Waking up in the middle of the night can make time feel like it’s playing tricks on you. One moment drags on, and the next rushes by, leaving you in a state of restlessness. But rest assured, waking up during the night is completely normal. Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, explains that the human sleep pattern isn’t just a solid eight-hour stretch. However, lying awake at odd hours worrying about life’s problems is no one’s idea of a good time. So, let’s explore some expert advice on how to cope with those sleepless nights and hopefully get back to dreamland.
Keep Calm and Smile
It’s all too easy to spiral into a frenzy of negative thoughts when you can’t sleep. You might start with worrying about a bad day at work, then envision losing your job, and before you know it, your partner has left you in your imagination. Sleep medicine consultant Alanna Hare suggests trying to shift away from the idea that being awake at night is catastrophic. Camilla Stoddart, a sleep coach, even recommends smiling, as it releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, calming your body down.
Dealing with Stress
When sleep eludes us, it’s usually because our minds are racing with thoughts and worries. Russell Foster points out that most of the time, it’s not a sleep problem but rather anxiety and stress. Finding stress-reduction techniques that work for you, whether it’s mindfulness, yoga, or something else, can help. Talking to a therapist or addressing unresolved issues may also be beneficial.
Life Stage Matters
As we age, waking up during the night becomes more common. Our sleep patterns change, and hormonal shifts can contribute to this. For example, menopause can affect women’s sleep due to changing hormone levels. So, understanding these life stage changes can help you better manage nighttime awakenings.
Healthy Habits for Better Sleep
How you live your life during the day reflects how you sleep at night. So, if you want to improve your sleep, you need to adopt healthier habits overall. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress reduction techniques. It’s not just about a bedtime routine; it’s about how you live your entire day.
Journal Your Worries
Getting your worries or busy thoughts out of your head before bedtime can be helpful. Journaling can be a great way to do this. If you’re dealing with bigger worries, like global issues, acknowledge that you can’t solve them in the middle of the night. Try “constructive worry,” a method of organizing your thoughts by writing them down in a particular way to prevent nighttime list-making or excessive worrying.
While sleeping pills might help you sleep, they can leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, can also be used, but it’s best to consult your doctor. Medication is not a long-term solution for nighttime waking; non-pharmacological approaches are usually more effective.
So, if you find yourself tossing and turning at 3 AM, remember these tips to help you get back to sleep and embrace the night’s restorative embrace.