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5 Tips to Get Back to Sleep

Struggling with 3 a.m. wakeups? Try these 5 tips to get back to sleep.

If you’ve ever struggled to fall back asleep after waking up in the middle of the night, you know how frustrating it can be. Luckily, there are ways to get back to sleep after waking up. Here are # tips to fall back asleep after waking up.

Why You May Be Waking Up in the Middle of the Night

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night before quickly dozing back off to sleep? If so, you’re not alone. Most people experience nighttime awakenings, and these disruptions are typically harmless and normal.[1] However, if you’re consistently waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep easily, that may be a sign of something more serious.

There are many reasons why you may be waking up in the middle of the night. Here are some lifestyle habits and choices that can lead you to wake up in the night.[2]

  • Caffeine or alcohol
  • Eating large meals
  • Inconsistent sleep schedule
  • Midday naps
  • Stress or anxiety

Besides these lifestyle factors, it’s possible that you could be suffering from an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia. Here are some of the most common sleep disorders:[3]

If you suspect you might be suffering from one of these common sleep disorders, you should contact a licensed healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms and potential treatment.

Why It’s Important to Fall Back Asleep

Most people experience occasional sleep disruptions, and we all know the tired groggy feeling that follows a poor night of sleep. This is why getting back to sleep can be so important. But how does a poor night of sleep impact our wellbeing? Although sleep science is a developing field, scientists believe that sleep is an important regenerative process that helps our nervous systems function properly.[4] Neurotransmitters like adenosine help us remain wakeful and alert during the day but require periods of sleep to maintain optimal levels.[5] In order to live the healthiest lifestyle, for you and your family, try using some of these techniques to fall back asleep after waking up in the middle of the night.

How to Get Back to Sleep After Waking Up

  1. Don’t check the clock. It can be tempting to play the game of “if I fall asleep right now, I’ll still get 5 hours of sleep…” but it only creates additional stress and distraction. Turn your clock so it’s out of sight, and do your best to clear your mind of worries about getting back to sleep.
  2. Avoid sensory stimulation. Try using a sleep mask, earplugs, or a white noise machine. These can help cut down on external stimulation and help your body learn that it’s time to shut down.
  3. Try a mental exercise. Starting with your toes and working up to your forehead, tightly tense each muscle group for a few seconds before releasing. Mentally visualizing each muscle and telling it to shut off can help you relax each one.
  4. Breathe. You may already know that taking deep breaths can help combat stress during the day, but it’s also a great way to tell your body that it’s time to relax. Some experts recommend the 4-7-8 breathing technique.[6] Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, then release through your mouth for eight seconds.
  5. Take a walk. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling can cause your brain to associate your bed with not sleeping well. If you can’t fall back asleep after 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and head to a different room to do a relaxing activity. Reading a book, listening to relaxing music, or doing some light tidying are things to try. You want something uninteresting and unstimulating. When you start to feel drowsy and relaxed, head back to your bed.

Managing Sleep

If you still experience ongoing issues getting enough uninterrupted sleep each night, it’s best to check with a medical professional. You may be experiencing a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia, in which case a diagnosis and the right sleep equipment may be needed in order to get back to a normal sleep schedule. While it can be frustrating, it’s worth taking care of yourself and prioritizing your sleep—so that you can continue to live a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your loved ones.

[1] Cleveland Clinic

[2] Wexner Medical Center

[3] Princeton Health

[4] Harvard Medical School

[5] McGill University

[6] Healthline