How to Stay Asleep Throughout the Night
Do you struggle to stay asleep at night? You’re not alone. Experts estimate that one-third of American adults (1) get less than seven hours of sleep per night, the minimum recommended amount of sleep for maintaining health and well-being. This number increases for people of color, rising to 45.8% of Black Americans getting less than seven hours of sleep every night. Different age groups are also disproportionately affected, with two-thirds of high schoolers reporting reduced sleep.
What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Sleeping less than seven hours per night (2) can lead to immediate negative impacts on performance and well-being, as well as long term adverse health outcomes including weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.
While there are many reasons why people fail to sleep enough, waking up in the night is a common complaint. You should always discuss new or recurring sleep symptoms with your doctor, as there may be an underlying cause to your middle-of-the-night awakening. However, for many people, lifestyle changes can make it significantly easier to sleep soundly through the night.
How to Stay Asleep
There are many reasons one might suffer from insomnia (3) – that is, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling well-rested upon awakening. Some external factors that can contribute to short-term sleep loss include stress, schedule changes, night work, street noise, uncomfortable temperatures, and adjustment to a new time zone (jet lag). Hormone changes in pregnant people or those experiencing menopause can also impact insomnia.
But did you know our routines and lifestyle choices can also affect sleep quality? That’s why committing to a consistent sleep schedule, finding a beneficial nutrition and exercise regimen, and practicing good sleep hygiene are a few of the things you can do to help ensure you get to sleep, stay asleep, and feel restored in the morning.
Establish a Regular Routine
A crucial part of your sleep-wake cycle is consistency. Whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps sync your body up to a regular schedule. Those without a regular sleep schedule (4) may experience poor sleep quality, and switching to a regular schedule can improve sleep disturbances (5).
When creating your sleep routine, make sure to build in some pre-sleep time to practice habits that prepare your body for sleep.
- Create a calm, comforting bedroom environment
- Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex
- Take a warm bath (6) or cuddle up with a cozy blanket
- Listen to some calming music or read a book until you get sleepy
- Complete work or schoolwork in your bedroom
- Use your phone, tablet, laptop, or watch TV while winding down. Blue light-emitting electronics (7) increase alertness and make it harder to sleep
- Exercise strenuously
Watch What You Eat and Drink
A well-balanced diet promotes optimum health, and sleep health is a big part of that. While everyone’s individual dietary needs may be different, there are a few things you can watch to ensure they aren’t disrupting your sleep.
- Caffeine: While great for a morning pick me up, caffeine can lead to sleep deprivation (8) by keeping you up long past your bedtime. Avoid caffeine at least six hours before your bedtime.
- Alcohol: This is a tricky one. While it has sedative effects and can make you feel relaxed, alcohol leads to sleep disruptions (9) and worse sleep quality overall.
- Nicotine: Nicotine use negatively impacts multiple aspects of sleep (10), leading to shorter overall sleep time, trouble falling asleep, and frequent awakenings.
- Late Night Snacks: Resist the urge if you can. Eating too close to bedtime (11) can lead to poorer sleep quality and increase the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).
What about herbal supplements that claim to help you sleep? While some research has explored supplements like valerian (12), results are inconclusive. On the other hand, extract from chamomile (13) — commonly consumed as tea — has shown promise in improving sleep quality for older adults. That said, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you are curious about adding a sleep aid to your regimen, even if it’s available over-the-counter.
Prepare Your Body for Sleep
How you spend your daytime hours can significantly impact the quality of sleep you get at night too. Be sure to get your daily dose of sunshine, since light is the primary cue our bodies use to sync our sleeping pattern with the day/night cycle, and low light exposure reduces sleep quality (14). Moderate exercise during the day (15) can also improve both how well you sleep at night and your overall sleep health.
How to Get Back to Sleep When You Wake Up in the Middle of the Night
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, get out of bed for a few minutes. Rather than tossing, turning, and getting frustrated, get up and do some calming, low-light activities. But whatever you do, resist the urge to reach for your phone – remember that blue light induces alertness and could make your midnight insomnia worse. Instead, you can make yourself some tea, stretch, read a book, or try some relaxation techniques or bedtime yoga to help yourself wind down again.
+ 15 Sources
- 1. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
- 2. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434546/A
- 3. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/insomnia
- 4. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19615098/
- 5. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19615098/
- 6. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31102877/
- 7. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25535358/
- 8. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30573997/
- 9. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4666864/
- 10. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32162509/
- 11. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30479684/
- 12. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
- 13. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29154054/
- 14. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29040758/
- 15. Accessed on March 10, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28458924/
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