Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Ways to fall asleep again
It is normal to wake up several times during the night, as the brain cycles through different stages of deeper and easier sleep. Older people also often have to get out of bed to use the bathroom once or twice at night. Waking up at night is usually harmless. Most people have no problem falling asleep again and may not even remember their night awakenings the next morning.
But if you wake up often in the middle of the night and find yourself struggling to fall asleep, there can be an underlying problem. If this happens at least three times a week for a period of at least three months, it could be chronic insomnia, said Dr. Kannan Ramar, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Two of the major causes of insomnia are stress and anxiety. If you wake up and look at the clock and then start worrying that you will be leaving for work the next day, paying bills or other life stresses, this can activate your sympathetic nervous system, which controls what is known as war-or- flight response. Levels of adrenaline, the so-called stress hormone, will rise, increasing your heart rate and leading to an increased state of wakefulness, making it especially difficult to facilitate a return to sleep.
“You may ask yourself, ‘Is this the same time I woke up last night?’ Why does this always happen? ‘”Tha Dr. Ramar. “These thoughts are not helpful in terms of falling asleep.”
If you find that you have been awake for 25 minutes or more, experts advise you to get out of bed and do a quiet activity that calms your mind – all to quench the stressful thoughts that kept you awake. Gentle stretching or breathing exercises can help, as can meditation, which has been shown in studies to help combat chronic insomnia. You can sit on the couch and knit, or read a book or magazine in dim light. Experts recommend that you avoid reading on your smartphone, as the blue light emitted by these devices can suppress melatonin production, the hormone that helps us fall asleep. However, you can drag your phone to use a soothing app like Quiet or Head space, which are created to aid sleep and meditation.
Eventually, when you start to feel tired, go back to bed and try to nap. Then, the next day, apply the following sleep hygiene habits to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep.
Limit your alcohol intake in the evening. In small amounts, alcohol can act as a sedative, making you fall asleep faster. But it can also make you wake up in the middle of the night as your body is metabolizing it. Studies show that consuming alcohol before bed can lead to poor quality sleep.
Avoid consuming caffeine after 2pm as it may remain in your system until the evening. If you drink a cup of coffee at 3:30 in the afternoon, about a quarter of the caffeine may still be in your system 12 hours later.
Avoid taking naps late in the day, as this can make it harder to fall and stay asleep at night. Taking a late nap will reduce what scientists call your homeostatic sleep drive, which is basically your body pressure to sleep in the evening. If you want to nap during the day, make sure you do it in the morning or early afternoon, and keep it short, no more than 30 minutes. “The closer you get to bedtime or the longer you nap, the more likely you are to have problems,” said Dr. Sabra Abbott, Assistant Professor of Neurology in Sleep Medicine at Northwestern Feinberg University School of Medicine in Chicago.
Keep a strict sleep schedule. Waking up and going to bed at irregular times can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour innate cycles that tell our bodies when we wake up and fall asleep, making it harder to sleep through the night. . Try to get up at the same time every morning (aim to get at least 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning, which helps shut down melatonin production) and get into bed at the same time in the evening. Studies show that people who have irregular sleep schedules are more likely to develop symptoms of insomnia.
If you get up often to use the bathroom, try to limit how much water or other fluids you drink in the evening two to four hours before bedtime.
If these measures do not help, a sleep specialist can assess if you may have a more important underlying problem, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, that requires medical treatment. A sleep clinic can also connect you with a cognitive behavioral therapist, who can help you identify and address any specific behaviors that may be causing your chronic insomnia.
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