Get my top tips for not just falling back asleep but how to prevent extended night wakings in the first place!

As a sleep specialist certified in hypnosis for Insomnia and CBT for Insomnia, this is one of the most frequent questions I get. This episode journeys through the mysteries of nocturnal awakenings and dispels common myths that may be keeping you up at night.

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Winner of numerous awards including Top 100 Moms in Business, Dr. Liz provides psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and hypnosis to people wanting a fast, easy way to transform all around the world. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and has special certification in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. Specialty areas include Anxiety, Insomnia, and Deeper Emotional Healing.


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Listened to in over 140 countries, Hypnotize Me is the podcast about hypnosis, transformation, and healing. Certified hypnotherapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Dr. Liz Bonet, discusses hypnosis and interviews professionals doing transformational work

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Hey everyone, dr Liz here. I don’t know if you can hear the rain in the background, but it sounds really nice and soothing. It is the start of the rainy season here in South Florida. I’m recording this in late April and usually the summer rains don’t start until May, june, but we’re right there, so I guess it is right on time. In my mind somehow it feels a little early, but now I guess it’s right in time. During the summer it’s almost like clockwork that the rain will start right around two o’clock and do an hour or two and then stop. And when your kids are in elementary school, it’s right. When elementary school lets out, okay, the public elementary schools. And so there’s always this question of whether you’re going to have to wait because they won’t release them if there’s like lightning in the area and there’s often lightning with our rain, so they won’t release them. So you just got to sit tight until they get the all clear signal and then all the elementary kids come out the afternoon. Rains always bring that memory back for me.

This episode is in response to a question / comment made during the podcast survey that I ran in 2024. So there’s an area where people can ask for particular topics for me to cover or just write a comment. I always love that section because I get the sweetest comments. I love those. It encourages me, it helps me keep going with the podcast and educating people and giving stuff that will help them, like free hypnosis episodes, and it also helps me see, like, what do people want to hear about? Sleep, sleep and more sleep.

Okay, so this one is about how to fall back asleep. This is a common struggle for people. How do I fall back asleep if I’m awake in the middle of the night. Sometimes it’s not the middle of the night, sometimes it’s someone falls asleep. They get the like hypnagogic jerk, which is when your body is actually trying to fall asleep and it jerks. It can be your whole body, it can be part of your body is actually trying to fall asleep and it jerks. It can be your whole body, it can be part of your body. Occasionally that’ll wake someone up completely. Me too. Sometimes it wakes me up completely and I’m like, oh man, all right time to read a little bit more. Sometimes it doesn’t wake me up completely. I’m like, oh good, there’s my body doing its job, so hang tight, I’ll fall back asleep after this. But often this question comes from someone who’s waking up after several hours of sleep and so they feel like they’re awake in the middle of the night for a period of time.

Now, my training as a sleep specialist comes from two areas. One, hypnosis. I’m certified in hypnosis for insomnia. And two, cbti cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. I’m certified for that as well, and most sleep specialists we do so much research in between all of that we belong to like sleep specialist groups where we ask questions and learn that way.

Most people in this area of specialty have a fascination with sleep, is what I would say, and that’s definitely true. For me, it goes way back, even to my honors thesis in undergrad about anxiety and nightmares, which is basically a sleep question.

So let’s talk about what’s normal in terms of waking up during the night before we talk about some of the solutions. What they think is about three to four times per night that people will perceive a wake up, that they’ve woken up, meaning they move into a light stage of sleep, they have this sense of like, oh, I’ve sort of woken up, and they fall right back to sleep within 10 minutes or so.

So when I’m having people track their sleep, when I’m working with them professionally, I say don’t put in the wake up column less than 10 minutes, because that’s normal. If you’re awake for more than 10 minutes in the middle of the night, then that’s not so normal. I want to know about that one that’s going to give me some data about what’s going on with you Now. Occasionally people will be up for I don’t know 15, 20 minutes and fall right back asleep. That’s true for me. Very occasionally I think, oh, I’m a little awake, I pop open my Kindle, I read a little bit and boom, I’m right back to sleep within like 15 minutes versus 10 minutes, when the you know the sleep statisticians, let’s say, are saying less than 10 minutes, that’s typically you get up, use the bathroom, you go back to bed, you go pretty much right back to sleep. S

o you have some awareness of being awake for a couple of minutes or so, up to about 10 minutes, but you’re falling back asleep. It may not feel like you’re going into a deep sleep, but you have this sense of like no, I’m falling back asleep. I’m sort of floaty awake-ish, asleep-ish. Okay, that’s sleeping.

If you’re in that sort of like hazy state, we actually consider that sleep. Is it deep sleep? No, is it the kind of sleep where you have no awareness of what’s going on? No, is it light sleep? Yes, it’s considered light sleep. You’re getting light sleep in that state and that’s a different state than like, oh, I’m wide awake here. Maybe some planning or some anxious thoughts are coming up. You’re ruminating about something, obsessing about something. In the middle of the night you’re like, oh my god, I’m awake, that’s awake, and most people know the difference there. But sometimes what you’ll get is someone who’s a poor sleeper quote unquote or an insomniac, and they’ll say I was awake the whole night and it’s like, well, let’s talk about this. Were you sort of sleepy? Sometimes like you drifted off and then you came back to. Because that’s considered sleeping, it’s considered light sleep. And almost always they say, yes, very occasionally I’ll have someone that says, no, I was really awake the whole night. It’s like, okay, no problem, that’s why you’re here. We’re trying to help you with that.

So we are cycling through 90 to 120 minute cycles throughout our sleep. We’re doing that about five times a night, cycling through that 90 to 120 minutes sleep. Now, obviously, if your normal is on the shorter side, you’re going to have less of those. If it’s on the longer side. You may have a few more of those, but that’s typical. So that means about every 90 to 120 minutes we’re going up the curve into a little bit of a light sleep. Maybe we roll over, we adjust the covers, we monitor sounds in the environment and then we go back down into a deeper stage of sleep gradually. The rolling over is good for you. Like this is a problem when people actually lose function in the lower body or the upper body. It’s like they have to have someone that rolls them over at night so that they don’t get bed sores. So remember that when you’re shifting around sometimes and rolling over in your sleep and you’re sort of in light sleep and you’re like, oh man, I should roll over, and sometimes it feels like this huge effort in the middle of the night and I remind myself, oh, that’s good.

My low back went out yesterday so I was like frozen in the middle of the night. My low back has not gone out in like years. It’s often related to like money stuff. Psychologically, emotionally. They say. So I’m like, oh my God, what’s going on? I’ve got to get a hold of my budget. Like I need to do that today. Let’s fix this.

Maybe it’s because I was practicing my putting this week more than typical for golf, anticipating that I’m going to go out with my husband and ride along and I just putt when I golf. Hey, I gave up on being a full course golfer. I actually read the little red book written by somebody famous the golfers out there will know what I’m talking about who said your short game is really important. Well, that’s puttingt in golf pitching. But anyway, I was anticipating going out with him, which I haven’t been in a couple of months or so, and I was like, oh, I better practice my putting because it makes a difference. I have a little cup that I can practice at home with.

Back to my low back. I was trying to roll over and I’m frozen and I know like, oh my God, I need to roll over, like I need that in my body here. It was such an effort. Even when your low back’s not out. Sometimes it feels like a huge effort to roll over for some reason, but I always remind myself no, that’s good for me actually. So I roll over, adjust the covers, I’m good to go. All right.

Some people wake up more than others. Some, some have more of an awareness. Some feel nothing. Those are our deep sleepers. When you’re in a lab, there’s these spindles that they measure and they go on all night and some people have like these little spindles that go up on the sleep chart, that are huge, they’re very tall and some people are shorter and someone who sleeps really deeply can sleep through anything typically has like these very tall spindles that are going off all night. That’s my younger daughter. I can literally power wash her window and she doesn’t wake up. This happened, okay, and I think, oh, she has those huge spindles, those very tall spindles. Me, I have very short spindles, okay, almost anything will wake me up. But just know there’s variation there.

If you’re awake for more than about 20 minutes, we recommend you get out of bed. You’re awake, you can move to a chair or a comfy chaise or something like that in your bedroom if your bedroom has the room for that. I don’t assume all bedrooms do. I know this is listened to around the world, this podcast, where living situations vary quite a bit. If you have a living area that you can move to, then we recommend you do that. If you have another bedroom, we recommend you do that, although that’s less ideal than a living room or even a chair in your primary bedroom, because we don’t want you associating wakefulness with your bed. We don’t want you lying awake staring at the ceiling, thinking about stuff, having those thoughts about like, oh my god, I’m awake and I have to work tomorrow. We don’t want you doing that. We do want you enjoying the time that you’re awake. That’s the whole goal, not trying to get back to sleep. It’s let me enjoy this time that I’m awake.

So when someone’s asking me how do I get back to sleep, I often say it will happen naturally. If you’re awake and truly awake, you’re going to go through about a 90 to 120 minutes awake now, even in the middle of the night, to 120 minutes awake now, even in the middle of the night, and then you’re going to naturally fall back asleep. You’ll get sleepy At that point. You can go back to bed if you’re having those sleepiness signs where you’re nodding off or you’re closing your eyes or you’re watching a show and you have no idea what happened the last five minutes. You’re reading a book and you can’t track Like you close the book or you turn off the Kindle or you turn off your phone. You’re reading a book and you can’t track. Like you close the book or you turn off the Kindle, or you turn off your phone, you’re like, oh, I’m sleepy, I’ll go back to bed.

The other part to this question is we try to back it up to you waking up less in the middle of the night. So that’s the other treatment option. Right? One option is okay. Occasionally you’ll have a bad night. You’ll be awake. Don’t worry about that. Don’t let all kinds of thoughts start. Instead, enjoy the time.

The other thing is like oh, you’re waking up a lot, like this is not normal, this is not typical. This has been going on for a period of time. There’s no real crisis going on here or like big stressors going on here. So let’s back this up so that you’re not fully awake in the middle of the night, so that you don’t have to fall back asleep. So this is not that like 10 minute period that most people have and they’re sort of in it and fall back asleep. This is like wide awake. Okay, a couple of things. Let’s just check these boxes here.

Alcohol will disturb your sleep and make you pee more. We’re not saying to stop drinking alcohol, but we are saying be aware of that if you’re drinking after like 7 pm or so. People do not like to hear this. They like to have some wine with dinner. You can do that if it doesn’t affect your sleep. If it’s affecting your sleep a lot, we say, ah, perhaps you should change this pattern some. Or just know like yeah, it’s going to affect my sleep tonight, no problem, I love my wine with dinner. I’m going to continue to have it. Or I went out with friends tonight. I thought I’d be so exhausted that I just fall right to sleep and sleep the whole night. And when it doesn’t happen, it’s like no, because you drink. Yeah, it’s okay, you had a little fun, you drink no big deal.

High blood pressure drugs, like drugs used to bring down high blood pressure, will sometimes affect sleep. Actually, a lot of drugs will. So I recommend Googling up your drugs to see if some of them cause some insomnia. If so, you can choose to talk to your doctor about another option, or you can just be like well, I think this drug is worth it. I’m going to have some insomnia, so I’m going to figure out what to do in the middle of the night to enjoy myself. Okay, really, some antibiotics will cause this. This is really interesting. I didn’t know this until nurse practitioners showed up in my practice and informed me, like, oh, it’s the antibiotic. I was like what? Very, very interesting? So many antibiotics can cause some insomnia.

Now, if you’re waking up a lot and having a lot of daytime sleepiness, we begin to look at sleep apnea, which is that like awful sound that people make when they’re not getting enough oxygen, when they’re if you’ve heard a partner do it, that’s what it sounds like. It’s pretty bad, all right, but basically your body’s gonna wake you up some to get more air into it, okay, um, sometimes gasping for air or choking, or you’re waking up coughing. You’ve got to consider sleep apnea, at which point most people will go to their primary doctor and say, hey, can I be tested for this? And if I do have it, then you’ve got to wear the mask, you’ve got to wear some oxygen. They’re actually not the big mass anymore, very small most of them, but you’ve got to fix that so it doesn’t happen. Sometimes you can wear a mouthpiece that you can order off Amazon, or you can get a custom one made that helps with. That Helps with snoring as well. You can try that if you don’t want to do the mask, see if that helps.

It could be asthma, which gets worse at night, or allergies, if it’s seasonal. So if there’s a lot of pollen in the air, you know you have seasonal allergies. Sometimes that’ll cause some gasping for air at night or some insomnia, some wake-ups more than typical. So those are our check boxes that we look at Like is any of this going on? Because that’s going to inform whether CBT or hypnosis is going to help you. I actually have a hypnosis file that I bought for allergies which really helps me. So I was like oh, if it’s related to allergies, we’re not doing hypnosis for insomnia, we’re doing hypnosis for allergies to decrease that histamine reaction and then produce better sleep.

Sometimes someone’s trying to sleep too much, meaning they’re trying to go to bed too early. They’re too much meaning they’re trying to go to bed too early, they’re feeling tired. So they’re like, oh, I’ll get a little extra in. And that’s leading to very light, fragmented sleep, meaning you wake up a lot, you’re waking up more than three or four times per night, or you’re having long periods of wakefulness at night. When that’s happening, then we’re looking at the data, the tracking that you’ve done, and the sleep specialist is going to look at that and say, okay, let’s pick up a wake-up time here, let’s pick a bedtime here, let’s see if we can stick to that. And typically they’re going to try to compress the sleep some, meaning they’re going to put you on a schedule for a little bit where you feel like you’re getting less sleep, like you have to keep yourself up a little bit before you go to bed, even if you’re tired, so that you can get better quality sleep in the middle of the night, so that you’re not waking up. When I’m working with someone you can see this on their chart. Like you can just see it decrease week by week. It’s really fun to see when that happens.

Now you’re doing that sleep compression temporarily. You’re not doing that forever. You’re going to open it up. You’re going to open it back up again gradually when your sleep is better. But also there’s certain circumstances where you’re not going to do a huge sleep compression and that’s when someone is bipolar or they have a lot of anxiety going on, sometimes some medical conditions, where you’re not going to do that. You’re not going to have someone do six hours of sleep when typically they need seven or seven and a half or eight. No, not appropriate.

You’re going to work on different strategies, but one thing we do recommend is that you don’t try to go to bed earlier. So the thought process here is oh, I was awake last night from like one to two thirty, let’s say it’s an hour and a half. So tonight I’m going to try to make up that hour and a half. So I’m going to go to bed an hour and a half early. No wrong thing to do. Okay, do not try to go to bed early. In fact, sometimes when I have a poor night of sleep, then I actually try to go to bed a little bit later than my normal time. Okay, I actually do try to wake myself up.

Some do some things that aren’t going to wake me way up, but are certainly going to bypass that like super sleepy period where you’re like nodding off and doing all that stuff. Like nope, I’m gonna do some a five minute core workout, which you can find on YouTube. Get your blood moving. Some some squats. I’m going to do some art. Perhaps I do a little bit of work, like maybe my podcast or something like that. I do something to wake me up a little bit, to make it a little bit past my regular bedtime.

The other mistake people make is that they try to sleep in. So I’m going to make this up on the weekend and I’m going to sleep in like a good’m going to make this up on the weekend and I’m going to sleep in like a good, solid two to three hours. That’s a big mistake. Wake up at your regular time and try to keep that time very regular. Wake up at your regular time and try to keep that time regular, weekend, weekday same time. You’re going to do this for a couple of weeks it’s not long one to two weeks until you feel like you’re back on track. Your sleep is better, you’re getting better quality of sleep, you’re waking up more rested. I mean, you can go a little bit earlier, but I would not try to go like hours earlier to bed. You’re just going to wake up more and then you’re going to be like oh man, this problem right, like I’m waking up so much in the middle of the night.

What’s going on? Okay, so instead of thinking about making it up, think about regular sleep times and wake up times. So, treat yourself almost like a baby. Well, babies aren’t really great sleepers Mine weren’t, at least. Let’s say, a small child, okay, treat yourself like a small child where it’s like oh, it’s time for bed now. They have a good bedtime routine. They’re taking a bath or a shower or some kind of cleanup, brushing their teeth, reading a story, and most parents try to keep that pretty regular for them. So think about it as creating structure for yourself, like you would a small child. That’s essentially what we’re doing in CBT-I. With hypnosis, we are giving suggestions to create deeper, more continuous sleep and there’s research to back that up, that hypnosis is effective for that.

So the goal is better sleep, basically more continuous sleep cycles, less wake-ups. But in my practice I’m trained in both, so I’m combining that with some CBTI, meaning let’s look at the data here too. Most hypnosis for insomnia specialists are not looking at data. They’re not having people track their sleep and then adjusting that type of thing. I find it really helpful because you can see progress really easily and the progress is fast. Helpful because you can see progress really easily and the progress is fast.

People, like I have said on other episodes, it is like three to six sessions, sometimes a little bit more, sometimes less. Like two sessions is about the minimum that I do, and people are amazed at that. They’re like I have suffered for months or years and it’s like, yeah, you didn’t need to. You can improve this in two to three weeks. So that’s always fun for my end. But I want to give you an idea of how they complement each other, how hypnosis and the CBTI complement each other. You know I’m doing a lot of education in those first two sessions about how to improve sleep, like more than what we’re doing here, but those are my top tips about how to fall back asleep. All right, everyone, I hope you have a wonderful night of sleep tonight and that you wake up feeling rested and ready for your day ahead and happy to be alive. I will talk to you soon, peace.

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