When you make an effort to get to bed on time, waking up in the middle of the night can be like a slap in the face. For many people, it’s hard enough to get to sleep at a reasonable time—why won’t our bodies just cooperate and stay asleep through the night?
This experience is often referred to as middle insomnia, and it’s more common than you might think. Here are three common causes for middle insomnia and what you can do to mitigate them. Remember—if the problem persists, it’s always worth seeking the advice of a healthcare professional.
Stress, anxiety, and depression can wreak havoc on our hormones and neurotransmitters, making it difficult to sleep through the night—even if you fall asleep without initial trouble. If you fall into bed exhausted only to find yourself wide awake at 3am, ask yourself if you’re adequately addressing the stressors in your life.
Solution: Serious, persistent feelings of anxiety and/or sadness should always be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional. For everyday stress, try mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises, and proper sleep hygiene.
Alcohol before bed
Though the much-beloved nightcap can make it easier to fall asleep, having alcohol in your system when you do can actually make it significantly harder to sleep through the night. That’s because of the way alcohol is metabolized—initially, it acts as a sedative, but its metabolic byproducts can wake you up as the night goes on. Even if you don’t fully wake up, alcohol can make your sleep lighter and more easily disturbed.
Solution: Avoid alcohol before bed, but if you must, stick to one drink and have it at least an hour before you intend to fall asleep. This will give your body time to metabolize your drink before it can damage the quality of your rest.
Anyone can experience hormonal shifts that make it difficult to stay asleep, but this tends to be an especially serious problem for women. Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can all lead to hormone-related middle insomnia. If you’re experiencing other hormonal symptoms in addition to middle insomnia, this may be the culprit.
Solution: Controlling your hormones directly is only possible with the help of physician-prescribed hormone therapy, which may be an option, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Otherwise, do everything you can to get a handle on stress and create a bedroom environment conducive to quality sleep .