Retraining Yourself to Sleep After Frequently Using Sleep Aids

Although medications are commonly used to treat sleep disturbances, there are many self-management approaches that have been proven effective for many people. Whether you’ve recently stopped using prescribed or over the counter sleep medications or you are considering doing so, there’s a wealth of information on how to do so effectively, without risking too much loss of the sleep you need to be functional. If you’re ready to take the plunge, consider the following:

Be Prepared

The most important thing you should know about getting restful sleep is that sleep isn’t necessarily natural, it’s conditioned. When you realize this, you’ll begin to realize that you can’t just lie down and go to sleep, and there’s no reason to over-think and over-stress about it. You must condition yourself to sleep in a way that is effective for your body’s individual needs. When you first quit using sleeping aids, be prepared. You may have a few nights of worsened sleep. It won’t last forever, but it is part of the process. 

Give your body time and begin the process of conditioning

If you want to sleep on a set schedule, start by going to be and getting up at the same time, every day. It can be easy to let yourself sleep in because you didn’t fall asleep right away, at the time you wanted to. However, you’ll be falling into a trap, and your body won’t reset to the time you’ve specified unless your consistent. For the first few night, you may not fall asleep right away, but make sure to get up at the same time anyway. 

You’ll also want to institute a “bed time routine” to let your body know it’s time to wind down and get ready for sleep. You may be thinking, “a bed time routine? But I’m not a toddler!” However, there’s a reason parents teach their kids to sleep this way, because it works! Your bed time routine can include anything you want, a nightly cup of chamomile tea, a hot shower, reading a book quietly, anything that suits your style and gets your body prepared to sleep. 

The important thing to remember is that you are not a machine and you can’t just turn off. So, be kind to yourself, give yourself time to wind down each night, prepare for sleep, and let it become a conditioned response so that you can enjoy regenerative sleep.


Edlund, M., M.D. “How to Get Off Sleeping Pills”. Psychology Today. (Website). January 17, 2013

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