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How to fall back asleep if you wake up

By Amelia Willson | 2 Minute Read

We all have the occasional night when our sleep is interrupted. We wake up, and try as we might, we can’t fall back asleep. It happens to everyone.

Some of us experience frequent nighttime awakenings due to sleep-maintenance insomnia, or another sleep or health disorder.

Whatever’s waking you up at night, stay calm. Follow these tips to fall back asleep in no time.

7 ways to fall back asleep if you wake up

1. Don’t watch the clock.

Staring at the minutes go by and realizing how much sleep you’re losing out on will only stress you out, activating your nervous system and making you feel more alert instead of sleepy.

Turn the clock face away from you or remove it from your bedroom entirely.

2. Try deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises.

Keep your mind and body relaxed by giving your mind something else to focus on besides the fact that you can’t fall asleep. Progressively tense and relax each of your muscle groups, from your head to your toes, or do deep breathing exercises.

These movements are enough to give your brain something to focus on, but not too energizing so as to wake up your body.

3. Keep your electronics off.

It’s tempting to distract yourself by watching TV or checking Facebook. But resist the urge to seek refuge from your phone or iPad.

The blue light in these devices energizes your brain and tricks it into thinking it’s daytime, so the longer you look at them, the more awake you’ll feel.

4. Meditate or visualize.

Instead, keep your thoughts calm with a meditation or visualization practice. Focus your thoughts on something besides your anxiety about staying awake.

Many smartphone apps offer guided meditation (just open them quickly, open the app, and put the phone back away).

5.  Leave the room if you’re still awake after 15 minutes.

We know, we know, we told you to get rid of your clock, so how are you supposed to know if 15 minutes have passed? Trust your gut. If it feels like more than 15 to 20 minutes have passed, get up out of bed and leave the bedroom.

Rest on the couch or do a boring, low-key activity by low lamplight in another room. The key is to stop your brain from associating your bed with sleeplessness.

6. Do something boring in another room.

You can knit, color, listen to a podcast or calm music at a low level, or read a book (but not an e-book). Do simple math problems in your head, or count from 1 to 100 over and over. Keep yourself occupied until you’re bored enough to fall asleep again.

Just don’t eat. Eating energizes your body and you don’t want your brain to start thinking midnight is an appropriate time to wake up and start eating.

7. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.

Do not turn on the lights. Get a nightlight that’s motion-activated, so it only turns on during those nights when you wake up and need to leave the room.

If you woke up from night sweats, try going to bed naked and ensure the thermostat is set to a cool mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additional resources

To avoid sleepless nights, follow good sleep hygiene and sleep-healthy behaviors during the rest of your day. Learn more at the links below.

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