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Waking Up During the Night? 7 Strategies to Get Back to Sleep

Person struggling with sleep issues

Waking up in the middle of the night can be frustrating, and that's especially true if you have trouble getting back to sleep again. Not only does nighttime waking make it difficult to achieve the recommended minimum of seven hours of nightly sleep, but the resulting sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health issues. Diabetes, obesity, depression and cardiovascular disease are among the chronic health issues linked to insufficient sleep. Additionally, a lack of sleep can interfere with everything from your career to your relationships.

Get back to sleep quicker and with less stress by trying one of these simple tips and techniques the next time you wake up in the middle of the night.

1. Don't Check Your Phone

While it can be tempting to pick up your smartphone when you find yourself awake, the blue light emitted from the screen can be highly disruptive to your circadian clock.

Blue light occurs naturally in sunlight, and exposure to blue light from electronic screens halts the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. Exposure to blue light in the middle of the night interferes with your body's sleep cycle, and that can make it exceptionally hard to get back to sleep.

If you need an alarm clock in your bedroom, choose one with a dim red light. Unlike other colors of light, including white, red light has no impact on the release of sleep hormones, making it the best color for alarm clocks and night lights.

2. Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing

During restful sleep, you breathe much slower and deeper than you while you're awake.

Also known as deep or belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing can help your body and mind relax, inducing sleep. Practicing deep breathing when you wake up and can't fall back asleep in the middle of the night is a safe, drug-free way to reduce stress and anxiety, two issues that are often linked to nighttime waking.

3. Empty Your Bladder

With advancing age comes a number of physiological changes, and the unfortunate fact is that the older you are, the more likely it is that you'll need to empty your bladder at least once during the night.

When you wake up and can't fall asleep again, head to the bathroom. Even if you've been able to go all night without urinating, you may have reached the age where you now need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

4. Get Up After 20 Minutes

If you're unable to fall back asleep after being awake for about 20 minutes, get out of bed. Any longer, and you're likely to start worrying about not getting enough rest, and that alone can make falling back asleep impossible.

Listen to soft music or read a book until you feel drowsy, then head back to bed. Just don't open your laptop or start browsing through your tablet computer, as those activities involve exposure to blue light.

5. Use Earplugs or a White Noise Device

If you're already a relatively light sleeper, even the slightest sounds could be making it tough to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night.

Consider using soft foam earplugs to drown out background noises, such as your furnace, a snoring partner, or even the compressor on your fridge. Alternatively, you can use a white noise machine that creates steady, sleep-friendly background noises that help block out sounds that can keep you from getting to sleep.

6. Check the Temperature

Sleeping in a room that's too warm or cold for comfort can make it difficult to get a good night's rest. That's especially true for women who are between the ages of 45 and 55, as this is the age when menopause usually begins. Perimenopause and menopause symptoms often include night sweats and other hormone-related sleep disturbances made worse by sleeping in a room where the temperature is too high.

Room temperatures in the range of 65 to 69 degrees are widely considered to be ideal for sleep, although this is largely a matter of personal preference. If you're finding yourself waking up too hot or too cold, adjust your thermostat accordingly.

7. Try a Weighted Blanket

Some people find that using a weighted blanket can be a good option for dealing with sleep-robbing restlessness and anxiety. While there's little current research on the topic, initial studies have shown that weighted blankets may help ease sleeplessness among adults who struggle with nighttime waking.

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