For many, it's not drifting off to the land of Nod that's the hard part - it's staying there. Finding yourself conscious hours after hitting the pillow is frustrating, but how can you stop waking up in the middle of the night if you're prone to it? Well, there are a few different tactics that might be able to help you — but first, it's important to understand the different explanations for why you might be regularly waking up at night. For some, the habit could be a telling indicator of your general health and stress levels.
James Findley, Ph.D., CBSM, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Huffington Post that in most cases, difficulty maintaining sleep (sometimes known as "middle insomnia") is actually pretty normal. He explained that sleep moves in cycles, and that as morning approaches, "we're moving toward lighter stages of sleep, so we're more likely to have an awakening." Because of this, people are more likely to experience disturbed sleep in the early morning. However, if you're awakenings keep you up for more than 30 minutes, for three or more days a week, Findley says it may be down to one of three things: A sleep-related condition, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy; another health-related condition, such as stress or psychological problems; or a disruptive sleep environment.
If you're struggling with keeping your eyes shut after hitting the hay, though, there are strategies you can employ for staying in slumber for longer. This list is far from exhaustive, but these four tips are a good place to start. And remember — don't hesitate to get help from a professional if you need it. We all deserve a good night's sleep!
1Develop Good Sleep Hygiene
Establishing a regular pattern to help induce sleep is one suggested way to keep yourself snoozing all night long, according to the National Sleep Foundation. They define good sleep hygiene as "a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness," such as sticking to the same bedtime routine every night and avoiding caffeine right before bed.
Sleep expert Wendy Troxel, PhD reckons that distracting yourself from the fact you're awake when you find yourself conscious is the key to getting back to sleep. "Go do something like reading a book or magazine," she told Byrdie in November. "The key is to distract yourself from the fact that you are not sleeping (so you don’t practice worrying in bed), and once your brain is distracted by some other activity, you might actually get sleepy again. At that point, you can return to bed.” Troxel advises that these late-night activities be relaxing and doable in "low-light conditions.”
The magic elixir for many of our health woes, exercise is also key for tiring us out and inducing a nice, deep sleep, simply because our body needs the extra rest. Be sure not to exercise right before bed, though, as doing so might actually make you feel more alert.
4Avoid Bright Lights
Much has been written about the negative effects of exposure to bright light before bed because it confuses and our brains and makes us more alert than we should be. Light stimuli right before bed interferes with our body's circadian clock, which is our natural sleep rhythm. Bright lights and blue light can disrupt your sleep pattern, so keep the lights dimmer and shut down those screens early.