We’ve all had those types of nights. The ones when you wake up and then toss and turn until it’s time to get up. Try as you might, sleep eludes you. Perhaps most frustrating of all is that the harder you try, the less likely you are to fall back asleep.
Although an occasional night of tossing and turning won’t affect your health, too many nights like these will lead to sleep deprivation. This can cause a range of health issues including daytime drowsiness, mood changes, suppressed immunity and even an increased risk for heart disease and cancer. Keep in mind, the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel their best.
If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, here are three tips to get back to sleep:
- Don’t watch the clock – Staring at the clock as you try to get back to sleep will only cause anxiety. Instead, turn your clock away from you so you can’t watch the minutes ticking away.
- Avoid checking your phone – One of the most common mistakes people make is waking up in the middle of the night and then checking their phone. The bright light can disrupt sleep and doing something that’s stimulating – like checking messages or playing a game – can make it harder to get back to sleep.
- Get up and do a quiet activity in another room – Make sure whatever you do is boring and not stimulating. For example, reading is good, but don’t pick up a page-turner. Instead, read a refrigerator manual or a textbook. Something that isn’t interesting is best for getting back to sleep.
Of course, it’s best if you can avoid waking up in the middle of the night. Here are a few tips to get a restful night of sleep:
- Optimize your sleep environment – Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and make sure there’s a comfortable pillow on your bed.
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom – This includes televisions, video games, laptops, tablets and phones.
- Set aside worry time – Take some time in the late afternoon to make a list of all the things you need to do the next day. This helps keep psychological baggage out of the bedroom.
- Stick to a sleep schedule – There are some people who can function during the day despite a chaotic sleep schedule. But most of us do better with a routine. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time, every day.
- Restrict sleep time – Most of us don’t need 10 hours in bed. Spending too much time trying to sleep could lead to waking up in the middle of the night.
- Avoid exercise too close to bedtime – Getting regular physical activity will help you sleep better at night – but not if it’s done too close to your bedtime. Aim to finish your workout at least a few hours before you hit the hay.
- Limit caffeine intake – Caffeine has a surprisingly long half-life. Limit it to the morning hours to avoid it keeping you up at night.
Talk to your primary care provider if you need help dealing with sleep issues. Together you can work out a treatment plan or your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist.
Edward-Elmhurst Health has three sleep centers, each staffed with board-certified sleep physicians. We provide comprehensive sleep evaluations to get to the root of what is affecting your sleep and offer effective therapies for these problems.