How to get back to sleep if you wake in the middle of the night

Get to the source of the problem with some help from the sleep experts.

Often wake up thinking it's morning, to find it says 02:30 on your radio alarm? You’re not alone. 

[Read more: 9 weird but wonderful sleep tips that work]

It could be a car alarm, a bad dream or that old chestnut where your partner’s gone for a wee and woken you on their return.

Whatever the reason, you’re now doomed to stare at the ceiling until your alarm does actually go off. But there are some sure-fire ways to limit broken nights and prise open the gates to the land of nod again…

If you have pet peeves

We all love a fur ball to snuggle up to and Dreams reveals that 58% of us are woken by pets sleeping in the bedroom. As hard as it might be to give up that living hot water bottle, try and train cats and dogs to sleep in another room, establishing your bedroom as strictly off-limits.

If you or your partner snore

It’s so common – as many as one in four people in England snore regularly, says Dreams, with twice as many men doing it as women.

They recommend: “Try to sleep on your side, rather than your back, to alleviate gravitational pressure on the airway. Snoring can signal underlying conditions, so consult your GP if it’s becoming problematic.”

If you’ve been drinking

Who doesn’t like a night cap? But many of us (7.9 million Brits use alcohol to help us sleep) don’t realise it actually makes the quality of sleep worse. Dreams recommends: “Avoiding alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime to avoid suppressing melatonin (the sleep hormone). Try not to stay up past your usual bedtime as this only increases alcohol’s sleep-depriving effects.”

[Alcohol and sleep: what you need to know about how drinking affects your sleep pattern]

If your bed’s uncomfy

In just seven years, your bed has deteriorated by up to 75% from its ‘as-new’ condition, say Dreams. So it might be time for a change and treat your tired body to a proper medium-firm bed and mattress. Dreams suggests: “Spend time selecting the right mattress – firmness can put stress on pressure points, while an overly soft mattress can harm soft tissue.”

If you jerk awake

More than 80% of people who have restless leg syndrome (RLS) also experience twitchy legs while asleep, says Dreams. They suggest: “Massage your legs or doing some light stretching or yoga before bed. Take a warm bath, or apply a hot compress to your legs to help relax the muscles.”

[Why do we sometimes jolt awake when we're falling asleep?]

If you’re anxious

According to a YouGov poll, one in five people in the UK suffer from anxiety most or all of the time – and the middle of the night is a hard time to banish bad thoughts.

Dreams says: “Resist the urge to keep checking the clock – this will only heighten the anxiety of being awake. Distract your mind with a mug of hot milk or watching traffic outside until drowsy again.”

More from BT