3 Reasons You Wake Up At Night And What To Do About It

This week was one for the record books! This past weekend I was invited to attend Dr. Oz yearly Gala for his charity called HealthCorps. We had a blast and I got to see a bunch of old friends and make quite a few new ones. While attending the Gala, I had 3 people ask me the same questions about waking up in the middle of the night, and all three had different reasons why it was happening. I realized that many of you may have this issue as well, so I thought that this week I would detail out a few thoughts surrounding waking up at 3am!

Wake Up Reason #1 – To go to the bathroom. There are several reasons why a person may need to go to the bathroom at night: enlarged prostate, pre-diabetes, excessive fluid intake, just to name a few. Here are a few tips on what to do when you do have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Step 1: Do not look at the clock– You will instantly do the mental math and get anxious that you only have a few hours left to sleep

Step 2: Do not turn on the lights– Have some strategically placed night lights that will lead you to your bathroom. Also do not turn on the light once you are there, since you will, in essence, be telling your brain it is morning as soon as you flip on the lights.

Step 3: Breathe– In order to get to a state of unconsciousness your heart rate should be at 60 or below. That is not easy to achieve when you have just sat up and then stood up to go to the restroom. So when you get back in bed, try my 4-7-8 breathing method.

Wake up reason #2 –  No reason, but up at 3am (Blood Sugar). This has turned out to be one of the things that have been most interesting in my recent clinical work. I have had quite a few patients tell me that they wake up at 3am, very alert and with their mind going. When I ask them about their last meal they often tell me that they ate by 7pm. If you do the math 3am is 8 hours after the past meal. Which means that your body has been fasting that entire time! When your brain thinks you have run out of fuel and you get low blood sugar, it will wake you up by producing Cortisol to help jumpstart the metabolic process, get you hungry, and wake you up to eat! I have 2 easy, and worthwhile solutions to try: First is Raw Honey. I have found that raw honey is difficult to metabolize and helps keep your blood sugar stable longer and many of my patients can make it throughout the night with simply a teaspoon of raw honey. I have searched for a very long time for a great source of raw honey and have found Beekeepers Naturals to be EXCELLENT raw honey and it is very sleep friendly. If you try their honey, use the discount code sleepdoctor at checkout and they’ll give you 15% off.

If honey is not your thing, then consider Guava Leaf Tea. This tea has been shown in the literature to help stabilize blood sugar before bed.

Wake up reason #3 – You are a menopausal woman and have hot flashes. These are one of the most frustrating aspects of Menopause (I think almost all aspects are frustrating), which has a direct effect on sleep. In my series of blog posts on menopause, I detailed out this annoyance but the basics are this: a “Hot Flash is a surge of body heat accompanied by intense sweating, and this is the body’s response to drops in estrogen. For many women, Hot flashes and night sweats begin during perimenopause and tend to increase in frequency until a couple of years into post-menopause, before beginning a gradual decline. I treat many patients who, throughout menopause, are regularly awakened from sleep drenched in sweat and have trouble falling back asleep, or wake up feeling tired and unrested because of restless sleep caused by night sweats. So what are some simple things to try?

Step 1: Wear moisture-wicking clothing to bed (PJs) and see about getting some moisture wicking sheets. These textiles will actually help wick away the sweat beads on your skin. It turns out that when the cool air hots the sweat, it makes you cold which is partially what wakes you up (the other part is lower estrogen keeps you in lighter sleep).

Step 2: Look for ways to keep cool, without freezing out your bed partner, my favorite the Chilipad. It’s a little like a heating pad, except this device will actually cool you down at night,

Step 3: Maca-Go. Recently I’ve been studying up on Maca-GO®, which has been shown in a growing body of scientific research to be more effective than any other natural alternative to date in relieving menopausal symptoms and it is the first to demonstrate in published clinical trials statistically significant support in helping balance women’s hormones during perimenopause and menopause. Maca-GO® (commercially known as Femmenessence) has been developed with specific, concentrated and standardized phenotype formulations of Lepidum peruvianum to support women’s health and address symptoms during a woman’s reproductive years, perimenopause and postmenopause.

That’s it for this week, I hope if you wake in the middle of the night one of these tips may help you get back to sleep faster or not wake up at all!

This was my most popular Facebook post and Instagram picture this week, enjoy!

Sweet Dreams,

Dr. Breus

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Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!