Getting Back to Sleep
Getting Back to Sleep
We’ve all be there. Waking up at 2 AM, then finding it extremely difficult getting back to sleep. You toss and turn, anxiously waiting to get some shut-eye.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to a higher risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, depression, forgetfulness and weight gain. With those potential dangers, you simply can’t afford to lose precious snooze hours.
Getting Back to Sleep Strategies
You can use these strategies, the next time you find you’re laying awake in bed:
Keep the lights off
- “Light is stimulating because our brains and bodies interpret any light-whether it comes from the sun or a lamp-as a signal to be alert,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center.
- Do your best to avoid it by only turning on the lights you absolutely need. Finding your way in the dark is best, but using a small lamp for just a few minutes won’t set you back much.
- “The brighter the light and the longer you’re exposed to it, the more alerting it will be,” Dr. Winter says.
Read to make your eyes tired
- If you’re struggling for getting back to sleep, grab a nearby book or magazine, suggests Dr. Winter.
- Avoid an exciting thriller that gets your heart racing it will stimulate instead of sedate you, and will only have the opposite effect.
Use your brain
- Forego using your phone, tablet, TV, or computer.
- “Electronic devices emit light that can keep you up and prevent from getting back to sleep, especially the ones you hold closer to your face, like a mobile device,” says Dr. Winter. Try doing a mental exercise instead!
- For example, imagine different articles of clothing in your closet. Mentally imagine different outfits you can wear by pairing certain pieces up.
Stay on your back
- Or your side or stomach whichever position you prefer. Just don’t keep fumbling around.
- If you stand or sit up straight for long periods of time, your body is more likely to interpret that as a reason to stay awake, suggests Dr. Winter.
Don’t eat anything
- You might think having a bite to eat could put you getting back to sleep, but midnight munching actually hurts your chances of dozing off again, Dr. Winter says.
- “You can easily start to condition your brain and body to expect food at that time of night, which can reinforce the habit of waking up,” says Dr. Winter.
Try progressive relaxation
- It’s a technique developed by physicians to reduce muscle tension by focusing on releasing one specific muscle group at a time.
- “Relaxing your body can also relax your mind,” says Dr. Winter.
- Holding tension in your muscles signals your brain that it needs to remain alert. Consciously reducing stress in your muscles, signals that it’s time to fall asleep.
- Taking long, deep breaths, begin with your largest muscles groups and slowly work your way to smaller muscles in your hands and face.
Don’t make up the sleep you missed
- If you’re extra tired after falling short on rest, it’s important not getting back to sleep in or take a nap the next day. “You essentially want to penalize your brain to avoid this happening regularly,” says Dr. Winter.