Few things ruin the restfulness of a night's sleep like waking up at 3am and not being able to get back to sleep.
If you’re getting 7-8 hours each night and wake up bright and shiny every morning (even if it is 3am), then you don’t need to worry! But those of us who don't get enough and constantly wake up too early will understand the frustration.
Thankfully, there are some super easy things you can do each day to decrease your chances of waking up too early.
If you start implementing these things today, you can expect to feel more rested by the end of the week. If you keep it up, you may just find that the problem goes away for good!
Waking Up Too Early - The Effects
If you’re like me, often the first thing you do in the morning is roll your eyes when you realize you’re awake and it's only 3am.
Waking up alert doesn’t always mean you’ve had enough rest. If you’re opening your eyes before you’ve had the right amount of sleep, it might have some negative effects on your day.
One or two earlier-than-usual mornings isn’t a problem. When it’s happening every other day and you’re starting to feel the effects, then it becomes a bigger deal.
Remember, sleep is when healing happens. Your body needs rest as much as your mind does, and when it’s not getting enough it can have some nasty side effects.
- Decreased Energy Levels
- Increased Appetite
- Lowered Immune System Function
Even worse than feeling listless is the brain fog that comes with getting too little sleep. Some things that can happen when you’re waking up too early include:
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Increased Irritability
- Decrease in Productivity
- Increased Anxiety & Stress
What Causes You To Wake Up Too Early?
For us to really understand why we wake up at 3am, we need to have a good idea of how sleep cycles work. Knowing what happens in the brain while we’re asleep could give some insight into why we wake.
Stages of Sleep
Typically, we go through 4 stages of sleep in a cycle, and 4 to 5 cycles per night. We have periods of wakefulness during the night but they don’t usually cause a complete break in sleep.
Stages 1 and 2 are considered light sleep. This is when the body starts to relax and drowsiness sets in. Stage 1 is the transition from waking to sleep, and Stage 2 is considered the first proper sleep stage.
Stage 3 is deep sleep, when the brain waves start to slow down. Delta waves are prominent, and it’s in this state that the body begins to repair and restore.
REM sleep is the last stage in the cycle. Interestingly, the brain waves during this time are similar to when you’re awake. This explains why most vivid dreams take place in this stage!
The EEG shows faster brain waves, and it can be hard to wake up during this stage.
Reasons For Waking Up At 3am
Waking up at 3am here and there is normal. When it begins happening more frequently, there could be a number of reasons behind it.
Here are some of the most common physical reasons:
- Age (menopause for women, prostate trouble for men)
- Medical Conditions (pregnancy, breathing problems, hormonal disorders, arthritis or chronic pain, menstrual cramps, digestive issues)
- Liver or lung problems (the liver and lungs are active at around 3am)
Some may look for spiritual reasons for waking at 3am, especially if it happens often.
According to various spiritual beliefs, 3 to 4am is when the veil between realms is at its thinnest. This is known by some as the Witching Hour! But this doesn’t mean that waking up at 3am is devilish or scary.
You could just be very intuitive. Being sensitive to changes in energy can be responsible for your early waking.
Some spiritual or paranormal reasons for awakening at this time could include:
- A spirit guide has a message for you
- It’s easier to access your Higher Self
- A loved one who has passed on is trying to connect
- You are waking up after an out-of-body experience
5 Things To Help You Stay Asleep
If you feel like waking up at 3am constantly means you’re not getting enough sleep, we have some tips to keep you asleep.
They’re simple, require nothing but time, and could be the key to helping you get better rest!
Plan Tomorrow Tonight
If anxiety is what’s keeping you up, planning your next day in advance can be a huge help.
Write A To-Do List
If you have work projects, calls to make, places to go, or shopping to do, a list will ease your mind. Writing these things down can have a great psychological impact! It effectively takes them out of your mind once the words land on the page.
Set Out Your Clothes
For those whose mornings are stressful, this could help make them easier. The getting ready process will have one less step in the morning, and you won't have to think about what to wear.
Meditate Before Sleeping
Meditation is the most accessible thing in the world! It’s an especially effective way to calm your mind if you suspect you’re waking up at 3am for spiritual reasons.
It’s not complicated, either. All you need is you. Here are some easy ways to get in a short meditation before you go to sleep.
Take 5 Private Minutes After Dinner
5 minutes is more than enough to begin. If you need some space away from spouses and kids and pets, lock yourself in the bathroom for a few moments!
Meditate In The Bath
This is a great place for meditation as it’s quiet, private, comfortable, and relaxing. You can do the same in the shower, but it’s a little harder to get comfy.
Meditate In Bed, Before You Lie Down
If you don’t have much chance during the day, you can get in a few minutes before you lay your head down at night.
Meditate sitting in your bed. If you need to hide the fact that you’re meditating, you can do it lying down. You may fall asleep while meditating, though!
You can even meditate in the middle of the night when you wake up!
Avoid The Afternoon Naps
We know… Sometimes it’s hard to get through the day without one. Your naps could be the reason you’re waking up earlier than you should, though.
This is a simple maths problem - if you’re sleeping too much during the day, your body won’t need as much at night. This isn't necessarily a problem, but waking up in the dark can confuse your body’s circadian rhythms.
Instead of having a nap, try one of these to give you a boost:
- Go for a brisk walk
- Eat a piece of fruit (healthy sugars for energy!)
- Tidy a room
- Call a friend
Stop Eating & Drinking Early In The Evening
If you’re waking up at 3am and immediately running off to the bathroom, I think it’s safe to assume what the problem is.
Your body digests food and drinks during the night. If you had a cup of coffee before sleeping, it could be causing you to wake up earlier than you should.
- Don’t drink anything within an hour of going to bed
- Try to eat light, healthy foods in the evenings
- Eat dinner as early as possible
Use A Sleep Aid
If you want some extra help staying asleep once you’re under, give some of these a try.
- Use a Sleep Mask to stop waking up at first light
- Choose The Right Pillow to prevent neck pain in the night
- Use Earplugs/Headphones if you get woken by noise
Waking up at 3am now and then shouldn’t be cause for concern. Often, there’s a simple explanation that can be fixed quite easily.
A couple of small lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Give these a try and see how they change your sleeping habits.
Maybe you’ll find yourself surprised to see a 6 instead of a 3 the next time you wake up and look at your alarm clock!
Happy sleeping (through the night!).