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I wake up at 4am every morning and can’t get back to sleep. What can I do to fall asleep again? © Getty Images

I wake up at 4am every morning and can’t get back to sleep. What can I do to fall asleep again?

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Try not to stress about it and try reading a book instead.

Early morning waking without the ability to return to sleep can be a symptom of insomnia. The recommended treatment here is usually ‘cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia’ (CBT-I), in which people learn that, when unable to sleep, you should get out of bed and, if possible, do something relaxing such as reading or listening to soothing music until you feel sleepy again. Relaxation techniques, including mindfulness and muscle relaxation, can be incorporated too.


Some people wake up early for different reasons, though, such as a condition known as ‘advanced sleep phase disorder’. It’s important to discuss any sleep concerns with a healthcare provider before making a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.


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