So You’re Not Able To Stay Asleep

Not being able to stay asleep on an occasional night is nothing to worry about.  But if you’re not able to stay asleep more often there may a few things that are getting in your way.

Daily habits

How we live day to day can have a huge impact on our sleep.  If we’re drinking alcohol close to bedtime this can disturb our sleep as alcohol disrupts our sleep cycles.  Indigestion can also sometimes play a part too.

Having a sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea can wake us as our breath becomes shallow or we stop breathing for a moment. And we can be woken by our own snoring.

Our emotional state

Everyone has times in their lives that are stressful or can cause anxiety for a time.  If we’re dealing with a stressful situation, have anxiety or are depressed this can stop us from being able to stay asleep as our sleep becomes lighter towards the morning.  When dealing with an emotional situation our dreams can be powerful too and this can wake us.

External factors

Sometimes we’re woken by something or someone else and then we can’t get back to sleep again.  Or as we end a sleep cycle and before we enter another our body decides it needs to make a trip to the bathroom and then we can’t get back to sleep when we get back into bed.


Whatever the reason for not being able to stay asleep there are a few things you can try to help you to get back to sleep again.

Deal with emotions in our waking hours

When we dream so big that it wakes us it’s usually our brain trying to help us cope with an emotional situation.  If we’re dealing with stress, anxiety or depression it can help to try and tackle our emotions during the day.  This may be by writing in a journal or talking to someone.

Write everything down

If we’re not able to stay asleep because we have a lot to do it may be helpful to write as many of our thoughts down before we go to sleep as possible. Keeping a pencil and paper by the bed can also help to dump our thoughts onto paper if we wake in the night too allowing us to go back to sleep.

Lifestyle habits

Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps to set our circadian rhythm and allow our body to recognise when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. Making sure we aren’t drinking alcohol or caffeine close to bedtime can help as well.

Get rid of the association

If we lie in bed for a long time we can come to associate our bed with not sleeping.  With this in mind if you lie awake for longer than 20 minutes, get up and go into another room.  Do something quiet and calm that can be done in low light until we feel sleepy again before getting back into bed.

Breathing and relaxation

Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help to calm us and aid our ability to drift back to sleep when we aren’t able to stay asleep. You could try concentrating on tensing each part of your body, moving from your toes, up your legs to your stomach and buttocks and up and down your arms in a methodical way.  Tensing each muscle for a few seconds before releasing can help us to relax and as we work our way around our bodies we may find we drift off to sleep again.

Cover your clock

Sometimes knowing what time it is can keep us awake.  If we wake at 3am we start to think about how long we have until we need to get up and that we’ll be tired in the morning and so we try hard to get back to sleep.  The harder we try to sleep the less likely it becomes that we can.  Not knowing what time we woke up can help to keep the mind quiet and stop thoughts being triggered so we can return back to sleep again.


Somethings should NEVER be done if you wake in the night if you’re not able to stay asleep.

Never reach for your phone or use any type of screen as the light will wake you even more and make it difficult to get back to sleep.

Don’t turn the lights on and start busying yourself with a detailed task if you get up because you’re not able to stay asleep.  This will make it even more difficult to get back to sleep again or to allow yourself to feel sleepy enough to get back into bed. Instead do something that doesn’t require too much thought like knitting, drawing or reading.

Try not to lie there worrying about going back to sleep. Although this is easier said than done, if you can turn your thoughts to thinking about some good memories, something calm or focusing on relaxing, you’re more likely to be able to get back to sleep.

Know that we all wake up for a couple of minutes between each sleep cycle but we’re not always aware of it.  If you’re awake for two minutes or five minutes, it makes no difference to your sleep as we’re meant to wake up in between sleep cycles. So if you need to get up to visit the bathroom or you’re aware you’ve woken that’s OK. It’s nothing to worry about.  Your sleep won’t suffer and because you now know it won’t make any difference you can just go back to sleep again.

To read more about sleep cycles take a look at the digital SLEEP magazine, it’s FREE,  where you can read in-depth articles about sleep cycles and more so you know what there is to know for a night of good sleep.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash


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