How Can I Stop Waking Up At 3 AM?

Night waking is not only a major annoyance - it can also be a symptom of a larger problem that is going on. While it can most often be rectified by simple lifestyle adjustments to improve the quality of your sleep and your circadian rhythms, there are also some legitimate medical causes. Here's what you need to know if you're waking up at 3 AM.


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Causes of Night Waking

Night waking can be the result of a whole host of reasons. Some issues may be medical and need a doctor to pinpoint, while others are simply a result of unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Caffeine is a major culprit, and the stimulant effects can last for quite awhile after ingestion. Sugar can have a similar stimulant effect. Even alcohol consumption, which is typically classified as a depressant, actually acts as a stimulant several hours after drinking. If you have a drink before bed, it may cause you to feel sleepy initially, but can wake you back up a few hours later.


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Light is also a huge sleep buster. It can either be due to the lack of it (you should get 20 minutes of sunlight per day) or too much of it (electronics such as computers, phones, tablets, and televisions emit blue light, which interferes with your body's sleep cycles).

Finally, there are medical conditions which cause night waking. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common offenders. Sleep apnea - frequent pauses in your breathing pattern while you sleep - can also cause night waking.

Costs of Night Waking

Night waking is not only exhausting, but it can compound to cause bigger problems. If night waking is not solved and you continue to be deprived of sleep, you can suffer from poor immunity (you will get sick more often), low cognitive function, be more prone to accident or injury, and even be at higher risk for heart disease or diabetes.


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How Can I Stop Waking Up at 3 AM?

There are several things you can do to combat night waking. Most of them involve activities that will improve the overall quality of your sleep and set your circadian rhythms into a healthy pattern. Good, quality sleep usually eliminates the body's tendency to wake in the middle of the night.


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  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Do not drink alcohol before bedtime.
  • Avoid late-night sugar.
  • Don't look at screens or electronics for two hours before bed. Or, if you do, wear orange-tinted glasses that filter the blue light.
  • Avoid afternoon naps.
  • Get at least 20 minutes of natural, unfiltered sunlight per day.
  • Take 3 mg of melatonin about 20 minutes before bedtime.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime schedule.
  • Honor your body's signals and head to bed as soon as you begin to feel drowsy.
  • Keep your bedroom cool.
  • Talk with your doctor about your night waking to see if it is a side effect of your medication, if you show other symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if it can be attributed to other medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

If you struggle with night waking, insomnia, or other sleep issues, depression or anxiety may be the cause. Oftentimes, these issues present themselves in unexpected ways and sleep disturbances are one of them. Consider counseling to help you overcome these issues and watch your restful sleep return. BetterHelp offers convenient online counseling so you don't even have to leave your home to access it!


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