Sleep is a prized and precious thing, which explains why most people tend to get so anxious when they unexpectedly wake in the middle of the night. As a girl who prides herself on her ability to sleep like a rock, anywhere, at any time, it can be especially disconcerting to wake in the wee hours of the morning, seemingly without cause.
But constantly examining the clock, stressing as sleepless minutes slip away, isn’t a great response. In fact, waking up in the middle of the night—often around 3 or 4 in the morning—is perfectly normal!
If you’re one of the many who struggle with waking up in the middle of the night, do your best not to worry or fret; instead, try one of these simple strategies to fall back to sleep and get the rest that you deserve.
Get Out of Bed
While this may seem entirely counter-intuitive, getting out of bed and moving to a new spot for a few minutes is actually one of the best things you can do to get sleepy again. It’s like a reset button. Find a cozy spot in a lounge chair or on the couch and just sit for 10 minutes or so; very quickly you’ll notice your body begin to relax, carrying you back to the head-nodding, it’s-time-to-go-to-bed feeling you’re craving. It’s always good to get a fresh start, rather than tossing and turning.
Make a Change in Your Environment
All too often, it’s our environment that yanks us out of sleep. Maybe the room is too hot, light from a streetlamp is shining in your eyes, or you have a pet that’s a little overeager in the middle of the night. Try starting afresh and making some small adjustments to your environment: close the blinds, adjust your thermostat or maybe even remake the bed! The feeling of slipping back between cool, freshly tucked sheets can be just the signal your body needs to remember it’s time for rest.
Another pro tip: Try sleeping upside down with your pillow at the opposite end of the bed. This always works for me! My theory? By taking a new approach and adjusting my arrangement entirely, I find I relax more into the comfort of my bed, relishing the familiarity to the point of sleep.
Visualize Something Peaceful and Comforting
Everyone has a few memories that instantly bring us back to a place of comfort, peace and relaxation. For some, it’s remembering what it felt like to listen to the ocean waves under a warm, golden sun. For others, it’s the feeling of sitting by a campfire, enjoying the crackle and light of beautiful, mesmerizing flames under starlight. For me, I love to imagine Christmastime at my childhood home, remembering the way our living room looked with the tree gently reflecting little, sparkling patches of light on the walls at night and how it sounded with our cuckoo clock quietly ticking away. It’s one of the most peaceful moments I can remember, and it sends me right back to a state of calm when I need it most.
There are hundreds of strategies for readjusting during periods of sleeplessness—breathing exercises, listening to calm music, reading a dull book or completing a dull task like unloading the dishwasher, practicing tensing and relaxing movements, or warm milk! While the above tips are what work best for me, there is truly a trick for everyone. I encourage you to try a few techniques and see what suits your needs. And when you find it? Keep those skills in your back pocket for the next time you wake for no apparent reason.
You’ll get back to sleep. I promise.