Being jolted up from sleep in the dead of the night may not be in your control but going back to sleep is. Experts tell you how.
There must have been a time when you found yourself awake in the dead of the night. So awake and active, you could run a marathon. Restlessness grips you as sleep eludes us. After many unsuccessful rounds of trying, you jolt out of the bed, acceding defeat. This inability to fall back asleep has got a name: sleep-maintenance insomnia. And its biggest enemy is anxiety.
Sleep and anxiety don’t go well together. “Irregular functioning of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leads to sleep disturbances, jerking you awake. You may also experience restless legs syndrome, a temporary but uncontrollable urge to move your legs,” says Mumbai-based sleep specialist Dr Mudhulika Shinde, adding, “Waking up suddenly may not be in your control, but going back to sleep can be.” Here’s how.
Many healers today are today using what’s called a ‘witness state’. It’s an effective self-soothing mechanism. It teaches you to be an onlooker to your emotions. How are you feeling—at ease, disturbed, restless, agitated—simply watch these when you’re awake next time. “Sit upright, lower your eyes and observe what’s going on. Be careful to not feed them. See them drift like clouds. Do this for 10 minutes and you’ll begin to get drowsy. Slowly lie back down and close your eyes. What this exercise does is, speak directly to your anxiety. It tells it that you are bigger than your fears,” says Shinde.
Don’t watch the watch
It’s most detrimental to continuously track the time when you’re unable to sleep again. Seeing time ticking away is nerve-racking. Not a good idea, especially if you have a big meeting the next day or an important task to tend to. It may only lead to catastrophic thinking, making it harder to fall back asleep. Instead, focus on strategies that will put you to sleep.”
Boring is good
Our mind loves stimulation. Not all kind though. During that unearthly hour, when you find yourself stark awake, positive stimulation is the last thing you need. Pune-based psychotherapist Angela Gidian advises you to do something boring. “Pick a banal activity. It could be counting all the brown coloured things in the room, or perhaps, thinking of all the countries in the world that have the letter ‘p’ in them, or maybe even reading a jargon-heavy book. This will surely make you drowsy,” says Gidian, adding, “A part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is responsible for regulating sleep. When it doesn’t get an interesting stimulation, it puts the brain in sleep-mode. This is the reason why long hours of sitting idle make us sleepy.”
Talk yourself to sleep
Use the power of monotony by talking to yourself in a steady monotone without pausing,” shares Gurugram-based somnologist Deepak Bhalla. “I’ve tried this with many of my patients. Say whatever comes to your mind. Recall the events of the previous day, talk to an imaginary friend, a confidant… or simply talk about the tasks lined up for the next day. There will come a point in a few minutes when you won’t be able to talk anymore. Stop then and stay silent. You’ll notice your mind relaxing. Now go to bed and try sleeping.
Write it off
When you’ve tried every trick in the book and are still keyed up, try writing to sleep. Jot down all the thoughts coming to you at the moment. They don’t have to make sense. Forget about the spellings, grammar or structure. Simply spill them on to the paper. Write rigorously with all your might. This will not only tire you but also distract the mind, numbing it down to help you doze off, according to Gidian.
People will wake up twice during the night on average
Most people don’t see a doctor even when the issue becomes chronic
According to population surveys, the prevalence of anxiety disorder is about 24 percent to 36 percent in people with insomnia. It’s about 27 percent to 42 percent for those with hypersomnia
The most common reason for waking up is generalised anxiety, consumption of too much caffeine/alcohol, and a need to use the bathroom