If you have no trouble falling asleep but find yourself randomly waking up in the middle of the night for seemingly no reason at all, you're not alone. In fact, it isn't unusual or concerning, as long as you're able to fall right back to sleep. "It's normal to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle, typically every 90 to 120 minutes during the night," Brandon Peters, MD, who specialises in sleep medicine at Virginia Mason Medical Centre in Seattle, WA, told POPSUGAR. "If less than five minutes, these awakenings may not even be remembered."
If you're awake longer than that — especially if it happens more than three or four times a night or leaves you feeling really groggy the next day — it's important that you get to the bottom of it. "The most common causes of abnormal, sudden awakenings from sleep include sleep apnea and environmental noise," Dr. Peters said. But there are a number of other factors that play a part in waking us up.
Having a glass of wine before bed can disrupt your sleep (and make you more likely to need to use the bathroom during the night), and even conditions like anxiety and depression can cause you to toss and turn, according to Alex Dimitriu, MD, a double board-certified physician in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, CA. The good news is there are some simple solutions that can help you get more sleep.
How Can I Stop Waking Up at Night?
If you're concerned that you may have sleep apnea — which can cause you to snore or gasp in your sleep, among other symptoms — it's important that you talk to your doctor, who can set you up with a specialist to get diagnosed and treated properly. "Treatments may include a breathing device called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, an oral appliance from a specialty dentist, surgery, weight loss, and other interventions," Dr. Peters said. For environmental noises — like the TV blaring from your neighbour's apartment, just above your bedroom — a white noise machine can help create a familiar background noise that your brain associates with sleep.
When it comes to alcohol, Dr. Dimitriu recommends cutting yourself off a few hours before bedtime to prevent symptoms of withdrawal, which can both keep you from falling asleep and wake you up during the night. If you find that you wake up to use the bathroom in the wee hours, you might not be sleeping as deeply as you think, possibly due to one of the above factors. "When the body is in deep sleep, it produces an antidiuretic hormone, which makes it possible to go seven to eight hours a night without using the bathroom," Dr. Dimitriu told POPSUGAR. "When sleep is disrupted, this hormone is, too, and people will wake up needing to use the bathroom. But it's not the bathroom break that awoke them, it's that they may not have been in deep sleep."
If you're exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how to get the help and resources you need to feel better and sleep more peacefully. "Depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea are known to cause early morning insomnia," Dr. Dimitriu said. If this is happening to you frequently, it's worth doing a little digging to rule out one of these conditions.