Do you often wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep? There’s a medical term for that: sleep maintenance insomnia (also known as middle insomnia). You will hopefully find comfort in knowing you’re not alone in suffering from sleepless nights. The condition affects around one in five Americans -that’s a lot of people going about their day feeling exhausted, frustrated, and full of brain fog.
Waking up fleetingly several times throughout the night is normal; many of us do it without even realizing it. However, the moment you can’t fall back asleep, it becomes a problem; your brain is wide awake, and you spend the remainder of the night tossing, turning, and trying (and failing) to quieten racing thoughts.
Sleep maintenance insomnia has several potential causes, including health-related issues, needing to use the bathroom, nightmares, stress, and a poor sleep environment, to name a few. If you suspect your sleep disruptions are due to an underlying medical issue, seeing your doctor should be your first call.
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Other than that, there are many effective ways to fall back asleep after waking up. This article explores potential reasons you may struggle to go back to sleep after a sudden awakening and useful tips to teach you how to fall back to sleep fast.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the US adult population fails to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night . So why are so many people finding getting back to sleep after waking so difficult? Let’s explore the possible causes:
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Using a range of sleep-optimized music, voiceovers, and sound effects, Pzizz has already helped millions of people achieve the best night’s sleep, whatever the cause of their insomnia. Simply choose the time you want to wake up and let Pzizz take care of the rest.
With over 100 billion sequences to choose from, custom listening lengths, voiceover control, and a personalized playlist, you can create a customized library of sounds tailored to your distinct taste and sleep needs.
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Sleep hygiene is a behavioral and environmental practice designed to enhance sleep quality. Adopting the following habits can help you achieve a good night’s sleep and thereby improve your physical and mental well-being:
If you wake up during the night and find you can’t go back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, it is recommended to get out of bed and go into a different room to prevent your mind from associating your bed with wakefulness rather than sleep. Try relaxing activities, such as reading a book, listening to music, or journaling, to help induce drowsiness.
It can be tempting to check your alarm clock or phone screen to count the minutes that have passed since you’ve been lying in bed awake, but research indicates that this habit can trigger stress and anxiety about being unable to fall asleep. As a result, the brain becomes more alert, and the chances of falling asleep subsequently decrease .
Guided meditation and deep breathing exercises help calm the mind and divert attention away from anxious thoughts, thereby reducing stress levels. In one clinical trial, mindfulness meditation improved sleep quality in older adults with sleep disturbances .
Such exercises can reduce physical and emotional tension, with common techniques including box breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and visualization.
Exercising regularly during the day can enhance sleep quality at night. More specifically, moderate to vigorous physical activity can improve the time it takes to fall asleep and the amount of time spent lying awake in bed throughout the night.
However, exercising too close to bedtime can be counterproductive as it can increase heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline levels, negatively impacting sleep. As a rule of thumb, don’t exercise in the three hours leading up to your bedtime.
Many people report improved sleep with less caffeine or only having it earlier in the day (preferably before lunchtime). Don’t drink caffeinated beverages at least six hours before bed to avoid sleep disruptions.
Limit alcohol to one drink at least three hours before bed, preferably with a meal. It may also help to drink plenty of water to help flush out the substance.
Cigarette smokers also have increased sleep disturbances compared to the general population due to the stimulating properties of nicotine. It is best to quit smoking, which can often be difficult due to its addictive nature; at the very least, cut back on nicotine smoking at least four hours before bed.
If stress and anxiety are the root cause of your sleep maintenance insomnia, you may find writing down your thoughts in a journal before bed can help you to clear your mind and prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.
Try setting aside 15 minutes before going to sleep to jot down stressful or worrisome thoughts and any potential solutions you can come up with. You might also want to write down tasks you need to complete the next day and any positive thoughts and experiences you’ve had in your day to help end it on the right note.
Natural sleep aids such as over-the-counter herbs and supplements can be effective in helping you unwind before bed. Popular herbal supplements include chamomile, lavender, valerian, passionflower, melatonin, magnesium, glycine, and ginseng. However, if you’re on prescription medication, you must always inform your doctor before taking any herbal supplements, as they may interfere with or reduce the efficacy of your treatment.
Sleep maintenance insomnia is a condition characterized by wakefulness in the middle of the night and an inability to fall back asleep. While occasional bouts of insomnia are normal, you should consult a doctor or healthcare professional if they become more frequent and disrupt your quality of life.
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Many lifestyle and environmental factors can cause sleep disturbances throughout the night, making it difficult to fall back asleep once you’re awake. For example, you may be drinking caffeine or alcohol too late in the day, not getting enough exercise, or sleeping in a bedroom not optimized for sleep. There may also be deeper issues, such as sleep disorders or underlying health conditions preventing you from getting quality sleep.
If you wake up at 3 am or any other time during the night, give yourself 15-30 minutes to fall back asleep. If you can’t manage to get back to sleep within this time, it’s best to get out of bed and go into another room to prevent your brain from creating an association between your bed and wakefulness. Do a relaxing activity such as journaling, reading, meditating, or listening to soothing music until your drive to sleep increases.
Many people report an increase in poor-quality sleep as they get older. Such experiences include difficulty falling asleep, more sleep disturbances throughout the night, waking up early in the morning, and a hard time falling back asleep once awake. Research suggests that people spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep as they age, which explains the reason for poorer-quality sleep.