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People spend a third of their lives sleeping, so getting good quality sleep is important. Research has been done to determine ways to get better...
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Figuring out how to fall and fall back asleep when we wake up in the middle of the night can be challenging. These tips will help you figure out how to fall asleep, maintain a regular sleep schedule, and use sleep techniques that work best for you.
No matter how good your sleep habits are, most people take 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. Sleep experts say that the time to fall asleep varies from person to person and can even be as long as 45 minutes.
The body follows a 24-hour circadian rhythm cycle, an internal clock that carries out the body’s essential functions and processes. This internal clock is influenced by environmental cues such as light and the time of day.
A properly aligned circadian rhythm will allow for consistent and deep sleep, but a circadian rhythm that is out of sync will create many problems with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Not getting enough deep and restorative sleep has many physical and mental effects on our bodies. These side effects of poor sleep can appear in a few days or even months and years.
If you are struggling with a suspected sleep disorder or chronic insomnia, it is best to see a sleep specialist so you can rule out any underlying medical conditions. If there are no underlying problems, the following tips can help a healthier sleep routine and help you fall asleep and wake up feeling rejuvenated and rested.
Many of these tips may still be beneficial if you have a sleep disorder. However, consult your doctor to see which would be best considering your specific condition.
Having a light sleep, a disrupted sleep cycle and waking up in the middle of the night can result from improper sleep hygiene habits, stress, poor nutrition or many other factors.
Waking up in the middle of the night can cause sleep anxiety and deep frustration. Difficulty returning to sleep after waking is one of the four insomnia symptoms which affect many people.
Figuring out how to fall back asleep is an individualized process, and some tips might work better for you than others. The most important thing to remember is to be open-minded and try different tips to figure out your preference for how to get the most restful sleep possible.
The most common reasons why you wake up in the middle of the night are:
If you have poor sleep habits and experience nighttime awakenings, you’re tired when you wake and feel like you can’t achieve deep sleep, these tips can help to improve your sleep quality and incorporate good sleep hygiene habits.
Sun exposure in the early morning, ideally within 30 to 60 minutes of waking, will help regulate your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm aligns sleep and wakefulness with the environment, or day and night.
Light exposure makes your internal clock send signals to keep the body alert, allowing us to stay awake and have the energy to take on the day. As the sun starts to set, our internal clock starts to increase the production of melatonin which is the hormone that promotes sleep.
Sun exposure in the early morning helps to remind your body that it’s morning, making sure that the hormones that are being released are aligned with what we’re doing during the day and when we’re ready to rest at night.
Worrying about how quickly you’ll fall asleep or watching the clock can be disruptive and even make you more anxious if you're having trouble falling asleep. Being stressed and anxious or clock-watching keeps our brain alert, making it hard for our bodies to relax and fall asleep.
A whole channel in your brain is solely responsible for judging your inability to sleep and will feed into the “blame and shame game” when we start to worry and blame ourselves for not falling asleep or sleeping well.
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule with a regular bedtime routine, good sleep hygiene, sleep duration, bedtime, and wake time impacts how easily we can fall asleep.
A regular sleep schedule and routine, even on the weekend, will make it easier to fall asleep and have a restful sleep because our bodies become accustomed to a certain routine and schedule.
Being mindful of environmental factors that can disrupt your sleep is essential to preventing sleep disruption.
Adjusting the temperature in your bedroom to 15 to 20 degrees Celsius (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit) will allow you to keep the most optimal core body temperature. Sleeping in a colder temperature can improve sleep quality.
Making sure your environment is conducive to sleep is important as you’re winding down for the night. Making sure to have a dim light on and reduce any bright light, limit cell phone use, blue light from any screens, and anything that is very mentally stimulating.
Any LED spectrum and digital light can suppress melatonin production and the circadian drive. Melatonin levels rise and peak during the night. If the production of melatonin is disrupted, the circadian rhythm is also disrupted, and the quality of sleep is significantly lowered.
Dimming your lights and limiting overall light exposure, using blackout curtains, wearing blue light glasses during the evening, and opting to read a book or journal instead of watching tv are all options to help reduce light exposure and mental stimulation.
If you feel that your relationships with the blue light devices are unhealthy, try going on a short digital detox.
Feeling stressed is one of the primary causes of delayed sleep. When you are relaxed, your body’s parasympathetic nervous system is inactive.
Eating a well-balanced diet can benefit overall health, which plays a part in getting quality sleep. There are a few specific things to avoid that play a detrimental role in getting quality sleep and being able to fall asleep.
An evening intake of excess alcohol has detrimental effects on sleep. Alcohol metabolizes in the form of acetaldehyde, a stimulant that keeps you awake. Additionally, alcohol inhibits the antidiuretic hormone, resulting in using the bathroom more frequently, which disrupts continuous sleep.
Caffeine, found in coffee, tea and chocolate, is best to avoid in the early afternoon as the half-life of caffeine lasts between 5 to 7 hours, interrupting your ability to fall asleep.
Although melatonin occurs naturally in the body with a properly synced circadian rhythm, someone who has a delayed circadian rhythm, maybe from shift work or who prefers to go to bed later, may benefit from supplementing with melatonin.
Sleep disturbances can occur and wake us up in the middle of the night. Figuring out how to fall back asleep after waking is challenging and frustrating.
These are a few tips to have better sleep, prevent waking up in the middle of the night, limit sleep disturbances and help you to fall back to sleep when you wake up.
Certain practices help to promote relaxation that is beneficial to be done before going to bed if you’re just trying to relax and be less stressed or if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night and need to fall back to sleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you tense different muscle groups and relax them, working your way up the whole body. You can add this technique to deep breathing and meditation.
Starting with your toes, slowly moving up your body. Work through different muscle groups while you breathe in and tense the muscle group, holding the tension for up to ten seconds. After ten seconds, release the tension and move on to the next muscle group.
Move up the body until you’ve tensed and released all body muscle groups. This practice results in deeper relaxation, which aids in bringing your body into the parasympathetic nervous system.
Essential oils such as chamomile, lavender, sandalwood, and bergamot can relieve stress and anxiety and help promote relaxation.
Putting a few drops on your pillow, using a pillow spray, or an essential oil diffuser are easy ways to incorporate this into your nighttime routine.
Breathwork with a focus on deep breaths can help promote relaxation, take your mind off of distractions and physiologically force relaxation.
Using guided breathing soundtracks or podcasts can help with staying focused. Or you can try specific breathing patterns or focus on taking slow and deep breaths.
Some refer to the 4-7-8 breathing technique as a “natural tranquillizer” for the nervous system. To start this breathing technique, place the tip of your tongue against your upper front teeth on the ridge of your gums.
Exhale through the mouth completely, then inhale through the nose for four counts with your mouth closed.
Hold this breath for seven counts, and exhale through the mouth for eight counts. Repeat this process for four whole breath cycles.
Simply breathing deep and slowly is also beneficial if this technique needs to be simplified. A simple way to do this is to lay on your back comfortably and breathe with deep belly breaths.
Simple guided breathing meditations or mindfulness meditations help to shift the body into the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers the heart rate and slows breathing down. According to sleep experts, the time spent meditating creates a “buffer” between waking and sleeping.
When meditating on your own or with a guided meditation, it is important to focus on your breath and fully relax, releasing your body into your bed and allowing all tension to melt away. Allow the mind to drift and shift focus back to the guide or your breathing if you become distracted.
Listening to relaxing music can distract you from trying to sleep and directly affects the parasympathetic nervous system, which encourages the body to relax, slow your heart rate and breathing, lower blood pressure and relax the muscles.
Relaxing music is beneficial, but specifically, music with 60 to 80 beats per minute, like classical, jazz and folk music, is the best for promoting rest.
Sleep podcasts or nature sounds are also beneficial and positively affect the autonomic nervous system to promote relaxation.
Sleep experts suggest that when you add music to your regular bedtime routine and play similar music or sounds every night when you hear it, your body recognizes that it's time to sleep.
Using visualization techniques such as imagining a happy memory, counting your breaths, and picturing yourself in a beautiful place can help relieve the thoughts of having to fall asleep and get into a relaxed state so that it may naturally drift into sleep.
Writing down your worries, thoughts, or daily stresses on paper or in a journal can help shift your mind and body into relaxing.
Journaling helps to clear your mind and stay relaxed. Just make sure you journal with dim light to prevent your body from feeling too alert.
If nothing works, some sleep specialists suggest you get out of bed for 15-20 minutes. If you keep laying in bed frustrated, your brain will start associating the bed and nighttime with being frustrated and unable to sleep. If you choose to get up, just make sure the lights in your room or house stay dim so you don’t mess up your circadian rhythm.
Getting up for 15-20 minutes can help tire you out and allow you to anticipate being sleepy when you go back to bed.
A hot shower or warm bath may also help relax the body before returning to a cool room for bed.
Yoga or stretching can help promote rest. Rotations, downward dog, forward bend, and breathing can all bring the body into deep relaxation and take your mind off trying to fall asleep. When the body temperature heats up and instantly cools off, it signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.