Health

Here’s What To Do If You Always Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night

If you can't sleep through the night, this may help.

If you’re someone who has problems sleeping at night, you’ve probably tried everything: sleep supplements, meditative tapes, aromatherapy—you name it. But if these remedies haven’t worked for you, you’ve likely woken up frustrated, tossing and turning, and wondering how on Earth you can finally sleep for more than just a few hours. Well, there might be a solution for you, and it’s a unique one.

Sleeping in bed for seven to eight hours straight isn’t the only way humans can sleep. Back in the day, people would sleep in two short bouts—a few hours each—and this type of segmented slumber is called a bi-modal sleeping pattern. Our ancestors would sleep for a few hours at dusk, wake up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, then sleep again until morning.

The trick to successful bi-modal sleeping is to remain in in a restful state during the awake period. That means no TV, computer or scrolling endlessly through your Instagram feed. Virginia Tech historian Roger Ekirch, who has spent 16 years researching this type of sleep, says earlier generations would pray or meditate when they woke in the middle of the night. You could also try reading or listening to music, as long as you’re avoiding the bright, blue glare of screens.

If you constantly wake up in the middle of the night, perhaps this sleep pattern is for you. But, if you already sleep straight through the night, you’re probably best sticking with your regular sleep habits.

“Segmented sleep may have been natural for our ancestors,” Timothy A. Connolly, MD, a sleep specialist at the Center of Sleep Medicine at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, told Everyday Health “but today, sleeping in shorter sessions is difficult, impractical, and can be destructive.”

Bottom line: A solid eight hours is still the ideal. But, if that’s just not an option for you, then give bi-modal sleeping a shot.

Photo by Idhren