Common Reasons People Wake Up In The Middle Of The Night

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Waking up in the middle of the night is pretty common—and very annoying. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) explains that interrupted sleep can affect a person’s memory and cognitive abilities, not to mention cause all of us to be grumpy the next day.

This situation can be frustrating, but it’s not likely to change unless sleepers can identify the cause(s) of their nighttime wake-ups and take steps to address it.

So why are people waking up in the middle of the night? Here are a few possible reasons.

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage readers to consult with the appropriate health expert if they have concerns.]

Bedroom with fan - waking up at nightRachata Teyparsit/Shutterstock

The Body Is Overheating

The body’s temperature changes while we sleep. During REM sleep, our bodies actually switch off the temperature-regulating cells in our brains—so the temperature of the bedroom (whether warm or hot) can actually dictate our body temperature.

People who regularly wake up feeling overheated should try sleeping under lighter blankets, cracking a window, and/or using a fan.

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Carryover Stress About Work

A recent survey of 2,800 employees found that a whopping 44 percent of them lose sleep “somewhat often” or “very often” because they are worried about work.

People who find themselves regularly waking up due to workplace stressors might acknowledge that it could be time to confide in someone about their stress and look for productive ways to fix the situation.


We’re Thirsty

Waking up thirsty usually means we’re dehydrated. And when we’re dehydrated, our bodies are more likely to wake up thirsty. (Which came first: the chicken or the egg?!)

Sleepers should try having some water before bed, and keep a full glass on the nightstand just in case they wake up feeling parched. (This way, they won’t have to disrupt their sleep even more by walking to the kitchen in the middle of the night.) If this happens very frequently, it might be worth mentioning to a doctor.

A Nightmare Wakes Us Up

Bad dreams are common—about 80 to 90 percent of people will experience them at some point—but that doesn’t make them any more pleasant. It’s normal to wake up after a nightmare, and that can affect sleep.

“You may… feel anxious and scared when you wake up from a nightmare and be unable to fall back to sleep,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s Sleep Education website explains.

People who are regularly waking up due to nightmares and struggling to sleep afterward should start keeping a sleep diary to see if they can identify any patterns that might be contributing to their nightmares. It may also be helpful to learn relaxation techniques (such as meditation) or consult a licensed therapist.

Featured image: Realstock/Shutterstock

[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]

Joe Auer

Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site. He likes things simple and takes a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications. When he isn't testing sleep products, he enjoys working out, reading both fiction and non-fiction, and playing classical piano. He enjoys traveling as well, and not just to test out hotel mattresses! Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.