B. Waking In The Night

Waking in the Night – Restless, Light and Broken Sleep

Sleep Apnea

If you suspect you may have Sleep Apnea please refer to the Sleep Apnea section, and see your doctor for a referral to a Sleep Center.

Restless, Light and Broken Sleep

Other than sleep apnea the reasons people wake during the night, or have restless, light and broken sleep include:

Waking up in the middle of the night is one thing, getting back to sleep is another.  Most people don’t stress too much if they have to get up for a toilet break, to feed the baby etc. It’s when you can’t go back to sleep again – that’s a problem.


Physically it could be that you had too much alcohol (which helps you sleep for the first half of the night, but generally disrupts the second half as the effects wear off), you may have had the wrong sort of dinner, or have eaten too late, etc.  Other physical conditions are covered elsewhere.


Depression, Anxiety, Phobias and Irrational Fears, Grief etc. play a most important role in keeping people awake.

What’s worse, generally when we’re dealing with psychological problems, we need a good night’s sleep more than anything!  We can get ourselves in a downward spiral of feeling bad, trying to cope, getting worse, feeling worse and ending up with very little resilience to deal with normal life.

For those of us who are stressed, anxious and working too hard, insomnia only makes things worse.  When our worries wake us in the middle of a REM cycle, issues that might have been resolved through dreams are left hanging.  Sleep and dreams are useful to work through bad feelings.  Dreams tend to get more positive as the night wears on, and waking up too soon interrupts this process.

Rosalind Cartwright, Chairman of Psychology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says people who are sleep deprived are often irritable.

Things also seem worse when we wake in the middle of the night.  Problems seem bigger and anxieties are hard to ignore.  Some great mind exercises and affirmations can be found in the book The Anxiety and Phobias Workbook.

The next day, often some of what we worried about seems less important.


  • Learn some positive affirmations and self-talk lines to recite to yourself when you wake up. (Refer The Anxiety and Phobias Workbook).  It is not productive to lie in bed saying things like “I’ll never get to sleep”,  “I’ll have a shocking day at work”, etc. Better to say “I’ve had some nice rest, I’ll be fresh in the morning, I go well on less than 8 hours sleep. My mind is still.”
  • If you can’t possibly lull yourself back to sleep, either

a. Get up and do something relaxing until you feel drowsy again (e.g. make a chamomile tea, read a light book).

We received a good tip recently from someone who likes reading books – he downloads books into his Personal Digital Assistant (with a back-light) and stays in bed scrolling down the book until he falls asleep.  No turning pages, no cold and tired arms, no turning on any lights, no interruption of your bed partner … thanks!

b. Play yourself a relaxing audio CD (or similar) so that you can get some rest, even if it isn’t sleep.  Experiment with listening to metronome CDs the Theta Metronome CD, and the Delta Metronome CD – biofeedback research has shown that an external stimulus (such as a repetitive metronome tone) induces the brain to  match the resonant frequency.  Click for more information on Brain Wave Activity.

  • Alter your bed-time to go to bed a little later.  Keep your rising time the same.
  • Write down in the dump-pad beside your bed what is worrying you, and perhaps one thing you can do tomorrow, or one decision you will make tomorrow to improve the situation.
  • Be consistent and persistent with one strategy at a time.  Long term habits require dedication to change.  If you’ve only listened to a hypnosis CD 5 times it isn’t necessarily going to change your life  but after many times it might.  Not giving up easily ‘trains your brain’ that you expect something different. Imprinting a new pattern often relies on repetition.

Anxiety, Phobias, Irrational Fears
Overheating in Bed
One’s Hot, One’s Not
Loss, Grief and Shock
Muscle Tension, Cramps, Twitches
Colds, Stuffy Noses, Allergy