The Struggle of Insomnia
About 20% of people wake up in the middle of the night, then struggle to get back to sleep. This type of insomnia can be stressful, not to mention exhausting.
10 Tips to help you quickly doze off, and steps you can take to keep these mid-sleep awakenings from happening in the first place.
1. Forget About the Time
As you toss and turn in the middle of the night, it’s tempting to peek at your clock. But each time you do, you’ll worry how much sleep you’ve lost and only add to your stress. That can make it even harder for you to relax and get back to sleep. Turn your clock toward the wall, put your watch in a drawer, and resist the urge to check the time on your phone.
2. Ease Your Muscles
Your muscles need to be at ease for you to fall asleep. If you’re tense, you might not even realize that they are, too. A technique called “progressive relaxation” can help. Start at your feet and flex all the muscles in your toes for 5 seconds, then relax. Take a slow, deep breath. Repeat these steps with your legs, backside, belly, chest, arms, and face. You’ll feel the difference.
3. Stay Away From Screens
The blue light from any screen, whether a tablet, phone, or laptop, signals to 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 while you’re at it, turn off all your screens an hour before bedtime, too.
4. Move to Another Room
If you’ve been awake for 20 minutes or longer, you may want to get up and out of bed. Without turning on any bright lights, move to a different room. Don’t turn on the TV. Instead, do something peaceful and calming. You could take a few deep breaths or read a book. (Just don’t choose a real page-turner!) If you wait until you feel sleepy to go back to bed, you may find it easier to drift off.
5. Don’t Be Productive
You may be tempted to make the most of your extra time awake, but don’t. The middle of the night isn’t the right time to tackle chores, get ahead at work, or be creative in the kitchen. If you do and get something out of it, you reward your brain for waking up when it shouldn’t. That makes it more likely to happen again.
6. Exercising for better sleep
Working out is great for your body and mind – and it can also help you get a good night’s sleep. Moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep.
But, for some people, exercising too late in the day can interfere with how well they rest at night. Don’t do vigorous exercises right before bedtime.
7. Go Easy on the Alcohol
You may think a beer or glass of wine before bed helps you fall asleep. Alcohol does boost a chemical in your body that helps you sleep. But you quickly run out of this chemical. That can leave you wide awake before morning. (A drink before bed can also get you up to use the bathroom.) Cut back on the adult beverages and you’ll likely sleep more soundly.
8. Get Counting — Backwards
Is a “busy brain” the reason you’re up at night? If so, you’ll need to turn it off before you can get back to sleep. One easy way to do that: Count backwards from 100. It shifts your focus away from past regrets and future worries and forces your brain to stay in the present. Once that happens, you may feel relaxed enough to close your eyes and return to sleep.
9. Cut Back on Caffeine
Whether it’s in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, or chocolate, caffeine triggers your brain to stay awake. And although these effects begin quickly (within an hour), they also linger in your body longer than you may realize. Half of the caffeine in your drinks is still in your system 3 to 5 hours after you drink it. To make sure your sleep doesn’t pay a price, avoid all caffeine after 1 p.m.
10. Talk to Your Doctor
Some people wake up in the middle of the night because of a health issue. If you try these tips and still find yourself awake when you should be asleep, let your doctor know. Chronic pain, mental health conditions like depression, and sleep issues like sleep apnea may be to blame. If so, your doctor can suggest a treatment or refer you to a specialist who can help.
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Be active and sleep well!