Are you a ‘bad sleeper’? Here’s why you keep waking up at 3am
The Irish Times
Feb 28, 2020

...After dropping off, we move through different stages of sleep, a cycle that takes the average adult about 90 minutes to complete and speeds up towards morning.

“The night is also punctuated by brief awakenings,” says Gregory. “Typically, people return to sleep without realising that they had ever been awake.” But sometimes we might at least be more aware of it, or pulled entirely awake. Reasons range from the fairly obvious (being too hot or cold, needing the loo, having a nightmare, a crying baby) to the medical (disordered breathing such as sleep apnoea, or nocturia: excessive night-time urination).

Waking up during the night does not necessarily mean you have insomnia, which, says Gregory, is diagnosed alongside other criteria such as the frequency of this occurrence and how long it has been happening. “If you find yourself waking regularly during the night, certainly flag this with your GP so they can consider any possible underlying causes.”

Still, sleep deprivation takes its own toll, from irritability and reduced focus in the short term, to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. If you do find yourself regularly waking up without any apparent reason – what can you do about it?

"It's a misconception that we sleep the night through – nobody ever does," says the sleep coach Katie Fischer. Waking as much as five or seven times a night is not necessarily a cause for concern – the most important thing is how you feel when you get up. "In the morning, do you feel refreshed, or groggy and unable to function, 30 minutes after waking?"...

Lifestyle changes can make a big difference, even for people suffering from sleep apnoea (although that should be treated by a specialist). It is hackneyed to point the finger at caffeine, but people tend to underestimate how long its effects can last – Fischer says to stop consuming it by 2pm or 3pm. Water intake during the day is also a factor: “Even going to bed mildly dehydrated can disrupt our sleep.”...