Q & A Library
Need a Strategy to Stay Asleep?
I don't have any trouble falling asleep. My problem is staying asleep. I wake up in the early morning hours and watch the clock for two hours or more before being able to fall back asleep. What can I do?
Answer (Published 4/2/2002)
Your problem is a very common variation of insomnia. In fact, it is even more common than having trouble falling asleep in the first place, particularly among older people. To change it, the first thing you have to do is try to determine the cause.
Consider these possibilities:
Two supplements, melatonin and valerian, can help you sleep, but I don’t recommend taking either one for sleeplessness that occurs in the early morning - they could make you too drowsy to get up when the time comes. I suggest using 2.5 mg of melatonin to overcome jet lag, but only for one or two nights, and only when taken at bedtime. A lower dose, 0.25 to 0.3 mg, is more effective for regular use, but again, it should only be taken at bedtime. The same is true for valerian (Valeriana officinalis). It is an effective natural sleep aid, but you should take it only before you initially fall asleep.
If you eliminate all these possibilities and still wake in the early morning hours, I would suggest getting up and reading or doing something else useful rather than watching the clock and worrying about the sleep you're losing. Taking your mind off the problem may relax you and enable you to fall asleep again.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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