Here’s why you often wake up around 3am

Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on Unsplash

Historical reason

The reason for this 3am wake up can be traced back to before the Industrial Revolution, when people in Europe and North America broke their sleep into two segments: first sleep and second sleep. Due to the advent of artificial light, people were able to work (and play) much later into the evening. This meant bedtimes were pushed back later and later, disrupting our circadian rhythms and reordering our sense of time.

Photo by Gregory Pappas on Unsplash

Sleep restriction

If you are struggling with the 3am wake up, you may benefit from the sleep restriction method. It’s perfectly normal to experience this pattern of waking, so try to acknowledge it and wait for sleep to come again. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to just lie there feeling anxious. Get up and read or listen to music and try again once you feel drowsy.

Sleep hygiene

Practicing what is known as good “sleep hygiene” can significantly increase your chances of having a good night’s sleep. Sleep hygiene practices include:

  • Avoid spicy or rich foods before bed. No more late night curry or ice-cream parties — these can trigger indigestion and heartburn which is uncomfortable and can wake you up.
  • Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Even though a glass of wine can help you fall asleep fast, it can disrupt your sleep in the second part of the night as the body begins to process the alcohol.
  • Exercise. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can drastically improve your quality of sleep. Aim to hit the gym earlier in the day though, as exercise can increase energy post-workout.

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