Waking up in the middle of the night is, frankly, a bit of a pain in the butt. Some people can roll over and go back to sleep in minutes. Others can toss and turn for hours without having such luck.
Nights like these often herald a pretty terrible day, full of bleary awareness and jaw-cracking yawns. Any insomniac or college student will sympathize with you on these days, perhaps even offer a commiserating nod as they throw back a gallon of coffee.
Learning methods for how to go back to sleep can help you either start getting more quality sleep, or figure out if medical intervention is needed. But first…
- 1 Why is Sleep Important?
- 2 How to Prevent Moments When You Can’t Fall Back Asleep
- 3 How to Get Fall Back Asleep
Why is Sleep Important?
A good night’s sleep is just as important as eating healthy and regular exercise. People eat, work, focus, and function better when they sleep well. Their immune systems are stronger too!
In fact, there are several studies that show people who sleep well on a regular basis have lowered risks of developing chronic illnesses, like heart disease or suffering a stroke.
Meanwhile, other studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to developing type two diabetes and depression.
So, if you are having trouble resting throughout the night, learning how to fall back asleep is definitely important!
Sleep is, basically, a mild healing trance, and incredibly important for your wellbeing. There is a good reason why the saying ‘I’ll sleep on it’ exists in relation to making important decisions.
Waking up in the middle of the night disrupts your rest, and slipping back to dreamland isn’t quite so easy as rolling over and shutting your eyes.
Before going over the methods for getting back to sleep, there are two important things that need to be covered.
Identify the Problem
Sleeping problems can be caused by something as minor as bright lights to more serious issues, like anxiety induced insomnia or chronic pain. So, it’s important to look at the cause of the sleep issues.
Really ask yourself: Why am I waking up? Is it nightmares, stress, and anxiety? Or is it an environmental issue – like a housemate coming home from a late shift or streetlights shining through your window? Is it pain? It is your partner shifting in their sleep?
Taking a good look at why you are waking up at such ungodly hours will help you identify what methods for falling back asleep will work best.
If you cannot narrow down the causation, it may be time to consider seeing your doctor or a sleep specialist (no, seriously, they exist!).
It may comfort you to know, though, that until the invention of electricity and the light bulb, waking up in the middle of the night was not uncommon at all!
Biphasic sleep (breaking the night’s rest into two separate sleep cycles) was how most of our ancestors spent the night.
How to Prevent Moments When You Can’t Fall Back Asleep
Excluding medical issues, one of the best ways to ensure more a restful night’s sleep in the future is prevention.
Creating the ideal sleeping environment and pre-sleep habits, as many insomniacs will tell you, is one of the best ways to improve your attempts.
Improve Your Sleep Space
People spend roughly a third of their life sleeping. Logically, creating the ideal space to sleep is a good move – no matter who you are.
So, look at your bedroom, and work through the steps below.
Step One: Remove Clutter
Clutter, oddly enough, does make an impact on how well you sleep. A clean environment is a comfortable one, meaning a more restful sleep for you.
Take the time to give your room a thorough cleaning and change the sheets – or at least shake them out.
Next, check out where your bed is positioned. Is it under a vent? A window? If so, move the bed into another corner, away from spaces where light shines or where changes in temperature are noticeable.
It may also be time to change the mattress if you are waking up due to being uncomfortable.
Step Two: Remove Distractions
At night, when the world has gone quiet, the tiniest sounds that are ignored during the day suddenly become intolerably loud.
As an example, laptop chargers and gaming consoles make a faint, high pitched noise when in standby mode. These devices, too, often have lights that make for small distractions.
If removing these devices from your bedroom isn’t a viable option, then unplugging them from the wall is the next best thing. This will cut down on your energy bill too!
Step Three: Improve the Space
Investing in some heavy curtains to keep out light, temperature, and sound will make a big difference.
Also, surprisingly, painting your room in shades of blue, green, or pastel yellow can have a positive effect; these colors have been found to have calming effects on people.
Finally, burning a few vanilla or lavender candles before you sleep is a minor aromatherapy practice that can help soothe energetic minds.
Change Bad Habits
Changing a few habits can make a world of difference. Our bodies like routine. Settling into a regular sleep schedule will go far towards improving your night’s rest.
Try to set up a night-time routine and stick to it; snuggling up in bed at the same time each night will help. Eventually, your body will settle into a rhythm, and sleep will be easier to fall into.
Other habits to get into: avoid drinking caffeine after 3 p.m., and exercise regularly. If you do suffer interrupted sleep regularly, then these last two habits will be hard to get into, but it’s worth it!
How to Get Fall Back Asleep
There are a number of ways to fall back asleep. It may surprise many to know that journaling is one way to settle the mind.
Anxiety and stress are typical factors in restless sleep. Keeping a journal is one way to express the worries plaguing you.
Either spend some time before sleep writing down your thoughts or do the same if you have woken up and cannot go back to bed.
No, seriously! If you toss and turn for more than 20 minutes, hop out of bed and do the most boring thing you can. Read a dry book or watch a documentary about a topic you have no interest in.
Content that is meaningless to you will occupy your mind and lull it into a calmer state.
Look, most people have fallen asleep in class at one point, so it does work.
Count Your Breaths
Everyone has probably been told to count sheep at one point or another. There are two main breathing exercises that may help.
The first is to count your breaths to either a 1/2/2/1 count, forward and back, or count to 10 and back again. Each inhale is a count, as is each exhale. Repeat the counts as needed.
The second breathing trick is good for those whose sleep is restless due to anxiety or stress, as it resets the sympathetic nervous system. Breathe in for eight seconds, hold for four, and exhale for twelve.
To be fair, this is a weird one, but it works. Try not to toss and turn, as this rouses the body into a more wakeful state. Instead, working from the toes up, tense your muscles and let them relax.
Keep each muscle group tensed for five seconds, and then let them go gently.
Listen to Soothing Music
This is one of the best ways to fall back asleep, and there is a reason relaxation videos are hugely popular on YouTube.
Be this auditory, visual, or a combination of both, popping on one of these videos – with the screen lowly lit or with a blue light filter on – helps many people drift into sleep.
Podcasts are another option. There are some specially designed for helping people go back to sleep, with gentle voices reading through stories or leading you through breathing and meditation exercises.
White noise is also useful for blocking out less pleasant sounds, like traffic, noisy neighbors, or chattering wildlife.
Sudden changes in temperature can wake you up. Thus, controlling the heat or AC is one way to ease yourself back to sleep.
Perhaps a draft blowing in through an open window is what roused you? Hop up and shut it, adjust the thermostat if needed, and curl back up under the covers.
Put Down the Phone
Now, just as there are things to do to go back to sleep, there are things you shouldn’t do.
It may be tempting to pull your phone out to idle the time away until your mind settles, but the light of the screen will only wake you up. The same goes for tablets and laptops!
Don’t Head out for a Smoke
Multiple studies show that smoking interferes with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which in turn makes it difficult for you to stay asleep.
Popping out for a quick cigarette before bed, or when you wake up in the middle of the night, is only going to make getting a good night’s sleep harder.
Quit the habit, or at least cut back. Most importantly, don’t smoke if you wake up in the middle of the night.
Booze may cause people to pass out, but the sleep that follows is hardly restful. In fact, alcohol can be the reason why you are waking up at butt o’clock in the morning.
Tempting as it may be to sip a glass of red late at night, try a glass or water or caffeine-free tea instead.
Here’s a video showing more details on how to fall back asleep.
Learning how to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night is a great way to improve your life. Don’t underestimate the value of a proper night’s sleep!
Try out some of the methods above, see what works for you, and sleep well for a change!