Why You’re Waking Up in The Middle of The Night

Waking up in the middle of the night is something we’ve all experienced. Seemingly, for no apparent reason, we find ourselves having woken up suddenly in the small hours of the night. This is seldom to do with our energy levels, and most do not feel fully rested at this point. For those that struggle with their sleep, this can be highly frustrating as they attempt to fall asleep again.

If these episodes are frequent for you, this needs to be addressed. Most likely, there is an underlying reason why this keeps happening. The bad news is that it may indicate a health problem you didn’t know about, but the good news is that learning why this happens is the first step towards treatment.

Sleep Problems

In general, waking up suddenly is due to insomnia. Insomnia is not just struggling to get to sleep in the first place – it’s struggling to stay asleep as well. Another sleep-related condition is sleep apnoea, which is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep. Sleep apnoea does not always wake a person up, but if you wake up feeling like you’re gasping for air this could be why.


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Do you wake up in the night feeling hot and sweaty? Chances are, you’re waking up because you’ve overheated yourself with your warm bedding. In more extreme cases, this could be night sweats.

It is best to find yourself bedding that will accommodate temperature changes, both in your body and in the weather. Tencel™ bedding, such as those made by Undercover Living, has temperature control technology for the perfect bedding all year round.

Mental Health Conditions

When your mental health is poor, your sleep can also suffer. When you go to sleep stressed, you are sleeping often less, as well as lighter sleep, rather than the quality REM sleep needed to be fully rested.

Your mental health can also manifest itself through your dreams. These dreams can be stressful and prompt you to wake up suddenly. In more extreme cases, you could be suffering from night terrors, which requires professional attention should they happen frequently.

Physical Health Conditions

Although a sleep-related condition is a likely cause, broader health problems could be the reason why you keep waking up. Your body, particularly when in pain, may be sending signals to your brain to promptly wake you up. This can be annoying when rest is needed to help reduce that pain.

Health conditions that can cause you to wake up include, but are not limited to:

  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal reflux (GERD)
  • Back/neck pain
  • Bladder issues
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

Some of these can be treated with over-the-counter medicine or picking up better habits, e.g, eating further away from bedtime if you suffer from GERD. If you’re struggling to stay asleep, you may need to seek further advice.

Lifestyle Choices

Your daily activities, even those that seem far removed from sleep, can play a role in causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. If you’re a caffeine addict, you may want to wind your consumption down, or stop before bed earlier than before. Smoking and alcohol consumption is known to reduce the duration of sleep, which is why you may wake up before you’re ready to.

If you tend to nap, this can worsen insomnia in some people. Napping can make it harder to fall asleep in some cases. See our guide to napping effectively to see if you can benefit from a nap, or if it’s better to go without.

If you look at your phone, tablet, laptop, or even your TV late at night, this could be causing you to jolt awake in those small hours. These devices have tend to have blue light screens, which interfere with your sleep cycle and our ability to get good quality sleep. Blue light messes with your ability to get to the REM part of the sleep cycle, which is what is needed for full-quality, deep rest.

How Can I Stop Waking Up in the Middle of the Night?

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for this. For any health-related issues, the best person to talk to is your doctor. Then, you can be referred for medical treatment or to a sleep psychologist.

If anything in this guide, particularly lifestyle habits you engage in frequently or broader health issues, seem like they could be an underlying cause, you should keep track of them. A sleep diary that measures how much screen time you get, for example, compared with the sleep you get that night can help you find the root cause of you waking up suddenly.

By Bethany Gemmell

Content Writer at myza

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