Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep is a huge problem for many people.
You might be thirsty or need to go to the toilet. You might feel too hot, too cold or hungry. Or you might slip into habitual thinking or planning as you lay in the dark.
All of these reasons are totally natural.
Think about it—how often during the day do you go three or four hours without the need to drink or go to the toilet? While you’re sleeping, your body is metabolizing food and drink and you’re also losing fluid by the simple act of breathing. So it’s very natural to awaken with the need to drink some water or go to the toilet during the night.
In addition, a little know fact is that our body clocks are designed to have two sleeps with a short period of relaxed wakefulness in-between. Before the invention of electricity, we all slept in this way. Studies show that when we’re taken out of settings with electric lights, we go back to this two-sleep cycle, which was the norm in the early 1900’s.
Now that you know it is very natural to wake in the night, you can relax about it. If you have an attitude of acceptance towards waking in the night you’ll feel much calmer when you do wake up.
The following guidelines have helped hundreds of people get back to sleep with ease when they wake in the night:
1. Say something soothing to yourself as soon as you wake up
When you feel upset about being awake and then speak to yourself with statements such as: Oh no! I’m awake again! I’m never going to get back to sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be hell.You immediately instigate the production of stress hormones—which cause you to feel more and more alert and agitated.
The most helpful thing you can do is say something soothing to yourself as soon as you awaken. For example: It’s okay. I’m safe right now. If I stay calm and relaxed, I’ll get back to sleep and be able to deal with everything much better tomorrow.
When you speak to yourself in a kind and soothing way, you elicit the production of relaxing hormones which make it much easier to stay calm and get back to sleep.
2. Check-in with yourself to see what you need and do it sooner than later
Instead of lying in bed feeling upset about being awake, check-in with yourself straight away by asking: What do I need right now to help me stay calm and to get back to sleep?
Use these tips to help you attend to your needs with ease.
- If you tend to get thirsty at night, keep a glass of water on your bedside table and take a sip.
- If you need to cool down, take off a blanket, or open a window. If you tend to get cold, keep an extra blanket at the foot of the bed.
- If you often wake up and find yourself thinking of all the things you need to do, then keep a pen, paper and a booklight on your bedside table so you can write a ‘To Do’ list, this will ease that mental pressure.
- If you need to go to the toilet: Say calming things to yourself such as: I’m okay. I can go to the toilet, stay relaxed and get back to sleep easily.
- Avoid flushing the toilet, as the noise can be disturbing to you or others. Guys, I suggest that you sit down so you can stay more relaxed.
- If you awaken with hunger pangs, have a warm milky drink or small easily digestible snack. Cooked oats with milk, or toast and butter are perfect. Avoid refined sugar, which will spike your blood sugar level. When it drops, you’ll wake up again.
3. If you need to get up—move slowly, stay sleepy and keep lights off
If you move in a slow and sleepy way, you will stay more physically relaxed. Pretend that you’re in dreamland and enjoy a different way of moving.
If your mind starts thinking about tomorrow or work or anything else—say “no” and just focus on your breathing. Keep your attention on where you are and speak to yourself in a calming way: I’m okay. I will stay sleepy and get back to sleep easily.
Avoid turning lights on during the night as light stimulates the production of wake-up hormones. If it’s too dark to find your way use a small torch or install nightlights where necessary.
4. Once you’re back in bed, use your relaxation skills to help you fall asleep
Take a few, long, deep breaths and tell yourself: I’m just going to relax as deeply as I can until I fall asleep. If I let myself rest, I’ll be able to deal with everything much better tomorrow.
If your mind starts wandering into the future or the past, bring it back to the present by using your relaxation skills. Listen to the audio track “Falling Asleep with Ease” for support until you’re familiar with the techniques and you can do them alone. Remember that when your mind and body are calm and restful, sleep will come naturally.