It's important to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but if you're waking up frequently, it means your sleep quality is suffering. If you're someone who finds themselves tossing and turning, you might be wondering
what it means when you wake up in the middle of the night. Everything from your daytime habits to your emotional state can affect how well you sleep through the night, and it might be time to start listening to your bodily signals to help you get better rest.
"Everybody wakes a few times during the night, and this is not abnormal as long as the wakefulness period is brief,"
Nate Watson, MD, SleepScore Labs advisory board member, tells Bustle. "Also, everyone has a bad night of sleep now and then for a variety of reasons [... However, frequent nocturnal awakenings can be a sign of a number of sleep and medical disorders."
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, especially if all your sleep habits are healthy. Here are nine things your body is trying to tell you when you
wake up in the middle of the night, according to experts.
You Drank Too Much Water Close To Bedtime
It's great to stay hydrated, but you don't want to drink too much water close to bedtime, or you might find that you wake up more frequently than you'd like to. "If you wake up to use the bathroom, keep the lights low," Beautyrest Sleep Expert
Dr. Rebecca Robbins, tells Bustle. "Use the bathroom and return to bed promptly. Monitor your water consumption at night if awakenings for the bathroom persist." Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock
Waking up frequently might indicate that your
bedroom isn't set to the right temperature. "A bedroom environment that is too hot can promote middle of the night awakenings," Dr. Robbins says. "The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees. Turn down your thermostat for best rest." Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
Stress is another major reason people wake up at night. "We all have a bad night here and there, particularly if you have a major event the next day,"
behavioral psychologist and sleep expert Dr. Sara Nowakowski, tells Bustle. "For example, you have an early flight to catch, and you are worried you are going to oversleep, or you have an exam or work presentation the next day. In this case, increasing stress coping like practicing relaxation or meditation may help alleviate stress as well as sleep disruption."
You're Drinking Too Much Caffeine
That afternoon cup of coffee may have seemed necessary at the time, but it can lead to nighttime awakenings. "Your body clears about half of the caffeine in your system every four to seven hours,"
Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, tells Bustle. "Although most of the coffee from your day is out of your system by bedtime, some caffeine may still be present at night, even if you drink caffeine in the morning."
Your Medication Is Interfering With Your Sleep
"Medication is another contributor to sleep disruption," Dr. Nowakowski says. "Certain heart, blood pressure, asthma, and antidepressant medication, as well as over-the-counter medications for colds and allergies are known to disrupt sleep." If you are unsure if a medicine affects you, keep track of your symptoms, dosage, and timing of when you take your medicine, and speak with your doctor. "Sometimes just altering the time you take a medication can alleviate or minimize sleep disruption," Dr. Nowakowski says.
You're Using Electronics Too Close To Bedtime
If you're in the habit of playing with your phone or streaming TV shows before bed, you may want to put the electronics away. "When we are exposed to bright lights at night, our brain is tricked into thinking it is still daytime outside," Dr. Kansagra says. "This leads to a suppression of the brain’s natural sleep hormone known as melatonin. Shutting off your devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime and keeping all devices out of your bedroom is the best solution."
You Worked Out Too Close To Bedtime
Regular exercise can help with sleep, but you want to make sure you don't go too hard too close to bedtime. "Our bodies like to be cool when we transition from an awake state to a sleep state," Dr. Kansagra says. "Vigorous exercise can raise the body temperature long after you’ve finished working out. If you exercise late and have difficulty falling and staying asleep, consider moving your workout to earlier in your day."
Although alcohol may initially help you fall asleep faster, ultimately it can negatively interfere with your sleep cycle. "High doses of alcohol are followed later in the night by withdrawal, which causes frequent arousals and lighter sleep in the second half of the night, and may result in an early morning awakening without sufficient rest," Dr. Kansagra says. "Alcohol can also worsen existing sleep disorders and may even cause new disorders, such as sleep apnea."
You May Have Sleep Apnea
Your frequent night awakenings may be an indication that you have
a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea . "Bed partners may observe snoring or pauses in breathing," psychiatrist and sleep medicine doctor Alex Dimitriu, MD, tells Bustle. "I often ask my patient to use an app called 'SnoreLab' which records audio all night. This way you can see how much you snore, or what noises etc., happened right before you woke up."
There are many reasons you could be waking up at night, but try to track your habits and see what could possibly be going on in your body that would disrupt your sleep.