Problems falling asleep: The best tips, tricks & solutions to avoid lying awake in bed for a long time

Einschlafprobleme: Die besten Tipps, Tricks & Lösungen gegen langes Wachliegen im Bett

You toss and turn in bed at night and can't sleep. This is the third night in a row. You look at the clock and realize with resignation that you can only sleep for about 4 hours. The next morning you wake up exhausted and can hardly concentrate all day, you are tired and not fully productive. Are you familiar with that? If so, you've come to the right place.

You are not alone with this problem either. In Germany, a quarter of the population sleeps poorly and one in eight regularly has problems falling asleep (1). Since problems falling asleep are widespread, but many people do not know where to start with the topic, we have compiled the most important causes and questions, as well as tips and tricks for you here.


the essentials in brief

  • Problems falling asleep can be triggered by various external or internal factors, including environmental influences, artificial light, as well as stress and anxiety. But some diseases can also be causes.
  • The consequences of problems falling asleep and the associated lack of sleep are an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. If problems persist for more than 4 weeks, a doctor should be consulted.
  • Well-known home remedies such as reading or a hot bath are suitable for combating problems falling asleep, but the herbal remedies lavender, valerian and CBD can also be effective .

How are problems falling asleep defined?

Problems falling asleep belong to the group of sleep disorders, also known as insomnia. Insomnia includes problems falling and staying asleep (2). In this way, those affected no longer perceive their sleep as rest and they feel the consequences of the short night the next day. For most people who suffer from insomnia, no sleep medical condition is the reason for being awake at night. You can be helped quickly.


For those suffering from insomnia, bed is not a place of rest. (Image source: Quin Stevenson/ Unsplash)

Insomnia is mostly classified based on duration. Acute insomnia is present at 4 weeks, subacute at 6 months, and chronic insomnia is when the sleep disturbances last longer than 6 months (2).

But you don't have to worry if you regularly lie awake in bed for 20 minutes in the evening. This period of time is still completely normal. The general consensus for a normal sleep duration is about 30 minutes.

Background: What you should know about problems falling asleep

Problems falling asleep are a complex subject and vary from person to person. In order to break down the topic and bring it closer to you, we have listed the most important questions below.

What are the causes of problems falling asleep?

Problems falling asleep can have various causes. These differ for each individual. So that you know what to look out for and can find out what could be a potential trigger for your problems falling asleep, we present possible causes.

external factors

The external factors are outside of ourselves. They are brought to us by external sources and are usually perceived as disturbing by one of the five senses.

factor specification
indoor climate According to a study, the wrong temperature or stuffy air in the bedroom are common causes of problems falling asleep (3)
artificial light We are exposed to the so-called blue light every day through smartphones or tablets, which is emitted by the displays. Blue light lowers the body's melatonin production, which can increase the time it takes you to fall asleep (3).
environmental influences This includes noise, such as from the streets or the neighbors. But the incidence of light from outside can also have an influence on falling asleep(3).

We often cannot influence the occurrence of external factors such as noise or light. You can still do something if they disturb your sleep. The stimuli from displays and the associated blue light are a factor that you can quickly eliminate.

internal factors

The internal factors that can increase the time it takes us to fall asleep have to do with ourselves. They do not take place outside of our body. Many internal factors have to do with the head and spirit, others with our physical condition.

factor specification
stress In this day and age of higher, faster, further, it's difficult to relax and unwind. 3 out of 10 respondents can hardly fall asleep due to stress (3). But without enough sleep, at some point you will lack the energy to withstand the stress and you will become even more stressed, a vicious circle begins.
Health problems Pain, whether temporary or caused by chronic disease, falls into this category. But the medications taken for this pain or illness can also make it difficult to fall asleep (3).
worries and fears When there are family problems, the mind does not come to rest, the worries do not let go and prevent you from falling asleep quickly. But money worries, which usually go hand in hand with existential fears, also prolong the time it takes to fall asleep (3).
intoxicants Addictive substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine or cannabis have a major impact on our sleep (4). Caffeine and nicotine can cause problems falling asleep as they keep the body awake, while alcohol is more often associated with sleep-inducing qualities (4). Alcohol does indeed shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, but it also decreases the quality of sleep. In all cases with potentially addictive substances, reduced sleep duration can lead to depression and substance abuse (5).

Many reasons for the appearance of the inner factors, such as problems and stress, are not in our hands. What we can do here is change the way we deal with these problems. In the case of intoxicants, consumption can be restricted.

Which diseases can cause problems falling asleep?

The health problems that can cause insomnia are in most cases short-lived as discussed above. Nevertheless, problems falling asleep can occur as a side effect of some chronic diseases.

Mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders often cause those affected to have trouble falling asleep because their thoughts are constantly circling (6). Neurological diseases such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or traumatic brain injury are often accompanied by problems falling asleep (7).

What are the consequences of having trouble falling asleep?

Those affected who cannot fall asleep for hours in the evening but have to get up early the next morning lose several hours of valuable sleep. Those who regularly sleep too little will have bigger problems over time than just constant tiredness.

Lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

If you don't get enough sleep, you're more likely to be overweight. Because how long you sleep has an impact on your BMI, waist circumference and cholesterol levels(8). Over time, even a healthy diet and sufficient exercise could no longer prevent weight gain. Especially since the energy for sport is usually lacking after short nights. After some time, the immune system can also suffer from the lack of sleep.

The length of sleep also has an impact on the insulin levels in the body. At night, the values ​​fluctuate greatly. With a normal sleep, however, this has no effect, since the body restores the balance itself. According to researchers, the amount of sleep and the risk of type 2 diabetes are inversely proportional to each other. This means that the less you sleep at night, the higher your risk of developing diabetes(9).

Cardiovascular disease is also linked to sleep duration (10). This is associated above all with the increased risk of a stroke or ischemic heart disease. This is a calcification of the coronary arteries that occurs as a result of arteriosclerosis(11). With a chronic severe course, the calcification could lead to a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

When should you see a doctor if you have trouble falling asleep?

The general consensus, which many doctors and clinics also recommend, is that you should consult a doctor if you have trouble falling asleep more than 3 times a week for a period of 4 weeks (12). The guide value for lying awake in the evening is around 30 minutes. So if you lie in bed for hours in the evening several times a week and cannot fall asleep, you should see your family doctor after a month. This is where the first clarifications are made.

Which medications help with sleep problems?

There are many medications designed to help you fall asleep. All require a prescription and can only be obtained after consulting a doctor. The most common and well-known remedy are melatonin tablets.

Melatonin is a widely used sleep aid. However, talk to your doctor before taking it.

Melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, is normally produced by the body on its own, making us sleepy and signaling when it's time to sleep. Taking pills adds more melatonin to the body than it produces itself. In this way, the sleep phase should occur faster. The effect of melatonin tablets has been scientifically proven. Studies have found that taking melatonin can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, as well as increase the effective sleep time (13).

The effectiveness of melatonin compared to other sleep aids is low, but since there are hardly any known side effects (13), it is a popular means to temporarily eliminate problems falling asleep. If you need stronger remedies or want to know more, be sure to consult a doctor.

What influence does the moon phase have on problems falling asleep?

While some believe the full moon disturbs their nocturnal rest, others consider the influence of the moon phases on our sleep to be nonsense. Even science is not entirely unanimous in this area.

In 2013, Swiss researchers published a study (14) in which they measured participants' brain waves, eye movements and hormone levels during different phases of the moon.

They came to the conclusion that the human body clock still reacts to the phases of the moon today. They showed that both subjective and objective perception changed. The subjects showed lower melatonin levels during the full moon phase, needed about 5 minutes longer to fall asleep and slept an average of 20 minutes less during these nights.


Whether the moon has an influence on the time it takes to fall asleep and the quality of sleep is still controversial in science (Image source: Ganapathy Kumar/ Unsplash)

A year later, researchers from the Max Planck Society evaluated large existing data sets from existing studies on the sleep of numerous participants. They found no connection between the phase of the moon and human sleep (15). Rather, they found numerous unpublished data that confirmed their previous findings.

It doesn't matter whether science agrees on this topic or not, because the subjective perception of us humans or our personal well-being can make a big difference. It remains to be seen whether the moon alone is responsible for problems falling asleep.

Can you learn to fall asleep?

The journalist Sharon Ackman caused a real hype in 2013 with her article about a method to fall asleep faster (16). Ackman promised that you could fall asleep anywhere within 120 seconds using this method. It was developed by US Navy scientists at the time so that soldiers could learn to fall asleep quickly and get enough rest.

Muscle relaxation is the focus of the method. You lie down in bed and consciously relax the individual parts of your body, starting with your face, going through your upper body and legs, down to your feet. Finally it's the head's turn. Don't think about anything for 10 seconds. It can help to transport yourself to a nice place or to keep saying to yourself: "don't think...don't think...don't think".

In the end one should fall asleep because the head stops thinking and comes to rest. According to Sharon Ackman, if you follow these steps, falling asleep will be the easiest thing in the world.

This method has not yet been scientifically proven, but that does not mean that it cannot work. In any case, it is important to keep in mind that the method takes practice and may not work the first time. Our brain is also just a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to switch off.

Problems falling asleep: The best tips & tricks for a restful night

Problems falling asleep due to little sleep mean that the following day becomes exhausting, you are tired, exhausted and in a bad mood. Difficulties falling asleep that are not caused by illness or medication can be remedied with a few small tricks.

Fix sleep problems with home remedies

Home remedies include all things that you do not have to buy separately but already have at home. You can try these tips tonight without much effort.

Take a warm shower/bath

Who does not know it: You take a warm bath and afterwards you become lethargic and could fall asleep immediately. The effects of a warm shower or bath have even been proven by scientists (17).

They found that a warm bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can help decrease the time it takes to fall asleep by 10 minutes. The optimum water temperature is 40 - 42.5 °C.

Before sleep, a person's body temperature decreases. A warm bath dilates the blood vessels in your hands and feet, allowing you to dissipate body heat more quickly(17), giving your body an earlier signal that it’s time to sleep.

To read

Another common tip that many people swear by: read before bed. Reading has been shown to reduce stress in the human body. Researchers have found that regular reading can reduce stress by up to 68% (18). Another advantage is that the mind turns off from everyday things. The book distracts you from any worries and problems.

Glasses and book on bed

Reading helps reduce stress and can therefore shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. But be careful with e-readers, they have the opposite effect. (Image Source: Sincerely Media / Unsplash)

Note here, however, that reading on an e-reader or tablet does not count. The aforementioned blue light that these devices emit increases the time it takes you to fall asleep. Melatonin production is suppressed and our body clock is misaligned (19). The light waves make our bodies think it's earlier in the day.

However, if you absolutely want to read the book on your e-reader, make sure you have night mode turned on. This filters out the blue waves to a large extent and at the same time protects your eyes.

Warm milk with honey

If you couldn't sleep as a child, the first remedy you often got was hot milk with honey. Even if no positive connection between milk with honey and the time it takes you to fall asleep has been scientifically proven, this tip persists. Since warm milk doesn't seem to prevent you from falling asleep, it's definitely worth a try.

counting sheep

Also for this method there are still no scientific studies that prove the success. However, this tip is very similar to the military method described above. It's not about relaxing the body, but about distracting the mind.

In principle, you only have to count the passing sheep in your head. In this way, the focus of the brain should be directed to the sheep. By shifting focus, our mind is distracted from the problems and worries of everyday life. These worries and problems usually lead to brooding over them in bed. That is why the head does not find rest and prevents us from falling asleep.


As you've probably already noticed by now, many tips and tricks deal with helping our minds to switch off. Another effective method is meditation. For a long time she was associated with the image of the practicing Buddhist monks and yogis. In the meantime, however, its health benefits have also reached us.

Meditation can help you calm your mind. Various breathing techniques and exercises not only clear the head, but also reduce stress at the same time (20,21).

woman meditating

If you meditate regularly, you will learn to clear your head and reduce stress. Problems falling asleep will soon be a thing of the past. (Image Source: Pexels / Pixabay)

Countless meditation apps have come onto the market in recent years. The apps can help you learn how to meditate. Just look around and you should find the right one for you. However, meditation also requires practice, thoughts cannot simply be turned on and off with a switch. However, if you practice diligently, you can feel a change over time.


A common myth is that exercise is a hindrance to falling asleep. That's true, but it's an intense workout right before you go to bed. This is the only way exercise can keep you from falling asleep (22). It's an intense workout if you can't talk anymore because your heart rate is too high .

All other training or movement sessions should not prevent you from sleeping. On the contrary, researchers found that moderate exercise can even have a slightly positive effect on the time it takes to fall asleep ( 22Trusted Source ). The excuse that you can't exercise because you'll have trouble falling asleep doesn't count anymore.

Eliminate problems falling asleep with herbal remedies

Not only medication can help you fall asleep, nature also has a lot to offer. If you don't like the home remedies on their own and you want to take something else, we have a few options for you.

Middle effectiveness
lavender Lavender is probably the best-known plant for sedatives. Lavender can help relieve mental stress and symptoms of exhaustion due to its calming effect on humans, as well as aiding in falling asleep (23)
valerian Valerian is also widely known. It is mostly used with hops. In combination, both are often used for sleep disorders and at the same time help with mild symptoms of psychological stress. Valerian and hops should only be taken by adults and children over the age of 12(24).
CBD This is one of the main substances in cannabis, but CBD itself is not addictive. The active ingredient is widespread today because it is said to have an antispasmodic and anxiolytic effect. In order for CBD to help you fall asleep, you should definitely pay attention to the amount you take. Too high a dosage can also have the opposite effect and increase the time it takes to fall asleep(25)
passion flower The name refers to the aerial part of the Passiflora incarnata L. plant. Many preparations of passionflower are obtained by crushing or pulverizing the dried pieces. Passionflower supplements may help reduce stress and thus help you fall asleep (26)

All of the plant species mentioned, lavender, valerian and passion flower, are available either as an oil or as a tea. As an oil, they can be applied to the skin or used for aromatherapy. As a tea, you can drink it in the evening before going to bed.

With CBD, you should definitely follow the dosage information on the package insert. Incidentally, the following applies to all herbal remedies: If the symptoms persist for several weeks or worsen during this time, you should definitely consult a doctor.


Problems falling asleep can have various causes, including external factors such as environmental influences, artificial light or the room climate. But also internal factors such as stress, worries or intoxicants. Some chronic diseases can also cause problems falling asleep. Too little sleep increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Problems falling asleep that are not caused by illness and medication can be reduced with home remedies. These include reading, taking a warm bath, exercising or meditating. But herbal remedies such as tea or oil can also help. However, if you lie awake for hours at night 3x a week for a period of a month or longer, you should consult a doctor.


  1. van de Straat V, Bracke P. How well does Europe sleep? A cross-national study of sleep problems in European older adults. Int J Public Health. 2015 Sep;60(6):643-50. doi: 10.1007/s00038-015-0682-y. Epub 2015 May 15. PMID: 25975374.
  2. Robert Koch Institute - Federal Statistical Office - Issue 27: Sleep disorders
  3. Sleep well, Germany - TK sleep study 2017
  4. Garcia AN and Salloum IM (2015) Polysomnographic sleep disturbances in nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, opioid, and cannabis use: A focused review. Am J Addict, 24:590-598.
  5. Jähne A., Unbehaun T., Riemann D. The connection between addiction and sleep: "legal" drugs. Addiction (2013), 59, pp. 25-37. Publisher Hans Huber.doi:
  6. Koyanagi A, Garin N, Olaya B, Ayuso-Mateos JL, Chatterji S, Leonardi M, Koskinen S, Tobiasz-Adamczyk B, Haro JM. Chronic conditions and sleep problems among adults aged 50 years or over in nine countries: a multi-country study. PLoS One. 2014 Dec 5;9(12):e114742. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114742. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2015;10(9):e0138261. PMID: 25478876; PMCID: PMC4257709.
  7. Mayer, G. et al., Insomnia in neurological diseases, S2k guideline, 2020, in: German Society of Neurology (ed.), Guidelines for diagnostics and therapy in neurology. Online:
  8. Potter GDM, Cade JE, Hardie LJ (2017). Longer sleep is associated with lower BMI and favorable metabolic profiles in UK adults: Findings from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
  9. Rudnicka AR, Nightingale CM, Donin AS, Sattar N, Cook DG, Whincup PH, Owen CG. Sleep duration and risk of type 2 diabetes. pediatrics. 2017 Sep;140(3):e20170338. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-0338. Epub 2017 Aug 15. PMID: 28811317.
  10. ESC Press Office (2017) - Poor sleep is associated with ischemic heart disease and stroke
  11. What is Chronic Ischemic Heart Disease?
  12. Hardtwaldklinik II - main areas of treatment - sleep disorders/insomnia
  13. Ferracioli-Oda, Eduardo & Qawasmi, Ahmad & Bloch, Michael. (2013). Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders. PlOS one. 8.e63773. 10.1371/journal.pone.0063773.
  14. Cajochen C, Altanay-Ekici S, Münch M, Frey S, Knoblauch V, Wirz-Justice A. Evidence that the Lunar Cycle influences Human Sleep. Current Biology. 2013 Aug.23(15).doi:
  15. Cordi M, Ackermann S, Bes FW, Hartmann F, Konrad BN, Genzel L, Pawlowski M, Steiger A, Schulz H, Rasch B, Dresler M. Lunar cycle effects on sleep and the file drawer problem. Current Biology. Vol 24, #12 (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.017)
  16. Sharon Ackman (2013) - How to fall asleep in 120 seconds. Media magazine
  17. Shahab Haghayegh, Sepideh Khoshnevis, Michael H Smolensky, Kenneth R Diller, Richard J Castriotta, Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. Vol: 46, 2019, Pages 124-135, ISSN 1087-0792, (
  18. Lewis D (2009) Galaxy Stress Research, Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK
  19. Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness Anne-Marie Chang, Daniel Aeschbach, Jeanne F. Duffy, and Charles A. Czeisler PNAS January 27, 2015 112(4) 1232-1237; first published December 22, 2014;
  20. Elder C, Nidich S, Moriarty F, Nidich R. Effect of transcendental meditation on employee stress, depression, and burnout: a randomized controlled study. Perm J. 2014;18(1):19-23. doi:10.7812/TPP/13-102
  21. Integration of behavioral and relaxation approaches into the treatment of chronic pain and insomnia. NIH Technology Assessment Panel on Integration of Behavioral and Relaxation Approaches into the Treatment of Chronic Pain and Insomnia. JAMA. 1996 Jul 24-31;276(4):313-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.1996.03540040057033. PMID: 8656544.
  22. Stutz J, Eiholzer R & Spengler CM Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 49, 269-287 (2019).
  23. European Medicines Agency (EMA) - Lavandulae aetheroleum
  24. European Medicines Agency (EMA) - Combination: Valerianae radix and Lupuli flos
  25. Chagas MH, Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Hallak JE, Machado-de-Sousa JP, Hirotsu C, Maia L, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Effects of acute systemic administration of cannabidiol on sleep-wake cycle in rats. J Psychopharmacol. 2013 Mar;27(3):312-6. doi: 10.1177/0269881112474524. Epub 2013 Jan 23. PMID: 23343597.
  26. European Medicines Agency (EMA) - Passiflorae herba
Back to blog
Vorheriger Beitrag

Nächster Beitrag

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.