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More on getting your zzzzzzzzs

Last night the phone rang at 2:18 am. I was sound asleep-it was great sleeping weather last night, the cool air streamed through open windows. By the time I woke up enough to understand that the ringing was real and not part of a dream, the noise had stopped. Unlike the phones in other rooms of the house, the bedroom phone doesn’t have caller ID and the volume of the ring is turned down. I didn’t know who was calling. Could it be a wrong number, a crank call, or somebody in trouble?  I looked at the time. Then I turned over. But, sleep did not come. I was wide awake wondering who called. Darn.     
I got out of bed and padded into the kitchen to look at the caller ID. The call had come from my daughter Sara who was working the night shift at the hospital. Should I call her back? Did something happen to one of the grandkids? Is she alright? Now my mind generated non-stop worries. Forget sleep. The story ended. She had accidently hit her speed dial and hung up after two rings. But my middle of the night awakening persisted.

My first inclination, like many people, is to fluff up the pillows, reposition myself, and will sleep to overtake me. Sometimes that works, but usually sleep remains evasive. So, instead of counting sheep for hours, here are a few tips to manage sleepless nights:

  • Get up. Yup, put on your robe and slippers and get out of bed. If you can’t sleep, you don’t want to stay in bed. That’s because you want your brain to associate your bed with sleep, not with insomnia. So, go check your email, read a book, or watch TV in another room for a while. When you start to really get tired, go back to bed.
  • Don’t catastrophize. Realize that you will likely sleep better tomorrow and that you can get through the day without your regular sleep. The more you get upset about not falling asleep, the more your brain will keep you awake. Worrying just doesn’t work.
  • Have a very small snack. It doesn’t have to be raw broccoli. A glass of milk or a cup of tea and a biscuit or piece of toast will do.
  • Talk to your doctor. No, don’t call her at 3 am when you can’t sleep, but if your sleep problems become chronic make an appointment with a health care professional. In addition, consider a short stint of cognitive behavioral therapy with a mental health professional. CBT has been shown to be effective for the treatment of insomnia for many adults.

Sweet dreams…………

More on getting your zzzzzzzzs

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D.

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of adults and children with obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as personality disorders, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and learning disorders. Dr. Smith is a widely published author of articles and books to the profession and the public, including: Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies (2E), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder For Dummies, Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies, Anxiety and Depression Workbook For Dummies, Depression For Dummies, Hollow Kids: Recapturing the Soul of a Generation Lost to the Self-Esteem Myth, and Why Can’t I Be the Parent I Want to Be? Her website is:

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APA Reference
Smith, L. (2009). More on getting your zzzzzzzzs. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from


Last updated: 13 Sep 2009
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Sep 2009
Published on All rights reserved.