How to Fall Back Asleep:
4/20/2020 | Casper Editorial Team
Waking up in the middle of the night and checking your phone to find out it’s 3 a.m. can cause frustration and sleep anxiety. If you find yourself waking up several times a night struggling to fall back asleep, you’re not alone. Difficulty returning to sleep is one of the four symptoms associated with insomnia — a sleep disorder affecting one in four Americans.
However, there are several things you can do to combat this. If you’re having trouble learning how to fall back asleep naturally, try incorporating some of the below tips into your nightly routine.
1. Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
Sometimes when you struggle to sleep, your heart rate increases and you begin to experience shortness of breath. Breathing exercises can help combat this by slowing the heart rate and allowing your mind to focus on your breath. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, in particular, has been boasted for its ability to relax the body and help people fall asleep.
To do this exercise, get into a comfortable sitting or lying down position and place the tip of your tongue behind the top front teeth. Then, breathe in for four seconds, hold that breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. While you may not experience the benefits right away, practice this breathing technique every night and it will become more effective.
2. Resist the Urge to Look at Your Phone
While it’s tempting to reach for your phone when you wake up in the middle of the night, it may be time to rethink that habit. The light given off by technological devices — whether that be a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or computer screen — can actually make it more difficult for you to fall back asleep.
Technology and sleep generally don’t get along. The blue light emitted from these devices can suppress the release of melatonin and can delay your circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. Next time you feel the urge to pick up your phone, pick up a book or try a breathing exercise instead.
3. Avoid the Clock Like the Plague
We’re all familiar with the feeling of staring at the clock not being able to sleep. However, constantly watching the clock, reminding yourself of the late hour and your inability to sleep, will only add to your stress and exacerbate the problem. Make sure all the clocks in your bedroom are out of sight and avoid the urge to reach for your phone. Counting the minutes at 3 a.m. will only add to your sense of panic. Do yourself a favor and just don’t look at the clock.
4. Adjust the Temperature in Your Bedroom
No one likes to wake up drenched in sweat or covered in goosebumps — especially when they struggle to fall back asleep at night. If you have trouble staying asleep, it could be due to the temperature in your room. The best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for adults. Sleeping in cooler temperatures can improve sleep quality. Before you go to bed tonight, make sure the temperature in your room is at the right level to avoid a dreaded 3 a.m. wake up call.
5. Smell Sweet Scents
Similar to how essential oils can help you wake up naturally, they can also help you fall back asleep. Scents such as chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, and bergamot all have the ability to help relieve the stress and anxiety that may be inhibiting you from falling back asleep. If you struggle with sleep, keep essential oils by your bed and place a drop or two on a cloth on your nightstand. If you have a spray, give your pillow a spritz.
6. Fake it Till You Make it
You know when you were a kid and you used to fake being asleep when mom and dad would check in on you? Well, turns out that move has some benefits. Sometimes pretending to sleep can actually help you fall back asleep. Next time you wake up in the middle of the night, pretend like you never woke up in the first place. Close your eyes, steady your breathing, and imagine you’re already asleep.
7. Get out of Bed
If none of the above are working and you are too agitated to go to sleep, get out of bed. This may feel counterproductive, but leaving your bedroom may actually help you get back to sleep. Go into another room and read a book, meditate, drink some calming tea, or listen to a soothing sleep podcast — anything to get your mind relaxed and off the thought of sleep. Once you feel your eyelids start to weigh heavy, head back to your bedroom and ease back into a blissful slumber.
8. Write Down Your Thoughts
Our thoughts and worries keep us awake. Whether it’s a project at work, unpaid bills, or the latest news, one of the most common reasons people struggle to fall back asleep is because of the thoughts that run through their mind.
Just like you would do with a regular journal, keep a sleep journal to write down any thoughts that might be worrying you. This can be anything from tasks you need to do the next day to a song that may be stuck in your head. One study found that writing to-do lists helped people fall asleep an average of nine minutes faster than those who don’t. Next time you’re struggling to return to sleep, put pen to paper and let your worries drift away.
9. Put on a Peaceful Playlist
Have you ever put on a song and found your mood instantly shift? Music has the power to slow your heart rate and calm your mind; two critical components to falling asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who listen to 45 minutes of music fall asleep faster and wake up fewer times during the night.
Consider listening to peaceful music the next time you wake up in the middle of the night. The type of music you choose is up to you, however, look for a rhythm of about 60 to 80 beats per minute. This typically includes jazz, classical, and folk songs.
10. Relax the Mind with Meditation
If that peaceful playlist isn’t quite doing it for you, consider trying meditation. Mindfulness meditation and similar meditative techniques have been proven to enhance sleep quality. When you struggle to sleep, your mind tends to jump from one thought to another. Meditation quiets the mind and can help distance those thoughts from each other.
If you need some help, consider downloading a meditation app. There are hundreds to pick from. Our personal favorite is the Casper Sleep Channel that includes sounds, meditations, and stories designed to help you nod off to dreamland.
11. Take a Hot Shower
If getting back to sleep seems impossible, try taking a hot shower or bath. Not only will this help you relax, but it also can help with sleep onset. Why?
During the day your body fluctuates temperature in accordance with your circadian rhythm. Your body temperature tells your mind whether it’s time to sleep or wake up. When you take a hot shower at night, your body heats up. When you get out, your body temperature instantly cools down, signalling to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.
12. Practice Yoga for 10 Mins
If you still can’t seem to lull off to sleep, try yoga. Those who practice yoga have been proven to fall asleep more quickly if they wake up in the middle of the night. However, we’re not saying spring out of bed and do a tripod headstand or one-handed tree pose. We mean simple, relaxing yoga poses for sleep. Some of these poses include a standing forward bend, three-part breath, and seated spinal twist meant to stretch the body and bring your mind to the attention of the breath.
How Long Does it Take to Fall Back Asleep?
It usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes to fall back asleep. This time is called sleep latency, also known as sleep onset latency, or SOL. It refers to the time taken to fall asleep after the lights have been turned off. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, you should consider getting up and attempting some of the tips above.
How to Fall Back Asleep When You Wake Up Too Early
Another common problem among sleepers is waking up too early. Often people will wake up at 4 or 5 a.m., stressed about the tasks of the day to come. Mulling over your to-do list for the day will only amplify your anxiety and inability to sleep.
Instead, try to take long and deep breaths. Rather than thinking of the big day ahead, remind yourself of all you have to be grateful for. Think of your family, friends, pets, or your favorite place to travel. Focusing on gratitude will help to override any anxious thoughts that may be clouding your mind. If you still can’t sleep, attempt some of the tips above. Write down your to-do list for the day or try meditating to slow down your breath.
There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night not being able to fall back asleep. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to help your body and mind relax. If not being able to sleep is a recurring problem, it's possible that practicing better sleep hygiene can help.
Not to mention, your sleep environment plays a large role in your ability to fall asleep. Make sure the mattress you lay on every night has the perfect balance of support and cooling features. Pair it with a comfortable pillow and snug sheets and you’ll be off to dreamland in no time.