Waking up in the middle of the night is kind of a nightmare in itself. As anyone can attest, the hardest part comes as you struggle to fall back asleep. Your mind is racing and as you watch the hours roll by, you become increasingly anxious about being awake. You can’t predict when it’s going to happen, but is there anything you can do to fix it?
1. Breathe deeply
Take a deep breath—literally. The worst part about waking up at 3 a.m. is freaking out that you’re never going to fall back asleep, so you need to calm down to reassure yourself that you can get over this ordeal. Use meditative breathing to help your body unwind, and your mind will eventually follow. “Progressive muscle relaxation or diaphragmatic breathing… can both help distract the mind and relax the body,” says Courtney F. Bancroft, PsyD, a clinical health psychologist and insomnia specialist.
2. Count sheep (yes)
Like how our good Transylvanian friend on Sesame Street has demonstrated before, counting animals can help you to “zone out” and become less anxious. “These strategies are supposed to be so mundane and repetitive that they help to relax the arousal drive and focus on something else,” Bancroft says.
3. Try an impromptu inversion
Give this quirky trick a chance and rest your legs on the wall instead. Getting upside down has numerous late-night perks, from improving your focus to draining your lymphatic system, and it can also help you find your bedtime zen too. “Laying on your back with your legs up the wall promotes circulation and relaxation,” says Bancroft. Sounds fun, and you can do it without a yoga hammock!
4. Tell your mind to chill
The mind works in mysterious ways and for some reason, our brains often decide that sleep-time also happens to be the perfect time to start worrying about every little thing in your life. Bancroft suggests quietening your mind and think about them during the day instead, as problem-solving skills tend to be sharper during the day. If you must think about something, keep it to pleasant and calming thoughts.
5. Turn over your pillow
Finding the right side of the pillow to sleep on can be quite the game-changer when to reclaiming lost sleep. According to Bancroft, providing a cooler area for your head and neck to rest on can help promote night-time brain-signalling. An excessive build-up of heat can be irritating, so dispelling that should be your ticket back on to the snooze train.
Sleep situations are as varied as they come, and different individuals will find that these listed methods yield a fluctuating, almost random amount of relief. What works now is not guaranteed to work again three months down the road, or even to the same degree. If you wish to minimise such unfortunate incidences, start by optimising your bedroom for sleep. You’d be amazed at what a set of blackout curtains and a white-noise generator can do for you!