At Three AM, The Sky Outside My Bedroom Window Is Purple

Actually, kind of a sickly yellow-gray-purple, and weirdly bright for that time of night thanks to the reflections of the city lights.

How do I know this?

Because I see it Every. Single. Night.

I’ve always had a night wakefulness problem – around 2 or 3 is usually when it happens; it’s called “habitual awakening” (where it’s become such a pattern that my mind actually wakes itself up regardless of external circumstances) – but last night was something special.

I spent three and a half hours of the seven that I had allotted for sleep staring at the clock and going over everything from my to-do list for today’s shoot to enormous worries about the future and fears for my child. And of course, the longer it went on the more and more panicked I got, and presto: 5:30AM, and still eyes-wide-open.

I feel fabulous today, as I’m sure you can imagine.

My little go-to get-back-to-sleep tricks include the following:

– Writing down everything on my mind on a notepad (this one really works if the to-do list for the next day is legitimately what’s keeping me up)

– Playing (we started playing this all-night crashing-thunderstorm website for Indy, but it helps us sleep better, too)

– Turning on the A/C (I hate being hot at night)

– Getting up to watch my son sleep for a minute

– Picturing My Little Ponies jumping around in a field (the oddball little version of counting sheep that worked for me when I was a kid and couldn’t get back to sleep)

– Giving up entirely and starting the workday in the middle of the night (this is a very bad idea)

But obviously none of these things did the trick last night. (What finally worked was kicking Kendrick onto the couch – I know, bad wife – so that I could sprawl out in a full spread-eagle position with every single pillow on the bed piled onto my face.)

So I want to know: what do you do when you can’t sleep? Would love some new ideas.

  • Rachael Barry

    I have an audio book of a book that I’ve already read on my iPad.  Audio books always tend to put me to sleep anyway, so if I wake in the middle of the night, I turn on the book and set a 15-30 minute sleep timer.  Since I’ve already read the book, it doesn’t matter if I fall asleep and miss some of it.  I’m almost never still awake by the time the sleep timer runs out.  This has worked wonders for me because it makes my brain not think about all the things that are keeping me awake.

  • I have this same problem. I definitely rely on writing a lot of things down to get them out of my head. Occasionally, I will just give up and get out of bed to start my day. If I’m too lazy to get up but too awake to doze back off, I’ll aimlessly play on my iPad until I finally make it back to bed. Not the best option but it works.

  • Ashley

    If you are lying in bed for more than 20 minutes, paradoxically, you need to get up out of bed.  Weird, I know, but it works.  Check out these tips on “sleep hygiene”:  They basically sound like common sense, but we tend to ignore a lot of them due to convenience or habit.  Good luck!

    • jordanreid

      thank you! checking it out now.

  • I didn’t get wink of sleep either.  However I am to blame because I can’t shut things down.  All electronics should be locked out of the room!

    You are in for a treat when you move.  Pitch darkness and the sounds of nature helped me sleep like a baby (for a while).

    I love Rainy Mood too.

    • jordanreid

      ooh, rainy mood is the BEST. i’m excited for the nature sounds as well – but the new yorker in me may find them a little scary. crickets, yikes 😉

  • Heather

    I’ll sometimes go watch a movie that I know really well, since I don’t need to pay attention to it so I can let my mind stop racing and just relax. I usually fall asleep in front of the tv, or my mind settles so I can go back to sleep. I hate that though, it always seems like when I wake up at 2 or 3, I can’t sleep, but then will fall back asleep right around 5:30 and struggle to get up at 6 then.

    • jordanreid

      so frustrating, right? i finally fell asleep around 5:45 or so and then felt like a truck hit me when i had to get up an hour later.

  • I don’t have this problem anymore now that Emilio keeps me up a few times a night still, so when I can sleep I do and easily- but my whole family has struggled with anxiety related sleep issues- and we all love Vitamin K- or Klonopin.  Anti-Anxiety drug that really helped me sleep, and never needed a lot and non habit forming and non sleepy drugged feeling in the morning.  If you’re still nursing, I’m not sure if you can take it- but if you’re not and you’re interested- worth talking to your doctor about- sometimes just having a full Rx in my nightstand helped with any sleep issues I was having.

    • jordanreid

      you know, i didn’t have the problem when indy wasn’t sleeping through the night either – i fell asleep instantly, anywhere and everywhere, whenever i could. it’s been really frustrating to have this return just when he’s finally sleeping through the night and i have the chance to sleep like a normal person.
      i actually used to have a xanax prescription and take half of a pill if I woke up in the middle of the night, and that REALLY helped, but i obviously stopped all medication when i got pregnant. i’m not nursing anymore, though, so it might be worth a return trip to the dr. you’re right – sometimes just knowing there’s something you can do about it if you have to can help.

      • Kim Holmes

         Yeah, I totally use Xanax if I can’t sleep. Not often, but it definitely does the trick when I need it.

  • Sasha

    I actually slept well last night. And that’s something for me to be excited and shocked about.

    Sometimes I think I’m just too excited about life – I can’t fall asleep/wake up in the middle of the night/wake up before my alarm thinking about everything I could be doing. It ranges from stressful things to what I want to wear tomorrow to my exciting weekend plans to that episode of TV I want to watch.

    I’ve just starting trying Melatonin ( Things I’ve been told: you have to take it every night because it regulates your sleep, instead of putting you to sleep. Also, some melatonin has other things in it so pay attention to what you’re buying.

    I also find that exercising, of any kind, helps me sleep. If I can’t sleep sometimes I do some stretches and a little running in place…something to relax my body and remind me that I’m tired.

  • Summer

    I take melatonin (only once in a while…oops) and exercise every day, which helps with my sleeping schedule a lot (I’m a dance student, so by necessity I work out more than most people want to/have to/dream of) but a friend of mine gave some hilariously genius advice the other day:

    “When you want to sleep but can’t, just get out of bed and stand right next to your mattress. Stare at it. Don’t do anything else but stand next to your bed and stare. Don’t check your phone, don’t look out the window. Just keep looking at your comfy bed that you’re not in. Nothing makes you as sleepy as standing in one place and staring at a bed. Within 5 minutes I guarantee you’ll be tired.”

    Haven’t tried it…but it seems pretty logical. Also, I like listening to audio-books of novels I’ve read before. It’s soothing, and takes me back to being read to sleep as a kid.

  • Christine

    If I’m not tired by my bedtime, I’ll drink 6-8 ounces of warm milk with honey and cinnamon. Within 20 minutes ish, I’m a little more tired, and I end up sleeping really well that night.

    Of if I can’t sleep regardless, I’ll go online (read: pintrest, stumbleupon) or read. Eventually, I’ll try and go back to sleep, but that tactic doesn’t work nearly as well.

  • Chantal

    wow, this has happened to me more times than i’d like to admit. the worst was definitely the night before the NY bar exam.  (1.5 hours of sleep before night 1 but still managed to pass.  adrenaline is a wonderful thing.)

    here are a few of my tricks:

    1. do not, i repeat do not, have a clock in the bedroom that you can see when you wake up. and if you do get up to use the bathroom or grab a drink of water, DO NOT look at the clock. the stress of knowing the time and how long you stay awake definitely keeps you up. that picture of a clock on this blog post even stresses me out ha…

    2. natural herbal supplements can really help you relax. much better than tylenol pm or alcohol to help you sleep.  valerian root works wonders for me, you can find it at most vitamin stores.  its like a super dose of tea. take one or two a little before bedtime and no “hangover” the next morning.

    hope these tips help! 🙂

  • AngelaJ

    I agree with the post below.  I don’t have a clock in our bedroom and I try to never sneak a peek at my phone.  (However, I do have a 4 1/2 month old who still occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night to eat – in which case it’s nearly impossible to avoid the kitchen clock. Grrr…)

    We also have a white noise machine in our bedroom.  It was bought as a baby shower gift, but our son could take or leave it so momma took it 🙂  I know that if you’re going to wake up, you’re going to wake up, but it at least helps cut out all of those little noises that may contribute to keeping you awake even longer.

    Lastly, I just try to focus on breathing.  Catch yourself every time your mind starts to wander and just bring it back to a deep breath.

  • Sarah

    I rely on white noise as well.. When I do wake up during the night with a busy mind I try two (slightly) cheesy things. 1. Picture lying (laying? I never know!) on the beach, napping. The tide starts to come up the beach and very very slowly laps over my body starting with my feet. The key for me is when my mind wanders bring it right back to the beach. The other one: 2. I start thinking of something I am thankful for in my life. Then something else, then something else.. I am usually back asleep before I get to random things like sliced lines as a drink garnish, but I have obviously gotten that far before. 😉 Again, if i find my mind wandering i try to come right back to another thing I am thankful for. Good luck getting more rest!

  • Sublimare

    This may be counterproductive for some people but it always does the trick for me.  I think of a house I have been in (usually one of three that I really love and wished I lived in.) and mentally redecorate it.  I imagine myself living in the space and how I would use it.  I might move the furniture around, change the paint-color, create a specific fireplace vignette, or imagine myself knocking out a wall or putting up wallpaper.  There is something about focusing on a set of arbitrary tasks or items that relaxes my mind from the things that are keeping me up. I usually fall asleep before I can make it through the first floor.  Just don’t do it for your own house or you will find yourself moving the sofa around or googling “felt flower pillow fuschia”in the middle of the night.

    • jordanreid

      you want to hear something weird? that’s EXACTLY what i did last night that ended up working (in addition to kicking kendrick out of bed) – i pictured myself holding indy and walking around an empty, white space (not my own), and then filling it with furniture and walking around examining each piece. i have no idea why that felt so calming, but it totally did.

  • JM

    Exercise (cardio) & eating plenty of (lean) protein for dinner. Everything else (for me, at least!) is a quick fix, not a solution.

    • jordanreid

      yehhh, a little cardio would definitely help, i imagine. i haven’t been to the gym since indy’s arrival, but it might be time.

  • love that idea! (although homgosh I am now picturing if husband ever did that and I woke up to him just *standing* next to the bed… eesh) apparently if you aren’t able to fall or stay asleep in your bed, then you should get out of it as soon as you realize that. you don’t want to associate *not* sleeping with being in bed

  • jenna

    Wow, is the best website! I’ll be having it on all day and night.

    I am the same as you..I wake up mostly every single night around 3:30. Ugh.

    • jordanreid

      it’s the BEST.

  • QuiteLight

    Heads up, long post!

    Long time insomniac here, but at this point it’s the best it’s ever been in my entire life!  I don’t lie awake for hours any more, completely sleepless.  Now when I have a bout I sleep until about 2:00 – 3:00 am, then wake up at random intervals until it’s time to get up at 5:00 am.  Still, better!

    Here are my very best tricks.  The first 2 are long-term practices, but they have worked for me & are worth it for many, many reasons.

    Yoga – as regular a practice as you can manage.  Vigorous is OK in the AM, but stick to a calming, relaxing practice if you do it in the PM.  I’m up to 5 days a week, & teach 1-2 nights myself.

    Reiki – find a practitioner near you (check out a new age bookstore for recommendations), and give it a whirl.  Once you learn to do it yourself, it can help you get rest even when you’re awake.

    As dark & quiet a room as I can manage.  Ear plugs & a sleep mask if I must.

    Be meticulous about setting your alarm & double-checking it, then cover it.  If the alarm hasn’t gone off & you wake up, then just close your eyes & rest.  You don’t need to be reminded of how much sleep you are losing, AND the light from a digital actually stimulates the part of your brain that tells you to wake up.  I have 3 alarms, because I can turn them off in my sleep! 😛

    Writing down what’s bothering me, if my brain is over active.  I promise myself I will deal with it in the morning, and do my best to grab the book.  I forget a lot, but mostly it just needs to be let out of my head.

    If I’m really distressed (nightmare or some such), I get up & read a book that really makes me feel like all is right with the world, it’s all for a greater purpose.  I’ve practically memorized my favourites now.

    Melatonin.  A naturally occurring sleep hormone.  I think I must be a pint low or something, because relatively low doses set me right 90% of the time where heavy-duty sleeping pills failed completely.

    Sleep-Eze D Gel Caps, if you must have a regular pill option.  Only one to work for me, including several prescriptions.  I never wanted to rely on drugs, but after 5 weeks of 2-3 hrs a night, I got a lot less fussy.  Only Sleep-Eze D ever helped.

    • jordanreid

      these are great, thank you. i’m totally convinced to start covering my digital clock – the baby is an excellent alarm clock in any case 🙂

  • Lauren

    I read this trick on zenhabits blog and it worked for me the other night:

    Replay your day from the time you woke up that morning – every little detail.  I was done before I went to work.

    • jordanreid

      i like that!

  • clairebecca

    Just thought I would share this article with you – apparently the solid 8 hours of sleep is a very modern concept…. this is an interesting read at any rate —

    • jordanreid

      VERY interesting. i like the idea of just accepting that awake hour in the middle and appreciating it.