You know the feeling. Your eyes snap open in the middle of the night and suddenly you're wide awake at 3 A.M. Maybe your head is filled with racing thoughts, it's the Witching Hour when supernatural activities may occur, or you simply have trouble falling asleep. Whatever you’re dealing with, there's nothing more frustrating than waking up and not being able to go back to sleep. With a few tweaks to your evening routine, you can learn how to fall back asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.
The #1 Thing to Avoid When You Wake Up
Lynn Green, Integrative Nurse Practitioner and Master Herbalist, says that when it comes to sleep in general, think of it as a soft landing, not a crash. You want to start preparing your body for sleep in the early evening to get optimal sleep at night, and that means dimming lights and putting away devices. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep, resist the urge to grab your phone and scroll through Instagram, because the LED lights can interfere with your body's natural secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Lynn also advises to refrain from looking at the clock when wakeups happen the same way she says to avoid them before bed, because it only makes things worse — both for your brain and your body. “So many of us have disturbed light response,” she says. “A lot of people have too many lights in their room, from devices to red and green lights to alarm clocks with big lights. Get rid of them so you don't watch the time!”
Create an ideal sleep environment
Are you waking up because you're too warm or too cold? You may need to adjust your pajamas or bedding or bring in a fan or extra blankets. For light or sound issues, try blackout curtains or a sound machine to filter sunlight, streetlights, and noise. Are pets the cause of your sleeplessness? If you can, keep them in a separate room or encourage them to sleep in their own bed or a crate in your bedroom.
Clear your mind and relax your body
If your to-do list is constantly racing through your head, preventing you from sleep, you're not alone; this is very common, especially with women. Lynn suggests keeping a notebook by the bed so you can write down anything that's on your mind and help soothe and settle those racing thoughts, whether it's your work tasks for the next day, a grocery list, or assorted worries.
Are you exercising too close to bedtime? Often we think a good sweat session can help tire us out, but Lynn says it can sometimes do the opposite, and instead spike your energy levels just as you’re ready to retire. “Exercise in the early evening, and no vigorous exercise before bed,” she says. Sugar, caffeine, and alcohol too close to bedtime can also impact your sleep cycles, so Lynn also advises consuming them in the early evening and cutting off caffeine at noon. “Alcohol can start as a depressant and end as an excitant,” she explains.
Try supplements to help you sleep*
If you're curious about supplements to support sleep, Lynn's favorite for such purposes is Sleep Tonight™ Melatonin Drops.* “It's a great formula of melatonin and other ingredients to help support restful sleep,” she says.* “The drops work quickly, and they contain L-theanine to promote relaxation and an herbal blend of lemon balm and passionflower.”* Lynn says to take the recommended dose if you wake up in the middle of the night and still have several hours to try and rest, but if you're waking up about an hour before your alarm, just get up and start your day instead of trying to coax your body back to sleep.
When to talk to your doctor about sleep
Are you dealing with pain, restless legs, or frequent urination? If any of these issues are waking you up or keeping you from sleep, you may want to visit with your healthcare provider to find a solution.
Even when sleep feels beyond your reach, know this — it's not forever, and with these strategies to help you get ready to rest and back to sleep, those middle-of-the-night wakeups may be a thing of the past.