If you’re someone who has trouble sleeping, one of the worst feelings is waking up in the middle of the night. Not only did you likely spend seemingly countless minutes getting yourself to finally fall asleep at the beginning of the night, but now you have to do it again.
This experience is frustrating, and without a plan, it can be nearly impossible to get back to sleep in a reasonable amount of time. We have put together a list of things that you can do to expedite falling back asleep. By knowing what to do, and what not to do, before you wake up at an unacceptable hour, you set yourself up for greater success late at night.
What NOT To Do When You Wake Up at Night
Use Electronic Devices
After you’ve been awake for awhile, it can become tempting to do something to quell the boredom and frustration. Whatever you do, try to avoid electronic devices.
Looking at your smartphone or turning on your television can greatly hinder your ability to fall back asleep. (*1) With a combination of the sleep-cycle-disrupting light and distracting apps and shows, it is best to avoid any contact with your phone, computer, or TV.
Turn on Bright Lights
When you wake up, try to keep as many lights off as possible. If you turn on a bright light, it hinders your ability to fall back asleep. Using nightlights, candlelight, or a dim incandescent light bulb is your best option to avoid light that will increase how awake and alert you feel.
Look At the Time
It is only natural to peek over at your clock when you wake up—but try your best to avoid this. Looking at the clock can increase the stress you feel from waking up. You will be better able to stay relaxed if you avoid seeing what time it is.
What You SHOULD Do To Help You Fall Back Asleep
Leave Your Bed if You’re Having Trouble Falling Asleep
If it feels like you have been awake for 15 minutes or more, or you are growing restless in your bed, leave it. You want to keep your bed for sleep, and feelings of anxiety in your bed can make it tough to fall back asleep. Plus, associating your bed with feelings of frustration can make it hard to sleep well there during future nights.
Practice Deep Breathing or Meditation
You can employ this strategy while still in bed upon waking, or out of bed if you are struggling to get back to sleep. By calming your mind and allowing yourself to relax rather than focusing on not being able to sleep, deep breathing and meditation can help you to fall back asleep. (*2) Another benefit of meditation is that it is a state of calm, and while sleep might be better, it is more restful than doing something like watching television. This may help you feel more energetic come morning.
When you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to be intentional about how you spend your time. Limit activities that might increase arousal, such as watching television or turning on a light. Instead, try calming activities like meditating away from your bed until you feel like you’re ready to fall back asleep. You should also try to create the perfect environment to promote better sleep.