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Tips to improve your sleep – for 11-18 year olds

Tips and ideas for young people on how to improve your sleep now and in the future.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

How can I improve my sleep?

There are lots of things you can do to try and improve your sleep. These include things to do in the daytime, and things to do right before bed. You might find that different things work for you at different times.

This information is for you if you're looking for practical tips on how to improve your sleep. If something isn't working for you or you don't feel like you can try it now, you can always try something else.

You might need to try a few of these ideas at once and give them some time to see if they help.

Understanding the link between sleep and mental health

Read about sleep and mental health

I don't really remember a time where it was easy for me to get to sleep, or where I would stay asleep for long periods of time. In the past couple of years I've really worked on that – Sophie, 17

How do I get back to sleep if I wake up in the night?

If you have trouble sleeping through the night, you might worry about falling back asleep. Try to remind yourself it's okay and normal to feel this way. It won't last forever. Just lying in bed, even if you're not asleep, can be restful for your body and mind.

In the moment, here are some things you can try to get back to sleep.

Help yourself reset

Keep some things close by for if you wake up. This could be water, a toy or blanket, or your phone with an audiobook or playlist ready to play. You might like to listen to sounds that you find comforting, like white noise or nature sounds.

Take a break from trying to sleep

If you've been awake for a long time and can't sleep, it can be helpful to sit up and do something else, like reading. After a while you can try sleeping again.

Do a breathing exercise

You might find breathing exercises helpful, especially if your mind is busy, or if you feel tense. Try taking deep, slow breaths in any way that feels comfortable for you. You can try counting slowly with your breathing in any way that feels good. One example is to breathe in for 4 counts and then breathe out for 6.

Don't be afraid to get up and do something if you can't sleep and try again in an hour.

What things can I try to improve my sleep now?

Here are some things you can do before you go to bed. They might help prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Create a routine

Going to bed and getting up at the same time can help you go to sleep more easily. This can be difficult depending on your schedule or mood, so try not to worry if you can't do this. Trying your best is more than enough.

You might want to do the same things each night to get your brain and body prepared to sleep.

For example:

  • When you're getting ready for bed, you could put your phone away and turn your notifications off so it doesn't disturb you.
  • When you're in bed, you might want to journal and write down how you feel.
  • Just before you go to sleep, you could try a breathing exercise or some stretches. See if there's anything else you like to do that keeps you calm and relaxed.

You might find looking at your phone relaxes you before bed, or you might find it keeps you awake for longer. The things that work for you might be different to what works for other people. That's okay.

Make yourself more comfortable

You might not have control over where you sleep, like if you're currently in hospital or are living somewhere temporarily. There may be small things you can change or ask for help with.

You might not be able to do some of these things right now, and that's okay too.

You could:

  • Change the temperature of the room. Some of us find it easier to get to sleep in a cool place.
  • Wear an eye mask and earplugs to deal with light and noise.
  • Put up a black-out blind to help block out light if it's too bright to sleep.
  • Listen to music or an audiobook if this relaxes you.
  • Use a night light to help you feel safe and comfortable.
  • Only use your bed for sleeping. If possible, do your work or use your phone when you're not in bed, so you start to associate your bed with sleep.
  • Use a blue light filter, ‘night mode’ or ‘dark mode’ on your phone. Some of us find that the light on our phones keeps us awake longer.
  • Talk to others. If you're sharing a bed or room with someone else, you could try talking to them, or asking someone you trust to help you. You might be able to make things work better for both of you.

When I was younger, I would just look at my phone until 1 or 2am until I forced myself to sleep. Asking my parents to take my phone and leave it on my desk really helps.

Improving your sleep can be very difficult if you don't have somewhere safe or permanent to live. If you're homeless, at risk of being homeless, or sleeping rough, you can find information and support on the Centrepoint website.

You might have worries about where you sleep for other reasons, like not feeling safe or like you can be yourself when you're at home. This can be really hard. For organisations that could offer you information and support, see our useful contacts page.

To stop my thoughts racing, I make A-Z lists in my head of things like bands or songs I like, or I imagine I'm walking around a place that I love.

Find things to help you relax

You might find there are certain things you find calming before going to bed. These might include listening to relaxing music, reading, sitting in a quiet place or doing a puzzle.

You could also try a simple breathing exercise, like breathing in through your nose, and breathing out slowly through your mouth. Doing this for a few minutes can help your body to relax, and feel ready for sleep. You can also try some gentle stretches or meditation.

I have found that listening to music that comforts me and calms my anxiety helps me to fall asleep, and it prevents my mind from spiralling.

Write down how you're feeling

If your worries keep you up at night, you could write them down before you go to bed. That way, you can leave them there to deal with the next day. You might find that filling in a journal for a short period of time before bed each night relaxes you.

I looked up Pinterest ideas and bullet journaling – I just write in different journals and see patterns for when I have disturbing dreams. Don't think it has to be perfect, just write.

Make a plan for the next day

If you feel like your mind is racing and you have a lot of things you're worrying about, it could help to plan for the next day.

You could:

  • Pack everything ready for the next day so you don't have to organise it in the morning.
  • Plan out your day. This could mean writing a to-do list to help clear your mind before bed. You could also plan in some time to do schoolwork or other tasks, so you aren't thinking about them at bedtime or staying up late to work.
  • Set an alarm and keep it away from your bed if you struggle to get up. This could encourage you to get up and out of bed to turn it off.
  • Plan something to look forward to the next day, to help you get up.
  • Make your bed once you get up, so it's ready for when you go to bed that night.

So that I don't worry and stress when trying to sleep, I tell myself every night in bed ‘I have done everything that I can/need to do today’.

Prepare for changes in your routine

If your routine changes, like if you don't have school, college or work at the weekend, this might affect your sleep. It's okay to sleep more at the weekend but you might still want to set a time to get up.

Rest when you need to

If you're struggling to cope with tiredness and finding it hard to stay awake, you might want to take a nap during the day. A short nap might help you feel more refreshed but it could also make it harder to sleep later. It can take a while to figure out what works for you.

Now when I struggle to sleep, I just try and lie down in a position I'm comfortable in. I accept that I may not be able to sleep, but I can still try to give my body a rest by lying down and closing my eyes.

How can I improve my sleep in the long term?

If you've tried lots of things to improve your sleep but feel like nothing is working, you might want to think about what's causing your sleep problems.

You could try to improve your sleep in the long term by using the ideas below.

Understand your feelings

Understanding how you feel about sleep, and understanding your feelings generally, can be helpful in many ways.

How might my feelings affect me?

Read about understanding your feelings

Look after your wellbeing

Looking after yourself in the daytime can help you with getting good rest at night.

Having a balanced diet, getting enough exercise and getting outside can change how we feel and how we sleep. It's better for many of us not to drink caffeine after lunchtime and to avoid intense exercise at night. You might want to see if these things affect your sleep, but it's okay if different things work for you.

How to look after and improve your wellbeing

See our wellbeing tips

Read about understanding wellbeing

Make a note of what works for you

Different people find different things helpful. This can change over time, too. Keeping track of what you try can help you understand what works for you.

You can use our ‘What's disrupting my sleep?’ downloadable resource to help:

Deleting social media helped me to detach myself from people at school, which helped my mental health and made my sleep better.

Talk to others

You could try explaining to someone like a parent, carer, partner or friend what you're finding difficult and what you'd like to change.

You could start by saying:

  • ‘I'm worried about ____ and I think it might be affecting my sleep.’
  • ‘I have been struggling with staying asleep at night and I'm not sure why. Is there anything you think I should do?’
  • ‘I'm struggling with tiredness during the day and I feel like I might need to sleep for longer. Could we talk about changing my routine?’
  • ‘I've been feeling ____ and I don't know what to do about it. Do you have some time to talk to me?’

Find support

If you've been having problems with your sleep for a longer period of time, and think it could be linked to your mental health or other difficult things you're experiencing, you might need some more help.

Find more information on getting support with sleep, as well as on finding support for your mental health.

One tip would be let people know you are struggling with your sleep. They will adapt and try to help you as best they can.


It can take a while to find out what works for you, and you might need to try lots of different things over time.

What works for someone else might not work for you, and that's okay.

Remember it's not your fault if you're still struggling to sleep. There are lots of reasons why you might struggle with sleep and you're not to blame for them. You deserve help at any time and you don't have to wait for things to get worse to get help.

Dont put too much pressure on yourself to fix sleeping overnight but it is something that can be improved.

More information about sleep and mental health

See our page on understanding sleep

This information was published in July 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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