According to sleep expert Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., waking up in the middle of the night isn’t uncommon. In fact, according to a study published in theJournal of Psychiatric Research, 35.5% of 8,937 participants surveyed reported middle-of-the-night awakenings at least three times per week, while 23% reported waking up at least one time per night.
Wake-ups generally take place during light sleep, or the second of the four phases of sleep when the body’s core temperature starts to rise, explains sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. Unlike in deeper sleep stages like REM sleep, the brain can easily be awakened during light sleep.
But what causes these middle-of-the-night awakenings? “Sometimes simply going through a stressful time can cause people to wake in the middle of the night,” says Teitelbaum. He adds that another common reason people wake up in the middle of the night is their body is experiencing an adrenaline rush triggered by something like low blood sugar or a hormonal flux.
In order to put a stop to your late-night stirring, the first step is to identify why it’s happening in the first place. If there’s an obvious answer—i.e. you’re feeling stressed or you’re dealing with a stuffy nose—great. If not, something is, most likely, going on either subconsciously or physiologically, so you’ll have to dig a little deeper to get to the root of the issue.
If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night consistently for more than two months, it’s important to talk to a physician for professional help and guidance.