First step: Don’t look at the time, especially on your phone. “I really argue that the clock is just going to make it worse for many people,” says Harris. Not only can that blue light exposure keep you awake for longer but depending how late it reads, you might start to feel frustrated about not getting enough sleep—which may only make you feel more wired.
Rather, she recommends actually getting out of bed: “If you start getting frustrated or your brain’s getting active and you’re not falling back asleep, get up, go sit somewhere, and do something calm and relaxing,” she says. (Like reading, for example.) Don’t bring your phone, as the blue light isn’t doing you any favors—but you can turn on a dim light while you engage in that quiet activity.
Here’s the thing, though: The activity itself might not make you sleepy. “It’s just really meant to pass the time,” says Harris. You may think that the point of the activity is to lull you back to sleep, but that’s actually a misnomer. “The point of getting out of bed is so that you’re not teaching yourself that the bed is a place to toss and turn,” explains Harris. Read: The more you lie in bed trying to force yourself to feel sleepy, the more your mind may associate your bed with that lack of rest. “The bed becomes more about that than actual sleep,” Harris adds. “So [sitting] on the couch and reading is great, but don’t try to force the sleepiness to happen. You’re just using it as a placeholder, and then get back in bed only when you’re sleepy again.”