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Can’t Fall Back Asleep After Waking Up? Here’s What To Do

Posted on December 02 2022


  • Sleep maintenance insomnia is a condition that causes people to wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning, unable to fall back asleep. 
  • While the occasional mid-sleep awakening is considered perfectly normal, it’s important to make changes if it becomes a recurring issue disrupting your sleep quality.
  • If you suffer from the condition, there are many potential reasons why you wake up in the first place, including a poor sleep environment, stress or mood disorders, sleep disorders, and a lack of exercise, among others. 
  • There are several ways you can combat sleep maintenance insomnia. For example, observing good sleep hygiene, practicing meditation and deep breathing, and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption.
  • Pzizz is an app that uses clinically tested and proven techniques to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep throughout the night, and wake up feeling refreshed. Over one million users have already improved their sleep quality with Pzizz, and you can join them by downloading your free trial today.


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 [1]-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. 

Take control of your sleep with Pzizz, the clinically-proven sleep app that helps you fall asleep fast, stay asleep throughout the night, and wake up feeling refreshed. With highly-customizable features and an extensive library of unique sleep-optimized sound effects, narrations, and music, rely on Pzizz to lull you to sleep with a different sound experience each night. Download your free trial on the App Store and Google Play today and discover how Pzizz can transform your sleep experience.

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.

Why Can’t I Fall Back Asleep After Waking Up?

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 [2]. So why are so many people finding getting back to sleep after waking so difficult? Let’s explore the possible causes:

  • Alcohol and nicotine consumption: although many people report that alcohol helps them fall asleep, studies suggest it reduces sleep quality. Similarly, smoking cigarettes causes increased sleep disruptions due to the stimulant effects of nicotine. A 2019 study confirmed that nicotine and alcohol consumption within four hours of bedtime was associated with increased sleep fragmentation [3]. 
  • Caffeine consumption: caffeine reduces the time spent in deep sleep, so waking up in the middle of the night may be due to drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime. In fact, one study found that consuming caffeine even six hours before bed reduced sleep time by one hour and increased disruptions throughout the night [4]. 
  • Poor sleep environment: sleeping in a room that is too noisy, hot, or bright can significantly impact your sleep quality. For instance, noise from traffic can wake you up and trigger the release of stress hormones, while exposure to even dim light from street lamps or night lights can negatively impact your sleep cycle. Additionally, a room temperature that is too high causes increased wakefulness throughout the night. 
  • Sleep disorders: sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, nightmares, night terrors, and circadian rhythm disorders can all disturb normal sleeping patterns. 
  • Lack of exercise: a sedentary lifestyle not only increases the risk of numerous health complications but is also proven to increase sleep disturbances and increase the risk of insomnia [5]
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression: elevated stress levels and mood disorders like anxiety and depression can make falling and staying asleep difficult. Feeling stressed and anxious about being unable to sleep often exacerbates insomnia, creating a vicious cycle and increasing the likelihood of low mood and depression. 
  • Medications: some prescription medications, such as psychotherapeutic drugs, beta blockers, opioids, and stimulants, can disrupt sleep duration and quality. 
  • Medical conditions: many underlying health conditions can disrupt a person’s ability to sleep at night, including chronic pain, asthma, acid reflux, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and more. 
  • Hormonal changes: women going through menopause or pregnancy undergo many hormonal changes, which may be responsible for nighttime awakenings. Menopausal women experience many problematic symptoms, including night sweats that can seriously disrupt sleep quality. The third trimester of pregnancy, in particular, can also cause a reduction in sleep quality. 
  • Shift work: people with disrupted circadian rhythms, such as night shift workers or regular airline travelers, find it challenging to fall asleep at night because their internal body clock isn’t aligned with natural sleep and wake cycles.
  • Aging: research suggests that people spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep as they get older, explaining why older adults tend to wake up more during the night and earlier than they would like [6]. 

How to Go Back to Sleep After Waking Up

Use the Pzizz app

Many people attest to the benefits of a sleep app in helping them overcome their sleep issues. While multiple sleep apps are available on the market, Pzizz is one of the few to use clinically tested and proven techniques to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep throughout the night, and wake up feeling refreshed.

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.

The app is also available as a free trial, allowing you to try Pzizz’s unique features before making a purchase. Join over a million people already reaping the benefits of Pzizz and download it on the App Store or Google Play today.

Practice good sleep hygiene

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:

  • Get rid of bright lights and loud sounds:install blackout blinds or use an eye maskto block exposure to artificial lights, and try earplugs or white noise to drown out disturbing sounds.
  • Avoid screen exposure: blue lights emitted by laptop, phone, and television screens inhibit melatonin production (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep), so it’s best to eliminate exposure to such devices at least one hour before bed.
  • Keep a cool temperature: your body’s core temperature needs to drop by 1-2 degrees to fall asleep and stay asleep, while the optimum room temperature for good sleep is between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Open a window, turn on a fan, or invest in a cooling mattress to keep body temperature down. 
  • Remain consistent in your sleep and wake times: this is important for regulating your circadian rhythm. As tempting as it may be to sleep in or go to bed earlier than usual after a night of restlessness, try and stick to your normal sleep schedule, even on weekends, to increase your appetite for sleep. 

Get out of bed 

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. 

Don’t stare at your clock

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 [7]. 

Try meditating and deep breathing

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 [8]. 

Such exercises can reduce physical and emotional tension, with common techniques including box breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and visualization. 

Get regular exercise

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. 

Avoid or limit nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine consumption

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.

Try journaling

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. 

Take natural sleep aids

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.

Be proactive with your sleep health with the Pzizz app. With patented technology developed with decades of research, this sleep app uses personalized, science-backed techniques to help improve poor sleep without the side effects of conventional sleep medication. Download your free trial on the App Store and Google Play and discover how Pzizz can transform your sleep tonight. 


Why do I wake up and can’t fall back asleep?

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. 

Should I go back to sleep if I wake up at 3 am?

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. 

Does insomnia get worse as you age?

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.