We’ve all been there. It’s 4 a.m., and we are suddenly wide awake from a good sleep. It’s a rude shock to be woken up in the middle of the night when you had gone to bed on time and managed to stay asleep for a while. It’s frustrating when you’re awake and staring at the ceiling when it’s still dark outside.
You’ll be surprised to learn that waking up a few times in the middle of the night isn’t unusual at all. On the contrary, it is normal to wake up because that’s when the sleep cycle is transitioning from deep to light. The problem arises when you cannot fall back asleep. If there’s anything more frustrating than waking up in the middle of the night, then it’s not being able to go back to sleep.
Being unable to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night is one of the leading causes of fatigue among the urban population. But all isn’t lost because there’s a lot you can do to help yourself fall back asleep no matter when you wake up in the night.
Get used to it
When you wake up at an ungodly hour, your mind starts racing. Why did I wake up? Will I be able to go back to sleep? Will I remain tired the whole day? When thoughts like these run through your mind at 3 in the night, it prevents sleep from coming back. A period of wakefulness in between different cycles of sleep was perfectly normal with our ancestors. Because we tend to go to bed late now, it becomes a source or anxiety if we wake up. But getting used to it and accepting it as healthy and normal takes some of the anxiety away and helps you fall back asleep.
Stay away from the screens
What do you usually do when you can’t go back to sleep at night? You reach for your phone. But the blue light from your phone screen makes it harder for sleep to come back. Blue light is known to block the production of melatonin, even more than sunlight. From a blue night light to the blue glowing screen of a phone or laptop, they all prevent good sleep. Therefore, no matter when you wake up at night, do not reach for your electronic devices.
Focus on your breathing
This is the number one effective way to fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night (and also to help you sleep or rest any time of the day). Staying focused on your breathing calms your nervous system and moves your attention away from stressful thoughts going through your mind. Simply lie in bed and focus on your abdomen moving up and down to the rhythm of your breathing. This easy exercise relieves the tension in your body and lulls you to sleep.
Do something boring
Excitement makes you stay awake, therefore, to put yourself back to sleep do something boring. Reading a boring book or listening to some boring podcast is known to help. You could also try listening to a guided sleep meditation that will gently lull you back to sleep by helping you focus on your breathing.
Don’t ignore the signs
The signs of sleep are subtle but don’t ignore them. When you feel sleepy again, don’t fight it. Heed to the cue and go back to sleep.
Going back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night may not be all that hard if you know what to do. Go with the flow of your sleep cycle and let your body adjust itself.