Either way, you're wide awake—but one is more likely to put you to sleep sooner.
You've tried counting sheep…and shoes, and to-dos, and vacation days, and whatever else pops into your head—and still you're wide awake. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 30 percent of adults suffer from insomnia symptoms and episodes of insomnia. There are many insomnia causes, including stress, medical or mental health problems, medications, work hours, sleep environment, your before-bed routine, or even underlying sleep disorders.
But when you're lying there staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m, there's only one question on your mind: Should I just get up, or stay right where I am? If it's been 15 minutes, grab your robe and slippers and leave the bedroom, says Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Psychology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University and Environmental Scholar for the National Sleep Foundation. "Your best bet is to engage in a quiet, non-stimulating activity in another room," says Dautovich. Otherwise, lying awake for extended periods of time can turn the bedroom into a mental cue for wakefulness and the inability to sleep, she adds. It’s an association that can cause insomnia to snowball into a more chronic problem.
In a dimly-lit space, try reading, or practicing some deep breathing or mediation until you feel sleepy enough to get back into bed. Steer clear of anything mentally or physically stimulating: You don’t want to watch a clock; tackle housework; or pay bills or work, especially on a device that wakes the brain with blue light.
If insomnia is becoming a regular occurrence, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist. She may suggest a change to your current meds or lifestyle, or recommend cognitive behavioral therapy or sleep aids.