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Don’t let stress, insomnia, or poor sleep habits keep you up!
How many nights have you found yourself wide awake at 2 AM, wishing you could go back to sleep but just not being able to, no matter how hard you try?
Sadly, a staggering number of people struggle with this problem. Whether from stress, worry, anxiety, poor sleep habits, too much coffee, or even medications, sleep problems are all too common in this modern day and age.
But there is hope: there are things you can do to help yourself fall back asleep in the middle of the night!
Below, we’ve combined a few of our best tips to help you get back to sleep if you find yourself awake:
Tip #1: Get Comfortable. More often than not, there’s a reason that you woke up. Maybe it’s because your bladder is full, the blankets are twisted, you’re too hot, too cold, or you need a drink of water. No matter how hard you try, you won’t really get back to sleep until you address whatever discomfort woke you up in the first place.
Use the bathroom (but only if absolutely necessary—standing up raises your heart rate above normal sleep levels and makes it difficult to go back to sleep). Adjust your blankets and pillow. Kick off or pull up the blankets as needed. Have a bottle at your bedside and get that drink of water. Once you’ve dealt with the discomfort, settle back into a comfortable position and try to get back to sleep. More often than not, you’ll find you can rest easy once you’re comfy again.
Tip #2: Avoid the clock. Looking at the clock is just going to make you anxious! Not only will you worry because you’re not asleep in the middle of the night, but you’ll worry that you’re going to be tired the next day because you’re not sleeping enough. And, as we all know, worry and anxiety only compound stress, which triggers adrenaline—NOT the hormone we want our bodies to produce when we should be sleeping.
If you have sleep problems, it’s better not to have a clock in your bedroom at all. Avoid checking the time on your phone or watch, too. Forget the time, but just focus on getting comfortable and relaxing once again.
Tip #3: Consciously relax your body. It may sound counterintuitive, but consciously relaxing your body is actually incredibly effective at putting your mind to sleep. Your body holds a lot of tension, but releasing all that tension can help to decrease the anxiety building up in your mind.
Try this progressive muscle relaxation exercise:
Start at the tips of your toes, and focus on any sensations you feel. Then, tell yourself, “My feet are going to sleep in three, two, one” and consciously visualize them falling asleep.
Move up to your ankles and repeat the process, then your calves, your knees and thighs, your pelvic region, your stomach, your arms and legs, your chest, then finally your head and neck. You’ll often find yourself falling asleep before you even reach your head!
For added relaxation, tense the muscles before you relax them. It’s a meditative technique that can work wonders!
Tip #4: Get up and do something relaxing. If you’re struggling to get back to sleep, it’s time to give up and instead do something else. Struggling to fall asleep will only compound your stress, but relaxing with a calming activity can help you feel sleepy again.
Get out of bed, get to a comfortable chair, and do something that relaxes you. Maybe it’s reading a book that you enjoy, with just enough light to read the words but not so much brightness that it fully wakes you up. Or, if sewing or crocheting is more your thing, do that, but keep your movements slow and calm. Listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook on low volume.
Do something that relaxes you in a low-light environment, and you may just find yourself getting sleepy all over again.
Tip #5: Breathe. Sounds too simple to be effective? It’s definitely not! Breathing exercises are highly meditative, and they can help you slip back into sleep and relax your body thoroughly. In fact, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise actually works like a tranquilizer for your nervous system. By slowing down your breathing, you lower your heart rate, relax your body, and calm your mind. It’s an incredibly effective exercise that you can try anytime, anywhere.
Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue directly behind your upper front teeth.
Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a 4-count
Hold your breath for a 7-count
Exhale through your mouth for an 8-count
Repeat the entire exercise three more times to complete four breath cycles
Or, if that feels too complicated, try this simple exercise:
Lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out fully and comfortably. In your mind, picture your lungs as balloons, and take the deepest breaths you can to fill those balloons as much as possible. Hold for a second or two, then let out as much breath as you can until the balloons are totally deflated. Another second or two of holding, then inhale again to fill the balloons. Repeat until you find yourself relaxing and drifting off.
Tip #6: Write it down. Often, there’s some specific task, worry, or idea that will keep you awake in the middle of the night, no matter how hard you’re trying to go to sleep. To banish the anxiety, write down whatever is troubling you. Keep a notebook and a small reading light at your bedside, and use them to jot down the cause of your anxiety. You’ll typically find it much easier to relax because you’ve made sure you’ll remember the problem or concern the following day, so you know it will get handled.
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