Too Tired to Write, But You Can’t Sleep?

too tired to sleep? can't write?

Photo Credit: graur codrin /

Do you have trouble sleeping because a remarkable idea keeps bouncing around in your head?

Is the exhaustion of your day getting to the point that you find it difficult to put words on the page?

Day jobs, school, family, kids, parties and daily tasks wear you out to leave little energy for writing concentration. What do you do when you can’t go to sleep, but you can’t muster the strength or creativity to write?

I encounter this situation frequently. It’s not writer’s block, but a form of insomnia that forces your mind towards leisurely tasks such as watching TV or scrolling through pages of Facebook posts.

Learn how to avoid situations where you are too tired to write, but can’t sleep.

Get to Bed and Write in the Morning

The best option when you are tired is to force yourself to sleep. How can you get yourself to sleep?

  • Reading – This is a double edged sword. When I read a book that consistently intrigues me, I want to stay up longer and read. Try reading a magazine that provides articles with an apparent ending. Browse through the short articles to lull your eyes to sleep. Purchase a few short story compilations where the end is imminent. Prevent a chapter ending cliff hanger from keeping you up.
  • White Noise – Shut off the TV, tablet and laptop. Opt to listen or watch forms of media that provide natural blue light. TV images and the backlights from computer/tablet monitors are known to keep you up longer and disturb your natural REM cycle. Listen to calming music or sounds of nature such as trickling water or chirping birds.
  • Have a glass of wine – This doesn’t do wonders for the next day, but it gets you to bed and up in the morning. Several studies show that a glass of wine or a single beer at night is actually healthy. If beer or wine isn’t your thing, drink a large glass of cold water or milk before you go to bed.

Take Out Your Pad of Paper

Avoid using a computer when you can’t go to bed. This only makes the situation worse. Take out your notepad, lie on your bed and start writing. The writing helps you go to sleep, and the lack of unnatural light sets you into a deeper sleep. This also forces out some creativity, and it leaves a notepad by your side when you wake up with sudden thoughts of inspiration.

Develop Your Plan

An unproductive night usually leads to an unproductive next day. Use that time to sprawl out in your bed, and devise a plan for tomorrow. Write how you plan on utilizing each hour of the next day. Outline a day-to-day plan for the week. Think about the areas of your platform that make you struggle.

If you lag on the social media front, write out an outline for the coming week, and write social media post ideas for the entire week. Since you are not well versed in the area it will put you to sleep. Hopefully you will also create some solid planning for the week.

Integrate Writing Bursts With an Award to Put You Asleep

I use writing bursts during the day to stay productive. This entails me writing for a short period of time (usually an hour) and rewarding myself with something I enjoy such as a chapter in a book, a sitcom episode or a bag of beef jerky. My friend suggested that I integrate writing bursts into my late-night routine.

I always have a goal to eventually get to bed when I can’t get to sleep. Write for a short period of time, and reward yourself with something that could potentially put you to sleep. I usually write for 30 minutes and drink a cold glass of milk with a cookie. This slows down my body, and puts me to sleep. Try reading something after you write for a short period of time or playing an instrument if it won’t wake up roommates or family (my old roommate used to lightly play his guitar to put him to sleep.)

The night is a time with unknown possibilities. Take advantage of late-night inspiration, but get to sleep as soon as possible to get back to work in the morning.

How do you cope with a night where you can’t sleep or write? Let us know in the comments.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


  1. Over Whitecliff says:

    Another awesome post! As the book gets closer to finished, this happens more often. I’ll definitely try some of these, especially the milk and cookie. πŸ™‚ The method I’ve used most often came from mom. When I was little (maybe five or six) we shared the same bed and if I couldn’t get to sleep, or woke up in the middle of the night, she would talk me through the fifty States in alpha order with their capitols. I would usually konk out in the middle of the M’s so she could get some rest. It still works after a fashion but my head always tries to flip to the story.

  2. A warm cup of herbal tea — I like the peppermint, chamomile with alfalfa — works for me. But a lot of my friends like a drink they call “calmag”, an easy to assimilate concoction of calcium and magnesium. And I have found that my mind only races when I am deficient in B vitamins, (especially B1 and B6). Now, I WRITE bedtime stories, so the old read-yourself-to-sleep advice is my favorite. But I have been known to fall asleep at bedtime, wake up and write for at least four hours in the middle of the night and then fall asleep and sleep soundly for another four hours before breakfast. I think eight solid hours of unbroken sleep may be a myth we try to force on ourselves. I DO need eight hours sleep out of every 24 — but it doesn’t HAVE to be unbroken, unless I am forced to be awake for 16 hours straight. I think any regular schedule is helpful to the body, but I know that’s not always practical. I would put the line about B vitamins in bold, if I could.

  3. Hello,
    I like your post.
    I need long periods of rest when I can chew on an idea in my mind before I actually get down to writing.
    I guess that is one thing that works for me.

  4. L. A. Howard says:

    A hot bath helps me to relax. πŸ™‚ Also, eating something that has milk, even if it’s fat-free. Like cereal, or just drinking it straight. If none of that works, I find that journaling or note-taking usually does the trick. If all else fails, a sleep aid like melatonin usually helps!

    I’ve heard that alcohol, while it makes you sleepy, actually isn’t that great for getting a good REM sleep.

  5. I play “I Packed My Grandmother’s Suitcase” with myself. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a memory game, usually done in a group, with each person repeating what has been said before and adding something else. It goes like this:

    “I packed my grandmother’s suitcase, and in it I put an apple.”
    “I packed my grandmother’s suitcase, and in it I put an apple and a bell.”
    “I packed my grandmother’s suitcase, and in it I put an apple, a bell, and a cotton ball.”

    I rarely make it to the J’s.

    It’s great for those nights when you can’t sleep because your mind is going in a million different directions at once because it forces it to focus on one repetitive thing.

  6. hi joe, i will definitely keep your advice in mind! thanks for dropping by my site, by the way.

  7. For me, going to sleep and waking up early to write is the best option, although I can’t always get up early enough. I’m usually so sleepy when I reach home that I just give in. Damn this human body…

  8. This happens to me quite often. I find myself trying to stay awake an attempt to get words out on paper.
    This was quite helpful and I love the tips! To bed early and rise to write!!

  9. Some good advice! I always start writing at night and then take me forever to head to bed! It’s an addiction!!!! eeK!

  10. I couldn’t sleep for ages due mainly to stress – you may be familiar with stuff running through your mind and before you know it, it’s morning and you’re exhausted again. What really helped me was just simple earplugs and an eye mask. I assume the effect was psychosomatic, but it appeared to work. I bought my kit online and it was the best few quid I had spent in ages.