Why Am I Waking Up Frequently at Night?

Waking up frequently at night is not uncommon. In fact, most people wake up at least once or twice throughout the night. Some potential reasons for this include a poor sleep environment, drinking alcohol or caffeine late in the day, sleep disorders, or other health conditions. 

Once you’re up, you might struggle to get back to sleep, which means you won’t get the quality sleep necessary to keep you feeling healthy and refreshed for the following day. That’s why it’s so important to get to the bottom of why you might be waking up frequently at night and determine how to treat the issue so you can finally get a restful night’s sleep!

Generally, adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep to feel well-rested and for their overall health and well-being. You cycle through stages of light, deep, and REM sleep several times a night, and most of your deepest sleep occurs earlier in the night. 

According to Eating Well, waking up during the night is completely normal. Most people awaken with no recollection of ever doing so and tend to fall back asleep easily, but then there are times when you have some trouble getting back to sleep. That’s most often due to a loss of sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is the state of transition between sleep and wakefulness. It’s that moment when you first awaken, lost and confused, slow to move and ready to turn over and get back to sleep. When sleep inertia doesn’t work, you lose that ability to fall back asleep quickly and easily. This is the culprit keeping us awake in the middle of the night. While sleep inertia makes it difficult to get up when we need to, it’s our best friend for staying asleep when we want to. So, what’s causing it, and how do we control it? Several things could play a role in why you are waking up frequently at night, including:

  • Psychological Causes
    • Anxiety/PTSD
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression
    • Worrisome thoughts/racing mind
  • Physical Causes
    • Pain (especially from arthritis)
    • Breathing problems (asthma, bronchitis)
    • Digestive issues (irritable bowel syndrome, GERD/acid reflux)
    • Hormones (menopause, menstrual cycle)
    • Frequent urination (excess fluid intake throughout the day/before bed)
  • Sleep Environment
    • Pets
    • Temperature 
    • Lighting
    • Noise
  • Sleep Habits
    • Irregular sleep schedule
    • Electronics
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Nicotine
  • Sleep Disorders
    • Sleep apnea
    • Restless leg syndrome
    • Night terrors

Quick Ways to Fall Back Asleep

Eating Well suggests getting out of bed, stating that ”lying in bed and ‘trying to sleep’ tends to be self-defeating. People tend to think about not being able to sleep. Then they try harder to get back to sleep. They count the hours until they have to wake up. They stress about life. These are all prohibitive sleep behaviors…if you’ve been lying in bed awake in the middle of the night for 30 minutes without sleeping, get out of bed.”

Once out of bed, there are some things you should and should not do to try to get back to sleep:


  1. Sit in a comfortable, dimly lit spot and read a book
  2. Meditate or sit quietly
  3. Wait until you start to feel sleepy again before going back to bed
  4. Practice imagery and imagine yourself in a place you like to be, doing something you enjoy
  5. Focus on your breath. Imagine the rise and fall of your chest, sounding and feeling like the ocean waves


  1. Turn on your phone
  2. Watch TV
  3. Use tobacco/nicotine

Additionally, here are some tips to help you avoid waking up frequently at night :

  1. Avoid alcohol or caffeine later in the day
  2. Get outdoors for at least 15 mins each day
  3. Get regular exercise but work out at least 4-5 hours before bed
  4. Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it
  5. Avoid napping
  6. Establish a calming/relaxing bedtime routine
  7. Keep the room quiet, cool and dark

Still waking up frequently at night and struggling to get back to sleep? Contact us and see how our sleep specialists can help!