Dealing with a Second Wind at Night

Woman with long hair being blown in the wind. There is a lake and mountains in the background. This image represents the second wind at night that makes it difficult to fall asleep.

Did you ever get sleepy and not fall asleep right away, only to find yourself wide awake again? This is a second wind that happens at night.

Second winds are a period where, after staying awake for too long, you stop feeling drowsy. Essentially, what happened is your sleep/wake cycle got messed up. If you didn’t fall asleep when your sleep cycle started to kick in, your wake cycle reboots1. It becomes much more difficult to fall asleep because your circadian rhythm was just jolted into a phase where it shouldn’t be. Many people experience second winds after laying in bed for hours, but especially when the sun rises. Even after a full night of not sleeping, your body can reset to your wake cycle. Super fun stuff.

You can again thank your biology for this phenomenon. It is a survival mechanism that evolved as part of the F3 response. It allows you to have better cognitive functioning while sleep deprived for a short period of time. Cortisol, which activates adrenaline, essentially suppresses your melatonin, and puts you in an “aroused” state of wakefulness2

Since second winds are part of your F3 response, you can turn it around. Anecdotally, it does take longer for me to get into a relaxed state where I can fall asleep once a second wind kicks in – usually 1-3 hours. It’s not pleasant, but at least when a second wind happens, some of your night can still be salvaged. 

I discussed a few techniques in week 1 on how to relax. However, I will go into greater detail in week 5 so you can get to sleep after a second wind.