Transform your bedroom into a quiet, dark sanctuary
“Middle of the night insomnia is often caused by emotional distress, anxiety, or a busy mind. Throughout the night, we go into sleep cycles. As we go into each cycle, we wake up a little, but typically don’t remember, and fall back asleep. If you are stressed out, those wake-ups can become a full awakening, and your mind gets very busy,” explains Rachel Ross, a certified sleep consultant with the Family Sleep Institute. If you’re frequently waking up in the middle of the night, Ross recommends making your bedroom soothing and dark. “Even if you’re a shift worker, keep it quiet, and comfortable. You have to work with what you have. If you live in a noisy city, and can’t sleep through it, white noise is helpful. A fan works just fine, or you can try a white noise machine that includes nature sounds. You can also try earplugs, and an eye mask, if there is too much ambient light in the middle of the night,” she adds. Here’s what professional organizers do every night before bed.
One, two, three, sleep! Not
If waking up in the middle of the night feels a lot like your brain has a mind of its own, you’re right. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is the inability of the brain to stop being awake. Wondering how to fall back asleep? Don’t just lie there, do something soothing, suggests Ross. “Try deep breathing, relaxation exercises, or soothing music. If you have a snoring partner, place a white noise machine on your side of the bed. And never, ever, have an alarm clock facing you while you’re trying to sleep,” she says. If it’s really hard to get your brain to rest, go to a chair, and read, but do not turn on all the lights. And absolutely, do not start an activity, that will wake you up even more, like watching the news on TV, she says. Here’s what sleep doctors do to get a better nights sleep.
Eliminate your after-dinner drink
Alcohol is a depressant known for making people fall asleep (or pass out) quickly but it may also be the reason you’re up during the second half of the night, when sleep should be its deepest, according to the NSF. Alcohol is disruptive to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is the dream cycle and may be restorative to both body, and brain. “I always thought that having a late-night drink would help me sleep, but I started to notice it backfiring,” says Suzanne Miller, a busy attorney and mom to two teens. “On nights when I had a few glasses of wine, I would find myself staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m. I started to replace alcohol with chamomile tea and found that I was calmer and better able to sleep. I also wake up feeling less dehydrated, and more refreshed,” she adds. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. Try sipping some water, or have a cup of herbal tea instead.