About 20% of people wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep. This type of insomnia can be stressful, not to mention exhausting. Read on for 14 tips to help you get back to sleep fast — and steps you can take to prevent those mid-sleep awakenings from happening in the first place.
How to fall back to sleep at night: Our tips
1. Forget about time
Tossing and turning in the middle of the night, it's tempting to glance at the clock. But every time you do, you'll worry about how much sleep you've lost, and that will only add to your stress. This can make it even harder for you to relax and go back to sleep. Turn the clock against the wall or put it in a drawer and resist the urge to check the time on your phone.
2. Stay away from screens
Blue light from any screen, be it a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, signals your brain that it's time to wake up. Keep devices out of reach when you wake up in the middle of the night. And also turn off all screens an hour before you go to bed.
3. Go to another room
If you've been awake for 20 minutes or more, you may want to get up and out of bed. Without turning on any bright lights, go to another space. Do not turn on the TV. Instead, do something peaceful and calming.
You can take a few deep breaths or read a book. (Don't choose one that will make it even harder for you to sleep!) If you wait until you're sleepy before going back to bed, it may be easier to fall asleep.
4. Don't be productive
You might be tempted to make the most of your extra wake time, but don't. The middle of the night is not a good time to tackle tasks, get ahead at work, or get creative in the kitchen. If you do and get something out of it, you'll reward your brain for waking up when you shouldn't. This makes it more likely to recur.
5. Start counting – backwards
Is your "busy brain" the reason you're up at night? In this case, you will have to turn it off before going back to sleep. A simple way to do this: count backwards from 100. This distracts your attention from past regrets and future worries and forces your brain to stay in the present. When this happens, you may feel relaxed enough to close your eyes and go back to sleep.
6. Relieve your muscles
Your muscles need to be comfortable to fall asleep. If you're tense, you might not even realize they are too. A technique called "progressive relaxation" can help. Start with your feet and flex all the muscles in your toes for five seconds, then relax. Breathe slowly and deeply. Repeat these steps with your legs, back, belly, chest, arms, and face. You will feel the difference.
7. Relax at bedtime
Find ways to relieve stress before bed. You may want to listen to soothing music or a podcast. You can also do easy yoga poses or just sit quietly and take a few deep breaths. When you fall asleep with a clear mind, you are more likely to stay asleep.
8. Cut out caffeine
Whether in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks or chocolate, caffeine keeps your brain awake. And while these effects start quickly (within an hour), they also stay in your body longer than you think. Half of the caffeine in your drinks is still in your system three to five hours after you drink it. To make sure your sleep doesn't weigh heavily, avoid all caffeine after 13 p.m.
9. Go to a quiet room
While you sleep, your brain is still listening. The sounds you hear can wake you up, even from a deep sleep. It's more likely the later it is, or if the noise signals danger, like a crying baby or a police siren. Make your bedroom as quiet as possible. Earplugs can help.
10. Stay Cool
Is your bedroom too hot? Cold temperatures help your body sleep. So try to keep your sleeping space between 15 and 20 degrees. It can be difficult to maintain your temperature if you are going through menopause and are prone to hot flashes and night sweats. If so, you can also turn on a fan or cover yourself with light sheets instead of a thick duvet.
11. Calm down on alcohol
You might think that a beer or a glass of wine before bed helps you fall asleep. Alcohol increases a chemical in your body that helps you sleep. But it passes quickly and you can be wide awake before dawn. A drink before bed can also make you use the bathroom. Reduce your drink intake and you will likely sleep more soundly.
Learn this popular practice and you can calm those racing thoughts in the middle of the night. It's simpler than it looks. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Think of a soothing word or short phrase.
You can also imagine a place that makes you happy. If your thoughts wander, don't judge yourself. Just come back to your breath and your chosen focus. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
13. Stick to a schedule
If you've been awake for any length of time during the night, you're likely to be tired and groggy the next morning. If you can, try not to stay up late or take a nap to compensate.
It is crucial to stick to the same bedtime and wake-up times each day. This trains your body to know when you wake up versus when you sleep. When this happens, you may wake up less often.
14. Talk to your doctor
Some people wake up in the middle of the night because of a health problem. If you try these tips and you're still awake when you should be sleeping, let your doctor know.
Chronic pain, mental health issues like depression, and sleep issues like sleep apnea could be to blame. In this case, your doctor can offer you treatment or refer you to a specialist who can help you.