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Tips to Fall Back Asleep: Overcoming Nighttime Wakefulness

Ana Marie Schick Mar 05, 2024

How to fall back asleep after waking up in the middle of the night

Waking up in the middle of the night is more normal than you might think, a natural part of our sleep cycle. Often, we don't even recall these brief awakenings.

However, the real challenge arises when falling back asleep becomes a struggle. Instead of seamlessly slipping back into the coziness of our beds, we find our minds fully alert, leading to a night filled with restlessness and frustration.

Are you having trouble falling asleep? Don't worry; many practical strategies can help you discover how to fall back asleep fast, ensuring the restful, rejuvenating sleep you need and deserve.

Don't Let Temperature Wake You Up

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Tips on How to Go Back to Sleep

Understanding the complex internal clock of our brain and body is key to achieving adequate sleep and peak performance during the day. This internal clock coordinates with different hours and organ activities, impacting our sleep and wakefulness. [1]

Working in sync with this rhythm can enhance our sleep quality, allowing us to rest and recharge effectively. Experts in the field of health and sleep science offer various scientifically-based recommendations for optimizing this natural sleep cycle.

Try Getting Out of Bed

If you find yourself tossing and turning, unable to sleep, a helpful tip is to get out of bed. Sleep experts suggest that if you're not asleep within 20 minutes, you should go to another room and engage in a calming activity. [2]

This could be reading or listening to soft music. The change of environment and activity can reset your mind, making it easier to feel sleepy when you return to bed. This technique helps break the cycle of lying awake and turning your bedroom back into a place of rest.

Sleep Study: According to a U.S. study, 35.5% of people wake up three or more nights per week. [3]

Avoid Clock Watching

When you're lying awake at night, it's tempting to keep glancing at the clock, counting down the hours until morning.

Continuously checking the clock when you can't sleep actually increases your anxiety, making it even more challenging to drift back into sleep. This habit tends to amplify your worries about lost sleep, creating a cycle of stress that keeps you awake longer. [4]

Worrying about how much sleep you're losing is common, but this only feeds into a cycle of stress and sleeplessness. For those who often feel anxious, especially about sleeping, avoiding the clock can help break this cycle.

Write Down Your Thoughts and Worries

Do you often find yourself struggling to fall asleep due to a racing mind filled with worries and thoughts? If so, try a simple and effective technique - writing. By taking some time before bedtime to jot down everything that's on your mind, you can help ease your mind and reduce stress levels.

Recent research has shown that journaling before bedtime can significantly impact sleep quality and mental health. [5]

Individuals who regularly engage in this practice have reported better sleep. So, if you're looking for a natural and easy way to manage stress and improve your sleep, consider adding journaling to your bedtime routine tonight.

A sleep expert often recommends keeping a pen and pad at your bedside so you can commit your worries to paper.

Sleep Tip: Set aside 15 minutes each night to write down positive thoughts and experiences and how you felt throughout the day. This can help "turn off" your brain and drift into a deep sleep.

Listen to Relaxing Music

Listening to music can be a helpful strategy. Soft, soothing music or sounds create a relaxing atmosphere, helping ease any tension or stress preventing sleep. 

The gentle rhythms and melodies can distract your mind from anxious or repetitive thoughts, allowing your body and mind to relax. This relaxation is key for drifting back into sleep. 

It's important to choose calming and not too stimulating music, as the goal is to create an environment conducive to improve sleep quality.

Sleep Tip: Relaxation techniques such as listening to music have been proven to help improve sleep. In a recent study, adults who listened to 45 minutes of music before going to sleep reported having a better quality of sleep starting on the first night. [6]

Reading Your Way Back to Sleep

Reading a book when you're having trouble falling back asleep can be beneficial. It's a gentle, calm activity that doesn't involve screens or blue light, which can disrupt your sleep cycle.

Engaging in reading distracts your mind from the stress or anxiety that might be keeping you awake, helping you relax. Reading can shift your focus away from sleep-related worries, making it easier for your body to drift back into sleep naturally. Just make sure the content is calming and not overly stimulating or exciting!

Note: Reading a physical book can be a great alternative to reading an e-book in the middle of the night as the screens emit blue light. [7]

Listen to Podcasts

If you find reading inconvenient or uncomfortable due to poor lighting or eye strain, consider listening to podcasts or audiobooks.

These alternatives can provide you with an immersive and engaging experience without visual focus. However, selecting a topic that won't cause too much excitement or distress is important, as this can negatively impact your ability to relax or sleep.

So, when choosing your next audio content, be mindful of the potential emotional effects it may have on you.

Consistency in Sleep Schedule

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule can have numerous benefits for your health and well-being. Ideally, you should try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends or days off. This helps regulate your body's internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up refreshed in the morning.

Of course, there will be times when you need to deviate from your usual routine - perhaps due to travel, holidays, or other special occasions. Don't worry too much when this happens, but try to get back on track as soon as possible. Your body will thank you for sticking to a consistent sleep schedule over the long term resulting in better sleep.

Read More: 11 Tips on How to Create a Better Nighttime Routine

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a cognitive training practice that coaches you to calm your mind and body by letting go of negativity and slowing down your racing thoughts.

Meditative, deep breathing exercises and guided meditation encourage relaxation and self-compassion. This, in turn, can decrease stress levels. In a randomized clinical trial, practicing mindful meditation under the guidance of certified specialists improved the sleep quality of older adults. [8]

Meditation Exercises

Prioritizing your mental well-being through meditation allows your body to find and maintain relaxation. The below exercises can help you relax and re-center.

Meditation can help you fall back asleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing heart rate, and blood pressure and promoting slow breathing.

Focus on Breathing

One of the effective techniques to calm your mind is through simple breathing exercises. By focusing on your breath and taking slow, deep breaths, you can reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.

This helps slow down your heart rate and regulate your body's response to stress. You can try inhaling deeply for a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 7, and exhaling slowly for a count of 8. Repeat this pattern a few times, and you'll notice a difference in how you feel.

You can also try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Read More: The Benefits of Deep Breathing

When To Seek Medical Advice

If you continuously can't fall back asleep, we recommend that you get evaluated by a sleep specialist or doctor, particularly if you notice increased anxiety, irritability, or decreased alertness during the day. Remember that approximately one-third of US adults have reported sleep problems. [9]

It's crucial that you get the support and professional consultation you need. You may have an underlying condition or illness that needs attention.

Common Sleep Factors

According to the CDC, a third of US adults (on average) aged 18 and over report not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.

For those aged 25 to 64, it's between 35.6% and 37.8%, [10] This figure is particularly striking because these age groups typically carry heavy responsibilities for caregiving of children and elders, shouldering financial burdens, and developing productive professional careers.

Consumer Reports Statistic: 27% of people in a new survey of 4,023 U.S. adults said they had trouble falling back asleep or staying asleep most nights.

Final Thoughts

Waking up in the middle of the night doesn't have to mean a sleepless night. By trying out these tips, like reading a book, listening to calming music, or jotting down your thoughts, you can gently guide yourself back to a restful sleep. Remember, creating a relaxing sleep environment, and following a routine that suits your needs can make all the difference.

With a bit of patience and practice, you'll find your own unique ways to effectively fall back asleep and minimize sleep disturbances after waking up at night. It's about experimenting with different strategies and discovering what works best for you, ultimately creating a personalized approach to reclaiming those precious hours of restful sleep.


1] Hubbard, A. (2020, November, 30). How to Fall Back Asleep After Waking at Night.

[2] Vorvick, Linda. "Changing Your Sleep Habits: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.", 12 May 2022. View Resource

[3] Ohayon MM, Krystal A, Roehrs TA, Roth T, Vitiello MV. Using difficulty resuming sleep to define nocturnal awakenings. Sleep Med. 2010 Mar;11(3):236-41. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2009.11.004. Epub 2010 Jan 13. PMID: 20075004; PMCID: PMC2830306.

[4] Scullin, M. K., Krueger, M. L., Ballard, H. K., Pruett, N., & Bliwise, D. L. (2018). The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists. Journal of Experimental Psychologyl, 147(1), 139–146. View Study

[5] Scullin MK, Krueger ML, Ballard HK, Pruett N, Bliwise DL. The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Jan;147(1):139-146. doi: 10.1037/xge0000374. Epub 2017 Oct 23. PMID: 29058942; PMCID: PMC5758411.

[6] Lai, Hui-Ling, and Marion Good. “Music Improves Sleep Quality in Older Adults.” Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 49, no. 3, Feb. 2005, pp. 234–244, View Study

[7] Amirtharaj AD, Raghavan D, Arulappan J. Preferences for printed books versus E-books among university students in a Middle Eastern country. Heliyon. 2023 May 29;9(6):e16776. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e16776. PMID: 37303527; PMCID: PMC10248253.

[8] Black, D.S., O’Reilly, G.S., Olmsted, R., Breen, E.C., Irwin, M.R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances:A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 4, 494-501. View Study

[9] Pathek, N.[Medical Reviewer] (n.d.). Waking up in the middle of the night. View Resource

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (n.d.). Sleep and sleep disorders.