How to Get Back to Sleep When It Feels Impossible

Few things are more satisfying and pleasurable than snuggling in bed after a long day. Especially when quality time with your pillow and a good night’s sleep might be the perfect combination for improved performance and mood. Let’s play a familiar scene: It’s dark, you’re wide awake, and it’s not morning. The dreaded wake-up call in the middle of the night. After a night of tossing and turning, you’ve come to the conclusion that more sleep is not in your near future.

Does this ring a bell? Don’t worry: the National Sleep Foundation recommends getting 7–9 hours of sleep per night on average. While getting back on the dream train may seem unattainable, it is doable with the correct methods and suggestions. Experts weigh in with their best recommendations for resuming sleep.

AVOID CHECKING THE TIME.

When you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, clock-watching can cause a lot of tension and stress. With each passing second, you get more concerned about not being able to sleep again. Wearing a sleep mask, rather than watching the clock, is recommended by Leigha Saunders, ND. “This has the dual effect of increasing melatonin production, the hormone that aids sleep, as well as stopping you from checking the time frequently,” she explains.

REMEMBER WHAT YOU WERE LAST DREAMING ABOUT.

It can be difficult to remember the specifics of what happens in your dreams at times. But if you can, it might be the key to returning to your slumber. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a physical and chronic fatigue specialist, advises, “If you remember any bits of what you were dreaming, go back to immerse yourself in those dream imagery.” “By stimulating the brain’s sleep regions, this can swiftly send you back to sleep.”

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.

Getting furious at the situation, according to Paul Greene, PhD, of the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, won’t help you. He continues, “The worst thing you can do is convince yourself how dreadful it will be if you can’t get back to sleep.” “Worry feeds worry, which keeps you awake at night, creating a vicious cycle.”

Instead, Greene advises treating the situation with compassion. “Remember, even if you don’t get enough sleep tomorrow, you’ll survive and sleep much better the next night.”

REMOVE ALL EXCESS LIGHT

According to Jason Piper, founder of Build Better Sleep and a certified sleep coach, light is your body’s wake-up signal. “Once your body receives this signal, it begins to activate biological systems that help you stay awake.” So, if light is creeping into your sleeping place in the middle of the night, attempt to block it out. “You want your room to be as black as possible (like so dark that your hand in front of your face can’t be seen).”

GET THE MOST OUT OF PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION.

For many of us, the act of returning to bed is the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, Saunders recommends simply relaxing. “If you concentrate on intentionally getting back to sleep, you may become nervous and frustrated if it does not happen,” she explains. “Instead, concentrate on a gradual relaxation. Start with your toes and scrunch them up, holding for 5 or 10 counts, then relax.”

Move slowly and deliberately through your entire body, concentrating on one area at a time. “You probably won’t be awake by the time you get to scrunching your nose.”

PICK UP A PEN AND PAPER

Writing down whatever you’re thinking about is another effective way to declutter your mind. “I frequently advise my patients to have a notepad or journal on their bedside table,” Saunders explains. “Even if it’s only trying to recall what you have to accomplish tomorrow, what you think about at night might cause tension and concern. It relieves the load on your mind to write it down.”

EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT NOSTRIL BREATHING

According to Piper, this easy trick can drop your heart rate, blood pressure, and induce calm. Begin by closing your eyes and lying down in bed. Take your thumb and index finger and position them over your nose as if you’re going to pinch it, but don’t. Take a deep inhale through your left nostril while closing your right nose. Hold your breath for three counts before closing your left nostril and releasing it through your right. Rep until you reach a count of ten, then cycle through three more times. “I guarantee you’ll feel a sense of calm wash over you, lay over and think about something joyful or relaxing, and fall asleep.”

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