Person lying in bed at night cannot sleep because of insomnia

Recently, a good friend called me in the middle of the night. He was on the verge of tears because he couldn’t fall asleep. He told me he was very tired, but his brain wouldn’t let him rest. Does this sound familiar?

Do you feel tired but can’t sleep at night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many of us have difficulty falling asleep and wake up constantly at night.

Is this insomnia? Is anxiety affecting your sleep? And what methods have you tried to deal with it?

Read on to learn how sleeping works, what insomnia is, and how hypnosis can help you overcome it.

How sleep works

Sleep is complicated. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Before we get into tackling your sleep problems, it’s helpful to understand what exactly sleeping is and why we need it.

Circadian rhythms

All humans, and even animals, have an internal clock known as your circadian rhythm. In every 24-hour period your body’s clock controls your sleep-wake cycle. 

It recognises when it’s daylight or dark and helps your brain produce the melatonin hormone that allows you to sleep at night and reduce your melatonin when you need to be awake. 

Your circadian rhythm prepares you for recovery at night and activity by day. It has evolved over thousands of years to help you adapt to life’s regular cycles. Sometimes things can knock your circadian rhythm out of step. Think about jet lag, when you feel tired but can’t sleep.

Why do we need sleep?

Sleep is essential for physical and mental wellness. When we sleep our body’s cells repair themselves. This helps our brains function well, our muscles recover strength, and organs like our hearts, operate more healthily.

There are four stages of sleep. The first transitions you from waking to sleep. In stage two your breathing and heartbeat slow. Stage three is deep sleep: helping us fight illness and bolster good mental health. Finally, in REM (rapid eye movement) we dream, our brain activity increases, and we consolidate memory.

How much sleep do I need?

Our brains all work differently, and some of us need more or less sleep than others. However, it’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Children need 8 to 14 hours, depending on their age. This reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Why can’t I sleep at night?

There are many causes of bad sleep. Our sleeping environment, stress, anxiety, and bad habits around our bedtime and sleep routines can all contribute to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. 

But you’re not alone. 

In the UK, around one-third of people report experiencing insomnia. 

Read on to find out if you have insomnia and what you can do to improve your quality and quantity of sleep.

Do I have insomnia?

  • Do you lie awake in bed? 
  • Do you wake up throughout the night without knowing why? 
  • Do you feel tired in the morning and unable to concentrate during the day?
  • Do you wake up earlier than you want to and can’t fall back asleep? 

If any of these sleep problems happen regularly then you may have insomnia. If it continues for more than a few months then it could be considered chronic or long-term insomnia.

Is anxiety keeping me awake?

Anxiety is one of the main underlying causes of insomnia. 

If you spend the day worrying about work, money, relationships, or anything that stops you feeling happy, relaxed and content, all of that anxiety hangs around when you need to switch off the light and your brain.

Am I stressed?

Studies show that stress impacts the quality of your sleep. It reduces the time you spend in deep sleep.

There could be various sources of stress in your life. You may be having a hard time at work. Maybe you’re worrying about money. Your relationship could be in difficulties. Any of these can disturb your sleep.

What about depression?

Around 75% of people with depression have trouble sleeping.

And bad sleep can also increase the chances of you developing depression. So the two things are heavily interlinked. Feeling sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, unable to focus? These are all symptoms of depression.

But the calming techniques introduced later in this article can help you feel sleepy, lull you into deep and restful bedtimes, and improve your nightly routines.

Or is it bad sleep hygiene?

Not all sleep problems are insomnia. Some of us just have bad routines — or bad sleep hygiene — which, if corrected, can help us to get a good night’s sleep. 

In the modern world, we are constantly connected to our devices, using them right up to bedtime and even in bed. This is bad sleep hygiene. 

Many of us find comfort in stimulating drinks like coffee or tea, or alcohol that helps to relax in the evening. While these may be nice, they are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. 

When we are tired we tend to want to grab some sleep during the day. All too often, this means we are unable to sleep at night, and the pattern of poor sleep continues.

Want to improve your bedtime habits? Try switching things up for 30 days to see if it improves your sleep. Below you can read our tips on improving your sleep hygiene.

Insomnia symptoms 

Here are a few of the most common sleep issues. Keep reading to explore ways to solve them.

Difficulty falling asleep

You’re in bed, your eyes are closed, you’re in your favourite sleeping position. But you’re still wide awake and sleep feels like an impossible dream.

Waking up through the night

You’ve nodded off, but you’re constantly waking up. You don’t know why. Each time you fall back to sleep you wake up again. You are in a pattern of interrupted sleep every night.

Tired during the day

You can’t concentrate. You’re fighting to keep your eyes from closing. You really just want to take a nap. 


You’re so exhausted through lack of sleep that you’re snapping at people. You’re responding abruptly to your partner, your kids, your friends. You’re finding it impossible to be cheerful. 

How to overcome your insomnia and sleep when you’re tired

Sleep problems are different for everybody. For those with real chronic insomnia, there are a few specialist sleep therapists available. 

For many of us, we can make some basic adjustments. Here are 14 ways to solve your sleep issues.

1. Check your sleep habits

Develop a routine that helps you wind-down to your night’s sleep. 

2. Try sleep-inducing methods

Take a hot bath before bedtime. Listen to relaxing sounds. Turn off your phone. Read a book. 

3. Adjust your sleeping environment

Work out the perfect sleeping environment for your bedroom. For most that means dark, quiet, cool and comfortable, but we are all different! Afraid of the dark? Use a soft-glow night light.

4. Shut out light

Wear a comfortable eye mask and install blackout curtains. 

5. Find your perfect sleeping temperature

The recommended temperature is between 15–19°C. Too hot? Let some cool breeze in. Use a lighter blanket. Too cold? Grab your winter duvet and snuggle under. 

6. Shut out noise

Use ear plugs to block out sounds. 

7. Lull yourself to sleep

If you need gentle noise to lull you to sleep —  get a white noise machine or play soothing rain noise or ocean sounds on a sleep app

8. Remove stimulating distractions

Switch off devices that bleep, hum, vibrate or light up. Or leave them in another room.

9. Get super comfy

Your mattress, blanket and pillows should be exactly how you like them — soft, hard, thick, light — try different types of materials and textures.

10. Don’t exercise close to bedtime

Exercise in the morning, day time, or early evening — not a few hours of bedtime as it can overstimulate you.

11. Don’t eat just before bed

Leave at least three hours after eating before you go to bed — this allows your body to digest properly.

12. Try not to nap

Try not to nap during the day. If you really need to rest, take a power nap in the early afternoon and set an alarm to wake you up after 20-30 minutes. 

13. Get up on time

 If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, get up at your regular time instead of lying in. This helps regulate your sleep pattern.

14. Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a natural, calming way to improve sleep. It removes negativity and bad habits around sleeping. It helps your mind reset and anticipate longer, deeper, better sleep. Below we explain how a hypnosis app can help you sleep.

How can Subconsciously help you sleep better? 

Subconsciously is a self-hypnosis app. It brings you the experience of hypnosis in your own home. 

When you can’t sleep, getting into a state of tranquility is the goal. The Subconsciously app allows you to gently enter this peaceful zone. It lets tensions slip away, makes your body feel heavy — your mind relaxed. 

Subconsciously — clear the mind, drift away

You can be in bed, in your comfiest chair, in your pyjamas, in your calm place. On the Subconsciously app you’ll find a range of sleep programmes, designed to make sleeping the effortless, peaceful, nurturing, positive experience it should be. 

The audio hypnosis sessions take you away from your conscious, waking, distractions and into a serene place. Whatever sleep problems you’ve been having, with Subconsciously you now have a sleep aid. 

It embeds sleeping deeply into your suggestible subconscious and manifests in wonderful, lasting results.