You’re in bed, trying to settle in and fall asleep, but your mind won’t cooperate.
Wakeful minutes turn to hours.
And you’re no closer to slipping into oblivion.
So, what are some fun things to do when you can’t sleep?
Or are you allowed to have fun when you should be unconscious?
And what if the fun keeps you up even longer?
Thing is, a little bit of fun could be just what you need.
Are You Bored and Can’t Sleep?
It’s frustrating. You want to know what to do when you’re bored at night in bed. And if you live in an apartment or share a house with others, you don’t want to wake anyone who is sleeping.
More than that, though, you want this to be something worthwhile—something that makes this time of sleeplessness count for something.
In the list below, you’ll mostly find activities you can do quietly.
Depending on your situation, you can do some quietly or with the volume turned up. All are worth doing.
And we’ve done our best to minimize those that make it even harder to get any sleep.
What To Do When You Can’t Sleep and Are Bored: 29 Ideas to Keep at Your Bedside
We’ve found 29 productive and enjoyable things to do when you can’t sleep—though you may only need one (or two, at the most). We don’t know your life.
Fill in the blanks with your imagination.
1. Take a bath or shower.
A hot shower or bath with lavender and bath salts can work wonders. Just be careful not to fall asleep in the tub if you’re more of a bath person. You can even play some relaxing music and make yourself a mug of tea to enjoy while you soak.
2. Read a book.
Pick up a book that’s almost guaranteed to get you nodding. Or go with something you actually enjoy. Either way, stick with the print version, if possible, to avoid the stimulating effects of a screen.
If the latter is your only option, be sure to turn on the nighttime filter.
3. Flip through a magazine.
Digital mags work, but it’s sometimes fun to flip through an actual printed magazine. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the added screentime keeping you awake even longer. Keep a short stack of some favorites close to your bed, along with a notepad and a pen.
4. Do a mindfulness breathing meditation.
You can sit up or lie down for this. Take a few minutes to take in some deep, cleansing breaths, and visualize letting go with each exhale of whatever is keeping you awake.
If it helps, use a specific breathing style or pace—one that helps you feel more relaxed.
5. Try some nighttime yoga.
If you don’t know some basic bedtime yoga moves, use an app or find a brief tutorial on YouTube. Go through the movements carefully, paying attention to how your body feels with each breath and each new posture. Finish with some mindful breathing.
6. Write it out in a journal.
Something is bugging you. And one of the best ways to deal with it—or at least begin—is to grab your journal and write out exactly what you’re thinking and feeling. This may lead to other activities. If you’re thinking of a story, for example, brainstorm a shortlist of ideas.
7. Do some laundry.
Grab a basket of fresh laundry and do some folding to make this time productive as well as calming. Play some soothing music in the background, if it helps. Take a moment to enjoy the scent of freshly laundered clothes, towels, and bedding.
8. Try using a white noise machine.
If you don’t have one, try turning on an old radio to an AM station that plays nothing but static. Or use an app on your phone that plays white noise or calming music while it charges (far away from your bed).
9. Make a gratitude list.
If you’re feeling stressed out or depressed about something, it can help to write down or at least think about five things you’re grateful for. This works best when you take time to think about those things and to really feel the gratitude. It’s a lot harder to be anxious when you’re feeling grateful.
10. Declutter something.
Pick a spot—a closet, a drawer, or a visible surface that attracts clutter—and tidy it up. Toss, store, or donate whatever doesn’t belong there.
And take a moment to enjoy the reclaimed or freshly organized space before you walk away from it.
11. Change the temperature.
Sometimes it’s as simple as cooling the air in the room so you can get cozy with your blankets without overheating. Per the National Sleep Foundation, set your thermostat to 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit for the most sleep-friendly ambient temperature.
12. Listen to soothing music.
If you already have a playlist that brings on the sleepies, go with that. Otherwise, you can check out other people’s shared collections of sleepytime tunes.
If possible, set a timer so the music switches off after an hour or two, so you won’t have it running all night,
13. OR… bump up the tempo and dance it out.
Crank up the volume and the beat — out loud or with headphones — and work on some dance moves. You could even play a dance video and learn something new–as long as you won’t be waking up someone else in the building (or next door)
14. Make a to-do list for tomorrow (with a top 3).
For the sleepless nerds among us, why not jot down some ideas for the next day. Just writing down what you want to accomplish can take a load off your mind and make it easier to fall asleep. You’ve got tomorrow already partly handled. Go, you!
15. Get out of bed and do some exercise.
It’s actually far less likely to keep you awake than reaching for your phone or tablet to watch something or do some late-night shopping. Do some calisthenics or a short weight-training or bodyweight workout–just enough to get your blood pumping.
Wind down with some gentle stretches.
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16. Sip on some warm milk.
Make it just the way you like it, with or without honey, cinnamon, and whipped cream. Add a biscuit or two if you don’t mind brushing your teeth again. Use a mug that adds to the cozy aesthetic, and allow yourself to mindfully enjoy the warmth and flavor in every sip.
17. Use essential oils.
If you have a diffuser with an auto-shutoff, set it up with some sleepytime essential oils like lavender and chamomile.
You can also spritz your bedding with some lavender mist. Or use an essential oil roller to dab a bit of sleep-inducing herbals on your wrists and neck.
18. Write a letter.
Think of someone you haven’t written to for a while and write them a letter to catch them up on your life. Or write one to someone who’s on your mind—even if you know you’ll probably never send it without a thorough editing and rewrite.
19. Create an artful oasis.
Get out your brush pens and open an adult coloring book to enjoy some mindful coloring time. Or break out the Buddha Board and paint an image or letters that will fade as it dries, encouraging mindfulness as you develop your art skills.
20. Design a new look.
Take a few minutes to brainstorm the elements of a personal style you’ve wanted to try. Ditch the nonsense filters (“I don’t know, can I pull off leather?”) and just let the words out. Maybe you’ll even dream of the look you want.
21. Tackle a small cleaning project.
Clean your bathroom. Or purge your refrigerator of leftovers that are no longer safe to eat (or remotely appetizing). Wipe down your countertops or sweep your kitchen floor. Do something that will make your living space more pleasant to wake up to.
22. Write an insomnia poem.
Get those thought scraps onto a page and rearrange them into a bleary-eyed, brain-dump poem. Because why not?. Just remember not to leave it lying around the next morning. This is for your eyes only, unless you decide otherwise.
23. Practice with a language app.
While you generally want to avoid screens if the goal is to get some sleep eventually, if you’re in no hurry to nod off, you can take this opportunity to practice with a language app like Duolingo, Babbel, or Memrise.
24. Have a light snack.
Go with something that won’t keep you awake even longer. In other words, avoid anything with caffeine or added sugar. Try some cheese and crackers, a handful of mixed nuts, or some Greek yogurt. Or munch on some fresh veggies, with or without hummus.
25. Wrap up your day with a happy ending.
Because why not? Seriously, though, the hormones released with the big O can help you finally settle in and get some sleep.
Use whatever helps you get in the mood if you’re not already there. Think of it as self-care. Because that’s exactly what it is.
26. If you’re not alone in your awakeness, make this a team effort.
If you can both agree on what to do together, do that. Play a couple’s game and turn your mutual sleeplessness into a mini-date. Or talk about what’s keeping you both awake. Whatever activity you choose, end it on a high note. Go, team!
27. Get some fresh air.
Get dressed and walk out the door—or, if it’s an option, up to a rooftop—to get some fresh night air and walk around a bit. Bring something to entertain yourself if you’re so inclined, especially if the space you’ll be visiting has a lounge area with comfortable chairs.
28. Shop for a better mattress, pillows, or bedding.
Or make a list of desirable qualities in a bed, in a new set of pillows, or in bedding. Picture the bed you want and imagine yourself lying in it. Design a bed with a look and feel you love—something that makes bedtime (sans phone) something to look forward to.
29. Have a steaming mug of nighttime tea.
Try something with calming herbs like chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian root. Add honey, if you like. Some teas also go well with milk, which can also help you feel sleepy.
Now that you’ve looked through all 29 ideas for what to do when you can’t sleep, which of them stood out for you?
Not all of these will work for you as well as some. And, by all means, add your own personal flair to whatever you choose. The more comfortable you are with, the more effective it will be for you.
What will you try first if you have trouble sleeping tonight?