7 Shocking Ways Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night Affects Your Body The Next Day
Just because you go to bed on time and wake up on time doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the sleep you need. If you're consistently waking up in the night, you may be experiencing health effects without realizing it. Even in the day after a few instances of nighttime wakefulness, your body may begin to react.
While getting up to use the restroom, or checking your phone, or even just grabbing a drink of water in the middle of the night may seem inconsequential, sleep doctors have evidence that all of these can have long-term effects on your body.
"Waking up during the night, in sleep medicine, is referred to as 'sleep fragmentation,'" Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine, and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle. "The trouble with waking during the night is that it impacts the quality as well as the quantity of sleep." Since waking up in the night can interfere with your REM sleep and other important stages of the sleep cycle, you can be losing out on processes that are essential for physical and emotional health.
Here are seven things that can happen to your body if you're waking up in the middle of the night, according to experts.
1. You May Be Hungrier The Next Day
If you've ever felt like some days you're inexplicably hungrier than others, it may be related to nighttime wakefulness.
"[Sleep fragmentation can affect metabolism by causing] higher cortisol or stress hormone states by day, in addition to increased appetite and carb-craving — which is the body's attempt to improve energy with more caloric intake," Dr. Dimitriu says. The hunger you're feeling may be your body telling you that you didn't get the energy you needed the night before. Finding ways to improve your sleep may prevent this.
2. You May Be Moodier
It can be difficult to control your emotions after a night of fragmented sleep. So the day after waking up a lot at night, you may feel much moodier than usual.
"Sleep fragmentation can also cause mood lability — which is seen as moodiness, or intense or rapidly shifting mood states, from happy to sad, and sometimes tearful," Dr. Dimitriu says. If you realize you have a pattern of sleep and mood problems, it's important to see a doctor or mental health professional.
3. You May Fall Asleep During The Day
Feeling tired is one thing; feeling fatigue from not completing your sleep cycles can be even more disruptive.
"Sleep fragmentation can result most visibly in increased daytime fatigue: [like] a stronger tendency to nod off, wanting to go back to bed, or needing a lot of coffee to get through the day," Dr. Dimitriu says. If staying awake during the day is a fight for you, then it's vital to ask a doctor what kind of solutions there might be for your waking up at night.
4. You Could Be Forgetful
If you've noticed yourself feeling more forgetful on days when you've woken up a lot the night before, there is a scientific reason behind that.
"Sleep disruption can make it harder for you to remember things, as sleep time is when our brains process what we learned during the day and helps us remember it," Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. Memory issues can be serious, so if this becomes a pattern, it may be worthwhile to speak to a professional.
5. You Could Be More Vulnerable To Getting Sick
A variety of health problems can cause your immune system to become vulnerable, but you may not have known that sleep fragmentation is one of them.
"When lacking in sleep, your body's immune system does not function as well, because your body is working on just trying to 'make it through the day,' and sickness occurs more easily." licensed sleep consultant Julia Walsh, tells Bustle. To avoid getting sick from lack of sleep, finding new ways to fall asleep and stay asleep — like practicing sleep hygiene — may help.
6. You May Feel Tired Faster When Working Out
Growth hormone gets released during periods of deep sleep, and is important for restoring and preparing tissue and muscles in your body. When you interrupt this part of your sleep, that can have a serious effect on you the next day.
"If your sleep gets disrupted it will be harder to reach the deep sleep and you might miss out on some surges of growth hormone that night," Dr. Roy Raymann, vice president of sleep science and scientific affairs at SleepScore Labs, tells Bustle. "Your tissue and muscles did not get the repair they needed and as a consequence you might feel less energized and exhausted more quickly." To avoid this, you may want to find new ways to stay asleep longer at night.
7. You Can Get Dark Circles
Developing dark circles under your eye from not getting enough sleep is not a myth. And it can happen because of waking up in the middle of the night, too.
"A restless sleep also leads to dark circles under your eyes, since a lack of shut-eye can affect the blood vessels in your face," Backe says. While there are temporary fixes for under-eye dark circles, the best bet is still the help of a doctor if you want to repair your sleep cycle.
Every once and a while, it's OK if you have a night of disrupted sleep. It's even common to wake up and fall back asleep immediately.
"Everybody wakes a few times during the night, this is not abnormal as long as the wakefulness period is brief," Dr. Nate Watson, SleepScore Labs scientific advisory board member, tells Bustle. "[...] However, frequent nocturnal awakenings can be a sign of a number of sleep and medical disorders including: obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and depression. If frequent awakenings at night are typical, then a conversation with a sleep specialist is warranted to get to the root cause of the problem." Even if these nighttime patterns don't seem like a big deal to you, finding ways to stop waking up in the middle of the night can be a major boost to your overall health down the line.