cartoon drawing of man thinking about vacation cruise and too excited to sleep

18 things worth a try if you’re too excited to sleep

By Jason Wooden, PhD | June 20, 2021

When you’re too excited to sleep, the brain responds in a manner similar to fear putting you in a state of hyper-arousal and raising your heart rate.

It’s important to avoid anything that can get you even more wired up such as overly stimulating books or TV shows, social media, and wrong food.

To fall asleep more quickly, your options include light reading, calming music, relaxation exercises, sleep tracks, aromatherapy, natural sleep aids, and various other remedies.

When you’re too excited to sleep, it can really come back to bite you

Does this sound familiar?

The lights are out and you’re in bed ready for the night yet you just can’t drift off because you’re too excited to sleep.

Your mind is racing as you think about the events of the day or something really nice that’s going to happen the next day.

Maybe it’s something new you’ve started or a fun trip you’re going on…

For some it could be a new relationship or some other major life change…

And students are notorious for getting spring fever during the end of school year excitement.

At first you may just be excited, but as the minutes go by you may also stress out about getting enough sleep and surviving the next day.

Talk about frustration.

There’s tons of reasons people may feel too excited to sleep and we’ve all been there at one time or another.

In fact, every night one in three adults struggle with insomnia for various reasons and being too wired at bedtime is a common issue for many.

It’s cool having fun and exciting things going on in our lives, but loosing sleep can for sure rain on the parade.

It can really ruin the next day.

Sleep deprived people don’t think as clearly, have a harder time coping, and don’t perform as well at school or on the job.  They’re also irritable and moody.

That’s how something really exciting and positive can come back to bite you.

Let’s take a look at what you want to avoid and what to try when you’re too excited to sleep.

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What happens to your brain and body when you’re feeling too excited to sleep

Stress and anxiety are common issues for sleep.

So, why is it so hard to fall asleep when your mind is racing with excitement?

It turns out the way your brain responds to excitement is similar to fear except nothing bad happens to you.  (It’s been described by some as fear with a known outcome.)

Excitement can put you into a state of hyper-arousal which makes it harder to fall asleep.  It causes the release of stress hormone such as cortisol which can trigger the body’s flight or fight response.

As a result, your heart pumps more quickly and blood pressure increases.  This is the exact opposite of what happens when we transition to sleep.

And that’s how getting overexcited at the wrong time can come back to bite you.

What to avoid if you’re too excited to sleep

Okay, if you find yourself too excited to sleep at bedtime, it’s pretty obvious you want to avoid doing anything that can make it even harder to drift off to sleep.

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that can affect asleep and many of them are common mistakes made by millions of people every night.

For starters, you need to stay away from things that can get you even more wired up or anything that will keep you up later than needed.

photo of woman in bed using tablet

Among the things to avoid are:

  • overly stimulating books
  • overly stimulating TV shows or movies
  • social media (it’s just too engaging and hard to unplug)
  • TV, tablets, and smartphone electronic screens (the bright light tells your brain to stay awake)
  • late night spicy, sugary, protein-rich, or fatty foods that can keep you up
  • stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine
  • alcohol (they may initially help you relax but you won’t get as much deep restful sleep)

What to try if you’re too excited to sleep

If you find yourself restless and too excited to sleep, don’t just lay there spinning your wheels and stressing out as your watch the minutes go by. As I mentioned earlier, that can make sleep even more elusive.

Fortunately, there are plenty of sleep-friendly remedies worth a try that will help pass the time, relax your mind and body, and transition to sleep more quickly.

photo of lady reading a book late at night because she’s too excited to sleep

1) Light reading

Reading can take your mind off things, be sure to avoid those page turners that keep you up too late.

photo of lady laying in bed listening to music because she’s too excited to sleep

2) Relaxing music

Calming music has been shown in studies to reduce anxiety and help people relax.  In sleep studies, subjects fall asleep faster and experience better sleep quality.

What you want is music that will sooth you to sleep, not something that will get your heart racing.

Slow rhythm songs (60 to 80 beats per minute) is what’s been shown in studies to improve sleep.

Popular choices include classical and new age music. You may have to experiment a little to figure out what works best for you.

cartoon drawing of practicing deep breathing because she’s too excited to sleep

3) Deep breathing

Deep breathing is a simple way to calm the body.  One popular technique is 4-7-8 breathing pioneered by Dr Andrew Weil.

It involves holding your breathing to various counts of 4, 7 and 8.

Learn more about the 4-7-8 breathing technique

photo of crashing waves you hear on sleep tracks that can help if you’re too excited to sleep

4) Sleep music tracks

Similar to calming music, sleep tracks are designed to help people fall asleep more quickly.  Often, they combine quiet music with nature sounds.

You can purchase them online or stream them for free on YouTube and phone apps.

cartoon drawing of lady doing yoga stretching

5) Gentle Stretching

Light stretching can help the body relax.  It may also help with the aches and pain that keep people from sleeping deeply.

Learn more: 8 Stretches for Your Best Night’s Sleep (SleepAdvisor.org)

photo of bath tub to be used by someone who's too excited to sleep

6) A warm bath or shower

Did you know your body temperature naturally dips at night before bedtime?  It’s one of the things that can signal your body it’s time for sleep.

A warm bath or shower can help you relax while raising your body temperature.  When finished you return to a cooler bedroom and get a temperature saying it’s time to sleep.

photo of lavender oil in bottle

7) Aromatherapy

Scents are powerful things.  Studies show that lavender essential oils can help relax the body and promote sleep.

While lavender is the most studied, oil extracts from other yellow citrus fruits such as bergamot and yuzu can also have calming effects on the body. 

Be sure that the oil extract you use is of therapeutic quality and purity.

Learn more: essential oils for sleep (Healthline.com)

photo of house fan

8) White noise

White noise can reduce the difference between regular background noise in your environment and other sounds that can arouse you out of sleep.

Some people also find that it’s calming and it makes it easier to fall asleep.

Learn more:
Best fan for white noise to help your sleep
White noise phone apps
8 Best Sound Machines for Sleep of 2020 (Verywell Health)

photo of natural sleep aids in bowl

9) Natural sleep aids

There are all sorts of natural supplements that can help the body transition to sleep.  Some have been scientifically tested while others have not.

Among the more popular are chamomile, hops, and valerian root.

Learn more: 15 natural sleep aids

photo of lady journaling because she’s too excited to sleep

10) Write it down

Sometimes it helps to put things down on paper when thoughts are bouncing around your head.  Start a journal or make a list for the next day.

photo of person washing dishes late at night because they’re too excited to sleep

11) Get up and do something

Sometimes lying in bed worrying about getting to sleep makes things worse.   Instead, you may want to get up and leave the bedroom for a while.

Avoid doing anything too stimulating.   For some, mindless chores such as washing the dishes help.

photo of lady thinking about things and visualizing

12) Visualization

 For some people, a glass of warm milk or a temporary change of scenery doesn’t do the trick.  If you’re still figuring out how to go to sleep, you might want to try a relaxation exercise such as visualization.

It’s a mental technique widely used to relieve stress.  The goal is to shift your focus from anxious thoughts to peaceful and restful imagery.

Learn more

Progressive muscle relaxation may help with insomnia

13) Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you tense and then relax one muscle group at a time.  It has been found to help with stress and insomnia.

Learn more

drawing of man doing mindfulness meditation because he’s too excited to sleep at night

14) Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a mind-calming technique that involves focusing on your breathing and keeping your awareness on the present moment. 

This simple technique has been shown in studies to promote sleep.

Learn more

photo of person doing a puzzle because they’re too excited to sleep

15) Work on a puzzle

Puzzles are a great quiet activity that can take you mind off things and help you relax.

photo of thread for sewing

16) Mend some clothes

I’m don’t know what’s so relaxing about watching those flames, but it’s a time tested way to relax in the evening.

photo of person too excited to sleep siting by the fireplace with a warm drink

17) Chill out by the fireplace

I don’t know what’s so relaxing about watching those flames, but humans have been chilling out by the fire for millenia…

photo of stars above trees

18) Watch the stars and moon

If you’re room is setup so you can see the night sky from your bed, go for it!  Otherwise, grab a chair and find the perfect spot.

Don’t let your sleep environment make things even harder

If you find yourself struggling because you’re too excited to sleep, it’s really important to make sure you have a sleep friendly bedroom.  Your bedroom can have a big impact on how easily you transition to sleep and how well you sleep.

A poor sleep environment can add to the frustration as you toss and turn.

For optimal sleep, experts recommend that you keep your sleeping space dark, quiet, and cool:

Keep it dark

Bright light can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and keep you from feeling sleepy.  Even small amounts of ambient light can affect melatonin production and keep you from getting quality sleep.

Keep it quiet

Nuisance noises can keep you from falling asleep and keep you out of restful deep sleep even when you’re not awake.  Experts recommend you turn off your TV or radio.  Try using ear plugs or white noise if there are surrounding sounds you can’t get rid of.

Keep it cool

Cooler room temperatures help your body’s natural sleep process.  60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleeping with 65 degrees being the sweet spot.

Obviously, everyone’s body is a little bit different.  You don’t want to lay in bed shivering because your bedroom is too cold.  You also don’t want to toss and turn because you’re too hot.

Sources:

1. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

2. “Predictable Fear”, 2014. Psychology Today

3. “Dissecting terror: How does fear work?”, 2018, MedicalNewsToday

4. The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2002 Sep; 4(3): 231–249.

5. Can music improve sleep quality in adults with primary insomnia? A systematic review and network meta-analysis. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2018, volume 77, pages 189-196.

 

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