7 Tips to Fall Asleep After Waking Up in the Middle of the Night

Waking up in the middle of the night after a mere few hours of sleep is totally normal. How stressful it is though, depends on how easily it is to fall back asleep. Some nights are spent tossing and turning, wondering if it’s worth it at all to go back to sleep. On other nights, waking up is merely a harmless, inconspicuous blimp in a good night’s sleep. 

So for those of us whose awakenings disrupt our sleep to the point of giving us groggy days, what do we do? We can’t just lay there and succumb to our stress, letting it eat at us as the time inches closer to morning. Here are a few tips we’ve gathered on how to doze off as if nothing happened:

1. Go to the bathroom if you need to.

Just because you’ve woken up doesn’t mean you have the energy or motivation to get up and go to the bathroom. A lot of us will lay there with a full bladder, thinking we’re just going to sleep it off. Sometimes we might, but sometimes that pressing feeling can disrupt us more than we think. So spare the walk in the dark and the few minutes to relieve yourself before you find yourself spending several minutes suppressing the urge. Even if the bathroom’s a long walk away, the journey might not take as long as the time spent staying up. 

2. Did you drink? Lay off the alcohol. 

If a lot of these awakenings are happening after a night of heavy drinking, it might be time to cut back on the alcohol. While it sounds easy and convenient to pass out after several drinks, this can disrupt your sleep later on due to alcohol reducing how much REM sleep you get. It also makes you a much lighter sleeper during the second half of your typical sleep duration. 

We’ve written our thoughts on the negative relationship between alcohol and sleep here

3. Don’t watch the clock.

You woke up at 3:30 am and have been unable to fall asleep. Now it’s 4 pm. Great. Only four more hours until you have to wake up. Will that be enough sleep? You’ve got that important client meeting tomorrow — what if you’re yawning in the conference room? Or even worse, when giving your presentation? 

You see how this can stress you out and get your heart racing? That’s not exactly conducive to sleep. The more you watch the clock, the more you can literally see your sleep minutes slip away. It’s harrowing to watch those numbers inch forward while you realize that you aren’t going to be as well-rested as you’d like. Stressing about it will only make things worse!

4. If too much time has gone by, get up and do an activity that makes you fall asleep easily.

Does reading nonfiction books about medieval Europe make you doze off before you can get five pages in? Don’t hesitate to turn on some (dim) lights and get reading. Or practice that new language if that’s what gets you drifting off. If you’re not sure what’ll help, we’ve written up some suggestions.

5. Stay still.

Unless it’s to get up to carry out tip #1, don’t toss and turn too much. If you really need to turn away from the clock, do so gently. Too much movement, especially if it’s too rapid and jerking, can inadvertently signal to your brain that it’s time to get up and start the day. Definitely don’t do anything that could induce an adrenaline surge, such as aggressively rolling around. 

6. Soothe your racing thoughts.

If you’re stressing over your precious sleep minutes ticking away, you probably have a million distressing thoughts running through your mind. Or maybe you might be freaking out over the nightmare you just woke up from. Regardless of how harrowing the night was, you’ll only be able to sleep if you calm down. You can either count sheep, get up and do some #4 in this article, meditate — anything that quickly calms you down.

Reducing your overall daily stress can help with these stressful moments too! We’ve written up some of our thoughts on de-stressing here so you can have more relaxed days and more restful nights.

7. Consider more comfortable bedding. 

All of our above tips are much easier to implement on more comfortable bedding, such as a plush memory foam mattress and duvet. If the weather’s hot, the right mattress can cool you down with a gel top layer, just like Lull’s memory foam mattress. And if you’re checking that link at the right time, we might be having a $300 off sale so you can experience comfort without breaking the bank!