Waking up in the middle of the night can be very irritating, especially when it happens often. Getting a full night’s sleep is important for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles. When sleep is disturbed, it takes your body a while to get back into REM sleep, which can make you groggy the next day.

What causes waking up in the middle of the night?

There are many reasons why you may wake up in the middle of the night. Some have easy, at-home treatments. For others, you may want to see your doctor.

Sleep apnea

If you have sleep apnea, you wake up or have shallow breathing many times during the night. Most people with sleep apnea aren’t aware that their sleep is disturbed.

Even if you don’t realize you’re waking up, you may notice daytime sleepiness. Other main symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • snoring
  • gasping for air while sleeping
  • morning headaches
  • loss of concentration during the day

To get a diagnosis, your doctor will likely refer to you to a sleep center. At the center, you’ll be monitored during a night’s sleep. Some doctors also recommend home sleep tests.

Treatments for sleep apnea

  • Airway pressure devices. These devices are used during sleep. The machine pumps a bit of air into your lungs through a sleep mask. The most common device is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Other devices are auto-CPAP and bilevel positive airway pressure.
  • Oral appliances. These appliances are often available through your dentist. The oral appliances are similar to mouthguards and work by gently moving your jaw forward and opening your airway during sleep.
  • Surgery. Surgery for sleep apnea is usually a last resort. The types of surgeries include tissue removal, jaw repositioning, nerve stimulation, and implants.

Night terrors

Those with sleep terrors don’t actually wake up, but they may appear awake to others. During a night terror, the sleeper thrashes, screams, cries, and is fearful. The sleeper’s eyes are open, and they may even get out of bed.

Those with sleep terrors don’t remember what happened once they wake up the next morning. Sleep terrors affect almost 40 percent of children and a smaller percentage of adults.

Children usually outgrow sleep terrors on their own. However, you might want to tell your doctor if you or your child’s symptoms seem to worsen.

Contact your doctor if:

  • your child has more frequent episodes
  • episodes put the sleeper in danger
  • your child has terrors that often wake them or other sleepers in your home
  • your child has excessive daytime sleepiness
  • episodes don’t resolve after childhood

Insomnia

Insomnia can make it hard to get to sleep or stay asleep. Some people experience insomnia only occasionally, but for others, it’s a chronic problem. Insomnia makes it difficult to get through the day. You may find yourself tired, moody, and unable to concentrate.

The sleep condition can be caused by many things, including:

  • medications
  • stress
  • caffeine
  • medical conditions

Tips to try at home

  • Keep to a sleep schedule.
  • Avoid naps.
  • Get treatment for pain.
  • Keep active.
  • Don’t eat large meals before bed.
  • Get out of bed when you can’t fall asleep.
  • Try alternative therapies, such as yoga, melatonin, or acupuncture.
  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand with insomnia. In fact, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which comes first. An anxious or depressed mind can make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Trouble sleeping can then lead to anxiety and depression.

Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about your anxiety and depression. They may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or relaxation techniques.

Tips to try at home

  • exercise
  • meditation
  • playing music
  • lessening your to-do list
  • setting up your bedroom for comfort and quiet

Bipolar disorder

Getting too much or too little sleep is a main symptom of this condition. Most people with bipolar disorder go through periods of too little sleep during the manic phase, and either too little or too much sleep during the depressive phase.

In one study in adults with bipolar disorder, 100 percent of participants experienced insomnia. Waking up at night can make bipolar disorder worse, which leads to a harmful cycle.

Tips to try at home

  • Use the bedroom only for sleep and intimacy.
  • Only go to bed when you’re sleepy.
  • Leave the bedroom if you don’t fall asleep in 15 minutes.
  • Get up at the same time each morning.

Going to the bathroom

A frequent need to pee can make you get up at night. This condition is called nocturia, and it can have many causes, including

  • diabetes
  • an enlarged prostate
  • overactive bladder
  • bladder prolapse

Needing to pee at night can also be caused by pregnancy, certain medications, or drinking a lot before bed. Finding out what is causing your need to pee at night is the best way to find the right treatment.

Tips to try at home

  • Take medications earlier in the day.
  • Limit fluid intake two to four hours before you go to bed.
  • Limit spicy foods, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Try Kegel exercises.

Environmental factors

Technology can have a negative impact on sleep. Researchers have found that cell phones, televisions, tablets, and laptops all have bright lights that limit the production of melatonin. This hormone regulates your brain’s ability to get to sleep and wake up.

Additionally, sounds that come from these gadgets can keep your mind active. Noise before sleep, and buzzing and ringing during sleep, can all affect your ability to fully rest.

Tips to try at home

  • Give yourself at least 30 minutes of technology-free time before bed.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom.
  • If you leave your phone by your bed, turn off the volume.

You’re overheated

It’s hard to get and stay asleep when your body is too warm. This can be caused by warm temperatures in your environment.

It can also be caused by night sweats. With night sweats, you frequently wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. They can have a number of causes, such as:

  • medications
  • anxiety
  • autoimmune disorders

It’s important to talk to your doctor to find out the cause.

Tips to try at home

  • If your home is more than one story, trying sleeping downstairs.
  • Keep blinds and windows closed during the day to prevent your home from getting too hot.
  • Use a fan or air conditioner to cool your room.
  • Wear only light clothing to bed and use only light blankets, if any.

Conclusion

If you wake up in the middle of the night, get out of bed to take the pressure off. Reading a book can relax your mind without technology. Stretching and exercising can also help. Warm milk, cheese, and magnesium have also shown positive results.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. If you continue to wake up in the middle of the night, speak with your doctor about possible causes.