10 Reasons You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night
When a bad dream isn’t to blame, consider one of these less obvious reasons you can’t sleep through the night.
Your skin is itchy and irritated
Got eczema? The irritating skin condition can jeopardize your sleep. “This disease can have a serious impact on patients’ quality of life and overall health, both physically and mentally,” says Jonathan Silverberg, MD, an assistant professor in dermatology, medical social sciences, and preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He notes that eczema can bring about immune system changes and inflammatory responses that impede sleep. Plus, it’s common for eczema patients’ itching to get worse in the evening, rendering them unable to fall asleep well or wake up often. If your eczema might be affecting your ability to sleep well, it’s a good idea to discuss treatment options with your doctor. If you keep waking up in the middle of the night, your brain could be in trouble.
Your legs are twitchy
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about one in ten Americans have RLS, a sleep-related movement disorder that is “known best for its overwhelming and often unpleasant urges to move the legs while at rest.” The Foundation notes that RLS symptoms tend to be most prominent in the evening, waking you up regularly and interfering with your sleep quality. Interestingly, a recent finding out of Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas discovered a possible link between common allergy medications and increased RLS symptoms. According to William Ondo, MD, a neurologist at Houston Methodist, “Patients with restless legs syndrome already have difficulty sleeping as their symptoms tend to worsen at night or with rest, but sedating antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can intensify the symptoms.” A doctor can assess any medications you take or test for vitamin deficiencies that could be making your RLS symptoms worse.
Your bedroom is too hot
Room temperature and a good night’s sleep are inextricably linked. Your body needs a dip in body temperature to cue the onset of sleep; a too-warm room can make you struggle to fall or stay asleep, or make you wake up in the middle of the night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping in a cool room that’s approximately 65 degrees. Their experts maintain that this temperature is typically conducive to a restful night. However, they also suggest experimenting: Various settings affect people differently, so find a temperature on the cool side that’s best for you.
Your mattress is firm (VERY firm)
Pete Bils, a vice president of sleep science and research with Sleep Number,® says that it’s a common myth that a firmer mattress and better sleep go hand in hand. “The ability to have the mattress conform to your body is important to maintain proper head, neck and shoulder alignment,” Bils says. “Mattresses that are overly firm create high pressure points in the hips and shoulders and poor support in the lower back, which leads to tossing and turning to relieve those pressure points—and thus a restless night of sleep.” Don’t select your mattress based on the long-held notion that “firmer is better.” Most people wait way too long to replace their mattress; if you’re in the market for a new mattress, take your time to do research and find a level of firmness that feels truly comfortable. Take stores and companies up on their offer to test the mattress in your home for a period of time; if you find you’re not sleeping well, keep playing Goldilocks. These are nine myths about sleep you need to stop believing if you want to have a great night’s rest.
You have sleep apnea (but you might not even know)
If you wake up often throughout the night, it’s possible that you may have these symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. This condition usually involves loud snoring, often coupled with moments of sporadic pauses of breathing during sleep. It occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax to the point of not being able to get a proper breath back in. Your brain picks up on this breathing problem and, in an attempt to appropriately open your airway, wakes you from your slumber. What results is often a loud snore or snort during this reawaking episode. This happens so often that you end up experiencing numerous waking moments instead of the solid night’s sleep you need.
Speak with your doctor if you suspect you have obstructive sleep apnea—or if your bedmate insists you do! They may refer you to a sleep specialist who may perform blood-oxygen level tests while you sleep or engage in a home sleep test to monitor things like your breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and heart rate. You should also make sure you know these 12 sleep disorders that aren’t sleep apnea that could be keeping you awake at night.
You’re stressing out big time
This isn’t exactly surprising, but stress is such an important contributor to insomnia that it’s absolutely worth including. If you’re constantly worrying, whether it’s about your job, finances, the upcoming election, or a future vacation (yes, happy occasions can also cause stress), chances are, you’re experiencing your share of waking up in the middle of the night. To reduce stress, try to squeeze in more regular exercise—even a 10-minute walk during lunch or after dinner can help.
You keep going to the bathroom
The need to pee in the middle of the night can definitely be part of the reason why you don’t get much sleep. But having to use the bathroom every single night could be the result of more than just drinking lots of water before bed. Having the constant urge to break your sleep cycle and pee could mean one of several medical issues.
You have alcohol in your system
Studies about the connection between sleep and drinking alcohol have been pulled together and reviewed in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal. A comprehensive analysis found that drinking alcohol can shorten the time it takes for you to fall asleep, but the amount of time you get to sleep is disrupted. Your sleep cycle starts in non-rapid eye movement sleep and then goes into a short period of rapid eye movement sleep. By drinking alcohol, you’ll spend more time in a deep sleep rather than in REM sleep. REM sleep, which takes up 20 to 25 percent of your sleep, helps with concentration, memory, and motor skills. All which can be affected negatively if you don’t get enough of it. These are 13 secrets doctors want you to know about getting better sleep.
You had too much screen time
Your sleep schedule could be seriously messed up if you like to scroll through your phone right before bed. “Exposing eyes to light during the evening stops the body from making melatonin, the sleep hormone,” Richard L. Hansler, PhD, of John Carroll University told Prevention.com. Getting onto Instagram or Twitter on your phone right before bed. A study from Michigan State University even saw that people who used their phones after 9 p.m. were more fatigued the next day at work.
You sleep with a pet
Having someone or something to cuddle with when you go to bed is always nice. But sleeping with a furry friend can actually be disrupting your sleep, especially if you’re sleeping with a cat. A Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorder study found that 20 percent of patients who let their pet sleep with them didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Instead of going to bed with your pet, try adapting one of these sleep habits of some of the most successful people.