You might think of a bad night’s sleep as little more than an annoyance that will make your day a little harder to get through. However, a few bad nights of sleep can have far more serious side effects in the long-term. Research suggests that skimping on sleep can significantly increase a person’s risk of becoming obese, while a study published by the Sleep Research Society reveals that those nights spent tossing and turning may actually shave precious years off your life.
If you find yourself tossing and turning after night, you’re not alone in your misery. Difficulty sleeping through the night is a problem that affects nearly a third of the adult population in the United States. However, just because you’re suffering through sleepless nights doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your body; in fact, many of the habits that we engage in to relax ourselves before bed could be the very reasons we’re starting at the ceiling all night long. We’ve rounded up the worst things to do when you’re awake at night, so if you’re having a hard time sleeping, try nixing these bedtime busters from your usual routine. And when you want to get a better night’s rest every night of the week, start with the 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better!
Looking at Your Phone
Think reading on your phone is a good way to relax? Think again. A study conducted by the University of Haifa found that the blue light emitted by your smartphone damages sleep, so fight the instinct to pick up your phone and start scrolling when you wake up in the middle of the night. If that sounds impossible to you, check out 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
Checking the Clock
Want to sleep better? Keep your alarm clock facing away from your bed. People begin doing the mental math of figuring out how much sleep they’re going to get as soon as they wake up in the middle of the night and see what time it is. According to the Mayo Clinic, this kickstarts a stress response that will make it harder to fall asleep. If you really want to maximize your sleep, check out 70 Tips for Your Best Sleep Ever.
With little to distract you, it’s easy to lie in bed and let anxiety take control. Unfortunately, anxious and ruminative thinking have been linked to both the onset and perpetuation of insomnia. If you have a hard time getting your mind to calm down, consider learning 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Sleeping in Warm Clothes
Wearing pajamas to bed can make it harder to sleep through the night in a few ways. First, if you have a tendency to move around in your sleep, your pajamas twisting around your legs or waist can be uncomfortable enough to wake you up. Wearing pajamas can also make you warm, and research from the University of Amsterdam has shown that having a cool skin temperature can improve your quality of sleep. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, consider wearing something lighter and slightly more form-fitting to bed in the future. And when you want to make your bed a better space for sleep, try out one of the 10 Best Pillows For a Better Night’s Sleep!
Keeping the Lights On
When you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the urge to turn on the light. While the rational part of your mind knows you’re just trying to see, the rest of your brain can take it as a signal that it is now time to wake up. Unfortunately, that’s usually the part of the brain that wins this sort of disagreement, and you might find yourself having a much harder time falling asleep afterward. Still tossing and turning? It’s time to discover the 40 Ways to Sleep Better in Your 40s.
Getting Up to Use the Bathroom
According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, if you wake up in the middle of the night, you should try to move as little as possible. Getting out of bed can elevate your blood pressure and take your body out of its resting state. So, don’t go to the bathroom unless you really need to. And if you do go, it’s better to fumble around in the dark than turn on every light on your way there. And when you want to wake up happier, This Is How to Wake Yourself Up Without an Alarm Clock!
Sleeping With a Snoring Partner
Light and sound are two of the main environmental culprits behind waking up in the middle of the night. Rather than lying in bed seething at your snoring partner for keeping you awake, get a white noise machine and put it on your side of the bed. You’ll get better sleep and might even improve your relationship. And if you’re having a hard time sleeping soundly, discover the 40 Ways Your Sleep Changes After 40!
Staying in Bed
It might counterintuitive, but the Mayo Clinic advises against staying in bed if you can’t get back to sleep. So, for the first 20 minutes or so, try not to move too much and attempt to calm your mind. After that, get out of bed and do something calming, like reading (but not in bright light). Ideally this will take your mind off of whatever’s bothering you and help you relax enough to fall asleep again. That’s why occupying your mind is one of 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster.
Staying Totally Motionless
If middle of the night insomnia is making it impossible for you to sleep, you’ll need to find a way to relax fast. And while it may seem like a strange way to do so, tensing your muscles may get you back to sleep faster than trying to keep your body limp in bed. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then releasing muscle groups in your body one at a time, leaving your body more relaxed so you can get back to sleep easier. If you’re still tossing and turning, it’s time to test out these 10 Genius Tricks For Falling Back Asleep in the Middle of the Night!
That midnight snack may be psychologically soothing, but it’s actually more likely to keep you up than it is to get you to sleep. Unfortunately, snacking in the middle of the night on a regular basis may even inadvertently train your body to expect food at 4:00 in the morning, keeping you up longer and adding some extra pounds to the scale, as well. And if you need to break your bad sleep rut, This Is the Single Best Cure for Insomnia!
It may seem like exhausting yourself with exercise is a good way to get yourself back to sleep sooner, but research published in the Journal of Sleep Research shows that the immediate effects of exercise are actually stimulating. So, if you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, it’s not the right time to catch up on those crunches. Even if it does make you feel tired, it will ultimately make it more difficult to fall asleep again.
Your phone isn’t the only screen you shouldn’t look at if you wake up in the middle of the night. You should also avoid watching television. Not only can the light it emits affect your sleep patterns, most TV shows—even the most relaxing nature documentaries—are still too stimulating to allow your brain to turn off immediately afterward.
Reading a Thriller
If you woke up in the middle of the night, resist that urge to pull out your copy of It whenever possible. Instead, pull out that boring biography you’ve been putting off forever, and make sure you’re reading it in physical form, not on a screen. For best results, keep a small reading light on hand so you don’t have to turn on a bright light. Reading is a great way to make your eyes tired, which is helpful when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Staring Into Space
Falling asleep once you’ve woken up in the middle of the night is tricky business. You shouldn’t get up and do whatever you want, but you also shouldn’t lie there doing nothing, if that’s not working. Your mind can start ruminating or racing, and you’ll never get back to sleep.
Instead of simply staring off, try thinking about something incredibly repetitive. Imagine yourself walking slowly down a flight of stairs and count each step, or try slowly counting backwards from 100. You can also go step-by-step through a very boring task you do on a regular basis. The point is to get your brain to unwind and lull yourself back to sleep.
Having a Nightcap
If you find yourself tossing and turning, the idea of a nightcap can have a certain appeal. After all, alcohol makes you feel sleepy, and sleep is what you’re looking for. But drinking alcohol actually makes it harder to sleep through the night, and if it’s sleep apnea that’s waking you up, alcohol can make that worse too, according to research from the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. This means that once you fall asleep again, you’re more likely to wake back up. However, when you’re ready to enjoy a more relaxing and restful night, Eating This One Thing Will Help You Sleep Better.
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