Fall Back Asleep in 10 Minutes or Less
By Kelsey Cannon
Photo by Corbis
You wake up in the middle of the night, relieved it’s only 3 A.M. and that you still have a few hours of solid shuteye before your alarm clock goes off. Only, you can’t fall back to sleep. You toss and turn and check your phone,watching your minutes of precious slumber tick away as you only become more anxious and alert. So what’s your solution? Here are seven strategies you can use to drift back into dreamland—fast.
1. Turn on as few lights as possible.
Don’t flick every switch on your way to the bathroom. “Light is stimulating because our brains and bodies interpret any light—whether it comes from the sun or a lamp—as a signal to be alert,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center. So you should do your best to avoid it by only turning on the lights you absolutely need. Finding your way in the dark is best, but using a small lamp for just a few minutes won’t set you back much. “The brighter the light and the longer you’re exposed to it, the more alerting it will be,” Dr.Winter says.
2. Read to make your eyes tired.
Remember fighting to stay awake during reading assignments in school? Take a cue from college: If you’re struggling to fall back asleep, thumb through a nearby book or magazine, suggests Dr. Winter. But try to avoid an exciting thriller that gets your heart racing—it will stimulate instead of sedate you. Again, make sure to keep your light exposure to a minimum. Dr. Winter recommends attaching a small reading light to your book.
3. Use your brain.
If you want to occupy yourself instead of just tossing and turning, forego using your phone, tablet, TV, or computer. “Electronic devices emit light that can keep you up—especially the ones you hold closer to your face, like a mobile device,” says Dr. Winter. Instead, perform a mental exercise: For example, an experienced golfer could imagine playing a round of golf, step by step. “It’s not likely you’ll make it past the second hole,” he says.