What to Do If You Can't Stay Asleep
Sleep through it
It's natural to drift in and out of sleep, especially during the second half of the night. Since slumber grows lighter as we get older, the over-40 set is especially prone to late-night interruptions.
Snoring spouses, bed-hopping pets and kids, and blinking, pinging email alerts on your BlackBerry only make things worse. Here's how to defuse these and other sleep-stealers.
Hide the clock
Don't check the alarm clock to see what time it is, since knowing it's 3 a.m. will only stress you out. Keep the clock under your bed so you can't look.
Ease racing thoughts
Have a strategy to keep middle-of-the-night anxiety at bay. When your mind starts going a mile a minute during nighttime wakeups, it's even more impossible to relax back into sleep. If unfinished tasks keep you from sleeping soundly, jot down a to-do list for the next day before turning in. This can help keep you from coming to full consciousness when you wake up.
If the thoughts start flooding in anyway, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you've written down everything you need to tackle in the morning, so it's safe to fall back asleep.
Find a happy place
Mind still racing? "Think of a positive experience you had that day or one thing that you're grateful for," says Rebecca Scott, PhD, a behavioral sleep medicine expert at the New York Sleep Institute.
Or visualize yourself in a comfortable place (think the beach, the woods, or a hammock) to create a relaxation response and ease into slumber, says Robin Haight, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Tyson's Corner, Va.
Fight hot flashes
Lowered estrogen levels can cause this common menopause symptom. When they happen at night, the rise in your body temperature will likely wake you up.
If you're facing a regular case of the night sweats, keep your bedroom cool with an open window, fan, or air conditioner, and switch to lightweight cotton PJs and bedding. And talk to your doctor, who may suggest hormone therapy or other medications, such as antidepressants.
No snoring allowed
Ask your snoring spouse to talk to a doctor. He or she could have a treatable condition, like sleep apnea.
Keep kids and pets out of your room if you aren't getting restful sleep. Easier said than done, yes. But be strong!
Lights and noises disrupt your sleep more than you might realize. Silence your phone at night and keep it charging where you can't see it. A pitch-black bedroom is ideal for good sleep, so skip the nightlights and use amber-colored ones in the hallway and in the bathroom—they won't mess with your melatonin levels when you get up to pee in the middle of the night.
Consider installing blackout shades or curtains on your windows, too. Then simply close your eyes, enjoy the silence, and prepare for a hard-earned night's rest.