To be clear, that doesn’t mean waking up with stay Waking up or struggling to fall asleep again must be normal. But a few middle-of-the-night awakenings occur naturally as a product of our sleep architecture, meaning how we cycle between stages of sleep throughout the night. “The sleep cycle lasts from 90 to 120 minutes, including the time it takes to switch from light sleep to deep sleep and then enter REM sleep,” says Dr. Peters. “When the REM period ends, the person will wake up for a short time.”
Why waking up a few times in the middle of the night is normal and won’t affect your sleep quality
Do the math, and you’ll find that in a typical seven to eight hour sleep, there’s room for three to five cycles of complete sleep—which can also mean, depending on the above, two to four awakenings between them. Additionally, it’s also common for people to wake up very briefly from light sleep as often as 20 to 30 (!!) times a night, says neurologist and sleep specialist W. Chris Winter, MD, a sleep consultant. at Sleep.com by the author. of Sleep Solution.
“It is possible to wake up and roll over, adjust the covers, or even have a brief conversation with someone, and not remember it in the morning.” -Brandon Peters, MD, neurologist and sleep specialist
That number may seem impossible, especially if you are someone who considers themselves a good sleeper. But in most cases, this normal excitement is so brief or non-eventful that we don’t remember it. “If the awakening is less than five minutes long, there will be no memory of it,” says Dr. Peters. “It is also possible to roll, adjust the covers, or even have a short conversation with someone, and not remember in the morning.”
Lo and behold, when I recently looked at my hypnogram for a night of sleep through Amazon Halo, I was surprised to see that the little line tracking my sleep had gone up multiple times on the chart, pointing to different wakes during the night—that I didn’t even remember. Although some awakenings were seen only following REM sleep (according to the pattern above), some may have been triggered by other factors, such as noise, light, or temperature changes, says Dr. Peters.
Anyway, Dr. Peters says that getting up a few times during the night is usually nothing to worry about and won’t negatively affect your sleep quality—even if you find yourself awake all night or getting out of bed every few minutes to, say, pee. What a wonder you can affecting your sleep quality is when you wake up in the middle of the night and start worrying about that fact.
What to do instead of worrying when you wake up in the middle of the night
It can be frustrating to find yourself awake, lying in bed and staring into the dark when you’d rather be catching those much needed zzz’s. “People tend to worry about waking up in the middle of the night, maybe because they fear the consequences of not sleeping,” says Dr. Winter. “Regulation is probably part of the reason for that, too,” he adds. “There is a desire to control sleep when we want it to happen and not to be stuck in a state of not being able to ‘do’ anything.”
But the act of worrying, being annoyed, or feeling any kind of way about waking up in the middle of the night can work against you. “If you have a bad night or two where you wake up and start worrying that you’ve woken up or worry more about whether you’ll sleep well the next night, that’s when you start putting pressure on yourself to sleep – which is the worst thing to do, because sleep can’t be forced,” says clinical psychologist and sleep expert Shelby Harris, PsyD, author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. In fact, you can end up to take care of himself a long time for negative effects.
Easier said than done when it comes to not worrying. But there are a few things you can do (and avoid doing) to calm down when you find yourself awake. First on the list: Don’t look at the clock. “Exploring time can cause an inappropriate emotional response,” says Dr. Peters. Focus on how you can see it’s 3am and then start stressing how this will affect you tomorrow. “This reaction can activate the fight-or-flight response, increasing the time to wake.”
“If you wake up at any time when the alarm hasn’t gone off, say to yourself, ‘OK! I go back to sleep,’ so that waking up is a relief, not an aggravation.” -Dr. Peters
To avoid that cycle, he recommends covering your watch as soon as you set your alarm to remind you not to look at the clock. Cover your phone, too, so you’re not tempted to grab it when you wake up and “go down the rabbit hole of activity that promotes wakefulness,” says Dr. Peters. Instead, whenever you wake up when the alarm doesn’t ring, say to yourself, ‘Good! I’m going back to sleep,’ says Dr. Peters, “so that waking up is a relief, not boring.”
If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep again, Dr. Peters suggests using a simple technique to distract your mind from your need for sleep to help sleep occur. One of his favorites? Come up with a word for each letter, starting at the end of the alphabet, and then write it forwards and backwards. For example, you might start with “zebra,” writing it forward and backward before moving on to “yellow.” This provides enough mental stimulation to distract yourself from anxiety, but not enough to keep you awake for long.
And like you do it If you notice that you’re still awake after ten or fifteen minutes, sleep expert Rebecca Robbins, PhD, recommends actually getting out of bed so you don’t start making the bed a place to stay awake, instead of sleeping. “Try doing something mindless. Fold your clothes, put away your dishes, or read a few pages of a boring book. And then when you’re tired, go back and start the process again,” Dr. Robbins previously told Well+Good.
When waking up at night can negatively affect your sleep
Although, again, waking up in the middle of the night several times (and for a few minutes each time) is normal, if it happens frequently or for a longer period of time, it can affect the quality of your sleep. There is no specific number of awakenings that are indicative of a problem, but Dr. Winter says to look at the increase in numbers from your base.
That’s also especially worrying if you’re not already getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, given that waking up will reduce your total sleep time even more, says Dr. Peters. “This wake-up time can also be important,” he adds. “Waking up early in the night may have little effect, but waking up near the morning, when the sleep drive has decreased, can make it difficult to fall asleep again, and end the night’s sleep suddenly.”
In general, however, the surest indicator that your waking up at night may be a problem with your sleep is if you find that you are falling asleep during the day, says Dr. Winter. That’s when it might be time to think about how you can improve your bedroom environment for sleep. “Cool the room [to around 67° F, ideally]reduce noise, block light, remove electronics, and keep pets and children away,” says Dr. Peters.
If you’re still experiencing frequent or prolonged middle-of-the-night awakenings and feel sleepy during the day, it would be wise to consult a sleep specialist, says Dr. Winter, only if a sleep condition such as insomnia, nocturia, or frequent motion sickness may be to blame.
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