Why do I wake up at the same time very night? Dangerous condition could be to blame
Head down, phone away, lights off, you settle in for an early night; a chance to catch up on some much-needed shut-eye for a bright start in the morning.
Then your eyes spring open in the middle of the night. You’ve not looked at the clock yet but in your heart, you know that it’s the same time you’ve been waking up at for weeks.
The good news is that you’re not alone, with countless other poor souls bolting wide awake each night.
While you might be able to predict what time you’ll wake up every night, it’s likely that others have their own special time that regularly ruins their beauty sleep.
Why do I keep waking up in the night?
Speaking to Cleveland Clinic, Alexa Kane PsyD, made it clear that the time you wake up doesn’t matter.
She said: “At one point, you may have had a reason to wake up at that time, maybe in response to sleep apnea or a crying baby. Your body may have become conditioned to it.”
But this isn’t thought to be a sign of insomnia, nor does it necessarily mean you’re a bad sleeper, provided you manage to get back to sleep easily afterwards.
When does waking up in the night become a problem?
Waking up in the night isn’t necessarily a problem. The issue comes from waking up in the night and staying awake.
Dr Alexa Kane said: “If you wake up and begin to experience worry, anxiety or frustration, you likely have activated your sympathetic nervous system, your ‘fight-or-flight’ system.
“When this happens, your brain switches from sleep mode to wake mode. Your mind may start to race, and your heart rate and blood pressure may go up. That makes it much harder to get back to sleep.”
This stress can lead to insomnia, which is a fully recognised sleep disorder.
It could also be a symptom of sleep apnoea, which can lead to people stopping breathing in their sleep.
This condition is obviously likely to wake you up but can also limit the flow of oxygen to your lungs and subsequently the rest of your body, disrupting the rhythm of your heart.
Some other symptoms of sleep apnoea include sudden jolts awake often accompanied by the feeling of being desperate for air, snoring, fatigue and daytime tiredness.
Dr Kane said: “If you have these symptoms, see a physician sleep expert. Untreated sleep apnoea can cause heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other health problems.”
What should you do if you wake up in the night?
If you wake up in the night, it is best to give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to try and doze back off.
If you don’t end up falling back to sleep within this time, then the best thing to do is actually get up.
Dr Alexa Kane said: “Our brains are highly associative. That means if we stay in bed for a long time when not sleeping, our brains can associate the bed with wakeful activities like worrying and planning, instead of sleep. Getting out of bed breaks that association.”
She added: “Relaxation exercises can help you shut off your body’s fight-or-flight response and activate a rest-and-digest response. When your body calms down and you feel sleepy again, head back to bed.”