It happens in the wee hours of the night. I can’t say exactly what wakes me up. Maybe it’s a sound outside my window. Or nature calling. But before I know it, I’m staring at the ceiling, replaying the events of the day in my head. Or scrolling through my to-do list.
When I find myself in this situation, I’m pulled in two distinctly different directions. One instinct says to lie there and try to get back to sleep. Staying still and calming my brain, I tell myself, presents the quickest road back to slumberville and much-needed sleep. Plus, I figure, even if I don’t get back to sleep, the rest I get in bed should be worth something.
But the other voice I hear says, “Get up. Your brain is in gear, so just accept the inevitable and get cranking, even if it is the middle of the night.”
Which course is best?
Dr. Prescott prescribes
If misery loves company, so does insomnia.
According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, roughly 30 percent of adults — more than 100 million people in the U.S. alone — report having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Of these folks, about one-third experience sleep difficulties that impair their ability to function in daily life. So you’re far from alone.
When you awaken at night, experts almost uniformly agree that if you don’t fall back to sleep quickly, trying to will yourself back to sleep is not an effective strategy. Thinking about all the shut-eye you’re missing out on will create sleep anxiety, which further diminishes your chances of returning to the Land of Nod.
Instead, as counterintuitive as it may sound, get up and do something. Nothing too strenuous (or involving screens) — just enough to distract you for a bit. When you’re feeling tired and less anxious, hit the hay and try again.