12 Do's and Don'ts for Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Paige Greenfield Fowler on June 20, 2021
  • Young woman sleeping
    Are You a Disrupted Dreamer?
    Do you frequently wake up at night and have trouble falling back asleep? It's a condition called middle-of-the-night insomnia. Luckily, there are many things you can do to set yourself up for a complete and restful night's sleep. Here are 12 tips to help you make the most of your time between the sheets.
  • two pints of beer in pub
    1. Don't drink a nightcap.
    True, alcohol can make you feel sleepy. However, you may wake up as the sedative effects of the drink wear off and metabolized alcohol irritates your brain's sleep center.
  • male-patient-at-doctors-appointment
    2. Do talk with your doctor.
    Certain medical conditions such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and asthma can wake you up at night. Working with your doctor to better control these conditions could boost your health and help you stay asleep all night long.
  • Chocolate
    3. Don't consume caffeine in the afternoon.
    It can take up to eight hours to clear the stimulant from your body, so an afternoon cup of joe can keep you up at night. Coffee isn't the only culprit; certain teas, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate contain caffeine, too.
  • Heavy meal
    4. Don't eat a heavy meal before bed.
    Doing so can cause indigestion, which can interfere with your sleep. If you've got the nighttime nibbles, eat a light and healthy snack such as carrot sticks, berries, or nonfat yogurt.
  • Sleep schedule
    5. Do stick to a sleep schedule.
    Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Regular patterns yield better, more restorative sleep.
  • Smoking
    6. Don't smoke.
    Nicotine is a stimulant, so it can keep you awake. If you're a heavy smoker, you may also wake up at night because of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Woman-taking-a-pill
    7. Do consider medication.
    Ask your doctor whether certain sleep aids may help. Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate) is the only FDA-approved medication for middle-of-the-night insomnia. It contains the same ingredient found in Ambien but in much smaller doses. It's designed to help you fall back asleep more quickly if you wake up at night.
  • Exercise
    8. Do exercise.
    A good workout can aid sleep, but plan it for earlier in the day. Exercising within two hours before bedtime can make it difficult to drift off.
  • Woman in bed on phone
    9. Don't keep distractions in your bedroom.
    Minimize things that can interrupt your sleep, such as bright lights and loud noises. Having a TV, cell phone, or computer in the room can also disrupt sleep. Turn the clock away from you so you don't worry about the time if you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Woman reading book on sofa
    10. Do plan relaxing pre-bed activities.
    Develop a nightly bedtime ritual. Take a warm bath and read before bed. These soothing activities help prepare your mind and body for rest. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark.
  • Don't lie in bed too long
    11. Don't lie in bed too long.
    If you wake up at night and can't fall back asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go to another room and do a relaxing activity, such as reading, until you feel sleepy again. This can help you break the cycle of lying awake in bed for long periods of time.
  • Yoga
    12. Do learn ways to cope with stress.
    A restless mind can keep you from falling back asleep. Sometimes, difficulty sleeping can cause anxiety that then keeps you up. Learning relaxation techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help control stress levels so you rest more peacefully at night.
12 Do's and Don'ts for Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia

About The Author

  1. Healthy Late-Night Snacking. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442452691&terms=sleep#.UE8jVByliHJ
  2. FDA approves first insomnia drug for middle-of-the-night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm281013.htm
  3. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.