If you have been struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone, with an estimated 45% of Americans reporting that poor sleep has affected their daily lives at least once in the last 7 days. The first step in improving your sleep is to identify the root problem, and it may not be what you think!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged 18 to 64 get an average of 7-9 hours sleep each night in order to promote optimal health. While many of us will argue that our schedules simply won’t allow for that much time, experts encourage us to reconsider our priorities. Lack of sleep has been associated with a number of different health risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Furthermore, those who experience lack of sleep on an ongoing basis are more likely to experience dangerous accident related to feeling drowsy including car accidents, work-related accidents, and accidents around the home.
Even if you make time in your crazy, busy day for 8 hours of solid sleep, many Americans will find that they still struggle actually falling or staying asleep. For some, this could be insomnia brought on by some physical cause including gastrointestinal problems, asthma, or chronic pain. In these cases, the only way to find relief is to first address the cause itself.
However, numerous Americans will struggle with sleep quality due to mental or emotional causes. In these situations, the time of night that you are struggling most may provide some insight into why you are struggling. Take a look back on the last few nights. Do you regularly wake up at the same time of night each night? Are there certain times that you know are particularly challenging to actually fall asleep?
Discover the real reason why you struggle to fall or stay asleep and what you can do to fix it based on the time of night you wake up most often:
9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
If you try to go to bed at a decent hour, but can’t seem to fall asleep, you are likely dealing with a great deal of stress in your life. This could come in the form of strained relationships, work-related stress, or even trouble around the home. These concerns are constantly rolling through your mind, preventing you from calming and quieting it enough to fall asleep let alone to reach a deeper sleep.
The best way to improve your sleep is obviously to reduce or eliminate stress, but that’s not always possible. If you are currently in a high-stress time of your life, a bedtime routine is more important than ever. Consider a short meditation as you are preparing yourself for bed, helping you to calm and center your mind. When you are done, no more screen time! Make sure the phones, tablets, and computers are put away, as they will only remind you of your stressors. This time to unwind free from the screens is key.
11:00 PM to 1:00 AM
Waking up or struggling to sleep at these hours is most often caused by some sort of emotional struggle or disappointment. Often, we face challenging times in our day and downplay the longer-term impact that it may have on our lives. If you have been burying away your emotions, they will eventually come back to haunt you, and this is a time that it most often happens. If you are wide awake between the hours of 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM, don’t ignore this important sign that something is ‘off’!
Begin by identifying what is happening in your life. Are you holding yourself responsible for some decision or action from your past or holding onto past regrets? If so, you need to take the often-difficult step of forgiving yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to approve of the decisions you made, but you do need to understand that you are human. Mistakes happen, you can’t change them, but you can learn and grow from them. This involves an incredible amount of self-love. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
1:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Anger and frustration are toxic emotions, with the ability to eat away at your happiness as well as your peace. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that unresolved anger has the ability to seriously impact your ability to get quality sleep. If you are struggling to sleep in these early morning hours, you are likely holding onto a grudge or anger related to a situation from your past. As long as you continue to hold onto this resentment, you can kiss your chance at a good sleep goodbye.
The only way to overcome a grudge is to let it go, which is certainly not an easy process. This is particularly difficult if the anger you are holding onto can’t be addressed directly. Try sitting down and writing in a journal, letting yourself to get everything out. This can be incredibly therapeutic. You can hold onto this journal after or take it a step further by burning your journal or letter after writing it, releasing these negative feelings into the universe. Most importantly, remember that denying your feelings and burying them away will never free you from their hold.
3:00 AM to 5:00 AM
If you can sleep most of the night but find yourself waking up in these early hours and unable to fall back asleep, the emotions that you are struggling with are likely related to sadness. This could mean that you are grieving a loss in your life (the death of someone close to you, loss of a job or opportunity, the ending of a relationship or friendship) or you are struggling with a dark cloud or depression setting in. It is important to note that depression left unmanaged is incredibly serious, and can, in more extreme situations, lead to suicide, so PLEASE don’t ignore these struggles in your life.
The first thing to acknowledge when it comes to feelings of sadness is that they aren’t just going to ‘go away’. These are feelings that demand to be felt, so you need to allow yourself to accept and embrace them in some way. This may mean speaking with a loved one or simply taking some time alone to cry it out. Hold onto the little comforts that bring you joy in the darker times, such as a cup of your favorite tea or curling up under a blanket with your favorite Netflix show. Once you have allowed yourself to truly feel and experience this sadness, as you let it go start to refocus your attention on happy memories and reasons that you have to be happy.