How to make insomnia productive

Jun 29, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Do you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, regardless of how tired you are? There’s no reason that a sleepless night has to result in lying down, eyes fixed on a clock that’s staring right back, or wasting countless hours watching TV until you’re finally ready to doze. Follow these tips if you want to catch some much-needed Z’s -- or try something productive in the meantime.

Insomniac in bed

Step 1:  Count sheep no more

Say goodbye to the monotonous idea of counting woolly creatures jumping over a fence and entertain a new strategy. Scientists at Oxford University conducted a study and came to the conclusion that imagining a more peaceful scene, like a sandy beach, or a setting that is interesting enough to keep your mind off of the worries that cause your sleeplessness, is a better way to overcome insomnia. Only one way to find out if this mental imagery works for you: Try it and see.

booksStep 2: A novel approach

So it was a short trip to the beach, huh? A late night with nothing to do is the perfect time to catch up on a good read. Perhaps a romance novel? This way you can do something mentally stimulating but relaxing at the same time.

Red Hot Book of the Week: Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews >>

Step 3: Clean

If you’re having trouble getting enough shut-eye at night, chances are you are way too tired to keep up with cleaning during the day. When your insomnia kicks in, instead of watching a late-night rerun of The Real Housewives of Orange County, turn the TV off and tidy up your closet. Color-coordinate your clothing, line up your shoes, untangle your jewelry -- anything that will improve the overall look and feel of the space you occupy. Either the cleaning will leave you ready to pass out or you’ll just have a very organized closet: Win-win.

Learn how to organize your closet in 15 minutes >>

Step 4: Sweat

A workout may seem like a ridiculous idea in the late hours of the night, but light exercise could be just the activity you need to get rid of that last bit of energy you have and get some sleep. For those of you who have an early job or can’t see yourself taking advantage of a membership to a gym that’s open 24 hours, there are plenty of ways to burn calories around the house. Try some good old-fashioned crunches or lift some light weights. The idea is to make productive use of your time, and eating junk food because you’re bored and awake will only leave you hyped up on sugar and a few pounds heavier.

Get a fast full-body workout at home >>

Step 5: Last resort

If all else fails, turn to supplements. I don’t mean popping pills -- there are more common approaches. Warm milk and chamomile tea are said to have a calming effect that helps induce sleep. If those don’t do the trick, Neurosleep is a beverage made for the sole purpose of providing quality rest. The tasty drink has 3 mg of melatonin, which, according to experts, helps control your sleep and wake cycle. Sleep sheets are another handy solution. This drug-free alternative comes in a box of 10 individually wrapped strips that dissolve in seconds. They are meant to help support your natural sleep cycle, and worth a try if sleep doesn’t come easy. And if for some odd reason you have worked your way through these steps and you’re still wide awake, then it’s most likely morning time. Starbucks, anyone?

More ways to manage insomnia

5 Bedroom tips for better sleep
The menopause and insomnia link
Foods that help you sleep better