Trouble falling back to sleep? How to beat middle of the night wakefulness
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Mar 17, 2013 | 15281 views | 0 0 comments | 184 184 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Have you been hitting the snooze button on your insomnia? Or wishing you could? For many adults suffering sleep problems, the challenge is not necessarily falling asleep, but staying asleep – and getting back to sleep if they wake in the middle of the night.

A prescription sleep aid, taken before bedtime, may help you fall asleep. But many of these medications shouldn’t be taken in the middle of the night, when you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, because they can leave you feeling drowsy if you try to function with less than eight hours of rest. In fact, the FDA recently issued a drug-safety communication warning on prescription sleep-aids about the risks of next-morning impairment.

“All drugs taken for insomnia can impair driving and activities that require alertness the morning after use,” the warning states. “Patients who take insomnia drugs can experience impairment of mental alertness the morning after use, even if they feel fully awake.”

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep each day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Yet about 30 percent of adults get six hours of sleep or less per day, data from the National Health Interview Survey indicates. Lack of sleep contributes to a host of health problems, from weight gain to chronic fatigue, elevated stress levels, memory problems and even the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel of your car.

More prevalent than difficulty initially falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night is the No. 1 sleep problem in America, according to National Sleep Foundation annual polls. You may already know what to do to get to sleep, but if you tend to wake in the night and have difficulty returning to sleep, keep these tips in mind:

Set the stage

Just as you take steps to help yourself fall asleep – such as creating a routine that includes brushing your teeth, turning off lights, etc. – it’s important to prep your body and environment to help you stay asleep. During the day, make sure you get enough exercise and avoid caffeinated beverages a few hours before bedtime. If you’re prone to waking to use the bathroom, consider cutting out liquids altogether a few hours before you lay down.

Don’t get up

When you wake in the middle of the night, what do you do? Many people take the sleep disruption as an opportunity to get up, use the bathroom or get a drink of water. But these activities serve to further rouse your body and mind. What’s more, turning on lights – as most people do when moving around at night – can inhibit your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that aids in sleep.

Unless your bladder is full or you’re parched with thirst, stay in bed. Keep lights off, or very low if you can’t sleep in complete darkness. Continuing the attitude of sleep can help your body relax and return to slumber more quickly.

Most important – don’t watch the clock. Nothing derails sleep efforts worse than watching the minutes slip by. If you tend to wake at night, consider turning your alarm clock away so that you can’t see it from your bed. It will still ring and wake you in the morning, but it won’t be staring you in the face if you do wake at night and have trouble going back to sleep.

Check your meds

Many medications prescribed for non-sleep-related problems, such as heart and blood pressure drugs, can interfere with your sleep. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any medications you are taking might affect your sleep patterns. If they are, ask about taking them earlier in the day or if there are alternatives that don’t have sleep-hindering side effects.

Rather than a prescription sleep aid, consider a non-prescription sleep aid. Over-the-counter products such as MidNite use melatonin and natural herbs to help promote sleep. What’s more, because MidNite’s main active ingredient is melatonin, you can take it when you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep on your own. Just be sure to get at least three of four more hours of sleep after taking MidNite to ensure the effects of the melatonin have worn off when you wake in the morning. The non-habit-forming, drug-free remedy can also be taken before bedtime, and regardless of when you take it at night, it doesn’t cause morning grogginess (if you get three to four hours more sleep after taking MidNite).

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