Reasons Behind Waking up at Night


You fall asleep easily, but then you wake up in the middle of the night tossing and turning in an attempt to get back to sleep. This is called Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia. What causes night awakening and how to fight it?


Usual story – you haven’t had enough sleep for three days in a row, so this time you’ve decided to go to bed early. You go to bed at ten o’clock hoping to get a good sleep, but then you suddenly wake up at two in the morning. Wide awake, you lie looking at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep again. It takes two hours before you fall asleep again, and then almost immediately the alarm clock rings, and you end up sleepy and feeling terrible.

Reasons behind nighttime awakenings

There are many reasons, both external and internal, for sudden nighttime awakenings.

Common external reasons include street noise, a snoring partner, too much light in the bedroom, wrong temperature (too hot or too cold), pets in your bed, an uncomfortable mattress, or the child who has woken up and come into your room.

Internal causes are no less varied and depend on many parameters.

Age and Gender

The older a person becomes, the more he or she suffers from an interrupted night’s sleep. Elderly people often doze off during the day and wake up in the middle of the night.

  • Young women sometimes have nighttime awakenings associated with the menstrual cycle: just before the onset of menses.
  • Pregnant women awake at night due to many reasons: swollen legs, back pain, frequent urination, heartburn and fetal movement.
  • Night waking may torture women in menopause – because of the heat, palpitations, sweating, anxiety and stress.

Diseases and drugs

Consult your doctor if you have sleep apnea (cessation of breathing), especially if you snore or wake up unrefreshed in the morning.

Chronic pains, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, are also a common reason for nighttime awakenings.

Despite the fact that everyone wakes up from time to time to go to the loo, you should pay attention and consult a physician if frequent urges to urinate disturb your sleep.

Diabetes, thyroid, kidney, lungs or cardiovascular diseases can cause nighttime awakenings.

Some medicines, such as beta blockers and diuretics, also lead to poor sleep.

Mental reasons

Stress, depression and anxiety are often accompanied by insomnia and sudden nighttime awakenings.

When to worry

If you wake up at night from time to time, it is not necessarily a sign of a disease or disorder. To understand when you should start worrying, doctors advise to apply the rule of three.

If sudden awakenings happen three times a week, last at least 30 minutes and are repeated for 30 days, it is worth seeing a doctor.

What should you do if you wake up at night?


There are several ways to help you cope with nighttime awakenings at home.

  • Do not spend more time in bed. Some people think that the more time they spend in bed (they go to sleep earlier than usual or stay there longer), the more time they will sleep. In fact, this is the worst thing you can do if you have insomnia. Instead, you should spend less time in bed. For example, go to bed an hour later than usual and get up at the same time as always. It may seem counterintuitive, but it really works. Here are a few ways to deal with insomnia.
  • You should not take a nap. If you sleep during the day, it reduces the hours of your night sleep. But if you really want, you can take a nap for about 20 minutes till 14:00 – this time is quite enough to have a rest and gain strength.
  • Limit the consumption of alcohol and nicotine, liquid and heavy food and give up physical activities for at least three hours before bedtime. All this could trigger a sudden awakening at night.
  • Avoid caffeine for eight hours before bedtime. Caffeine prevents you from sleeping and can cause night awakening.
  • Do not lie in bed, if you cannot sleep. Get up, walk around the room, do something quiet and relaxing in dim light (but do not use a smartphone or a computer). Here’s a list of the things you can do if you cannot sleep. Go back to bed only when sleepy.
  • Do not look at the clock. When you think about how many hours are left till the alarm clock, you are nervous and worried. This hinders your sleep even more.
  • Learn to control stress and anxiety. Try to perform relaxation exercises before you go to bed. For example, meditate. Avoid stressful conversations and situations for a few hours before bedtime.
  • It should be dark, quiet and cool in your bedroom. Make sure that nothing will make you wake up in the middle of the night. If you can be interrupted by noise, buy earplugs or find a quiet monotonous noise source. If the light interferes with your sleep, good drapes or a blindfold will come in handy.

How do you deal with night awakenings?