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How to Fall Back Asleep Fast

by BetterSleep
Dec 23 • 4 min read

Most people have experienced this at some point in their lives: walking up at 3 am, waking up anxious, and simply unable to fall back asleep. It’s usually the thinking about how much you need to sleep that triggers the anxiety and worry that keeps you awake. It’s a vicious cycle, but one you can break.

Why Can’t I Stay Asleep?

Insomnia is often associated with the inability to fall asleep at night, but the sleep disorder causes more than one sleep problem. You may fall asleep readily at bedtime but wake up later and be unable to fall asleep again. This is fairly common.

There could be one or more underlying causes for your 3 am wake-ups:

  • The need to urinate if you drank a lot of fluids too close to bedtime
  • Caffeine too late in the day
  • A heavy meal before bed that causes indigestion
  • Alcohol before bed, which can make you sleepy but wake you up later
  • Poor sleep hygiene habits, like using a mobile device in bed or sleeping and waking at irregular hours
  • An illness or condition that causes you pain or discomfort
  • Respiratory issues, like sleep apnea or snoring
  • Hormonal shifts, as women often experience during their periods or menopause

Another important factor in waking up in the middle of the night is mental health. Disrupted sleep is most likely to happen during periods of high stress. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses, these can also contribute.

How to Soothe Your Mind and Go Back to Sleep

Anyone, with or without stress and mental health issues, is likely to feel anxious when they wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again. You worry about being tired the next day, you begin to think about everything you have to do, look at the clock again, and your anxiety rises.

This is not conducive to falling asleep. To break this cycle, try to relax and distract your mind. Start the relaxation process before falling asleep the first time: put screens away, meditate or journal, and listen to soothing music. Get more exercise during the day and spend some time outside if possible.

When you do wake up, it helps to avoid thinking about how much you need to sleep or the time. Keep your alarm clock facing away from you so you can’t see the time. If you can’t fall asleep within ten or so minutes, do something to distract your mind and make you sleepy.

Using Sounds, Meditations, and Stories

To distract and relax, try soothing sounds, read a story, or do a short meditation focused on sleep. The BetterSleep app offers all of these. Listen to a quick bedtime story to transport your thoughts elsewhere. Try a meditation like the Complete Release Body Scan, which puts the focus on your body, not your active brain. A soothing mix of sounds may help too.

Waking up in the middle of the night can be a real challenge if it causes you anxiety and worry. The key is to break the anxiety cycle. Don’t let it cause you stress. Do something else for a few minutes, relax your mind and body, and before you know it, you’ll be drifting off to dreamland again.

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