Ask a Sleep Doctor: What Can I Do to Sleep Through the Night without Interruptions?None By Jared Minkel, Ph.D.
Q: What can I do to sleep through the night? I often wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. and cannot fall back asleep because my mind is racing.
Jared Minkel, Ph.D.: There are many different reasons why someone might wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
The first is anxiety. The most common thing I see is that a person awakens and worries about getting back to sleep. Checking the clock and calculating how much time is left and/or how much time you’ve already slept seems to only make the situation worse. I recommend not checking the clock overnight and reminding yourself that waking up is normal. Don’t put a lot of effort into falling asleep, and don’t try to totally clear your mind. Just do your best to relax and let your mind chatter away until you drift off to sleep.
The second issue is spending too much time in bed. If you go to bed too early or sleep in too late, it becomes very difficult to sleep through the night. You can try reducing your time in bed a little each day for a week and see if that helps. It’s also very important to wake up at the same time each day to make sure your biological clock is set where you want it. If you wake up at different times each morning, your body can get confused and wake you up when you want to sleep.
Other culprits that could be at the root of your frequent awakenings are breathing problems or the tendency to kick in your sleep. Sometimes, people awaken in the night because their breathing is off or because they kick their legs. If one of these is your problem, you might not have any idea. If there’s someone in your life who knows how you sleep, ask them if you kick or if your breathing sounds funny, and seek help from a professional if necessary.
Lastly, the medications you take could be causing you to wake more frequently than you’d like. If your problem started around the time you began a new medication or changed your dose, talk to your doctor to see if it’s likely to cause sleep problems. If you look it up yourself, you’ll probably find insomnia listed as a side effect, but your doctor can help you figure out if it’s likely the cause of your sleep problem.
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