Sickle cell disease: Improving your sleep habits

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Learn how sleep training and creating a nesting place for relaxing activities can help you fall asleep more easily.

Key points

  • Before starting sleep training, it's a good idea to set up a nesting place away from your bed and in a room that has dim light and is away from stimulating distractions.
  • Your nesting place is for easy, familiar or boring activities that will help make you relaxed and sleepy. Do not do anything stimulating like exercising or using electronics.
  • Sleep training involves only using your bed for sleep, which means only going to bed once you feel sleepy. If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes of being in bed, you should return to your nesting space until you feel sleepy again.
  • Use the relaxation strategies you've learned to help you feel tired and ready for sleep at the beginning of the night or to fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Changes in your bedtime routine can help you develop better sleeping habits.

Two techniques in particular, when used properly, can really help make the difference between a bad night’s sleep and one that makes you feel rested and ready for the day. They are sleep training and relaxation.

Nesting place

Before you start your new approach to sleep, it’s a good idea to set up a “nesting place”. This is a comfortable, relaxing place you can go if you have a hard time falling asleep, but it is not your bed.

Your nesting place should be in a room that has dim light and be away from the computer, television, cell phone and other stimulating distractions. It should also be a place you can be away from family members who are still awake after you go to bed.

Things you can do in your nesting place

Your nesting place is where you go to let your brain unwind until you feel sleepy. You can help yourself feel sleepy by doing very easy, familiar or even boring activities!

How about…?

  • reading a familiar book that you’ve read many times before
  • writing the ABCs
  • braiding a friendship bracelet
  • counting by 3s or 7s
  • reading a math textbook
  • doing a word search
  • reading a parent’s book on a topic that doesn’t interest you
  • practising cursive letters

Remember, the idea is to do something that will make you sleepy.

Things you should not do in your nesting place

Since your nesting place is somewhere to relax, it makes sense not to do anything stimulating. This includes:

  • exercising
  • taking warm showers or baths
  • using electronics
  • doing other energizing activities

Do not try to fall asleep in your nesting place.

Other teens have told us that it is hard to get up out of a warm bed. That is why it is helpful to have your nesting place set up and ready for you. Make your nesting place comfortable and warm. Remind yourself that this is a really important step in teaching your body healthy sleep habits.

Sleep training

This is a good technique if you spend a long time in bed trying hard to fall asleep but toss and turn instead. The goal is to learn to train yourself to be in bed sleeping.

Step 1: Do not use your bed for anything except sleep.

Do not read, watch videos, eat or worry in bed.

Step 2: Don't go to bed until you feel sleepy.

Note: It is OK if this is quite late at first, as it is just a temporary bedtime. The goal will still be to get about nine hours of nighttime sleep eventually. It may take three or four weeks before you can go to bed at your "ideal bedtime".

Step 3: If you find yourself unable to fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and go to your nesting place.

Do not watch the clock—just estimate how long you have been lying awake.

Remember, the goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly! Come back to bed to go to sleep only when you are very sleepy.

Step 4: If you return to bed and still cannot fall asleep within 15 minutes, repeat Step 3.

Do this as often as you need to throughout the night.

Step 5: Use an alarm clock to wake up at the same time each morning.


Using relaxation can be a great way to get to sleep faster and more easily.

  • It can help you feel more relaxed at bedtime in general and help you overcome any specific worries you have about not falling asleep.
  • It can also make your muscles less tense and help relieve any pain that you feel before falling sleep.
  • It can help slow your body down and prepare it for a deeper, more restful sleep.

What do I need to do?

You have been learning several different relaxation strategies. Since you have probably been using relaxation during the day, you will need some practice using it at bedtime. If you have been practising in a chair, practise the exercises several times while lying on your bed during the day.

Then, practise your relaxation exercises at night when you are tired and ready to fall asleep.

Once you can successfully use relaxation exercises at night, you can use them to help you fall asleep at the beginning of the night or help you fall back asleep anytime in the middle of the night. Some teens use relaxation exercises when they go to their nesting place to help them get sleepy before returning to bed to fall back to sleep.

Where can you make a nesting place?

What will you do there?

List two to three activities that you are willing to try if you can’t sleep during the night:

Last updated: January 4th 2024