The Reason You Wake up in the Middle of the Night Isn’t Insomnia (and How to Fix It)

We know by now the importance of sleep for the brain, body, and overall health. Sleep research has found that it’s best to sleep seven to nine hours a day. Still, many people suffer from sleep disorders, finding it difficult to fall asleep and sometimes even harder to stay asleep. Segmented sleep is one of these disorders.

One cause of sleep disruption is sleep apnea, when irregular breathing disturbs restful sleep. This can leave you feeling tired and groggy. Long term, sleep apnea can lead to memory loss and cognitive decline because the brain works while you sleep to cleanse itself. Without ample deep sleep, toxins build up and affect brain function.

Waking up in the Middle of the Night

Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, you may find you regularly wake up in the middle of the night. As it turns out, that’s normal! Up until the last century, segmented sleep was common. Historically, it seems, humans naturally tend to sleep in two parts each night, separated by a couple of hours of wakefulness.

Historian Robert Ekirch studied the sleep patterns of different cultures and documented his findings in his book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. A piece of his research was published in The American Historical Review in 2001.

Sleep has remained among the most neglected topics primarily because the relative tranquility of modern slumber has dulled our perceptions of its past importance…Did most, in an era before sleeping pills, body pillows, and earplugs, enjoy the reasonable expectation of undisturbed rest? …notwithstanding idyllic stereotypes of repose in simpler times, early modern slumber remained highly vulnerable to intermittent disruption, much more so, in all likelihood, than does sleep today.”

1. Stick to a Schedule

The best way to get a restful sleep is to follow the same sleep schedule every day. Unplug your electronics an hour before bedtime and give yourself an hour or so to go through your bedtime routine and relax before falling asleep.

 2. Exercise

Exercising in the morning or early afternoon helps your body use up energy and balance your hormones for a perfect sleep.

Just make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime or you might end up too pumped up to sleep.

 3. Take a Bath

Taking a bath can be a great way to unwind and ease sore back muscles, which may be the cause of your sleepless nights.

Add Epsom salt to the water and grab your favorite book to the perfect pre-bed experience. 

4. Create a Cozy Space

Keeping a clean and inviting bedroom is a great way to promote peaceful sleep. Invest in a good mattress, pillows, and linens to keep your body warm and comfortable all night.

Pastel colors and ambient lighting will also help create the perfect ambiance for a good night’s rest. Lastly, place a Himalayan salt lamp on your nightstand for a finishing touch.

5. Get a Diffuser

A diffuser is a great way to get some of the healing and relaxing benefits of essential oils.

Place the diffuser on your nightstand and use it nightly.  Try lavender, chamomile, marjoram, bergamot, or ylang ylang essential oil.

6. Drink Up

Drinking a soothing cup of herbal tea or warm water an hour or two before bed can help you wind down and relax before hitting the sack. Going to bed relaxed is the best way to prevent segmented sleep.

7. Massage Your Feet

Massaging your feet with relaxing essential oils is a great way to reduce tension in the muscles all over your body.

Massaging also helps you mentally prepare for bed, preventing your thoughts for keeping you awake.

8. Use Acupressure

Acupressure and reflexology allow you to target specific pressure points in your feet to relieve stress and promote sleep. It even works on babies.

Make sure to stimulate this specific point as you massage your feet.

9. Read

Reading a good book is one of the many ways you can change your thoughts from work and every life to relaxation and slumber.

Just make sure not to read something too exciting or you’ll be tempted to stay awake and finish the book.

If you still find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, lull yourself back to sleep by listening to some soothing music, massaging your feet again, trying breathing exercises, or reading a bit more.

By following the tips above, your segmented sleeping pattern will eventually work itself out and you’ll graduate to uninterrupted 7-9 hours of sleep.


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