Why Do I Keep Waking Up At 3 AM?

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

Are you part of the 3 am club? And sadly, no we don’t mean partying until 3, but finding ourselves wide awake in the early hours of the morning!

If you’re someone that having sleep problems, that might be your witching hour! We want to start by saying that waking up at 3 am is common and usually harmless. However, the sooner you get rid of the problem, the better. In today’s article, we will discuss the reasons as to why you wake up during the night and how you can potentially solve these issues.

Why do I Keep Waking Up at 3 am?

Why Do I Wake Up During the Night?

One of the most common sleep concerns is “Why do I keep waking up at 3 am?” Many therapists have discovered that there is usually a reason behind it. Some people might have a sleeping disorder like insomnia, while others may not be able to go back to sleep again, for other reasons.

In some situations, there is a specific psychological reason behind waking up at such a precise time. The good news is that it can often be fixed by eliminating stress and/or other altering thoughts. Many factors can harm our sleeping cycle, like certain drinks, food, bedding and the well-known blue light from electronic devices.

Stress

Stress can be a real pain when it comes down to sleep. The reason for that is the possible lack of glycogen that might be keeping you up at night. Stress hormones affect your body during both day and night, and the lack of sleep will most likely produce even more stress hormones. This can turn into a never-ending cycle, which makes it harder for you to sleep.

Often we experience stress without realizing it and more specifically without knowing how. For example, grinding or clenching your teeth may be enough to wake you up in the late hours of the night. Therefore, getting a mouthguard will help you rest more comfortably and of course, it will protect your pearly whites.

Eating

This is one of the factors that most people don’t take into consideration enough. However, having a heavy meal late in the evening means that your digestive system will be working overtime when you go to bed. With that, comes a possible discomfort and waking up in the middle of the night.

You can eat some foods that they won’t affect you as much, but we would suggest you have your lastest meal at least two hours before you go to bed.

drinking and eating before bed

Drinking

Alcohol and caffeine can severely impact your sleep, especially if you consume them late afternoon or at night. Many people think that because alcohol makes you drowsy, it won’t harm your sleep, but that’s inaccurate. Yes, you will be able to fall asleep, but you will it is likely you will wake up at night or feel tired (or hangover!) in the morning.

The reason for that is that alcohol disturbs the body’s natural sleep patterns in multiple ways, such as making you need to go to the bathroom more often, for example.

Caffeine has an even worst impact since it stimulates and energizes you. There isn’t a problem with your starting your day with a cup of coffee, but if it is an effect you should avoid it late at night. You don’t want caffeine to be left in your system when it’s time for you to go to bed.

Lighting

Another thing that can keep you up is artificial light—the best way to explain why is to talk about our bodies first. We all have a sort of internal clock, called circadian rhythm that pretty much tells us when it’s time to go to bed. This happens through our bodies adaption to light. When its bright outside you get on with your day, but when it gets dark, the circadian rhythm tells you to go night, night.

That’s where artificial light comes in and causes problems. Our bodies can confuse it for natural light, and that can lead to sleep trouble. Thus, if you need lights at night, use dimmer ones.

The most dangerous light for our sleep cycle is the blue light, which is pretty much what all electronic screens emit. If you want a good night’s sleep, don’t be tempted to scroll through your phone in bed because you might regret it later.

What not to do

What not to do?

There are two big no no’s when you can’t sleep or keep waking up, and they are:

Clock watching

The worst thing you can do when sleep isn’t happening for you is to start clocking the time. That way, your mind will begin to worry about having to get up in three or four hours for work or school, and your anxiety might start to set. So, avoid the clock and think of a pleasant memory that makes you feel relaxed.

Staying in bed

If you wake up during the night and stay awake for over 20 minutes, chances of you going back to sleep aren’t very high if you just lay there. Get up and do something relaxing like controlled breathing or drink a warm cup of milk. Don’t stay awake in bed because this will decrease its efficiency and your mind will associate it with activities not for sleeping.

How to practice good sleep hygiene?

Can a good sleep hygiene help?

We spend a third of our lives asleep, which is why having good sleep hygiene is essential for the quality and longevity of our sleep cycle. Here are a few suggestions you can follow to achieve that:

  • Have a fixed go to bed and wake-up time every day to help programme your body to sleep better.
  • Wind down before bed and give yourself at least 30 minutes for that. Try to let go of any worries and negative thoughts by reading a book or having a soothing bath.
  • Optimise your bedroom environment and try to to stay cool at night.
  • Stay active throughout the day and try to exercise regularly.
  • Leave your phone and laptop at least an hour before bed. Electronic devices emit blue light, which hinders melatonin production and stimulates the brain, making it hard to fall asleep.

Having a healthy sleep routine and hygiene can improve the quality of your sleep. However, if you continuously can’t sleep, there are some medical conditions that you may be experiencing.

One of them can be sleep apnoea, if you persistently have trouble with sleeping through the night. Rest is important, and if you can get enough, you should contact a doctor to discuss options and treatments.

How can you fall asleep in the middle of the night?

How can you fall asleep in the middle of the night?

Sleep experts say that it’s natural to wake up in the middle of the night every once in a while. But if it’s a regular thing and you find yourself awake for over 20 minutes at a time, it best if you get out of bed for a little bit and engage in a quiet activity.

Leaving your bed for a few minutes to do a relaxing or calming activity will help you in the long run because your brain won’t associate your bed with not being able to rest. Got get yourself a cup of chamomile tea, listen to some soothing music and calm your mind and body.

If there is a pattern of being unable to fall asleep or stay that way, there might be a bigger issue at hand, such as a sleeping disorder. Try to talk to a licensed therapist, which can help you figure out the underlying causes.

How many time is it normal to wake up at night?

According to many research papers, it’s not uncommon for people to wake a couple of times a night. If you can fall back asleep quickly within a few minutes even if you wake up 2-3 times a night, you shouldn’t be concerned.

However, if you’re waking up and staying that way for over 15-20 minutes regularly, that might be a sign of something more significant like insomnia, or other health issues and conditions. We recommend contacting a professional if staying asleep has become a concern.

Bottom line

Let’s be honest, frequently waking can drain you of energy and happiness. Everyone needs sleep to function. Therefore you need to take the appropriate measurements to help yourself to do.

The lack of sleep combined with a stressful day is certainly no fun, which is you should try different tips and techniques to win back a restful sleep!

Don’t forget that we are non-professionals in the medical field, and these are only recommendations. As usual, if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Tim Woods
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