A snoring spouse, noisy neighbors, and pesky pets are just a few of the things that can disrupt a peaceful slumber. The reality is that interruptions are unavoidable. If you sometimes have trouble sleeping through the night, we can help figure out why and also help you get back to getting a healthy night's sleep.
Our internal clock
Human beings are naturally wired with an internal clock, set to a 24-hour cycle. This is referred to as our circadian rhythm.¹ Our bodies generally do a great job staying on track, but external signals can enhance or disrupt sleep schedules. These include daylight, temperature, even exercise.
Our circadian rhythm has us wired to be awake during the daytime and asleep at night.¹ But there are all sorts of things that can disrupt sleep. Some you can plan for, like taking a job working the night shift or adjusting to a new time zone. Some are unexpected, like loud noises outside or a restless sleeping partner.
Either way, there are bound to be some times when you need to adjust your internal clock.
Jet lag and other interruptions
You’ve been planning that trip to London for years — and you don’t want that first glimpse of Big Ben through eyes that are half-closed due to jet lag. Other types of scheduled disruptions include switching to an overnight shift, or committing to a work schedule that calls for occasional late nights (or early mornings).
You can prepare for planned disruptions by slowly adjusting your sleep schedule, moving it closer to the time at your destination.² Adjusting to a new time zone essentially means adjusting your circadian rhythm. Exposure to bright light can help, so get some sunlight first thing in the morning. For some supplemental help, travelers often use melatonin supplements at night to help adjust their internal clocks to a new schedule.²
If you need to make adjustments due to a new job, follow the same plan you used for jet lag. Make gradual changes to your schedule to let your body get used to the change.²
Waking up in the middle of the night
Our bodies love a nice, dependable schedule. But what about those times when you go to bed at a reasonable hour and your full eight hours are interrupted? While you can’t always plan ahead for these interruptions, there are things you can do to set yourself up for sleep success.
The snoring spouse
First things first: if your partner’s snoring seems excessive, monitor their sleep patterns. If there are 10–20-second gaps between breaths, they might have a condition called sleep apnea.³ He or she should consult with a doctor or sleep specialist for next steps.
If you simply want to drown out the sound, you could try earplugs or an ambient noise machine. If your partner is looking to reduce or eliminate their occasional snoring, there are a few simple things they can try:³
- Sleep on their side
- Raise their mattress or pillow to keep their head elevated
- Avoid drinking alcohol or eating shortly before bedtime
- Stay at a healthy weight
- If snoring persists, consult a doctor or sleep specialist
Pets are members of the family. And while letting pets sleep in bed with you can be cozy, it can also be disruptive. A cat who likes to sleep on your head, or a dog who gets up and does regular laps around the room are just two of the things that can wake you up. If you’re a light sleeper or have animal allergies, it’s probably better to get them their own bed.⁴
Waking to use the bathroom
Millions of Americans of every age find themselves waking to go to the bathroom during the night.⁵ Here are three easy things to try if you find yourself waking up to pee:
- Reduce evening fluid intake, especially before bed⁵
- Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening⁵
- Elevate your legs an hour or more before bed. This can reduce the creation of urine during sleep⁵
Poor sleep hygiene
Good sleep hygiene means getting your daily routine and bedroom environment working together to promote sleep.⁶ Difficulty falling asleep, frequent sleep interruptions, and daytime sleepiness are all signs of poor sleep hygiene.⁶
To maximize your chances of sleeping through the night, create an optimal sleep environment. For example it might help to make sleep your only in-bed activity (as opposed to watching TV, using your smartphone, etc.). This will help build the link between bed and sleep, and send a clear signal that once you get under the covers it’s time to get some rest.⁶
Here are some other ways you can make your bedroom as sleep-friendly as possible:
- Use high-quality bedding, including mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets⁶
- Keep the temperature cool, with around 65ºF being optimal⁶
- Use window shades and/or curtains to block the light, or try a sleep mask⁶
- To keep things quiet, try earplugs or use an ambient noise machine to drown out unwanted sound⁶
Losing sleep due to pain
Sleep and pain are closely related. And while many people believe that their chronic pain is better after a good night’s sleep,⁷ the irony is that aches and pains can make sleep more difficult.⁷
A National Sleep Foundation study found that one in five Americans suffers from chronic pain.7 Furthermore, one in four people with chronic pain also has a sleep disorder.7 Interrupted sleep can lead to increased sensitivity to pain,7 and chronic pain can make it harder to sleep. For chronic pain or sleep issues, you should consult with a healthcare professional.
You’re awake. Now what?
Unfortunately, you can take melatonin, kick your cat out of the bedroom, practice perfect sleep hygiene, and still wake up in the middle of the night. But don’t despair — the sleep experts at Johns Hopkins Medical Center offer these tips for dealing with nighttime wakefulness:
Don’t watch the clock. Lying awake and watching the numbers change can create a vicious cycle; the more you worry about not being able to sleep, the harder it is to fall asleep. Plus the light from your clock, phone, or tablet can make you feel more awake.8
- Get comfortable. A full bladder can make you uncomfortable, so hit the bathroom if you need to. Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature and that your pillow and blanket are just the way you like them.⁸
- Get up and go. If you haven’t fallen back asleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed. Sit in a comfy chair in another room, and read a book under soft light. Whatever you do, don’t stay in bed, as doing so could make your body associate your bed with wakefulness instead of sleep.⁸
- Follow your normal schedule the next day. Avoid the temptation to take a long nap or go to bed a lot earlier. The best way to get back on track is to stick with your normal routine.⁸
Another thing you have on your side is the variety of sleep-aids and sleep supplements available over the counter. Choosing the right sleep-aid solution is simply a matter of doing a little research and talking to your doctor.
Unisom® is the #1 doctor-recommended OTC sleep-aid brand, offering a range of options to help you fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
Unisom Simple Slumbers® is our 100%-drug-free solution. It works with your body to help maintain its natural sleep cycle. It uses melatonin, which helps you fall asleep gently and wake up refreshed.†
Unisom® SleepGels®, SleepMelts®, SleepMinis®, and PM Pain all contain the histamine blocker diphenhydramine HCl. Blocking histamine production can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. PM Pain also contains the pain reliever acetaminophen, which helps relieve minor aches and pains that may keep you awake.
Unisom® SleepTabs® contain doxylamine succinate, which is a clinical-strength histamine blocker that works in a similar fashion to diphenhydramine. Unisom® SleepTabs® can help you fall asleep 33% faster and get a full night's sleep.
Find the Unisom® product that’s right for you.
1. American Sleep Association, Editors. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep, American Sleep Association.
2. American Sleep Association, Editors. Jet Lag Treatment, Recovery and Symptoms, American Sleep Association.
3. Cleveland Clinic, Editors. Is Your Spouse a Heroic Snorer? 3 Tips to Quieter Sleep, Cleveland Clinic.
5. Dr. Abhinav Singh, Reviewer. Nocturia or Frequent Urination at Night, Sleep Foundation a OneCare Media Company. July 31, 2020.
6. Dr. Nilong Vyas, Reviewer. Sleep Hygiene, Sleep Foundation a OneCare Media Company. August 14, 2020.
7. Dr. Anis Rehman, Reviewer. Pain and Sleep, Sleep Foundation a OneCare Media Company. December 4, 2020.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.