You suddenly wake up, look at your phone. 3 a.m.!!!?? You think: “Why am I waking up in the middle of the night?” This is a completely fair question. And if you’ve been here more than once, it’s time to get down to the bottom of it.

Most adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. It’s in this time that we go through the essential cycles of sleep, most critically Rapid Eye Movement (REM). If we don’t get enough sleep or it’s interrupted, we’re left feeling pretty irritable and sleepy. For tips on how to get more REM sleep, check this out.

Getting quality sleep is necessary for our overall health and well-being. It restores our body and gives us the vital rest we need to go on with our day. When you constantly wake up in the middle of the night, you’re exposing yourself to more restlessness and potential health risks down the line.

Once you discover the underlying causes of your interrupted sleep, you can then take steps to combat it.

So…why am I waking up? Here are 6 potential causes

There could be any number of reasons. And we’ve outlined several for you to consider. But always confirm with a medical professional.

Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

Also caused by onset of underlying medical conditions, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and chronic pain are all possible reasons for not being able to stay asleep.

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is a well-known, common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep and hard to stay asleep. Sometimes it may be more acute and short-term, while other times it is long-term and lasts for months. It may be the cause of medications, underlying health conditions or even caffeine.

  • Sleep Apnea: This condition causes shallow breathing, resulting in waking up several times throughout the night – which may be what’s causing you to spontaneously wake up in the middle of the night. You may notice symptoms such as headaches in the morning or snoring loudly and frequently.

  • Restless Leg Syndrome: This causes uncomfortable, tingling sensations in the legs with the urge to constantly move them. Unfortunately, this is more common at night.

Health Conditions

Waking up in the middle of the night could be the result of any number of physical or mental health reasons.

  • Anxiety and Depression: Both anxiety and depression can cause insomnia and vice versa. In fact, insomnia is common among depressed patients. These are both serious mental health conditions that require additional medical guidance.

  • Bipolar disorder: This is a mental illness known for changings a mood from high periods of mania to low periods of depression. It’s also linked to people who have trouble sleeping.

  • Diabetes: Our blood sugar levels have an impact on our sleep quality. So it goes to say that if you have diabetes and you’re waking up, then your blood sugar levels may be fluctuating.

  • Need to Urinate: Do you find yourself constantly waking up and needing to pee? Nighttime urination may be the reason you’re waking up and it could be linked to an overactive bladder, pregnancy, certain medications or drinking a lot before you go to be (easy on the water!).

Sleep Environment

Often it’s our sleeping locations which have the greatest impact on our zzzz’s. If you have too many distractions, light, sounds and extreme temperatures, your body may not be able to fully slip into dream mode. Have you replaced your mattress in a while? Evaluate how long you’ve had it and how comfortable it is. Mattresses should be replaced every 7-10 years. Refer to our guide to choosing your next mattress.

Interference in Sleep Rhythm

With the help of hormones and nighttime/daytime transitions, our bodies synch up to a healthy awake and asleep rhythm. Especially when we’re sleeping, we go between REM and non-REM sleep. But that can get thrown off due to a few possible reasons.

  • Jet lag: Have you traveled across time zones recently? That’s a sure fire way to confuse your normal sleep rhythm.

  • Shift work: If your job and work occurs in rotation shifts and you find yourself working odd hours, this could also be why you’re waking up. Your body might be confused from frequently changing shifts and start times.

  • Age: As we age, it’s not only our physical bodies that change, it’s also our sleep patterns. As you age, your body also produces less melatonin. We get more sleepy in the evening, wake up earlier and often wake up in the middle of the night.


It’s inevitable. Stress and worry aren’t necessarily synonyms for calm and peace. Stress can go in conjunction with anxiety and depression, although these are diagnosed medical conditions. But anybody can experience stress. Whether it’s family, work, relationships, or financial, you might have a lot going on in your life that’s making you restless.

How to fall asleep and stay sleeping

Here are some useful techniques and approaches to try at home if you wake up in the middle of the night or have trouble falling asleep.

  • Go to another room to read or rest before you feel sleepy again

  • Mediation and deep breathing help to relax your body. Also doing gentle yoga or light stretches before bed can help to reduce muscle tension.

  • Exercising regularly

  • Don’t consume caffeine in the afternoon or alcohol right before bedtime

  • Cultivate a soothing bedtime routine and maintain a regular sleep schedule

  • Don’t do anything but sleep and romance in your bed. Refrain from watching TV or working on your laptop in the same spot you try to fall asleep.

  • Change your sleep environment: use dark shades or a sleep mask for light, earplugs or a fan to cover noise and keep the temperature on the cooler side.


It’s normal to wake up in the middle of the night every now and again but if you find it’s happening often, it could be due to a deeper reason. Keep track in a journal every time you wake up. Then seek further recommendations from your doctor on what to do next.

Remember – a good night’s sleep is integral to your health and happiness.