What is it?
Your eyes flicker open in the middle of the night. You close them, willing yourself back to sleep.
It’s a familiar scenario for many of us: according to the Sleep Health Foundation, 20% of Australians regularly experience poor quality sleep and 35% often wake up feeling less than refreshed. “Everyone has an occasional restless night,” says Timothy Morgenthaler, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.
“But if you find it hard to get back to sleep within 15 or 20 minutes, or wake up more than two or three times a night, then that’s definitely worth addressing.”
WHY IT HAPPENS
Fact: a normal night’s sleep includes a number of mini-arousals (from three to 15 per hour), as a result of changes in brain wave activity.
The thing is, they’re only seconds long, but as we age, they happen more frequently and can become full-fledged awakenings.
On the upside, many strategies can help you snooze more soundly, so plump up your pillow and read on.
Yes, it sounds quirky, but deep breathing and mental imagery techniques can help you sleep through the night or drift off again after you wake up.
“Focusing on a positive experience— like imagining a beautiful beach—allows stress to naturally fade into the background,” says Gary Elkins, director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University in the US.
According to Elkins, daily self-hypnosis can deliver better quality shut-eye within two to four weeks.
Our top tip: book in a session with a hypnotherapist (find your nearest one at national-hypnotherapistsregister-australia.com) who can teach you the correct self-hypnosis techniques. Simple
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Hold the sleep meds: CBT for insomnia has been found to be as effective as medication (yes, really!) for inducing sleep.
“In people with sleep problems, confidence in the ability to sleep erodes,” explains psychologist and behavioural sleep medicine expert Ryan Wetzler.
“We teach people what they might be doing wrong and how to reset the biological systems that regulate their sleep.” Clever stuff!
If you thought you’d heard all of meditation’s benefits (think less stress, better focus and lower blood pressure), here’s another one you can add to the list: less sleep anxiety.
“People who meditate are more relaxed, so when they wake up [during the night], they may not get as upset,” explains Dr Ramadevi Gourineni, associate professor in neurology at Northwestern University in the US. As a result, they soon drift off again.
Nix Heartburn symptoms
It’s estimated that up to 20% of Australians experience heartburn at least once a week, and 5% daily, with sleep interruption being one of the most common symptoms.
Your first lines of defence: don’t eat within three hours of bedtime; try lifting your head 45 degrees (think, a good, supportive pillow) to keep acid down; and avoid citrus, onion, carbonated drinks, mint, alcohol and smoking.
If these strategies don’t help, chat to your doctor or pharmacist about medication that may help.