotine. There are lots of health benefits to making this change.

Alcohol can make you feel drowsy, so you fall asleep quickly. But you will wake up more frequently during the night. Alcohol alters melatonin production. This disrupts your sleep cycle. Alcohol is also a diuretic. It can lead to dehydration and a need to urinate during the night.

My grandfather, Alex Grabowski, lived to be 105. He was given half an ounce of brandy at the nursing home at bedtime. He enjoyed the taste, and it didn’t seem to do him any harm. Keep track of your alcohol use and your sleep quality. You will sleep better if you drink less or stop sooner in the evening.

Heavy meals too close to bedtime can affect your sleep. If you are hungry at bedtime, try a small snack with protein and some carbs. Avoid large meals or food that is hard to digest within 3 hours of going to bed.

2. Ensure Comfortable Bedding

I talked about this already, but it is worth mentioning again. Does your mattress feel uncomfortable when you wake in the night? It might be a sign that you need a new one.

You will spend about one-third of your life in bed, so be willing to spend some money on a good-quality mattress. I replaced an old mattress about two years ago, and my sleep improved. I should have done it years ago.

3. Manage Medications

Some medications can interfere with sleep. If you suspect that your prescriptions are affecting your sleep, consult with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist. Don’t stop a medication or adjust the dosage without getting professional advice.

These common medications can affect sleep quality or duration: ADHD medications like Adderall, corticosteroids like prednisone, antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft, Beta Blockers, and decongestants containing pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.

4. Limit Naps During the Day

If you nap for too long during the day, it can affect your sleep. Still, a nap can be very helpful in boosting your energy and mental clarity. I nap every day for about half an hour, and it is a real blessing for me. If you would like to learn more about Power Naps, check out my article.


How to Cure Insomnia and Wake Up Feeling Refreshed

1. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This regularity sets your body’s internal clock to expect sleep at a certain time, night after night.

Try to stick to within an hour of your schedule. This will pay off more refreshing sleep.

2. Let Natural Light Fix Your Insomnia

Exposure to natural light first thing in the morning helps to halt melatonin production. This signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up. Open your curtains when you wake up. Go outside for a brief walk if possible.

Light therapy boxes are a good alternative if you live in a cold or rainy climate. Make sure that you purchase one that has been recommended or certified by a reputable organization. These boxes typically have an intensity of 10,000 lux, about 20 times greater than ordinary indoor lighting.

Make sure it filters out harmful ultraviolet light. Most experts recommend boxes that emit white rather than blue light. During the winter months, I use one for 20 minutes in the morning while I practice guitar.

3. Avoid the Snooze Button

While it’s tempting to get those extra few minutes of sleep, hitting the snooze button can actually make you feel more tired. This is because the sleep between snoozes is often light and fragmented, offering little restorative benefit.

Try to get up at the same time each day. That will help your brain set your internal body clock.


A Personal Note

I became interested in insomnia management because my sleep wasn’t great. I have used the advice in this article, and my sleep has improved quite a bit. I’m not perfect. Last night, I overate — I had four slices of pizza close to bedtime — and I didn’t sleep well. I did not follow my own sleep hygiene advice. Tonight, I will go back to yogurt and fruit as a late snack.

I go to bed at 9:00 PM and read a book until I get tired enough to nod off. Usually, I am asleep by 10:00 PM. If I am reading a page-turner thriller, I might stay up later, but I try to stop reading by 10:00. Usually, I wake spontaneously at about 6:00 am, and I get up, feeling quite refreshed and ready to start the day.

I live in downtown Toronto, and there is a fair bit of ambient light at night. I use a sleep mask. It is comfortable and blocks out all of the light. I also keep construction-grade earmuffs by my bed.

I put them on when somebody outside is yelling at the moon, or a garbage truck starts banging containers. The earmuffs look goofy, and I have to sleep on my back, but they block out noise when I need them.

You deserve a good sleep. I hope that some of my suggestions can be useful to you.


Happy sleepers



It is important to me that I give you practical and trustworthy information. That is why I personally selected and reviewed all the sources for this article. My advice is also based on my experience with managing my own insomnia, and on my decades of experience helping therapists and clients learn about insomnia and CBT-I. We track progress at The Mindfulness Clinic, so I know that sleep hygiene advice and CBT-I works.

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  • Mednick, Sara C. The Power of the Downstate: Recharge your life using your body’s own restorative systems. Hachette Books, 2022.
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  • Walker, J., et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I): A primer. National Institutes of Health, 2022. Retrieved from: