Turns out there are a number of things you definitely shouldn't do if you wake up in the middle of the night — and yes, not looking at the clock is definitely one of them.
In a January 2017 interview with INSIDER, Michael Breus, PhD, aka the Sleep Doctor and author of The Power of When, offered tips for catching some much-needed shuteye, even when you happen to wake up before your alarm sounds.
First and foremost, he advises against getting up and going to the bathroom unless you really need to, because that nagging urge to get up and go in the middle of the night can also hinder your ability to fall back to sleep. Dr. Breus says that just sitting up in bed can increase your heart rate and disrupt the rate at which your heart should be beating when you sleep. For most people, this is 60 beats per minute, but if you get up, your heart has to pump against gravity — and therefore, it reaches a rate above 60 bpm.
In order to reclaim your unconsciousness, your heartbeat has to lower itself back down to 60 bpm, which obviously won't happen right away and is sometimes the reason why it's not always easy to get back to sleep.
The Sleep Doctor also says that even though it's tricky, you should try to relax and make your mind go blank when you wake up in the middle of the night. Don't check your phone to look at the time, however instinctual it may be. Seriously, put it down! Panicking while trying to calculate the number of hours of sleep you have left until the alarm goes off is a massive no-no, too.
Dr. Breus says that a lot of people have an irrational fear of not getting enough hours of sleep, but he advises not to stress about the hours slipping away. Instead, Dr. Breus suggests relaxing, however impossible it may seem at the time, because if you get worked up about anything, you can kiss the idea of getting any sleep at all goodbye. He recommends switching off your thoughts and letting sleep happen naturally, without trying to force it.
So there you have it!