Why Do You Wake Up Around 3 AM Every Night?

Topics: Insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, sleep disorders

Waking up in the middle of the night with no clue about what disrupted your sleep can be annoying. It is especially the case when despite trying, you cannot go back to sleep.

Waking up in the middle of the night


But there is no need to worry since these disruptions are common. They are known as nocturnal or early morning awakenings that ruin your good night’s rest and wake you in the middle of the night.

Understanding why this occurs can help treat this problem so you can catch a good night’s sleep. Here are some possible reasons for this habit! Let’s have a look!

Reasons for disturbed sleep while sleeping at night

While it is not uncommon to get up several times when sleeping, on most occasions, you drift back without even realising it. The habit might result from stress or may be a symptom of insomnia. Let’s see:

1. Excessive Stress

If getting up at 3 am is a new occurrence for you, the reason may be stress. When your body is under excessive stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, which may jolt you awake. You experience increased heart rate and blood pressure, which prevents you from falling back asleep.

The stress could be due to job pressure, health problems, or dwindling finances. Making lifestyle changes or opting for therapy may help in this condition.

2. Sleep Environment

Disturbance at night is another reason for waking up from sleep. Sounds from outdoor traffic, cell phones, and televisions can be disturbing. Also, exposure to a light shining through your window can wake you up. These reasons are more likely to awaken you at 3 am or early morning since we enter light sleep as the night progresses.

3. Insomnia

If you wake up from sleep too early or during the middle of the night, insomnia might be the reason. It is a sleep problem that makes it difficult to stay asleep or keeps you from drifting back to slumber. The condition can also cause daytime disruptions of mental and physical abilities. You can treat this condition by getting sleep therapy, improving sleep habits, and taking medications.

4. Ageing

As you age, your sleep cycle changes. The rest quality gets compromised because you spend less time in deep sleep. This makes you more prone to waking up because of external factors. Your shifting sleep-wake timings with age can also cause you to go to bed and wake up earlier. Another reason you wake up at abnormal timing, like 3 am as you grow old, might be because of meds that alter sleep patterns.

5. Bathroom Breaks

If you wake from sleep and feel the urge to use the washroom, it might be a sign of nocturia. In most people, this results from drinking too much water, alcohol, or coffee before going to bed. Otherwise, the condition might also result from a bladder condition, urinary issues, or health problems like diabetes. Nocturia is also a sign of pregnancy and disappears a few months after giving birth.

6. Sleep Disorders

Sleep problems compromise your rest quality, timing, and amount of sleep. A few sleep disorders responsible for waking you up at 3 am include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorder, and nightmare disorder. If you have these sleep problems, in addition to waking up, you may experience other symptoms like fatigue, headache, and excessive sleepiness during the daytime.

7. PTSD or Depression

If you have suffered a trauma during your lifetime, you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), disrupting your sleep at night. Sleepless nights in PTSD are more common in the early years and become less frequent with time.

Trouble resting is also a possible symptom of depression. The mental condition impacts sleep by changing the circadian rhythm that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Due to this, you may find yourself awake when you must be asleep. Other reasons that can affect your sleep include phobia and panic disorder.

When should I be concerned?

Although nocturnal awakenings are common and easy to remedy, they can be a sign of a severe underlying problem. This is why you must be careful. If these sleep disruptions are affecting your quality of life, or you are experiencing other symptoms besides poor sleep, you must consult a doctor.

If you suspect sleep disorders or OSA to be the reason for this habit, you can take our home sleep test to determine whether that is true.

To Sum Up

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for your mind and body. From enhancing your memory to ensuring the well-being of your heart, proper rest can lead to many benefits. But, frequent sleep disruptions can dismiss these advantages. Thus, you must try and understand the reasons behind this to avoid nocturnal awakenings to ensure good health.


Disclaimer: The facts and information provided in the article are obtained from reputed medical organisations. The content is suggestive in nature and only meant for informational purposes. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of ResMed. Readers are advised to practise caution and talk to their healthcare professionals for a proper diagnosis of their health problems.

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