There are many reasons you may wake up the middle of the night, from physical disruptions like your partner stirring next to you, to noise, or even troubled thoughts about the day before. It can often be difficult to fall asleep after those disruptions, but the good news is there is a way to get back to sleep! This infographic looks at the problems that cause disrupted sleep, and, more importantly, how to get back to sleep as quickly as possible.
Why do I wake up in the middle of the night?
Noisy pets, restless kids, uncomfortable beds. There’s no shortage of nuisances that make staying asleep difficult. And studies show that sleeping badly has become a widespread problem. 56% of women and 49% of men are long-term poor sleepers. Here are 7 common causes that will leave you wide awake.
1. Sharing a room with your pet
41% of pet owners are disturbed by pets sharing the bed. 58% are woken by pets sleeping in the bedroom. To solve this, train your pets to sleep in another room– establish the bedroom as off limits at all times and stick to it. Also, Feed and let pets out earlier in the day to move their routines forward, and don’t respond when they bark or cry.
2. You or your partner snoring
As many as 1 in 4 people in England snore regularly and twice as many men snore than women. The NHS advises sleeping on your side, rather than your back, to alleviate gravitational pressure on the airway. Other changes such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can help. Remember that snoring can signal underlying conditions, such as sleep apnoea, so consult your GP if it’s becoming problematic.
3. Drinking alcohol before bed
Up to 7.9 million Britons have used alcohol to help them sleep, according to research, even though doing so often results in waking up in the middle of the night. This is because alcohol results in lighter sleep, even though it may send you to sleep quickly. It’s best to avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime to avoid suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin. Also, try not to stay up past your usual bedtime as this only increases alcohol’s sleep-depriving effects.
4. Your kids needing attention
1 in 10 people say their children disturb their sleep. This rises to 26% for parents aged 25-34 which is the age they are most likely to have young children. Although this may be a bit trickier to fix, it’s best to be consistent, so if they try to hop in your bed, always escort them back to their room.
5. An uncomfortable bed
After 7 years, a bed in regular use will have deteriorated by up to 75% from its ‘as new’ condition, which will consequently result in poor sleep hygiene for you. If this is result in discomfort or back pain, it might help to invest in a mattress topper which offers extra cushioning. Failing this, if your mattress is over 8 years old it might be time to renew.
Read our Bed & Mattress Guide to ensure you find the best mattress for your pressure points.
6. Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Over 80% of people with RLS also suffer periodic limb movements (twitchy legs) while asleep. Massaging your legs before bed will help with this, as will taking a warm bath, or applying a hot compress to your legs to help relax the muscles. To further the relaxation, try doing some light stretching or yoga before bed.
7. Anxiety and worrying
A YouGov poll on mental health in the UK found that 1 in 5 suffer from anxiety most or all of the time. This can often present itself at night when you cannot easily distract yourself from your thoughts. If you wake up from anxiety, resist the urge to keep checking the clock – this will only heighten the anxiety of being awake. If you’re someone who is likely the check the time regularly, turn the clock around. Try and distract your mind with a mug of hot milk or watching traffic outside until drowsy again.
How can I get to sleep instantly?
There are two different methods that are said to get you to sleep within two minutes, the 4-7-8 breathing method and the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method (PMR). The breathing method works by placing the tip of your tongue behind your two front teeth and deep breathing through your mouth with your lips parted slightly. Simply inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds, complete at least 4 cycles until you feel relaxed enough to sleep.
With the PMR method, the trick is to strain and then relax every muscle in your body, starting from your head to your toes. For example, smile to create tension in your cheeks and then release. Do the same with your neck, arms, chest, legs and feet to relax your whole body.
Other tips for getting back to sleep
If you’re a restless sleeper and the above tricks aren’t working, try some of the following to get back to sleep.
Get up and do something
If you can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something low key such as reading or listening to music. You might find it helpful to get out of bed so you can have a change of scene before trying to sleep again.
Keep the lights low
If you do get up, keep the lights down low. This is because studies have shown that darkness helps produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Also, resist the urge to use devices with blue light, such as TVs, tablets and smartphones in bed, as blue light also stops you producing melatonin.
Read more: Is Tech Ruining Your Sleep?
Keep the room cool
Another factor in sleeping disorders is your core body temperature, which will be affected by how hot your bedroom is. A cooler bedroom will help you fall back to sleep more easily. The Sleep Council advises your bedroom to be between 16-18 degrees Celsius, so turn your heating off an hour before bedtime to adjust accordingly.
How do I get rid of sleepless nights?
To get rid of sleepless nights in the long term, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make that will increase your chances of a good night’s rest. First and foremost, it’s important to establish a sleep pattern by falling asleep and waking up early morning at the same time every day. It’s also important to schedule in around 8 hours every night. If you’re someone who struggles sleeping at night, ensure you don’t nap during the day.
To stick to this schedule to might be helpful to start a sleep diary. Record your sleep patterns and habits and talk to your GP about them to see if you can devise a strategy for sleeping better.
Have you found any of these techniques for getting back to sleep successful? If so, let us know in the comments!
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