Tips and Tricks to Get Back To Sleep

By Michael Galvan | 05/02/2016

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night? Frequent interruptions to your sleep can have harmful effects on your day-to-day life.  Sleep deprivation makes you more prone to errors and puts you at a higher risk for conditions like: high blood pressure, obesity, heart attack, and diabetes.[1]

Fortunately there are several things you can do to develop longer uninterrupted periods of sleep. Start by developing healthy habits before you go to sleep to prevent waking up late in the first place.

Before you go to bed

Avoid cellphones, laptops, television, and other electronics within two hours of going to sleep.

All of these devices emit blue light, which research has proven reduces melatonin levels[2] (the hormone that keeps us sleeping), and ward off sleep. Turning down the brightness setting on laptops, tablets and phones can help, as can placing the tablet farther away from your face than usual.

Avoid eating or drinking anything with caffeine for 4-6 hours before bedtime.

Caffeine is a stimulant and can wake you up in the middle of the night.

Avoid drinking alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.

Contrary to popular belief, drinking alcohol is NOT a good way to get sleep! Alcohol affects the quality of sleep and leads to early morning wakening.[3]

Spend at least half an hour winding down.

Before going to bed, engage in a relaxing  activity like reading a book or taking a bath (the rise and then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness).  Avoid stimulating activities--doing work or discussing emotional issues.  Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete cortisol, a hormone which is associated with increasing alertness.

If you still find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, you can try a few techniques to get back to sleep.

When you wake up during the middle of the night:

  • If you can't get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to soothing music
  • Keep the lights dim, as bright light can stimulate your internal clock
  • When your eyelids are drooping and you feel sleepy, return to bed
  • Don’t look at the clock - staring at the alarm clock can stress you out and make it difficult to relax

Consider a melatonin supplement.

Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland that is released before bedtime which reduces alertness, and makes sleep attractive. For some people, melatonin helps to improve sleep.  Some studies have shown promise for melatonin in shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and reducing the number of awakenings. It is available OTC. A typical dose is 0.3 mg to 5 mg at bedtime. Different people of different ages will require different dosages, so please talk to your doctor prior to taking it. Melatonin can have interactions with  medications  such as antibiotics, birth-control pills, insulin and others. 

Make your sleep environment quiet, dark and cool.

Proper body temperature is very important for sleep. Keeping the temperature between 60-75* is best for sleep.

It’s a bad idea to try and “make up for lost sleep” the next day. You want to create a consistent sleep cycle, even if this means being tired for a day. If you set the precedent of sleeping in, it can create a destructive habit.

Still having trouble sleeping? It might be time to see a doctor. There are several medical conditions that can cause insomnia.