Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It)

Advertising
Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It)

Why is a good night of sleep so hard to achieve?

A bad night of sleep is cumulative. The side effects of a poor night of sleep carry over into the entire day leaving your brain running off fumes feeling fatigued, unable to focus and unproductive. It’s frustrating trying to get tasks done when your brain is screaming at you to just fall flat onto your desk and just “take 5.”

If you’re someone who finds themselves waking up at odd hours of the night with difficulty getting back to sleep or waking up not feeling refreshed and energized, then listen up because these next sections are for you.

In this article, we’re going to dive into some of the most common reasons why you’re not getting a good night of sleep and what you can start doing about it.

Is it normal to wake up in the middle of the night?

Shouldn’t we always sleep eight hours straight through the night?

It’s actually not uncommon for someone to wake up in the middle of the night, even 3-4 times a night. The normal human cycle of sleep is roughly every 90-120 minutes. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert, most people will go through three to four “cycles” of sleep per night.

Towards the end of each cycle, sleep is less deep and you have a higher likelihood of being woken up. Sometimes we are unaware that we are even awake because we just fall right back to sleep, which is normal. This may be the main reason why many people rarely have true uninterrupted eight hours of sleep.

This becomes a problem when we have difficulty getting back to sleep. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep, it could be a sign of an issue that may need to be addressed.

Waking up at the same time every night?

If you find yourself waking up at nearly the same time every single night, don’t panic. This may actually be a sign of a healthy and dependable sleep cycle. Many people tend to find they most commonly wake up in between cycles roughly 4-6 hours from when they went to bed.

This infographic illustrates what parts of your body maybe unhealthy based on the time you wake up at night:[1]

Advertising

    If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with consistent difficulty getting back to sleep, this could be a warning signal that you may need to make a change to your sleep habits using some of the strategies below.

    Why am I waking up in the middle of the night? (And ways to tackle it)

    There are several reasons that may be the cause of why you are waking up in the middle of the night. Let’s take a look at the top 5 most common reasons why:

    1. You’re taking your stress to bed

    Maybe you had a rough day at the office or have other form of stress. Stress doesn’t take a rest when you do. Often times, stress travels with you back to your home and eventually into your sleep unless you deal with it. If you don’t properly handle your stress, you end up lying in bed mulling over your stress for hours, whether you are consciously aware of this happening or not.

    Have you ever found yourself in bed trying to sleep, only to be still thinking about the argument you had or the meeting that you wish went better?

    Our brain tends to ruminate over our stress and it can end up keeping us from deep sleep because of it or it wakes us up in the middle of the night. When you mull over your stress, you are subtly keeping your brains in a state of “fight-or-flight”. When your brain is in a fight-or-flight mode, it has an extremely tough time falling asleep.

    What to do?

    If you find yourself taking your stress to bed or waking up in the middle of the night stressed, a simple strategy to practice is box-breathing. Box-breathing is a powerful strategy that helps calm the stress signals in your brain so that it can begin to fall asleep and stay asleep.

    It’s a modern spin on “counting sheep.” With box breathing, you will count the same time on your inhale, hold at the top, exhale and hold at the bottom. It will look something like this: (you will be in bed for this)

    • Inhale for 4 seconds
    • Hold at the top of the inhale for 4 seconds
    • Exhale for 4 seconds
    • Hold at the bottom of the exhale for 4 seconds.

    This simple strategy can help you release stress from the day so that you can step into a great night of deep sleep.

    2. Bad sleep foods

    A critical hormone in regulating sleep that you may be familiar with is a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin levels rise in your body roughly 2 hours before bedtime, triggering tiredness and sleepiness, then lowers throughout the night until you wake up.

    It’s important to know that melatonin is conversely related to cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. So as melatonin goes up, cortisol goes down and we sleep. As melatonin goes down and cortisol goes up, we wake up.

    Advertising

    Having too much cortisol in our body, especially as we get towards the end of the day, can have a negative impact on our sleep and can keep us waking up in the middle of the night when we really should be sleeping.

    You may be surprised to find there are many everyday foods that we are eating that are triggering a stress response in our brain by creating inflammation. Our brain is extremely sensitive to inflammation and inflammation will leave the brain more sensitive to stress.

    Some of the tops foods that may be wrecking your sleep could be:

    • Trans-Fat – Trans-Fat is a highly processed and highly inflammatory fat source that you should avoid at all costs if you want a good night sleep.
    • Highly processed vegetable oils – Oils like Safflower, Palm, and Canola oil have a few issues. First, they typically oxidize extremely quickly. Oxiditation is a form of “rusting” in fats. When these oils get heated, they “rust” very quickly which creates an inflammatory response in the body. Second, these oils are typically loaded with toxins from their processing which also makes them very inflammatory.
    • Fruit juices and yogurts – These are typically marketed as healthy foods but in reality, they are full of sugar which can disrupt healthy sleep.
    • Alcohol  – Alcohol has been seen as a way to calm down after a long day and many believe it helps them get a good night sleep. It turns out that alcohol actually does more harm than good. Alcohol has been shown to increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep and also increases cortisol levels.[2]

    What to do?

    Make sure to get rid of these foods especially before bed to avoid any interruptions in your sleep.

    3. Electronics before bed

    Our modern technology has made accessing our favorite social media, movies and T.V. episodes available at arms reach 24 hours a day. It turns out that this advancement in technology may be negatively impacting our brain’s ability to sleep optimally.

    Light from LED screens like your smartphone, computer and television has a high density of blue spectrum light.

    Your brain is very familiar with blue light. It’s most familiar with blue light around noon when the sun emits the most amount of blue light. Blue light is an important spectrum of light that helps our brains determine what time of day it is.

    When blue light is highest around noon, it helps the brain calibrate it’s circadian rhythm to the correct time of day so that we’ll be ready for bed at the appropriate time in the evening.

    Getting blue light from your smartphones or T.V. before bed can unknowingly be triggering your brain to think it’s actually earlier in the day than it truly is, which can inadvertently be affecting your circadian rhythm and optimal sleep.

    What to do?

    Advertising

    Avoid all electronics use at least an hour before bedtime to avoid unnatural blue light and allow your brain to start to calm down so you can get great sleep.

    4. Working until bedtime

    You only have 24 hours in a day so you want to maximize it. Sometimes that means working late into the night. As soon as you shut down your computer or finish the call, you hop into bed, hoping to get some reprieve and recovery from the day.

    When the brain is actively engaged in mental activities or work, the brain is typically generating “beta” brain waves. Brain waves are what keep us focused and alert to the task at hand, but unfortunately being alert and focused does not lead to great sleep. It takes time for the brain to transition from an alert phase to the rest phase.

    What to do?

    The key is to give the brain a “cue” that work is over and it’s time to make a switch to a relaxed state so that we can begin the process to unwind and eventually sleep.

    Some cues you can use to tell your brain it’s time to unwind are:

    • Shut everything off and begin to take 20 slow deep breathes.
    • Read a fiction book.
    • Take a hot shower.
    • Watch an episode of your favorite show, just make sure it’s at least an hour until you go to bed.
    • Play some relaxing music

    Use whatever works best for you but the key is to stay consistent. The more consistent you are with your cues, the better the brain gets at making the transition from work to relaxation.

    5. Not making a sleep routine

    Your brain loves routine. There’s a saying in neuroscience that says “The Brain Wires The Way It Fires,” meaning the more the brain engages in the same activity or habit, the more wiring the brain lays down make it easier and simpler for the brain to accomplish.

    When it comes to getting great sleep, having a “sleep routine” is crucial to helping the brain relax from the day and begin to set the stage for a great night sleep.

    Think about the last time you went to workout, did you arrive at the gym and immediately start throwing weights around or start running? Of course not. You warmed up (hopefully) and got your body prepared to workout.

    Think of your sleep routine as a warm-up for your brain to get ready for sleep. The only difference is that the more you “warm-up” with your sleep routine, the better the brain gets.

    Advertising

    What to do?

    The best way to get started is to set a specific time every night, typically an hour before bedtime, where you’ll commit to shutting down work and electronics to transition into your sleep routine. Whatever routine you chose, make sure to stick to it for a few weeks to give your brain time to adapt to the new schedule.

    If you’re looking for a good night routine to follow, here it is: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    Your blueprint for “lights out” sleep

    If you want to be able to stay productive and have incredible amounts of energy, you’re going to need great quality sleep.

    Not sure where to get started?

    Here’s your blueprint to help you get an amazing night of sleep and keep you from waking up in the middle of the night.

    1. Create a great sleep routine and stick to it.
    2. Write down everything you need to do the next day so you can get it off your mind and let your brain relax.
    3. Avoid the sleep trouble foods, especially before bedtime.
    4. Turn your TV, phone and computer off before bed.
    5. Stop working at least an hour before bedtime to allow your brain to make the transition to get ready for bed.
    6. Get to bed at a good time.

    These strategies will help you not only get a great night of sleep but will also help keep you from waking up in the middle of the night restless and unable to get back to sleep.

    Sleep well, my friends!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr Brady Salcido

    Dr Brady is a Doctor, Podcast Host, and Brain Optimization Expert sharing how you can use your lifestyle to upgrade your life.

    Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It) 10 Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Brain Power and Focus Stress and meditation Anxiety Help Through Meditation: How the ‘Here and Now’ Enhances Your Life Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brain Health And Brain Power Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart

    Trending in Sleep & Rest

    1 Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning 2 Revenge of the Lack of Sleep 3 Why You Can’t Pay off a Sleep Debt You’ve Accumulated Over the Week 4 Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters 5 How a Power Nap Can Boost Your Energy And Productivity

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 7, 2021

    Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

    Advertising
    Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery

    Immunity truly does encapsulate the entire physiology of a person.

    When you target your immunity by eating a variety of immune boosting foods, then you really can improve your entire body, both physically and mentally.

    The immune system of a human being involves all aspects of one’s physiology and one’s daily experience. Eating certain foods can boost your health in a variety of ways. Below I outline several foods that will get you back on track if you’re feeling under the weather.

    In order to even broach the topic of foods good for one’s immune system, it’s important to consider all aspects of the human body and experience.

    What I mean by the human experience is one’s day to day mood, energy levels, and many other factors that signify how one engages with themselves and the world around them.

    Before indulging in these foods below, I suggest striving for consistency with diet, activity levels, rest, and incorporating the practice of meditation or spending time in nature as part of your daily routine as well.

    If you’re ready to feel better, not just when you’re under the weather but all the time incorporate these foods in your diet regularly.

    Be sure to stock up on these foods if you’re in need of a boost.

    1. Water is a Wise Choice

    Yes I know I’m starting things seemingly simple, but one of my most popular YouTube videos discusses the importance of water!

    When I ask people how much water they drink a day, the majority of time the answer begins with ‘not enough’.

    So if you know you don’t drink enough water, why continue this pattern of behavior?

    Now if you’re one that does hit that 5+ and more (pending activity levels) 8oz glasses a day – good for you! Water is life, and that’s where I’ll leave it.

    2. Eggs — The Most Complete Protein

    Widely regarded as the universally most complete nutritional protein source, eggs are packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and 9 essential amino acids.

    Egg whites are rich in Vitamins D/E/K, B2, B5, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.

    Advertising

    Meanwhile, egg yolks pack the calories and fats along with cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin.

    It’s important to note that the average medium egg contains 76 calories, 7.5g protein, 5.1g fat, 1.4g sat fat – so consider this while integrating this near perfect super food in your next dish!

    3. Raw Spinach Supports Immunity

    This leafy green is a personal favorite of mine due to its versatility and great taste!

    Spinach is loaded with vitamin C which helps fight cold, flu, and reinforce the immune system.

    It’s also quite high in antioxidants and beta-carotene, which supports our immune system in fighting infection and viruses.

    When enjoying this plentiful plant, do so raw. Its nutrients are best absorbed when the vegetable is raw; consider adding spinach as a fresh salad, rather than to a cooked dish, to reap the most immune system rewards.

    4. Turmerics Benefit on T-Cells

    Gaining popularity for its delicious taste, this powerful spice is also gaining notoriety for its anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin (which also creates the vibrant orange-yellow color).

    A study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology notes that curcumin activates the production of T-cells, which are of the primary cells fighting on behalf of your systems immunity. [1]

    5. Garlic is Really Good for You

    This popular food not only tastes great but packs quite a punch.

    Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which boasts a variety of medicinal properties. Garlic is also not very calorie dense; 1 ounce yields about 42 calories with 1.8g protein and 9g carbs.

    Garlic also boasts Vitamin C, B6, Fiber, and Manganese.

    The properties mentioned above helps maintain healthy bones, prevent diabetes and epileptic seizures, regulate thyroid, combat osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, improve cognitive function, and regulate glucose metabolism!

    So, forget about garlic breath–eat this food in abundance!

    6. Wild Salmon is Wonderful

    A personal favorite of mine, wild Alaskan salmon is one of those super foods that covers all your nutrient bases!

    Advertising

    Salmon can be cooked a variety of delicious ways, and yields some of the highest immune system boosting benefits.

    Salmon contains fish oil Omega-3’s, which protect against developing heart disease and heart attack. Oils contained within such fish are quite unique in that they have Omega-3 fatty acids that are not present in any other food.

    Also consider that wild salmon contains (per 4oz) 128% Vitamin D, 95% Vitamin B12, 94% tryptophan, 62% selenium, 53% protein, 53% omega 3’s, 45% Vitamin B3, 37% phosphorus, 32% Vitamin B6, 19% choline, 14% potassium, and 8%(157) calories.

    This is one of those super foods that you could stand to have in your diet several times per week. Beyond the incredible taste, its nutritional benefits make it well worth seeking out.

    7. Essential Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Many home cooks consider this an essential ingredient in preparing dinner. But it’s also quite good for you!

    Extra virgin olive oil is widely regarded as being a healthy addition to any kitchen, with modest amounts of Vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.

    Per 100g of olive oil you can expect 14% saturated fat, 73% Monounsaturated fat, 10% Omega-6, 1% Omega-3, 72%, and 75% Vitamin K.

    It also boasts an impressive antioxidant profile. This includes the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

    8. Natural Greek Yogurt Has Many Benefits

    When I talk about natural Greek yogurt, I mean the type that is not flavored in any way. Those added sugars won’t help boost immunity.

    Many people have convoluted the immunity and health benefits of natural yogurt with the all too popular sugary treats that flood grocery stores. But it’s the plain stuff that’s the best to include in your diet.

    Natural Greek yogurt not only goes great with many dishes, but it contains vast amounts of protein which will leave you feeling satisfied.

    The reason why I’ve specified ‘Greek yogurt’ is because one cup of plain, low-fat conventional yogurt typically has 5 to 10 grams of protein, where Greek yogurt averages about 13 to 20 grams of protein.

    Greek yogurt also contains essential probiotics (live microorganisms). These are bacteria microbes that help improve digestive function, the immune system, and overall gut health.

    Add natural Greek yogurt to your diet, whether as a breakfast food, a substitute for sour cream, or as an addition to a healthy smoothie.

    Advertising

    9. Ginseng Tea — Chock Full of Ginsenosides

    Ginseng tea’s primary health benefits are due to the naturally occurring chemicals called ginsenosides present in the root.

    One of ginseng’s most widely understood benefits include it’s rich anti-cancer properties. [2]

    Studies also indicate that people who drink ginseng tea have a lower risk of developing cancer.

    Ginseng tea can also help relieve menstrual cramps, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function; and it has also been shown to help with sexual (erectile) dysfunction in men.

    10. Green Tea Fights Aging

    Just as powerful as ginseng tea, this extremely popular tea is rich in polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and aiding in the fight against cancer.

    Green tea is in fact 30% polyphenols, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that aid in the prevention of cell damage and provide several other benefits.

    EGCG, and substances like it can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, helping protect cells and molecules from damage.

    Free radicals such as these are commonly known to play a role in aging and all sorts of other diseases.

    This wonderful also tea contains small quantities of minerals that are important for overall health, so it may be worth picking up some green tea when visiting your next local tea shop.

    11. Dark Chocolate — The Delicious Superfood

    Don’t get too excited with this one – everything in moderation, of course!

    And I’m not just referring to any chocolate — I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate and cacoa nibs, which are both immune system boosting super foods.

    We’ve already covered free radicals in this article, and dark chocolate is one of those wonderful super foods that helps fight against such free radicals.

    It does this with its high antioxidant profile which is believed to neutralize free radicals and protect the body from their damage.

    Dark chocolate’s antioxidants include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – helpful plant compounds. Much like other immune boosting foods on this list dark chocolate will also help balance cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve heart health, and cognitive function.

    Advertising

    You now have a healthy excuse to eat some dark chocolate; but, go for the lowest sugar and highest cocoa content varieties you can find to reap the most rewards.

    12. Frozen Blueberries for All!

    Personally I love adding frozen blueberries to smoothies; however, sometimes I’ll pop over to the freezer just to grab a small handful as a treat!

    Frozen blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, which come from compounds called anthocyanins; these give blueberries their purple hue.

    One really neat fact about the ice crystals that form when the berries are frozen is that they disrupt the structure of the plant tissue and make anthocyanins even more available – how cool is that? Talk about hacking blueberries!

    Even if not frozen, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. They have been known to boost memory, cardiovascular system, and eyesight. The fruit also encourages a process called authophagy, or ‘cell clean-up’.

    Berries in general (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are extremely high on the ORAC scale. This means they contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants, which help to fight free radicals.

    Frozen blueberries in particular may aid in defending colds and flu, as they are high in pterostilbene.

    Next time you visit your local grocery store, consider how ideal blueberries are for your immune system and general health.

    13. Raw Honey — A Natural Antioxidant

    Saving the sweetest for last!

    Pure natural raw honey follows the rest of this super food list with its antioxidant profile, however it also contains antibacterial and anti fungal properties.

    Raw honey contains antioxidants called phenolic compounds, and certain types contain just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

    Raw honey can help the body kill-off unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, which is a strong antiseptic. Raw honey also contains phytonutrients, commonly found in plants, which provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

    Aside from these wonderful benefits, raw honey can also aid with digestive issues, however this typically varies person to person.

    Indulge in Better Health

    But also, don’t forget to rest! When considering one’s overall health, it’s important to not only incorporate these immune boosting foods, but also to ensure adequate sleep, and take efforts to reduce stress.

    Advertising

    Eating these immunity boosting foods will enable you to take back control of your health and prevent illness… all while satisfying your cravings!

    Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Journal of Immunology: Curcumin
    [2] NCBI: Ginseng for Fatigue

    Read Next