We’ve all been there: You’re exhausted, and you can’t wait to go to bed. The second your head hits the pillow, you feel yourself drifting, and before you know it, you’re in dreamland. That is, until it’s 2 am—and then, you’re wide awake, staring at the ceiling and trying to count sheep in order to get some shuteye.
Turns out, waking up at night is more common that you might think. According to a recent poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans have experienced interrupted sleep in the middle of the night.
“My older clients have to take more frequent bathroom breaks, so I see that they often have trouble staying asleep, as well as those who work in stressful environments,” says Amanda Clark, a certified sleep coach at Equinox. She helps people of all age groups and careers get better sleep, thanks to her holistic methods and focus on the entire body. “If you’re already going to bed in an agitated state, it’s harder to sustain rest over a long period of time. But there are also things people do in the day that don’t necessarily set themselves up for a good night’s sleep.”
Need some help in the staying asleep department? Check out these expert-approved tips here.
Consider your supplements.
“Waking up in the middle of the night is often hormonal, so I recommend using adaptogens before bed to help balance them,” says Lauren Slayton, registered dietician and founder of NYC-based nutrition service Foodtrainers. These have a host of incredible benefits, including stress relief and boosting mood. Slayton loves Moodbeli’s ashwagandha, as well as Anima Mundi’s Sleep Elixir, a potent mixture of ashwagandha, kava kava, passionflower, and blue lotus flower—all substances that give you deep, restful sleep.
Make sure you stick to your routine.
“I always focus on the whole body when it comes to figuring out why people wake up at night,” says Clark. “It’s important to create a bedtime routine that will actually prepare your body for better sleep. I love drinking calming teas close to bedtime (but not too close!), avoiding bright light from television and your phone (the light messes with your circadian rhythm and tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime), and indulging in a face mask or bubble bath.” The latter will also help increase your body temperature and get you in a state of rest.
Nutrition is key.
Know that even if you eat well before bedtime, the types of food you eat can affect the quality of your sleep in ways you might not even have realized. Nutritionist Alix Turoff recommends you limit your alcohol and carbs, especially if you’re prone to blood sugar spikes.
Certain foods also stimulate sleep—most notably tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted into serotonin and melatonin (two brain chemicals that promote relaxation). Some examples include turkey, eggs, cottage cheese, and fish.
Utilize breathing techniques.
If you’re still stressed out before you fall asleep or have woken up in the middle of the night, Clark has a deep breathing technique that she recommends trying. “It’s four counts on the inhale, a seven count hold, and eight counts on the exhale; it’s called the four-seven-eight breathing technique,” she says. “It’s recommended to do that about four times, since the long counts can be challenging for people, but make sure it’s a comfortable pause.” According to Clark, a few counts of this will help you calm down and get ready for sleep again.
Keep a notebook by your bed.
If you’re waking up because you’re worried about something, Clark suggests keeping a “worry book” by your bed. If you jolt to consciousness stressed about something you think you’ll forget, write it down so that it’s no longer on your mind. “Most people find that when they write things down, it’s not at the top of their to-do list anymore, and so then they can rest,” she says.
Watch your exercise.
If you exercise too close to bedtime, the rush of endorphins you get and the boost of energy post-workout might take too long to wear off, resulting in poor sleep and waking up constantly. “I suggest trying to finish working out at least four hours before bed, and if you can’t, to try and incorporate something more calming or lower-intensity than stimulating, like yoga or a long walk. If it has to be high-intensity, make sure to include a long cool down period,” says Clark.
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