Sleep is pretty amazing. The joy of drifting off in crisp sheets, dreaming about pancakes or puppies… until something interrupts your peaceful slumber. If you keep waking up in the middle of the night, it can wreck your REM and leave you feeling grumpy and groggy in the morning.
But don’t worry. We’re here to open your eyes on how to get the best shut-eye.
11 tips to stop waking up in the middle of the night
Before you drift off again, peep these top tips to get an elite snooze.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule.
- Make sure your sleep space is cool and dark.
- Don’t force yourself to sleep if you’re not tired.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and read a book for 10–15 minutes.
- Do something gentle and relaxing before bed, like meditating.
- Limit screen time before you sleep.
- Exercise during the day, not right before bed.
- Limit caffeine to mornings.
- Don’t eat right before bed.
- Limit drinking late in the evening.
- If you smoke, try to quit.
If you’re waking up throughout the night, check your environment. There could be lifestyle factors affecting the quality of your sleep.
Chances are, you use your smartphone a lot. All day, every day. In fact, you’re likely reading this article on a phone right now. That’s great for keeping up with the latest TikTok trends, but looking at screens before you go to bed can cause problems with your circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock your body has that helps regulate sleep. The blue light frequency from your phone’s screen messes with your sleep pattern, and can even wake you up in the middle of the night. It can also make you less alert in the morning.
How to fix it: Avoid using your phone for at least an hour before bed, or try a blue light filter if it’s simply unavoidable.
Your core body temperature drops when you’re asleep. In earlier stages of your sleep cycle, you’re particularly sensitive to the temperature of your environment. This means you’ll often wake up before you get to the deeper, more beneficial stages of each cycle.
How to fix it: If you can, set your bedroom temperature so it’s nice and cool. Simply setting a fan on your nightstand can do wonders for nighttime heat. It also produces low, consistent white noise which can drown out distractions.
Eating large, rich meals too near your bedtime can agitate your gut and cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. While you’re trying to sleep, your body is busy digesting all that grub and it’s not shy about how it happens.
Simple gas can be enough to wake lighter sleepers while things like indigestion and acid reflux can be more disruptive to your sleep.
How to fix it: Avoid heavy meals an hour or 2 before bed. If you simply can’t resist that midnight meat feast pizza, prop yourself up with some pillows so you’re sleeping in a more elevated position. That’ll help food slide down rather than up.
You might feel like booze can help you drop off to sleep, but does it help you stay there? Not according to studies that link the sauce with all sorts of sleep-related woes. It can mess up your circadian rhythm, shorten your sleep cycles, and cause breathing issues like snoring or poor oxygen intake.
By drinking alcohol before bed, you’re trading a good night’s rest for reduced sleep quality overall.
How to fix it: In the long run, it’s a solid idea to limit the amount you drink for the few hours before bedtime.
If you’ve ruled out environmental factors and you’re still wondering why you keep waking up at night, the answer could be medical.
Studies link issues with the thyroid gland in your neck to a number of different sleep conditions. Hyperthyroidism, when your thyroid is overactive, seems to be the main culprit. However, hypothyroidism (an under-active gland) can be just as impactful.
Researchers don’t understand the exact mechanics of how the thyroid can interfere with sleep yet.
How to fix it: If you’re experiencing long-term issues with waking up in the middle of the night, asking your doc to check your thyroid function could help.
Sleep apnea is when someone has trouble breathing during the night or intermittently stops breathing altogether. Since this can be serious, it’s important to look for the signs. If you sleep with a spouse or partner, they might report irregular breathing or heavy snoring. If you sleep alone, you might find yourself waking up in the night gasping for air.
During the day, those with sleep apnea may experience drowsiness and morning headaches, which are also signs you should speak with your doctor.
How to fix it: A medical professional will often refer you for a night in a sleep clinic if they suspect you might have sleep apnea. Treatment may involve wearing a special mask when you sleep to regulate oxygen flow.
Restless leg syndrome
Research into restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, points to a mix of genetic and lifestyle factors. It comes with a restless, throbbing sensation in your lower extremities and can seriously mess with your sleep.
How to fix it: If you’re waking up in the night because of RLS, you might be given meds to relax your muscles or regulate your body’s dopamine levels. Depending on the severity, a few lifestyle changes, like taking a nice warm bath before you sleep, can ease symptoms.
Night terrors, or sleep terrors, are more common in children up to 7 years of age. In most cases, kids simply grow out of them. However, they’re still pretty scary while they last and can obviously wreak havoc on a whole family’s sleep pattern.
If night terrors persist into adulthood, research seems to show that grownups recall the content of these terrors better than kids. Not ideal.
How to fix it: A medical professional will be able to help you uncover and address the underlying issues behind what’s causing your night terrors.
Up to one-third of the U.S. population could end up dealing with insomnia at some point over the course of their lives. If you’re consistently waking up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, it’s possible you’re experiencing insomnia.
How to fix it: Thankfully, we’re living in a time when this condition can be diagnosed and treated more effectively. New therapies are entering clinical trials all the time.
Anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
As with insomnia, a lot of folks will deal with mental health challenges. Anxiety, depression, stress, and bipolar disorder are among the most common mental health issues which cut into sleep.
How to fix it: A medical professional will help you identify any changes which might address underlying issues and help you get a restful night’s sleep.
Frequent need to pee
In most cases, waking up to pee in the middle of the night isn’t a big deal. But if it’s happening regularly enough to impact your sleep schedule, there might be a medical reason, like:
Follow these 11 tips to net yourself a solid sleep pattern and stop waking up in the middle of the night.
1. Set a consistent sleep schedule
It’s called your circadian rhythm for a reason. Your body will thank you for sticking to roughly the same bedtime every night, and for setting your alarm to go off at the same time each morning.
2. Make sure your sleep space is ready
Your environment is a key factor in getting to sleep and staying there. Make sure it’s cool and dark, with soft white noise to block out any distractions.
3. Sleep when you’re tired
Don’t force yourself to sleep if you don’t need to. That risks messing up your sleep pattern and rarely results in good quality rest anyway. Let your body set the pace and gently guide it.
4. Learn to do a sleep reset
If you can’t go to sleep, get out of bed for 15 minutes and do something relaxing. Read, meditate, anything that doesn’t involve a screen. Then try sleeping again once you’ve reset.
5. Create yourself a bedtime ritual
Before you go to bed, get into the habit of doing something which soothes you. We’ve mentioned reading and meditation already, you might also want to listen to soft music.
6. Limit screen time
As mentioned, playing around on your phone before you sleep can mess with your body’s natural patterns. Try to avoid your phone for 2 hours before bed.
7. Exercise during the day
Exercise is good for tiring you out and promoting healthy sleep, but don’t do it right before you go to bed. The endorphin rush might keep you awake.
8. Limit caffeine to mornings
Drinking coffee or energy drinks too late in the day can make you jittery and stop you from drifting off to dreamland. If you enjoy them, try to stick to morning treats.
9. Don’t eat right before bed
Give your body time to digest food before you try and sleep. Ideally, leave 3 hours between dinnertime and bedtime.
10. Ease up on the booze
Alcohol isn’t a long-term solution to sleep problems. Try not to drink before you sleep, and look into other solutions to help you drift off.
11. Ditch the cigarettes
It’s no secret: smoking is bad for you. Not much of a controversial statement, but if you’re having sleep troubles it could help to cut down or quit altogether.
There are some scenarios that signal you should consult a medical professional.
- You keep waking up in the night over a period of weeks.
- You’re getting enough hours of sleep but still feel fatigued during the day.
- A partner or spouse observes symptoms of sleep apnea.
- A child experiences serious night terrors over a sustained period.
There’s a whole host of lifestyle, environmental, or medical reasons why you might be waking up in the middle of the night. For that very reason, it’s good to be proactive and find out what’s up ASAP. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get back to sleep.