Waking up in the middle of the night is a common occurrence that we’ve all experienced more than once. Chances are when you have woken up at night, you have struggled with getting back to sleep. In today’s Q&A, we ask sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus for some tips on falling asleep when you find yourself awake in the middle of the night.
Q: “Sometimes I’m awakened during the night by a sound or my partner moving around. After I’m awake, I have a hard time getting back to sleep. How can I get back to sleep quickly?”
Dr. Breus: Remember, your heart rate needs to be low (about 60 BPM) to enter into sleep, so avoiding anything that might raise your heart rate above this will certainly be helpful.
Here are a few tips to try:
- Stay in bed. By getting up, or even sitting up, you force your heart to pump faster (since it is now pumping against gravity).
- Keep calm. Try not to engage your brain in anything emotional. Emotional thoughts will definitely raise your heart rate. One of my favorite tricks is to count backward from 300 by 3’s. This trick is so mathematically complicated you cannot think of anything else, and it is so boring it will eventually knock you out.
- Change positions. Try shifting positions to the other side of the bed (if you sleep alone). While I cannot tell you why this works, in some of my patients, they find it comforting.
- Breathe deeply. Consider deep, slow breathing. The 4-6-7 technique works well here: breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 6, and exhale for a count of 7. Focus on slowly counting, feeling the air fill your lungs, and exhaling.
- Avoid light. Light tells your brain it is morning and stops melatonin production. It’s best to keep the room dark and avoid light-emitting electronic devices.
- Stay cool. It is much easier to fall back asleep in a cool environment. As with any other time you want to fall asleep, it’s best to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
About Dr. Breus:
Dr. Michael Breus is a clinical psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Breus is a widely recognized leader in the field of sleep and has partnered with SleepScore Labs to help raise awareness of sleep disorders and the importance of quality sleep for all.