It happens to the best of us. There you are, sleeping like Snow White and boom—all of a sudden, you’re wide awake. That’s normally fine if it happens once in a while. But what if it’s become a nightly occurrence and you can’t get back to sleep?
Most people’s sleep patterns or rhythms may vary from time to time, but if it becomes a regular occurrence and the night is spent tossing and turning to try to get back to dreamland, then a ‘return to sleep enhancing strategy’ is in order. Seniors are particularly prone to waking up during the night for any number of reasons, but younger people can also suffer from an inability to get back to sleep once awakened, too.
Apparently, there’s a name for this syndrome which, if it occurs more than a couple of times a week and lasts longer than three months, can be considered chronic. It’s called sleep maintenance insomnia.
“Sleep maintenance insomnia describes an inability to stay asleep through the night. Most often, this means waking up at least once during the night and struggling to get back to sleep for at least 20-30 minutes.”
5 Ways To Help You Fall Back To Sleep
Your inability to fall back to sleep once you wake up during the night may be caused by things such as stress, menopause, bladder issues, hormones, sleep apnea, acid reflux, depression/anxiety, certain medications, old age, pain, diabetes, arthritis and more.
If your sleep cycle disruptions become seriously debilitating and your situation escalates, seek the advice of your medical professional. In the meantime, consider trying these five tips and see if your ability to return to sleep during the night improves.
1. Don’t Look At The Clock
One problem once you wake up is looking at the clock. Don’t—it’ll just make you stress out more about being awake. All it does is cause a sleepless person to panic as the hours tick by and their wake-up time draws closer. Instead, concentrate on doing some mindful breathing and relaxation techniques like slowly drawing your breath in through your nose and exhaling it out through your mouth. Another way to help relax is to tense each major muscle in your body one by one from head to toe and release it. This action can signal the body that all is fine and soon you’ll drift off to sleep again.
2. Make That Nocturnal Trip To The Loo In The Dark
As we age, many of us find that our bladders don’t last the night and we wake up frequently to go use the washroom. If this describes you, try getting up and heading to the bathroom without turning on a light (or have the lights on dimmer switches set to low or leave on strategically placed nightlights). The reason is that bright light basically turns off the body’s production of the hormone melatonin. The result is your body thinks it’s morning and time to get up making it harder for you to fall asleep again.
3. Exercise Regularly
Daily exercise helps regulate mood and eases depression. It can also tire you out. Evening exercise used to be considered a no no as it could overstimulate a person’s body, but new opinions suggest a gentle workout prior to retiring for the night can be beneficial for a good night’s sleep and alleviate the ‘wake up often’ cycle – yoga, gentle stretching, leisurely swimming and biking or taking a stroll are some of the suggested activities you may wish to do before bedtime.
4. Say No To That Nightcap
Although an alcoholic drink before bed may make you conk out sooner, it’s also more likely to make you wake up later in the night during your deep sleep cycle.
According to Drinkaware: “Some people may find alcohol helps them get to sleep initially, but this is outweighed by the negative effect on sleep quality through the night. The alcohol in your system will mean you spend less time in the important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, with the end result that you wake up feeling less refreshed. Even just a couple of drinks will have an effect.”
5. Bore Yourself Back To Sleep
When all else fails, this is a tried-and-true strategy, which I use often. Choose something as simple as playing a mental game like picking a word and then coming up with another word that starts with the last letter of your chosen word, then a new word using the last words last letter and so on—see, you’re bored already! Make it harder by making each word have a certain number of letters. For example, make six letter words – agency, yellow, window…boring as all get out, right? But you will fall back to sleep, trust me.
Sleep Is Precious
Nothing beats a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep. However, it’s a common complaint many seniors have. Not being able to get back to sleep once awakened during the night can be frustrating and detrimental to our overall well-being.
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