How to deal with those 3 AM wake ups?

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t overeat or drink coffee in the evening. No matter what precautions you take before going to bed, every once in a while you will wake up during the night and be unable to fall back asleep again. It can be extremely irritating and disrupt  your whole sleep cycle. What’s more, such wakeups often happen if you’re anxious before an exam or an important work event that requires you to be focused and well-rested. Given that you already put all the basic rules for better sleep into practice, there are a few more methods that will help you deal with such situations.


Returning to our roots

Sleeping for a one, long period of time isn’t how we always did it. In pre-industrial times people practised bi-modal sleep which means they slept twice a night with a short break in between. During this break they relaxed, talked to each other, had sex or, if they had access to light, did some light physical jobs such as sewing. If you wake up in the middle of the night and feel that it is impossible for you to fall asleep again, don’t stay in bed. Get up and try to do things that will make you relax. It can be reading, drawing or listening to quiet music. Stay back from activities such as watching TV, turning on your computer or eating as they will make it harder for you to fall asleep. After some time, go back to bed and try falling asleep again. It should be much easier than after hours of just lying and staring at the ceiling.

Letting anxiety go

It’s not unusual to wake up due to the anxiety connected with your job or/and the tasks you have to complete in the morning, especially if you face a lot of stress during the day. The best measure is to minimize it, but it’s not always possible to avoid it completely. A good idea is to keep a piece of paper near your bed and write down all that tasks and issues that made you anxious and woke you up. This way you will ensure that they are taken care of in the morning and be able to, at least partially, stop worrying while you should be asleep.


Also, try to avoid looking at the clock. Thinking about how you should be asleep and how little time you have to get a proper sleep will only make you more nervous and even less likely to actually sleep. Knowing what hour it is won’t help you in any way, in the night clocks are your enemy and it’s for the best just to ignore them. If refraining from taking a peek is too difficult, remove the clocks from your room or turn them so you can’t see them.

Relaxation is the key

Another method is having a go-to relaxation technique- it’s good to have an activity that you do often and associate with sleep. It can be a relaxing audio that you listen to every time you go to bed. It’s good to practise it, as what you want to attain here is having your mind make a link between listening to it and falling asleep. Slow breathing or muscle relaxation can also be helpful. If you decide to go for muscle relaxation you should do it by tensing and then relaxing sets of muscles while visualising them, starting from your feet and going up. Repeat it as many times as you need to.

Listen to yourself

Of course, what matters the most here is what works best for you. If there is some other technique that enables you to fall asleep during the night and get a great quality sleep – we highly encourage you to share it with us. But if there is absolutely nothing that helps you in such situations you should not be afraid to seek medical help as it may indicate that you suffer from a sleep disorder. Remember that no matter what, you should never let anything get between you and your sleep.


  • Cleveland Clinic. (2014, March 7). 4 Simple Steps to Get You Back to Sleep Fast. Retrieved from
  • WebMD. (2005, May 8). 7 Ways to Get Back to Sleep. Retrieved from