Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and struggled to fall back asleep?
It is very common, and it can be extremely frustrating. Even worse, it can seem like the harder you try to fall back asleep, the more awake you become.
In this article, you will learn four ways to fall back asleep after waking up.
Note: Each of the following four strategies can also help you fall asleep quickly in the first place.
1. Take some deep, slow breaths.
Deep, slow breathing has a calming effect on your mind and body. It’s a good place to start when you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
Lay on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs flat. Keep your mouth closed and inhale for a few seconds through your nose. Hold the breath for a few seconds. Then, exhale for a few seconds through your mouth. Repeat at least 5-10 times.
2. Repeat a short mantra in your mind (not out loud).
A short mantra (five words or less) can also be very effective when you wake up in the middle of the night, especially if you are worrying about how something will turn out. Don’t just lay there and ruminate. Direct your thoughts in a peaceful, positive way.
For example, maybe you wake up and find yourself worrying about a big athletic competition the next day. At that point, there is not much else that you could do to get ready. So, your mantra could be “Trust your training.” You could repeat that slowly in your mind (not out loud), while keeping your eyes closed. “Trust your training… trust your training… trust your training…”
3. Get out of bed and write down your thoughts.
While a mantra can be very effective when you are worrying about something, it might not help if your mind is racing with ideas or analysis. In that case, you might be better off getting out of bed and writing down your thoughts.
For example, maybe you wake up and find yourself overflowing with ideas for a project at work. Or, maybe you wake up and find yourself analyzing all of the ways that you could handle a difficult situation with someone close to you. Rather than allow your thoughts to bounce around in your head, transfer them to a piece of paper. Emptying your mind will help you relax and fall back asleep faster.
Avoid typing your thoughts on your cell phone, computer, or another piece of technology though. It’s important to write your thoughts on paper. Otherwise, the bright light from a screen would stimulate you and make it harder to fall back asleep. For that same reason, keep the light in your room as low as possible when you are writing.
4. Do some light stretching in the dark and on the floor.
Light stretching is another way to relax and fall back asleep faster, especially if you wake up with some stiffness or pain in your body. Keep the lights off. Get out of your bed and lay on the floor. It’s better to stretch on a firmer surface than your bed.
Start with some light stretches on your back. For example, you could pull both your knees to your chest, or pull in one knee at a time. Then, you could flip over and do some other stretches. For example, you could do a child’s pose stretch, in which you start on all fours, and then sit back in between your feet, while stretching your arms out on the ground in front of you. Another relaxing stretch is the cat/cow stretch. You start on all fours with hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Then, gently arch your spine for a few seconds, and then gently round your spine for a few seconds.
How NOT to Fall Back Asleep After Waking Up
If you want to fall back asleep faster, you also want to avoid certain activities:
- Letting your mind wander. Each of the four strategies above is proactive. If you wake up in the middle of the night and are having trouble falling back asleep, don’t just lay there and let your mind wander and worry. Direct your thoughts carefully.
- Using technology (television, cell phone, internet, and so on). Electronic devices will stimulate you and make it even harder to fall back asleep. Avoid them if you wake up in the middle of the night. Even better, turn them off at least thirty minutes before you go to bed, and keep them out of your bedroom at all times.
- Drinking alcohol. You might think alcohol helps you sleep. In reality, even if drinking helps you fall asleep, it reduces the quality of your sleep that night and your performance the next day. 1
Be intentional with what you do and what you don’t do, and you will fall back asleep faster. You will also be more likely to stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Summary and Final Thoughts
If you ever wake up in the middle of the night, here are four strategies to help you fall back asleep quickly:
- Take some deep, slow breaths.
- Repeat a short, positive mantra in your mind.
- Get out of bed and write down your thoughts.
- Do some light stretching in the dark and on the floor.
It is normal to wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep every now and then. However, if you always wake up and have trouble falling back asleep, that could be a sign of another problem. In that case, you might want to make some changes to your bedroom or your habits before bed.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is the Creator of StrongerHabits.com. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and executive recruiter, and his work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com. His latest book is titled Work Stronger: Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work.
References for this article