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8 Reasons You Are Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

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Reasons You Are Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night

If you find yourself constantly roused at odd times of night, pinning down the problem is critical so you don’t lose more sleep over it. In most instances, the problem should ease with a little extra care and some lifestyle changes like cutting back on alcohol intake, avoiding caffeine close to bedtime, and quitting smoking. For health issues like sleep apnea, nocturia, restless legs syndrome, GERD, or depression, treating the underlying problem could get you the restorative sleep you crave.

Is a 2 am or 3 am waking almost routine nowadays? For some, getting to sleep can be hard enough at the best of times, but when you are constantly waking in the middle of the night for no apparent reason it can be immensely frustrating. Thankfully, sleep research and a better understanding of the symptoms of various ailments make it possible to put those days of fitful sleep behind you. Here’s a look at some of the leading causes of nighttime waking.

8 Reasons You Wake Up in The Night

1. Feeling Too Hot Or Cold

Not sleeping through the night could boil down to something as mundane as the temperature of your room. To nod off, you need a room that isn’t too hot or too cold. Your body temperature needs to dip a bit to get you into sleep mode. But it can’t be freezing temperature either.1

Signs of a Temperature Issue: If you wake up sweating and need to remove your duvet or feel like you should have worn cooler pajamas, you need to fix your room temperature. Equally, if you wake up freezing because you are trying to save on heating bills in winter, something’s got to give!

How to fix the problem: According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep is anywhere in the range of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. For babies or toddlers, the sweet spot is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.2

2. Nocturia

Frequent nighttime urination or nocturia can cause you to wake up multiple times through the course of a single night. For most people, urine production is lower when you sleep, allowing you to get that precious 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But if you have nocturia, that’s not the case.3

Symptoms of Nocturia: An immediate urge to pee whenever you wake up at night could mean nocturia. This happens multiple times and regularly rather than in a one-off instance.

How to fix the problem: Don’t drink too many fluids in the evening, especially things like tea or coffee that act as diuretics. If that doesn’t fix the issue, it may be due to an underlying health problem like a urinary tract infection, pregnancy, kidney trouble, an enlarged prostate gland, or even diabetes. Treatment will depend on what’s causing your nocturia.4

3. Aging

If you’re getting on in years, your nighttime waking may be the result of growing older. With passing years, it may become more difficult to fall asleep and you may also wake up often at night.5

Symptoms of Age-Related Nighttime Wakings: You may end up waking up often at night and even rise very early in the morning. Because you spend less time in the deeper dreamless stage of sleep, you may be more easily woken. On an average, those who are older say they wake up three to four times every night. Need to urinate more, anxiety, or pain and discomfort from some chronic conditions may also make the nighttime waking more common.6

How to fix the problem: Taking sleep medicines must only be done after consulting a doctor. This is vital because they may also interact with other medication you take. Plus, they’re addictive and you wouldn’t want to run the risk of becoming dependent. If your issues are depression- or anxiety-linked, medication could help you sleep better. On your part, you could also avoid napping in the day, skip television watching before bedtime, perhaps drink some warm milk, and stay off caffeine for several hours before bedtime.7

4. Alcohol

Alcohol is an unusual offender when it comes to restless sleep. While it can get you into a seemingly deep slumber really fast, this doesn’t last. As your body metabolizes and burns through the alcohol, your sleep also begins to become less restful. The result? You’ll stir often and be more stimulated than if you hadn’t drunk that alcohol.8

Symptoms of Alcohol-Linked Sleep Trouble: If you find you wake up every time you have a drink in the night, the booze could be to blame!9

How to fix the problem: This one is pretty straightforward. Avoid drinking close to bedtime! Or stick to just one glass and no more, and that too well before bedtime. Because your tolerance for the sedative effects of alcohol develops in just a couple of days, you may end up drinking too much to get the same effect.10

5. Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can cause your airways to be blocked either partially or completely when you are sleeping. Your body jolts you awake as a survival mechanism when your blood oxygen levels drop. Every time this happens, you may be roused from your sleep, making for very unrestful sleep marked by nighttime wakings.11 This cause for nighttime waking usually results in your waking up a few hours after you have fallen asleep or in the middle of the night.12

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea: A headache, sore throat, dry mouth, or chest pain when you wake up, mood swings, and excessive sleepiness during the day are all other signs of sleep apnea.13

How to fix the problem: Once diagnosed, doctors may use a continuous positive airway pressure device to cover your nose/mouth. It blows air very gently to help keep your airway open as you sleep. Dental work could also be done to realign your tongue and jaw positions. If you are overweight, weight loss can help ease symptoms. Cutting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are also recommended.14

6. Anxiety Or Depression

Anxiety or depression could cause sleeping trouble and result in your waking up at night with panic attacks and nightmares or a feeling of uneasiness.15 This underlying cause for unrestful sleep can result in your waking up very early in the morning. You’ll probably not bother to go back to sleep again and may end up staying awake from this unearthly hour.16 Unfortunately, as sleep deprivation builds up, the symptoms of your anxiety or depression are likely to worsen.17

Symptoms of Anxiety: While everyone experiences day-to-day anxiety, anxiety disorder or depression is more severe. A problem that doesn’t seem to go away, this disorder can cause you to feel irrational worry or fear and constant, unsubstantiated worry that interferes with day-to-day life.18

How to fix the problem: If anxiety or depression is disturbing your sleep, you may need to get professional help. A specialist may recommend cognitive-behavior therapy or medication. Relaxation techniques may also help. Meditation, listening to music, setting a nice wind-down routine at the end of the day, or exercising to ease anxiety may all help you get a good night’s rest.19

7. Restless Legs Syndrome

If you wake up due to an irrepressible urge to move your legs, you may have restless legs syndrome (RLS). This neurological problem that causes an unpleasant sensation in your legs can also keep you up at nights, with the problem worsening while lying down.20

Symptoms of RLS: You may experience an itching, crawling, or creeping sensation in your legs. Some people may find their legs are throbbing or aching. Sometimes, you may also feel similar sensations in the arms and even the chest/head. Symptoms are usually worse at night.21

How to fix the problem: If you do have RLS, you may be advised to stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Altering your sleep patterns to make the most of the symptoms-free day-time hours can help compensate for lost sleep. Leg massage, moderate exercise, warm baths, ice packs, or heating pads offer relief. Medical devices that apply pressure below the feet and vibrate behind the calves are also now available. Iron supplements may be suggested for some individuals. For moderate to severe cases, anti-seizure drugs or dopamine boosters used to treat Parkinson’s disease may be given.22

8. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a chronic disorder that causes what you may know as “acid reflux.” This occurs when stomach acid goes the wrong way up into your esophagus.23 Almost 80 percent of people with GERD have nighttime symptoms and most of them experience interrupted sleep due to these issues.24 As with sleep apnea, this issue can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, several hours after you have nodded off.25

Symptoms of GERD: Bad taste in the mouth from the reflux, bad breath, nausea, pain swallowing, nighttime heartburn, sore throat, chronic coughs, wheezing, and throat clearing are all signs that you could have GERD.26 27

How to fix the problem: Stick to a sleep schedule, avoid naps after meals (because they worsen symptoms), eat light meals before bedtime, avoid alcohol before sleeping. Caffeine and nicotine are best avoided for up to 8 hours before bedtime.28

References   [ + ]

1, 2. The Ideal Temperature for Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.
3, 4. Urinating more at night. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
5, 6, 7. Aging changes in sleep. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
8, 10. Roehrs, Timothy, and Thomas Roth. “Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use.” Alcohol research and Health 25, no. 2 (2001): 101-109.
9, 16, 25. You Asked: Why Do I Always Wake Up at 3 A.M.? Time.
11, 13. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. American Sleep Association.
12. You Asked: Why Do I Always Wake Up at 3 A.M.? Time.
14. How is Sleep Apnea Treated? National Sleep Foundation.
15, 17, 19. Sleep Disorders. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
18. Understand the Facts.Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
20, 21, 22. Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
23, 27. Heartburn and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. National Health Service.
24, 26, 28. Sleep & GERD. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.