Picture Credit: Unsplash
Picture Credit: Unsplash

If you keep waking up in the night but don't know why, there could be a multitude of different reasons for your interrupted sleep! Here are seven things you should seriously consider...

  1. Nighttime awakenings happen to everyone and are NORMAL even when not in a time of stress.  It's not unusual for people to wake a couple of times in the night, and then fall back to sleep - particularly as we get older. Taking 10-15 minutes to fall asleep is not a concern. This is nothing to worry about.
  2. See if there is an external reason for your awakening - and if there is, sort it out.  If you have a snoring partner, consider earplugs - or if you live on a busy road and it's a night bus waking you, consider double glazing or other soundproofing. When the weather is changing you might find yourself too hot or too cold - make your bedding 'flexible' during season changes by having layers.
  3. Don't look at your clock or watch in the night.  We can accidentally train ourselves to wake up at regular intervals in the night by looking at the time. We check the time, get alarmed or start counting the number of hours we have left - and this trains our 'alerting system' to keep an eye out for what we interpreted as a dangerous situation - conditioning ourselves to wake up at night.
  4. Ease off the booze. Alcohol will affect your sleep quality - even a little bit has an effect, and not just on the nights you drink. People who drink more will have 'rebound insomnia' and wake at night, usually between 2 and 3 am, as the alcohol's sedative effect begins to wear off. You can help avoid this by losing the booze.
  5. If you don't fall back to sleep easily, get up and do something! Get out of bed and do something you enjoy doing, especially if you are laying there worried about getting enough sleep. Laying there fretting will train your body that bed is where you worry about sleep, rather than the place where sleep always happens. Staying in bed 'for a couple extra minutes' is a poor investment in your future sleep; if it was you wouldn't be worrying about being awake.
  6. Work on the worry - anxiety about not sleeping is what keeps insomnia going.  The people who don't worry about sleeping are the ones who fall back to sleep in the short term - and return to normal sleep after their short bout of sleeping problems. The people who begin to worry about the sleeping issue develop anxiety and arousal which feeds the sleeping problem.
  7. See your doctor for a checkup.  Even if these tips help you, it's important to know if there is any other underlying health situation that could be contributing to your nighttime wakings. Other sleeping disorders besides insomnia, as well as other health and psychiatric conditions, can affect our sleep and need to be treated appropriately.
Tracy Hannigan, The Sleep Coach
Tracy Hannigan, The Sleep Coach

Tracy Hannigan is one of the UK's leading sleep coaches and insomnia experts, running a sleep therapy practice for individuals with insomnia, www.tracythesleepcoach.co.uk.

Tracy uses her background in psychology and her experience as a healthcare professional alongside her CBTI training to help people reclaim their sleep so they can live the active and vibrant lives they want and deserve. 

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