Many things can wake us up in the middle of the night: noise, thirst, bad dreams or the bathroom shuffle, but there is something more extreme called MOTN (middle-of-the-night insomnia). MOTN is when we wake up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning and have a really hard time falling back to sleep. Also referred to as nocturnal awakenings, MOTN is a category of insomnia, different from initial sleep-onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of sleep) which is the insomnia a lot of us are also familiar with.

To prevent middle of the night or early wake-ups, adhere to the following sleep tips: eliminate activities that contribute to disturbing your sleep, such as an inconsistent sleep routine, late night eating, computer (or other electronic) usage or excessive exercise too close to bedtime.

Creating a calm and peaceful sleep environment is vital to a good night’s rest. If you have a pet that wakes you up in the night, try keeping them out; if you think you’re hurting their feelings, you’re not – it hurts you more than it hurts them (literally).

If your partner snores or moves around a lot, try using ear plugs or a sleep mask.

There’s no denying that we all live busy lives, no matter how old or young we are; sometimes we feel inundated with to-do lists, task lists or post-it reminders. If you have an overactive mind, the first natural sleep technique is to lie down and notice if any area of your body has tension. Typical areas include your eyes, jaw, stomach and back. Instead of thinking about the billion and one things you have to do or want to do, focus on the area of tension. Focus on relaxing the tense area by picturing your breath entering that part of your body (yes, this is a form of meditation). When the area relaxes, notice the next area of tension, and repeat. Continue doing this until you fall asleep.

Try thinking about pleasant or harmless things such as ponies, trees, the color your favorite place or the smell of your favorite meal.

A qi gong exercise requires you to focus on the top of your head; relax the area and one inch below that spot. One inch at a time, continue to relax downwards from your head to toes. You will be long asleep before you get to your midsection.

Another natural method for helping you to fall back asleep is by reading interesting nonfiction books which you’ve been meaning to read (one more thing to cross of the to-do), but keep it somewhat boring like tax preparation. After a few pages, your mind will start to drift and you will fall asleep.

Breathing is another natural method for helping with insomnia and early waking. Deep breathing can help to re-center your energy, drawing excess energy away from your overactive mind.

Contributor: Cassandra Broadway