Waking up in the middle of the night and then struggling to get back to sleep can be very frustrating. This is quite common for people who have sleep disorders as they find themselves awake in the middle of the night or they have trouble falling asleep. Poor sleep makes you feel groggy and irritated, and it results in less energy throughout the day. This can interfere with your day-to-day tasks. On top of all this, there are several long-term health risks associated with poor sleeping habits such as a weakened immune system and memory issues.
Sleep disturbances are actually very common. One study showed that around 35% of Americans woke up in the middle of the night at least 3 nights a week. Everyone experiences some sort of sleep disturbance or restless night throughout their lifetime. These disturbances may be caused by several reasons varying from poor sleeping habits and unhealthy lifestyles to stress or other health conditions.
Sleep is critical to our overall wellbeing and a well-functioning immune system. It allows our body to heal and reset. Without enough sleep, our body might not be able to function at its best.
What Causes You To Wake Up?
Physical and Health Conditions: One of the biggest contributors to sleep disturbances are health conditions:
- Pain: Any form of acute or chronic pain stemming from medical conditions or injuries will make sleeping difficult.
- Sleep Apnea: This is defined as a medical disorder where a person experiences breathing difficulties during sleep. Simply put, your breathing may start and stop throughout the night which can interfere with your sleep. It causes restless nights, irritability during the day, fatigue, and can lead to long-term sleeping issues.
- Hormones: Women often wake up at night due to changing levels of hormones around the time of their periods or during menopause. Changes in hormones can lead to cramps, profuse sweating due to rising body temperature, and anxiety. All these symptoms make it difficult to stay asleep throughout the night.
- Medications: These may include antidepressants, ADHD drugs, steroids, etc. Such medications have side effects, which may interfere with one’s sleep.
If the symptoms become too troublesome to bear, consult your doctor and seek professional help.
Psychological Conditions: Many people suffer from certain conditions or mental disorders (the most common being depression and anxiety) that lead to poor sleep during the night.
- Stress: One of the most common reasons people wake up during the night is stress. The American Psychological Association states that on average, “adults with lower reported stress levels report sleeping more hours a night than do adults with higher reported stress levels.” Stress impacts a person’s sleep quality and sleep duration. Poor sleeping habits can also cause increased stress levels.
- Anxiety and depression are also the results of increasing stress levels. Anxious, racing thoughts can make it difficult to stay asleep during the night.
- Other mental disorders like bipolar disorder, PTSD, or schizophrenia are also known to cause sleep deprivation.
There are several therapies and treatments available that are designed to alleviate symptoms of mental disorders. It is best to consult your doctor or therapist for professional help if the conditions get worse.
Lifestyle and Sleeping Habits: Certain unhealthy lifestyle habits like the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine are known to cause sleep disruptions.
Similarly, the use of electronic devices before bed, staying up way past your bedtime, working night shifts, and a poor diet are strong contributors to sleep disruptions. Many of these habits break the circadian rhythm (i.e., the body’s internal biological clock).
How Do I Stay Asleep?
There are several strategies that can help you get through the night without waking up. These simple but effective techniques can be incorporated into your lifestyle to achieve better sleeping habits:
- Avoid caffeine after noon: Caffeine is a stimulant. And its consumption after noon may be the reason you wake up in the middle of the night as its core function is to extend the time it takes for you to fall asleep. It may also be why you wake up in the middle of the night. Consuming it too close to your bedtime makes your mind alert. Similarly, alcohol also interferes with your sleep so it should be avoided or strictly limited, especially when nearing your bedtime.
- Avoid smoking: Nicotine is highly addictive, and interferes with your sleep.
- Establish a quiet and relaxing bedtime routine: A proper routine where you take a warm bath before bed, listen to soft music, and avoid the use of electronic devices before sleep greatly improves the quality and duration of your sleep.
- Regular exercise: Being active during the day is a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep. Moderate to vigorous exercise improves sleep quality as well as the time it takes for you to fall asleep and it may also keep you from waking up in the middle of the night. However, avoid exercising too close to your bedtime as the body needs time to wind down before it can reach the sleep stages.
- Avoid daytime naps: As relaxing and refreshing as they seem, daytime naps interfere with your sleep cycle which can cause you to wake up during the night.
- Avoid blue light: Prolonged usage of electronic devices that emit blue light reduces melatonin levels in the body. It puts a strain on your eyes and tricks your mind into becoming wide awake causing continuous sleep interruptions.
- Only get into bed when you feel sleepy: People often lie in their bed trying to fall asleep, but instead start mindlessly scrolling on their phones. The reason may be because you think you’re ready to sleep, but your mind may wander off into several other directions due to the excessive use of devices. It is best to get into bed at your regular bedtime when you truly feel like sleeping.
- Have a consistent sleep cycle: Waking up and sleeping at the same time every day improves your sleep quality and can help overcome middle of the night sleep disruptions. As soon as you get up, open the shades to let the sunshine in and at night make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Such changes can help balance your circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns.
- If you wake up at night and struggle to get back to sleep, try getting up and doing something that makes you drowsy and sleepy again such as reading a book.
Having a healthy, consistent sleep routine and incorporating some productive and healthy changes into your lifestyle can help improve your sleep quality and keep you from waking up multiple times during the night. You should try getting the recommended quantity of sleep (7 to 8 hours for the average adult) which allows you extended periods of time to progress through each sleep cycle. Here at Can-i Wellness, we support your health and wellness journey.