We’ve all been there. Whether it’s 1:00 am, 2:00 am, 3:00 am, or, in exceptionally frustrating cases, 4:00 am, unexpectedly waking up in the middle of the night is the worst. Best case, you’ll start your day a little bit groggier, a little bit crankier, and a whole lot hungrier. (The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that folks who don’t get enough sleep consume nearly 400 more calories than normal the following day.) And while it may be tempting to reach for the sleep-aid tablets in such situations, you should know that there are other, science-backed ways to fall asleep—naturally.
In fact, the one thing you don’t want to do is turn to medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent use of over-the-counter sleep aids could create a dependency that, over time, will only exacerbate your insomnia. So before you pick up a bottle of melatonin, try out one of these tricks instead. You’ll fall back asleep so quickly that any unwelcome moments of wakefulness will seem like nothing more than a fleeting dream. And for more ways to get the most of your shuteye, learn the 65 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.
Everyone loves the smell of lavender. But it turns out the stuff has some serious benefits, too. Per a study in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research, lavender can help lull you into an increased state of relaxation. Better yet, according to the researchers, just three whiffs of the stuff—over up to a 30-minute period—can help you sleep deeper and feel more energized upon waking up. Keep a stock in your bedside drawer to lull you off to dreamland whenever necessary.
Turn down the heat.
The ideal temperature for your bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. According to research out of Harvard Medical School, when your body starts power down for the night, it drops a few degrees, which subsequently helps your body enter and stay in REM. By keeping your room toasty, no matter how cozy it might feel during frigid winter nights, you’re just inhibiting your own sleep. And for more ways to get in some great shuteye, learn Everything You Need To Know About the “Coffee Nap.”
Hop in the shower.
You know that feeling when you step out of the shower, and into crisp air, and you feel a shiver? That’s the feeling of your body temperature dropping a few degrees—which, again, helps your fall back asleep. Our recommendation: Turn down the temperature in your room, take a quick, warm shower, and head back to bed. By the time your head hits the pillow, your room will have cooled down, helping you fall right back asleep. And for more ways to sleep your best, try out the 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets For Falling Asleep Faster.
Put on some socks.
According to a study in Nature, “the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the hands and feet … is the best physiological predictor for the rapid onset of sleep.” In other words, folks who wear socks fall asleep faster. So if you need to nod off quickly after unexpectedly waking up, slip on a pair of socks.
Don’t even consider looking at the clock.
When waking up in the middle of the night, it’s instinct to peek at the time. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, looking at the clock will just cause undue distress—and that will prevent you from getting back to sleep. So make sure any indications of the time—an alarm clock, your phone—are out of sight.
Turn off your devices.
The soft light that comes from electronic devices—blue light—is your worst enemy when it comes to getting a good night’s rest. Blue light is what experts call “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it suppresses your melatonin receptors. Melatonin, if you didn’t know, is the hormone that helps you sleep. So do some cleanup before you go to bed. Turn off your TV. Close your laptop. Put your phone facedown. That way, these devices won’t wake you up again in the middle of the night.
Yes, like a child would. As Dr. Rachel Marie E. Salas, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Post, blowing bubbles serves as a breathing exercise, which calms your body and mind—and a calm body and mind lead to easy-onset sleep.
Give The 4-7-8 Method a go.
When all else fails, try Dr. Andrew Weil’s method: The 4-7-8. Here’s how: Place the tip of your tongue against the tissue behind your top front teeth. Exhale through your mouth, completely, and make a whoosh noise. Close your mouth. Inhale through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale through your mouth again—yes, you still have to whoosh. Repeat the whole thing three or four times.
Cut your losses.
At a certain point—say, an hour or two before you’re planning on waking up anyway—it’s best to just forgo sleep altogether. Use that time for an activity you might not usually have time for. Whip up an energizing breakfast. Clean the bathroom. Go for a morning run. And if you’re fond of your new first-light routine, learn How to Become A Morning Workout Person.
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