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July 29, 2022

Sleep trivia: Waking up in the early hours at the same time

Sleep trivia: Waking up in the early hours at the same time

Have you ever noticed that there are times when you seem to wake up in the early hours at the same time every day? Every day. That’s a rhetorical question that you do not have to answer because we already know the answer is yes. Everyone has been through this.

With this subject, we start a new series here at Persono’s Blog: Sleep trivia.

Sleep has a lot of science involved, it’s true, but that is also why it is full of mysteries and makes us so curious.

Waking up during the night at the same time: why does it happen?

Contrary to popular belief, waking up in the early hours has no mystical, mythological or intuitive origins, nor involves the presence of ghosts or other beings in the room.

As with many aspects of sleep, waking up during the night every day has no single reason, but several possible causes. Some of them are behavioral and others are health-related.

But first of all, you can rest assured: waking up during the night is quite normal and usually not a cause for concern. It is so normal that it happens at least three times a week to almost 35% of the population. In another survey, nearly 70% of 11,000 respondents said they wake up at least once a night.

The figures may be even higher considering that we often do not remember these nightly awakenings the next morning. It happens, for example, in people with uncontrolled sleep apnea.

That said, let’s go to the different reasons that explain why you may wake up during the night at the same time.

Urination patterns

We always talk around here about the importance of regularity at bedtime – see how many times we’ve mentioned sleep hygiene. Depending on how it is structured, this routine can end up getting in your way. If you are one of those people who always wakes up at the early hours to go to the bathroom, this may be your case.

In general, it takes 45 minutes between drinking water and urinating, depending on your hydration level and physical condition. If you drink a lot of water before bed and always have to get up to empty your bladder, try anticipating that last glass or getting rid of it completely, eliminating the need to go to the bathroom during the night.

Your sleep will thank you.

Food

Let’s keep talking about nutrition, because the same applies to food. Going without food for a long time can make you wake up during the night, and the same can happen when eating too close to bedtime. In this case, it’s the reflux fault.

Now, your body always digests food at more or less the same rate. So it is expected that the small snack before going to bed may wake you up at the same time. The probability increases even more if that snack is heavy. 

Insomnia

Insomnia is not just having difficulty falling asleep, but also having difficulty staying asleep. Waking up during the night frequently can be a sign of a case of this sleep disorder.

Stress, anxiety or depression

Stress, anxiety and depression can also cause a person to wake up at dawn. In the case of anxiety, for example, it not only causes you to wake up but also prevents you from going back to sleep.

The mental fatigue caused by all of these can affect a person’s ability to stay asleep, especially during the lighter sleep phases. That’s why waking up happens at similar times. Literally, the brain is under so much pressure that it can’t stay asleep.

That is why it’s so important to slow down before going to bed, using relaxation techniques like meditation or keeping a worry journal to help take the stress out of your head.

Sleep patterns

Speaking of sleep phases… While they don’t run like a Swiss clock in terms of accuracy, each night cycle more or less follows the same pattern, with some of the phases getting longer as the hours go by, and others getting shorter. 

Your first cycle is not the same as your last, but all your first cycles tend to be similar.

This means that every night, at about the same time, you will be in a certain sleep phase. This awakening may happen during the lighter phases, when it is easier to wake up, either due to external causes (such as street noise) or health-related causes.

Blood sugar fluctuation

A concern especially for people with diabetes. Waking up at the same time during the night can be a sign that your blood sugar is changing, and you woke up as an ‘alert’.

If you suffer from diabetes and have been experiencing these awakenings, speak with your doctor so that you can find out how your nighttime blood control is working.

Use of medication

There are two ways to go here. One is medications that naturally affect sleep, such as diuretics. This is also the case with beta-blockers, used to reduce migraines and stress on the heart, but which inhibit melatonin release.

The other way is medications that can wear off during the night, such as those used to treat pain and chronic pain. The return of discomfort after a certain number of hours can wake the patient up. This requires the attending physician to adjust dosage and/or time of administration.

When to be concerned about nighttime awakenings?

Here, we’ve said that consistently waking up during the night is not a cause for concern. In many cases, a simple adjustment in nighttime habits can solve the problem.

You can check it yourself: most of the time, when you notice this ‘routine’, it goes away a few days later. 

Now, if it doesn’t go away or if the reason for your night awakenings is health-related, you should see your doctor or a sleep specialist. Together, you will find out why this is happening and draw up an action plan, if necessary.

Bringing a sleep diary with notes about your schedule and the days you woke up during the night to your appointment can help a lot, as you will be able to find patterns right away.

The diary, of course, can be replaced by sleep monitors – sleep trackers, such as the pillow with Persono technology.

Goodnight. Preferably without waking up in the middle of it.

Do you have a topic you would like to see on our Sleep trivia? Leave a comment on our Instagram and we’ll research!

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