Sometimes we get woken up in the middle of the night for a moment, only to fall back into our slumber effortlessly. But other times that little wake-up can keep you up all night rolling around in bed till the wee hours of the morning.
If you find yourself feeling sleepless at night, try out one of these eight tricks from sleep and anxiety experts to troubleshoot your sleep problem and tempt your body back into a deep slumber.
Deep breathing: Deep, focused breathing is a popular practice for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Put your hand on your stomach, close your eyes and take an evenly paced breath for a count of six, making sure to pay attention to the rising of your abdomen. Breathe out slowly for the same count. Repeat.
Guided sleep meditation: Meditation is a well-known method to calm the mind, but it’s not always accessible to those who aren’t experienced. A great alternative is a guided sleep or meditation app. According to stress management expert Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, some of them actually embed delta sleep waves to help ease the process.
Don’t play the blame game: If you have had chronic sleeping issues, then you’ve probably done enough of your own research to conclude that not sleeping isn’t good for you. There is a specific channel in your brain dedicated to judging your inability to sleep, which brings about more worry and anxiety. The constant cycle of worry only further impairs your ability to sleep. Show some compassion and try to remind yourself to not pass judgment on your sleeping ability too harshly.
Don’t watch the clock: It’s important to not exacerbate your anxiety about not sleeping by constantly checking the time. You will end up spending the whole night calculating how many hours of sleep you could potentially have if you fall asleep at a reasonable time—and then you’ll find yourself worrying about whether or not you actually will fall asleep at a reasonable time.
Avoid alcohol before bed: A big glass of red wine may make you drowsy, but Dr. Bhanu Kolla, an addiction psychiatrist and sleep medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic, says that alcohol forms acetaldehyde, which is stimulating. This means that in a few short hours, that sleepy feeling will be replaced by unavoidable feelings of wakefulness. Best to skip the alcoholic beverages before bed if you plan to sleep well.
Write down your worries: While your worries won’t naturally disappear right before bedtime, there are ways you can clear your mind of them so that you can allow yourself a restful sleep. A good way of doing this is by writing all your preoccupations down in point form before settling into sleep. If this doesn’t work, you can leave your bedroom and sit down to do a more in-depth writing “dump” till you are exhausted.
Stay away from blue light: It may be difficult to commit to this one, but ideally, we should be spending at least one hour before bedtime free of electronic devices. This is because LED spectrum light sources suppress melatonin levels, and melatonin helps us sleep better.
Get up after 20 minutes: If you simply cannot fall back asleep after a 15 to 20 minute period, leave your bedroom to do a calming (and preferably boring) activity until you start feeling drowsy again. Only then should you attempt to sleep again. The idea is to avoid spending too much time in bed while you aren’t sleeping. This is because we want our minds to associate the bed with sleep to put ourselves in the right mindset when we enter that space.