Why do I keep waking up in the middle of the night and how to get back to sleep
Do you keep asking yourself why you keep waking up in the middle of the night, for example at 2am, 3am or even 4am? You’re not alone.
Falling asleep, only to wake up in the early hours of the morning and struggle to get back to sleep is incredibly common.
Whatever time you find yourself waking up, it’s important to remember that is normal and doesn’t mean you have insomnia.
According to The Sleep Charity, we wake up several times every night – sometimes from noise, being too hot or cold, or because we need the toilet.
The Sleep Charity explains: “Our sleep runs in about 90-minute cycles and within that cycle we go through different stages of sleep.
“These are punctuated with brief awakenings. As we go through the night we spend more time in lighter sleep which is why brief awakenings can feel more pronounced.”
Although this is normal and nothing to worry about, it can be a problem if you don’t get back to seep again.
The Sleep Charity explains: “If you wake up and don’t go back to sleep immediately, you may find yourself tossing and turning, thinking about the jobs you need to do tomorrow or watching every minute of the clock change.
“You begin to experience worry, anxiety or frustration sending your body into ‘fight or flight’ response. When this happens, your mind may start to race, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure raises.”
The best thing to do is follow some tips on how to fall back asleep with ease.
How to get back to sleep if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night
Dr Guy Meadows, one of the leading and trusted sleep experts Sleep School, has put together some great tips for if you find yourself waking up and struggling to get to sleep.
Stay in bed and rest
Dr Meadows said: “How you respond to night time waking determines whether you shift into a state of active wakefulness, akin to the daytime, or remain in quiet wakefulness, the bridge state to sleep.”
You should avoid breaking up your rest by doing daytime activities like checking your emails or social media, or even switching on the light to read or make a drink.
Dr Meadows said: “In contrast, choosing to stay in bed and rest in a state of quiet wakefulness offers many benefits similar to sleep including energy conservation, repair and memory consolidation. It also saves your valuable energy for the day ahead, helping you to get on with living your life.”
Stop struggling against your sleep
Dr Meadows explained: “Sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled and battling against it could be likened to an endless game of tug of war, which only wakes you up more.
“At Sleep School we’ve pioneered the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT, which proposes that the first step towards achieving better sleep, is to accept that you’re awake.”
It’s important to change the way you think and feel about sleeping, explains Dr Meadows, because this will allow it to come more naturally.
It’s easy to let the thoughts wander when you wake up in the middle of the night, but worrying or catastrophising can wreak havoc on your sleep.
Dr Meadows said: “Focussing your attention on something in the moment such as the movement of your breath, can therefore be helpful.
“Aim to notice the rise and fall of each breath moment by moment. Each time your mind wanders onto worry, practise gently returning back to focussing on the breath and the present moment.
“Remember, the intention is not to have an empty mind or force sleep, but rather to train your skills at noticing and letting go of difficult thoughts and resting in bed. In doing so you create the ideal internal environment for sleep to emerge naturally.”