What to do if you wake up in the middle of the night

Published December 5, 2014

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If you wake up through the night it can sometimes be difficult to fall back asleep. As you lay there you may begin to worry and fret about the day’s events or about not being able to sleep, slowly watching the minutes tick by. When you finally doze off, it’s not long before your alarm starts ringing. If midsleep awakenings are becoming a recurring scenario, and affecting your sleep quality and daytime performance, try the following strategies:

  • Relaxation techniques – If you’re struggling with sleep through the night, try practicing deep breathing or visualization. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that may be useful. This involves tensing your muscles one by one as tightly as you can and then completely relaxing them. Start at your feet and work your way up to the top of your head.
  • Use the 20 minute rule – If after about 15‐20 minutes of trying, you’re still not able to get back to sleep, leave the bedroom. Tossing and turning will only make sleep even more elusive. Do something relaxing in another room such as reading a book under low light or some easy stretches until you feel sleepy. Importantly, avoid screens of any kind such as laptops, mobile phones and the TV as these have stimulating effects on the mind and can trick your body into thinking it should be awake.
  • Put the clocks/phones out of sight – If you wake long before the sun comes up, chances are the first thing you do is check the time. Unfortunately, knowing how long you’ve been awake only perpetuates sleeping difficulties. Keep the alarm clock/phone in your bedside drawer or under your bed, and resist the temptation to look at it through the night.
  • Keep light to a minimum – If you wake up in the early hours because you need to use the bathroom, keep light to a minimum, which will make it easier to fall back asleep. Bright light can cue your body clock that it’s time to wake up.
  • Try a herbal remedy – A soothing chamomile tea or natural sleeping remedy with ingredients such as lactium, hops and zizyphus may help you fall back asleep helping you to wake refreshed and ready to face the day ahead.

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