If you’re someone who reliably sleeps soundly all night long – this isn’t for you.
But if you’re someone who often wakes up in the middle of the night – get comfy!
That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Before I get started, I’m going to make a guess. When you do wake up in the middle of the night (whether it’s every night, or just occasionally), it usually happens between 1 AM and 3 AM.
Am I close?
I have said this to many people who look at me with their jaw on the floor, thinking I’m filming them with a secret camera.
I promise, that’s not it.
Between 1 AM and 3 AM is the most common time to wake up during the night for one specific reason:
Let me back up for a second.
Why Do I Wake Up?
There are a few reasons why someone might wake up at night:
- A disturbance – whether it’s babies crying, or kids yelling, or your partner snoring, night-time disturbance wakeups are pretty common. Especially if you’re in certain stages of your life. It can be hard to get back to sleep after some disturbances, depending on the circumstance. If your partner’s snoring woke you up, and they just keep right on snoring, you might have a hard time falling back asleep. I always have a hard time falling asleep when my kids have screamed at me in the middle of the night and I’ve just had a full body jolt of adrenaline. When that happens, it can take a long time for the effects of that adrenaline rush to wear off.
- A bathroom break – it’s not all that rare, especially if you’re someone who drinks a lot of fluids before bed, to have your bladder wake you up at night. (Side note: this is increasingly common in men as they age and prostates change). I love the idea of a cup of tea before bed, but I’m always hesitant to recommend it because if sleep is a challenge, the last thing you want is needing to wake up at night for a trip to the bathroom.
If you’re someone who is susceptible to this, my big recommendation is watch your fluid intake in the evening. Cut all fluids off a couple of hours before bed if you need to.
- Cortisol – the main reason people wake up in the middle of the night is due to cortisol spiking high.
Did you know – it’s not uncommon to wake up at night because of a cortisol spike, but when you realize you need to go to the bathroom, you blame your bladder for the wakeup? Your bladder isn’t always at fault!
So why does cortisol spike between 1 – 3 AM?
One reason is that your circadian hormones and stress hormones are not firing when they should be. Either your circadian cycle is off entirely, your blood sugar has taken a nosedive, or your stress hormones are too high (*cough* VERY COMMON in exhausted women *cough*).
When our blood sugar crashes during the day, our body releases cortisol, which can pull blood sugar out of storage. Amazing, right?
It does the same thing at night, waking you up in the process.
So, what’s the solution to this?
Awesome blood sugar management.
And how, exactly, does one go about that?
Blood sugar optimization is pretty complicated, but my favorite recommendation to get this on track is to make sure you’re eating in a predictable pattern. Aim to have a well-balanced dinner, with veggies, protein, fats, and complex carbs (think whole grains, rice, etc.), then stop eating after dinnertime. Which should be about 2-3 hours before you go to bed. And nothing to eat after that! No treats, no ice cream, no chips, and no alcohol. Alcohol causes blood sugar to spike, big time.
If you have a pretty routine sleep schedule, you’ll want to stop eating by around 7 – 8 PM (and heading to bed around 10 PM).
Then you’ll fast all night, and look forward to breaking that fast (i.e. “breakfast”) in the morning.
In a perfect world, breakfast will happen 12-13 hours after you just ate. So, around 7 or 8 AM.
If you can get in that habit, consistently, for a couple of weeks, see if it’s had any change at all on your night-time wakings.
And if it hasn’t, I have a backup tool to that one. You can find that tool in my online training session: Secrets to Sleeping Well. Go access that right here!
This can be just as much, if not more, of a culprit than blood sugar spiking and falling. The reality is that our sleep is highly susceptible to stress, and our levels of stress have never been higher. You might find that when your stress levels are higher than normal (maybe something extra “fun” is going on at work), your sleep might be even more interrupted.
One of the best ways to combat stress is to get a good night’s sleep. But that idea just stresses people out.
So, one of the things I like to recommend to people to help reduce their stress levels is moving every day. In particular, if sleep is difficult for you, going for a low intensity walk in the evening. You don’t want to do too much of an intense workout before bedtime, for both energy and stress levels, but a low intensity walk will not only help lower your cortisol levels, you’ll be moving your body, which will in turn make you more tired and ready for sleep.
Again, I have lots of tips for how to lower your stress levels in my virtual online training Secrets to Sleeping Well.
If sleep is something you struggle with on a regular basis, head on over here to register for that right now and start some simple things that can help improve your sleep right away!