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Health and Fitness News

Tossing and Turning

What to do when you wake in the night and can’t go back to sleep.

Remember when you’d sleep through the night and wake in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to go? Those were the good old days!
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve gotten a solid seven to nine hours of quality sleep. If you’re like many people, your problem isn’t falling asleep at bedtime, but waking in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep. You lie in bed for what seems like hours, tossing and turning. Your mind races, while all you want to do is sleep. Should you get up, watch television, read a book? Or just wait it out until hopefully sleep returns?

Known as insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep is a common sleep disorder that may be caused by pain, restless leg syndrome, depression, acid reflux, or sleep apnea. Treat these conditions and your sleep should improve. If insomnia isn’t caused by a health condition, here’s some helpful advice for returning to dreamland.


Insomnia is often brought on by stress. Relaxation techniques can help quiet your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Tightening and relaxing your muscles is one way to relieve tension. Start with your toes and slowly work your way up to your head. Tighten your toes, then relax. Tighten your feet, then relax.

You get the point.

If you feel anxious, do some deep breathing exercise, focus on a favorite memory, or think about the most relaxing place you’ve ever been.

Don’t Look at the Clock

Laying in bed thinking about how long you’ve been awake and how tired you’ll feel in the morning will only make things worse. Don’t look to see what time it is.

Cover your clock face and keep your phone off.

Get Up

If you suspect you’ve been awake for at least 20 minutes, get out of bed and leave your bedroom. You want your bed to be a place of rest and sleep. Staying in bed sleepless for nights on end may lead you to associate your bedroom with bad sleep. When you get up, do something quiet and unstimulating like reading a book or listening to peaceful music.

Keep a Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule

Your body functions best on a schedule. Going to sleep and waking up around the same time every night and morning is one of the best ways to get good sleep. A consistent schedule includes holidays and weekends. Stop napping if it seems to interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest.

Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment

Maybe something wakes you up in the night making it difficult to fall back to sleep. Your room may be too hot or too cold, your mattress or pillow may be uncomfortable, your spouse may snore, or your dog may scratch. Take the necessary steps to make your bedroom as quiet and comfortable as possible.

Avoid Caffeine

Many people are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. As a stimulant drug, caffeine speeds up your nervous system and can make restful sleep elusive. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages at least five or six hours before bedtime.

Limit Alcohol

You may think a nightcap will help you sleep better, but you’re wrong. While it may help you fall asleep, it reduces the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that your body needs for restorative rest. Without REM sleep, you may feel extra tired and have trouble concentrating the next day. Limit your alcohol to one to two drinks in the evening.