According to sleep expert Shelby Harris, PsyD, “everyone wakes up five to seven times per night between finishing complete sleep cycles. Each awakening is extremely brief in nature, and we fall right back asleep with amnesia for it.”
However, even though this is how it’s supposed to be, many of us find that we don’t fall right back to sleep, and we certainly don’t forget these unwelcome awakenings. The severity of these wakeups can vary. It’s quite common and normal for you to wake up two to three times during your sleep cycle, as long as you can fall asleep again fairly quickly.
This can be due to age, Dr. Harris adds, as younger people tend to wake once or twice a night for a moment, whereas older people tend to have a shallower sleep. That said, if you wake up and struggle to fall back asleep, leaving you feeling exhausted in the morning, then there may be something more that’s keeping you from having a restful night.
Here are five common reasons that may explain why you’re waking up in the middle of the night and what you can do about each.
Perhaps your own snoring or the snoring of a bedmate that is disturbing your sleep. Snoring can be a health concern, so if it continues to be a problem, it’s highly suggested that you consult a sleep doctor.
Nature calling… a lot
We’ve probably all had the irritating experience of waking up in the middle of the night to a full bladder and having to drag yourself from your warm cozy bed to relieve yourself. While good hydration is important for a good night’s sleep, Dr. Harris recommends that you hydrate mindfully. Try to avoid consuming a lot of fluids three hours before you plan to hit the hay.
Discomfort that leads to tossing and turning
An uncomfortable mattress could very well be robbing you of much-needed sleep. While investing in a new mattress isn’t necessarily the easiest or quickest of fixes, you might benefit from trying out a different blanket or purchasing the perfect pillow for your specific needs.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal sleeping temperature is between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit. “Your bedroom should be cool and comfortable,” Dr. Harris explains. “We often go to bed cold and have the room warmer than ideal, only to wake up middle of the night due to sweating.”
If you’re one of those people who need to be wrapped in a blanket, consider investing in a cooling blanket, pillow, bed sheets, or mattress inserts. If you don’t want to drop too much cash, then sleeping naked could also do the trick!
Anxiety or an active brain
Maybe it’s not your body that’s the problem, but your mind. If your thoughts are constantly running in circles, then even if you manage to drift off for a couple of hours, “you might awaken between sleep cycles, and whatever was on your brain before bed is likely going to be there—and stronger—middle of the night,” says Dr. Harris.
Everyone’s ideal solution will be as variable as their sources of anxiety, however, one recommendation that may work for you is to write down whatever is bothering you for a few nights in a row in a worry journal before bed.