Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (2023)

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What Causes Waking Up in the Middle of the Night?

Most people wake up once or twice during the night. Reasons this might happen include drinking caffeine or alcohol late in the day, a poor sleep environment, a sleep disorder, or another health condition.

When you can’t get back to sleep quickly, you won’t get enough quality sleep to keep you refreshed and healthy. It’s important to figure out what’s waking you up so you can treat the problem and get some rest.

In general, adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for best health and well-being. That’s divided into periods of light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when you dream. You cycle through these stages several times each night. Most of your deep sleep happens early in the night. Toward morning, you’re mainly in REM and lighter sleep, when it’s easier for something to wake you up.

Physical Causes

Many health conditions have symptoms that can seem worse at night, such as:

(Video) A Doctor Explains 3 Common Reasons Why You Might Be Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

  • Pain, especially from arthritis, heart failure, sickle cell anemia, or cancer. Tell your doctor if you hurt too much to stay asleep. They might need to change your medication.
  • Breathing trouble from asthma, bronchitis, or another lung disease.
  • Digestive problems, especially pain and cough from acid reflux or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Hormones. Women often wake up at night when levels change around their periods or during menopause. Hot flashes and night sweats also disrupt sleep.
  • Brain and nerve diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Peeing a lot, possibly because you drank a lot of fluids during the day or because of a health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or bladder inflammation.

Medications to treat these conditions can also affect your sleep, including beta-blockers, antidepressants, ADHD drugs, decongestants, and breathing treatments that have steroids.

If health issues often interrupt your sleep, let your doctor know. It may mean you need to start treatment or change what you’ve been doing to get your symptoms under control.


Psychological Causes

Stress is one of the main reasons people wake up in the night. It makes your sleep lighter and keeps you from getting deep and REM sleep.

Other mental health problems can also cause sleep problems, including:

  • Anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia

If a mental health condition is keeping you awake, get help from your doctor or a mental health professional.

(Video) Frequently Waking up in the Middle of the Night?

Your Sleep Habits

Some of the things you do every day can keep you from sleeping well at night.

  • Your sleep schedule. Changing when you go to bed and wake up makes it hard to keep your internal clock set.
  • Electronics. The light from your phone and computer can wake up your brain.
  • Alcohol. A drink before bed may make you fall asleep quickly, but you’ll wake up in the night as it wears off.And it doesn’t let you get to the deep or REM sleep stages.
  • Caffeine. It’s a stimulant that can take 8 hours to wear off.
  • Smoking. Nicotine is another stimulant that can make you sleep less soundly. Many smokers wake up too early as their bodies start to crave a cigarette.

Your Sleep Environment

Things around you like light, pets, or the temperature can make it hard to stay asleep as you move between sleep stages. Experts suggest that you:

  • Put dark shades on windows or wear an eye mask to block light.
  • Use earplugs, a fan, or a white noise machine to cover sounds.
  • Keep the temperature on the cool side, between 60 and 70 degrees.

Sleep Rhythm Disturbances

Your body has a natural cycle of sleepiness and alertness. Your hormones and daylight control it. When that gets thrown off, you have trouble sleeping.Causes include:

  • Age. Your body’s sleep rhythms change as you get older. You get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. You also spend more time in lighter stages and less time in deep and REM stages.
  • Jet lag
  • Working nights or rotating shifts

There’s not much you can do about some of these issues. Focus on the things you can control, like your daytime and nighttime habits and any health conditions that need treatment.


Sleep Disorders

Other types of sleep problems can affect your ability to stay asleep, such as:

(Video) 7 Reasons Why You Get Up During the Night – Dr.Berg On Sleep Apnea

  • Sleep apnea. If you snore loudly and often, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Tissues in your mouth and throat close off your airway, which stops your breathing many times a night. Your brain wakes you enough that you can breathe again, and you may wake up completely. One of the most effective treatments is to sleep with a breathing machine that keeps your airway open.
  • Restless legs syndrome. This causes a tingling or prickling feeling that makes you want to stretch or move your legs. It can be worse at night.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Many people with restless legs also have this condition. Your arms and legs jerk and wake you up.
  • Night terrors. These are episodes of screaming, thrashing, or acting scared while you sleep. They’re most common in children, but adults can have them, too.

Tips to Help You Sleep Through the Night

Try some of these sleep hygiene practices to help you get more rest:

  • Don’t use tobacco. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
  • Go outdoors for at least 15 minutes each day to set your internal clock.
  • Get regular exercise. Work out at least 5 hours before bed.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Don’t nap, especially later in the day.
  • Follow a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, listen to soft music, or read a book.
  • Shut off electronic screens. Don’t use devices that have screens in the hour before bed.
  • Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping or sex.
  • Keep the room quiet, dark, and cool.
  • Don’t just lie there. If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep after 15 or 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something calming until you feel drowsy again. Resist the urge to grab your phone while you try to get back to sleep.
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(Video) 8 Reasons Why You're Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night


Why do I keep waking up in the middle of the night? ›

Most people wake up once or twice during the night. Reasons this might happen include drinking caffeine or alcohol late in the day, a poor sleep environment, a sleep disorder, or another health condition. When you can't get back to sleep quickly, you won't get enough quality sleep to keep you refreshed and healthy.

Why am I waking up at 3am every night? ›

You wake up at 3am because this is the time you shift from a deep sleep into a lighter sleep. If you turn in at 11pm, by three in the morning you're mostly out of deep sleep and shifting into longer periods of lighter sleep, known as REM.

How do you get rid of waking up in the middle of the night? ›

  1. Establish a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine. ...
  2. Relax your body. ...
  3. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep. ...
  4. Put clocks in your bedroom out of sight. ...
  5. Avoid caffeine after noon, and limit alcohol to 1 drink several hours before bedtime. ...
  6. Avoid smoking. ...
  7. Get regular exercise. ...
  8. Go to bed only when you're sleepy.

What organ is active at 2am? ›

Let's take a look at the liver. According to the Organ Clock it is the most busy during 1-3am at night.

What is the significance of 3am? ›

While there's no specific reference to 3am in the bible, it's mentioned often that God sends people messages in their dreams. The “witching hour” is sometimes referred to as the “Devil's hour.” Some people equate Christ's time of death, 3pm, with its opposite, 3am, as a time of evil presence.

How do you fix interrupted sleep? ›

How Can You Prevent or Address Interrupted Sleep?
  1. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
  2. Following a steady routine before bed, including plenty of time to wind down and relax.
  3. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and big meals in the evening, especially in the hours before bed.
Oct 7, 2022

Can your liver wake you up at night? ›

Sleep–wake disturbances are common in liver cirrhosis and associated with impaired quality of life. The most common abnormalities are insomnia (difficulties falling asleep and maintaining sleep, or unrefreshing sleep), excessive daytime sleepiness, and sleep–wake inversion (disturbances of circadian rhythmicity).

Can depression make you wake up in the middle of the night? ›

Depression and Insomnia

Early wakening is closely associated with depression, as well as difficulty falling asleep at night. Those with depression may switch back and forth between insomnia and hypersomnia during a single period of depression.

Why do I wake up at 4am for no reason? ›

Normally, at night time, melatonin levels will naturally increase, and cortisol (our stress hormone), will naturally be lower (than in the mornings). If you are under acute stress, or you have been under chronic stress, you may notice that you tend to wake up between 2-4 am and have difficulty falling back asleep.

What does it mean when you wake up at 2am? ›

According to sleep specialists, most people actually wake up about 6 times per night, and one of those is usually around 2 or 3 am, depending on when they hit the hay. They also say that waking up at that time is just a sign that we have shifted from deep sleep to a lighter sleep where our brains are more active.

Is my liver waking me up at 3am? ›

1-3am is the time of the Liver and a time when the body should be alseep. During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made. If you find yourself waking during this time, you could have too much yang energy or problems with your liver or detoxification pathways.

What does it mean if you wake up between 2 and 3 am? ›

If you wake up at 3 a.m. or another time and can't fall right back asleep, it may be for several reasons. These include lighter sleep cycles, stress, or underlying health conditions. Your 3 a.m. awakenings may occur infrequently and be nothing serious, but regular nights like this could be a sign of insomnia.

What does 3am wake up mean in Chinese medicine? ›

So if you wake up at 3 AM, when Liver energy peaks, you may be suffering from Liver Qi stagnation, which could be related to an unhealthy diet, excess alcohol consumption, unresolved anger or high levels of stress.


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