End middle-of-the-night awakenings with these tips for sounder slumber.
In an ideal world, you’d stay fast asleep from the moment your head hits the pillow until the time your alarm goes off. But, if you’re like many people, you instead spend some of that time counting sheep and struggling to get back to sleep. If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone: Midsleep awakening—also called sleep maintenance insomnia—is a common problem that affects twice as many women as men and is more prevalent in middle age.
You can blame the disturbance on many factors, such as the need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, chronic pain, stress, and hot flashes. If you’re waking up more than three nights a week for 30 minutes or more, it’s a good idea to see a physician about the issue (your doctor might prescribe medication, therapy, or a sleep study, which can help get to the root of the problem). Otherwise, follow these tips for more solid sleep.
- Drink Wisely. To lessen the chance that you’ll be staring at the ceiling come 1:00am, steer clear of caffeinated drinks after 2:00pm and avoid alcohol within two hours of bedtime, since it interferes with deep sleep.
- Work Up a Sweat. Exercise may help you sleep through the night, but aim to schedule your workout for the morning or afternoon, since a late evening sweat session can have the opposite effect and actually keep you up. The exception: Doing some gentle stretches or yoga before you hit the hay may increase the chance that you’ll sleep without waking in the middle of the night.
- Wind Down. If you aren’t tired at bedtime, do something relaxing—like taking a warm bath or reading a book—before you try to fall asleep. Waiting until your body is ready to power down for the night before you go to bed can help relieve sleep maintenance insomnia.
If you do wake up in the middle of the night, avoid staring at the clock. Watching the minutes (or hours) tick by while you try to fall back asleep is stressful. Instead, turn your alarm clock away from you while you sleep and avoid the temptation to glance at your phone to check on the time, since the blue light emitted from tech devices can further interfere with sleep. Still haven’t returned to dreamland after about 20 minutes? Get out of bed and distract yourself with a calming activity until you start to feel tired again, and then give sleep another shot.