What to do when you frequently wake up at 3am and struggle to get back to sleep

It’s normal to wake up during the night, we all do it several times. Usually we don’t remember them because not only are they short, we also just roll over and slip back into sleep.

However, when you find yourself lying in bed around the witching hour, as some call it, unable to get back to sleep, quiet quickly your mind starts to get busy with thinking. Racing from one thought to the next with no end in sight, your mind can feel like washing machine stuck in the spinning cycle. Then there is this strong feeling of anxiety in your tummy or chest that suddenly pings up. Your heart is pounding loud and fast. You can’t stop tossing and turning wishing to be anywhere but here in your bed. 

Quickly, you get into a struggle with being awake. “Tomorrow will be very stressful, things will go wrong if I don’t get back to sleep soon? I need to get control over this situation, I need to take back control of my sleep!” is a thought that weighs heavily on your mind. More anxiety and perhaps anger follow, adding to the anxiety you are already experiencing. Unfortunately, this struggle with being awake only wakes you up more.

So, what I suggest is something different to fighting. What if, unless you need the toilet, you stay in bed, leave the lights off and don’t use your phone. And then take a deep breath in and out. 

Notice all of what is happening with a mindful attitude. That means noticing in a neutral, objective manner. Simply describe to yourself what you are observing in your mind and body. 

Then notice your breath for a moment or two, if you like, take some deep breathes but you don’t have to.

And then do something paradoxical: Allow yourself to be awake. By doing so you end the struggle you got into at the start, there is no fighting with being awake anymore. And thus less arousal.

Lying in bed calmly and accepting, has another benefit. Your body will get some rest and conserve energy. Energy you then have to do the things you value the next day.

If you want to learn more about how I can help you sleep well and feel good, book a 15-minute initial call with me. 

Warmly,

Dr Kat