By Jim Woods

Getting enough quality sleep is important to both your physical and mental health. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.1 Yet, the CDC reports that nearly one-third of Americans log less than seven hours of sleep daily.2 So if you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone.

If you’ve had a sleep issue for a while, your doctor may have prescribed Ambien to you. While Ambien may help you fall asleep, it’s not a good long-term solution. Drugs like Ambien can mask the underlying reason for sleep problems and bring a potential for addiction. Ambien can also cause impairment, which is why the Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding driving when you’re under the influence of this medication.3

Thankfully, there are many approaches you can use to sleep naturally. Here are a few simple tips to help you can get the sleep you need without drugs.

1. Exercise

When you exercise, your physical and mental health both improve. Exercise helps you fall asleep faster and even deepens your sleep.4 Just be careful not to exercise too close to bedtime, or the physical activity may keep you awake. It’s typically best to exercise in the morning or earlier in the day.

2. Count Sheep With a Twist

We all know about counting sheep, but try this instead: Pick any random word of at least five letters, then focus on the first letter. Think of other words that also start with that letter, and picture each word.5 For example, let’s say you use the word relax. You might start by thinking of words like read, red, room, register, etc. When you run out of words that begin with the letter “r,” move on to the next letter — in this case, “e.” This approach, called cognitive shuffling, helps the brain transition to sleep.

3. Unplug Before Bedtime

When you watch television or use your phone before bed, you’re telling your brain to stay awake. The physical act of responding to a video game or even an email can release stress hormones into the body that are not conducive to sleep.6 Instead of using your phone before you go to sleep, read a book to promote quality sleep.

4. Meditate

While the word meditation often brings up an image of someone quietly sitting alone in a tranquil room, there are many different forms of meditation. Meditation is when you consciously direct your attention to an object of focus. This process helps increase awareness, relax the body and even calm the mind.6 And when you’re less stressed, you’ll sleep better. Meditation could mean listening to some calming music with your eyes closed while you center on your breathing or participating in yoga nidra, a form of yoga that focuses on sleep.

5. Improve Your Sleeping Environment

Your bedroom should be a peaceful place that promotes rest. This room needs to be dark, cool and clutter-free. If you go to sleep surrounded by piles of clothing or bills, it can lead to sleep problems. Take time to organize your space and create a relaxing environment for sleep.

6. Adjust Your Diet

What you eat greatly influences your sleep. That’s why it’s important to take a closer look at your diet. Are you trying to replace hours of sleep with more cups of coffee or sweet snacks? Alcohol, caffeine and foods that are high in sugar, sodium and carbs can all interfere with sleep.

7. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) is a type of talk therapy that teaches you how to change unproductive thinking patterns and habits that interrupt your sleep.7 Best of all, no drugs are involved. And research shows CBT-i is just as effective, if not more so, than prescription medications like Ambien. In just a few short sessions, you can learn a new approach that will help ease your mind as you go to sleep.

Woman waking and stretching

Find Help for Ambien Addiction

If you struggle with a sleep problem today, many options are available to help you. If you think you may be dependent on Ambien or any other drug, we can help. At Black Bear Lodge, we know you can live a life without drugs and want to show you how to make that happen. Call our toll-free helpline to talk to one of our admissions coordinators about your treatment options. We’re here to help you move forward.


1 Hirshkowitz, Max. “National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Duration Recommendations: Methodology and Results Summary.” Sleep Health, Accessed on March 19, 2018.

2 Nugent, Colleen. “Sleep Duration, Quality of Sleep, and Use of Sleep Medication, by Sex and Family Type, 2013–2014.” Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, Accessed on March 19, 2018.

3 Olson, Eric. “Ambien: Is Dependence a Concern?” Mayo Clinic, Accessed on March 19, 2018.

4Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity.” Mayo Clinic, October 13, 2016.

5 Stillman, Jessica. “Does Your Restless Mind Keep You Up at Night? Try This Simple Mind Trick.” Inc., May 19, 2017.

6 Wong, Cathy. “14 Natural Remedies to Beat Insomnia.” Verywell Health, February 23, 2018.

7 Corliss, Julie. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Offers a Drug-Free Method for Managing Insomnia.” Harvard Health Publishing, June 10, 2015.

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at Black Bear Lodge. For more specific information on programs at Black Bear Lodge, contact us today.