7 Ways to Get Back to Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on May 08, 2021

You get up in the middle of the night and you're wide awake. You need rest for your big day at work. What can you do to get back to sleep?

1. Get Out of Bed

It may not sound like the obvious thing to do, but if you can't get back to sleep within 20 minutes or so, go to another room. Do something quiet and unexciting, like listening to soothing music or reading something you've read before.

When you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.

2. Don't Stare at the Clock

If you check the time over and over, it only adds to your stress when you're trying to get some shut-eye. Turn the clock away so it's out of your sight line.

3. Make Sure It's Not Too Bright

Light makes you feel alert, which isn't what you want when you need to sleep. If you get up to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or have a snack, keep the lighting dim.

If you read, don't use backlit screens such as computers, cell phones, or tablets. They can keep you awake.

4. Get Relaxed

Put your mind and body at ease with these techniques:

Deep breathing. Do it slowly and steadily from your belly. You can try the 4-7-8 breath relaxation exercise. Sit with your back straight and the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth. Then:

  1. Breathe out completely through your mouth.
  2. Breathe in through your nose as you count to 4 in your head.
  3. Hold your breath as you count to 7.
  4. Breathe out for a count of 8.
  5. Repeat the cycle 3 more times (4 total).

Meditation. You can quiet your mind if you repeat a phrase while you do some rhythmic breathing.

Visualization. It's a type of meditation that helps you distance yourself from stress by imagining the sights, sounds, and scents of a peaceful place.

Progressive muscle relaxation. First tense your muscles, then relax them. Do this over and over throughout your body, starting with your feet and working your way up.

To learn more about these and other techniques, take a class or use self-guided books or videos. You can also check out online videos or articles.

5. Try Biofeedback

This mind-body technique requires equipment and training from a specialist. It can help you learn ways to control your tension levels.

Once you master it, biofeedback can help you get back to sleep.

6. Keep a Sleep Diary

This isn't something you should do in the middle of the night. But during the daytime, keep a record of your sleep patterns and other habits.

For instance, write down how often you woke up during the night, what disturbed your sleep, and how much caffeine or alcohol you had during the day. Then take the diary to your doctor. It will help the two of you plan a strategy to get more shut-eye.

7. Talk to Your Doctor

Let your doctor know that you have trouble sleeping. Find out your options, perhaps including medication, that can help you get a good night's rest.

Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: "Insomnia: How Do I Stay Asleep?"

Harvard Women's Health Watch: "Too Early to Get Up, Too Late to Get Back to Sleep."

National Sleep Foundation. "Tips and Tricks for Getting Yourself Back to Sleep."

Psychcentral: "Tips for getting to sleep and staying asleep."

Harvard Medical School: "Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep."

University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine: “4 -7- 8 Breath Relaxation Exercise.”

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