YOU may have gone to bed with all the right intentions.
You've had a relaxing bath and a soothing tea, maybe you've even put some fresh pyjamas on.
But it's the middle of the night and you've woken up and now you're struggling to doze back off.
The daunting prospect of having to get up in a couple of hours makes the situation significantly worse.
So why do you wake up in the night, and how can you get back to sleep?
Experts say that when we sleep, we go through several 90-minute cycles.
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These cycles contain different stages of sleep. In the latter part, you go into a lighter sleep.
You are much more likely to wake up to the slightest noise, such as a car driving past, or your partner moving slightly, sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley, ex-chairman of the British Sleep Society, told Good Housekeeping.
In the morning, it is unlikely you'll remember all the times you were roused in the night.
But for the unfortunate few, it's not as easy as "turning over" and nodding off again.
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Greg Murray, professor and director of the Centre for Mental Health, Swinburne University of Technology, explained this is typical for 3-4am.
As the body prepares for morning, core body temperature and wakeful hormones start to rise, while sleep drive is reducing, he wrote in The Conversation.
“Add a bit of stress and there is a good chance that waking will become a fully self-aware state,” Prof Murray said.
He said in the hours before dawn, we are more likely to end up “catastrophising” because it is dark and lonely – no one or nothing is there to distract you.
Here are some tips, shared by sleep experts, to help you get back into the land of nod:
1. Avoid toilet breaks
You may think that getting up to relieve your bladder will help you drift back off to the land of nod.
But Dr Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, told Business Insider that you should stay exactly where you are.
This is because if you leave the warmth of your bed, your heart has to pump more blood around the body.
A low resting heart rate is needed to fall asleep. Therefore, a toilet trip is doing the opposite of what you need.
2. Stop clock-watching
It's almost second nature to pick up your phone and check the time when you wake up in the middle of the night.
Dr Michael said to avoid checking your phone at all costs, as the anxiety of watching the clock can keep you awake longer.
Experts say if you still haven't fallen asleep within what feels like 15 minutes, you should get out of bed.
“There’s no need to clock-watch though; just estimate quarter-of-an-hour," they wrote.
Dr Bryony Sheaves and Professor Colin Espie at the University of Oxford said you can return to bed once you feel sleepy, to avoid associating it with feeling awake and axious.
3. Ditch the booze
A glass of wine or a sip or two of brandy is a pre-bed ritual for some, and can certainly help you drift off.
But it can ruin the quality of your sleep, which will cause you to have more disturbances through the night.
That's because alcohol blocks tryptophan – an amino acid that helps you sleep – from getting to the brain.
Professor Malcolm von Schantz, from the University of Surrey, says: "Alcohol has a weird effect in that it makes it easier to fall asleep, but it makes it harder to stay asleep and it affects the quality of our sleep."
4. Shut pets away
It can be nice to have a warm fluffy pillow to snuggle with, but you shouldn't have your pets in the bed.
They can rob us of those vital zzzzs – not just because they fidget about, but also because of fur shedding.
On top of this, sleeping with a furry friend can also aggravate allergies or asthma in those susceptible to it.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO I NEED FOR MY AGE?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours (previously 12-18)
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours 12-15 hours (previously 14-15)
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened one hour 11-14 hours (previously 12-14)
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep ranged widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously 11-13)
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
5. Cool down
You might feel like having a warm, cosy house is one of the only comforts in the colder months – but this can actually disrupt sleep.
This is because central heating systems dry out the mucous membranes, making you more thirsty during the night.
Dr Neil says the optimum temperature for a good night is 18C or lower.
We need to lose around 1C of our internal body temperature, which sits at around 37C – to drift off.
If you're in a room that's too warm, your body can't dump that excess heat – and that means that your sleep will be disturbed.
Turn the heating off in your bedroom and instead use duvets, blankets and breathable bed linen to help regulate your body temperature.
6. Quieten your mind
To help remedy this, The National Sleep Foundation recommends trying meditation.
It says: "Learning to quiet your mind can be a helpful skill, both for navigating stressful daytime periods, and for falling asleep at night.
"If you’ve never tried it, start with as little as a couple minutes of sitting quietly and focusing on your inhale and exhale.
"You can also explore apps that will help guide you."
It also recommend taking on more exercise as regular exercisers tend to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly.
Want more sleep advice? CBT could be the key to insomniacs getting to sleep faster and snoozing for longer.
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