You did everything right. You stopped your caffeine intake before the evening, didn’t eat late and went to bed at your regular time with no computer screen in sight. Yet, here you are again, fuming because it’s 3 am, you’re up, and you can’t fall back asleep. At this point, you’re just counting down the little time you have left until you have to get up and are seriously obsessing about how tired you’re going to be the whole day.
We’ve all experienced this late-night vicious circle of sleeplessness and frustration. What’s more, these things often happen at the most inopportune times – they usually proceed some major event for which, ironically, we should be fresh and well-rested. Assuming that you’re already aware of all the basic rules for better sleep and regularly apply them, here are a few tips to help you understand and deal with these infuriating out-of-nowhere bouts of sleeplessness.
Return to our roots
Sleeping for one, long period isn’t how we always did it. In pre-industrial times, people practiced 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. But, stay away 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 in and staring at the ceiling.
Let anxiety go
It’s not unusual to wake up as a result of some job-related stress or the tasks you have to complete in the morning. Of course, there are things we can do to fight stress, but it’s impossible to avoid it completely. It becomes a real issue when we take it with us to bed, thinking about all the problems and potential solutions while we toss and turn. If that’s you, it’s a good idea to keep a piece of paper on the nightstand and write down all the important thoughts you’re having. This way you won’t have to worry about forgetting them, and this may ease your anxiety while helping you fall asleep.
Also, try to avoid looking at the clock. Thinking about how you should be asleep and how little time you have to get proper sleep will only make you more nervous and less likely to actually sleep. Knowing how late it is won’t help you in any way. During the night, clocks are your enemy, and it’s best to ignore them. If you just can’t help taking a peek, remove all clocks from your room or at least turn them around so you can’t see them.
Find a relaxation technique
It’s very important to find a go-to relaxation technique – something that you automatically associate with sleep. It can be a soothing audio that you listen to every time you go to bed or a breathing exercise that relaxes your body and mind. If you decide to go for muscle relaxation, you should do it by flexing and relaxing different sets of muscles while visualizing it, starting from your feet and going up. Repeat it as many times as you need to.
Listen to yourself
Of course, what matters most is what works best for you. If there is any method that helps you fall asleep and sleep better, that’s the one you should use. But if there is absolutely nothing that helps you in such situations and they occur regularly, you should seek medical attention as it may be a sign of 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 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/03/5-strategies-that-will-help-you-get-back-to-sleep/
- WebMD. (2005, May 8). 7 Ways to Get Back to Sleep. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tips-for-better-sleep