The human body is programmed to operate on a 24-hour clock, which is why you experience the three-cycle stages of sleep: light, deep, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.
You could be waking up at 3 am due to disruption such as light or sound that wake you more easily during the light sleep cycle. Or you may be woken up to use the bathroom.
During REM or dream sleep, humans experience increased brain activity and muscle paralysis. Because of the latter, you may feel like you can’t move when you wake up. Your brain and muscles need time to unwind before they go back to the lighter stages of sleep.
3 am is often considered as a “magic hour” for those who follow certain meditative practices such as Yoga and Tai Chi.
You could also try different relaxation techniques before you go to sleep at night – long, deep breathing, meditation, or reading a book before bedtime are some thought-provoking alternatives.
Sleep is a process by which your body regulates itself. However, the amount of sleep you get and how much you need are also influenced by many factors.
Your age, your lifestyle, or your overall health can affect your sleep.
1. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Stage
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is characterized by high amplitude and low-frequency brain waves, rapid and shallow breathing, and the paralysis of voluntary muscles.
It is considered that REM sleep offers an important role in memory consolidation. This is because it occurs while the hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays a central role in new information processing and storage, is highly active.
2. Non-REM Sleep Stage
Non-REM sleep or NREM sleep is one of the five stages of sleep. It is also called slow-wave sleep because the brain waves are slower, but it is more active than REM sleep. Non-REM Sleep lasts 70% of a regular night’s time, and it is mostly composed of light sleep.
A person reaches stage one when they are drifting off to sleep. They are still awake, but their eyes are closing and they are starting to enter light slumber.
Stage two starts with a few involuntary jerks or spasms called hypnic myoclonia or hypnagogic jerk where the person suddenly sits up for a short moment before becoming dormant again.
Reasons You Wake Up At 3am
1. Light Sleeper
People who are light sleepers – they wake up at 3am because they can’t seem to get enough sleep.
Light sleepers would have a tough time going to bed earlier then 10pm. This is mainly because waking up early will cause them to feel tired and sleepy the following day.
They will start their day off with a sense of tiredness and lack of motivation, which would make it difficult for them to stay focused on work or school activities.
If you are a light sleeper, your best bet is finding ways to limit your exposure to light during the night or trying out some techniques that help induce relaxation before bedtime.
2. Bathroom Visits
The average person needs to visit the bathroom around 3 times per night, but for some people, this number can be as high as 10 and the most common time seems to be 3 am.
The frequent need for bedtime trips can lead to interrupted sleep and less restful sleep overall.
It has been found that when a person wakes up after an interruption of their REM state, they will take much longer to fall asleep again than if they had woken from a non-REM state
It’s not uncommon for people to experience anxiety, and it’s more common than we think. Waking up in the middle of the night is a common side effect of anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling that comes from the fear of the unknown and the helplessness we may feel when we can’t control an event.
It can be debilitating and cause panic attacks, which is why it’s important to learn how to manage your anxiety.
The first step in managing your anxiety is to identify what triggers it. Whether it be social settings or work meetings, once you know what makes you anxious, you can try to avoid those triggers as much as possible.
If you cannot avoid them, such as with work meetings, then try practicing deep breathing before entering those spaces so that your body isn’t as tense and ready for a fight-or-flight response.
Sleeping problems are a common problem for many people, affecting their daily lives. It is not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but also the quality of sleep. Medications can do more harm than good in some cases.
One possible cause of waking up at 3 am is taking medications that affect your sleep-wake cycle. This includes antidepressants and antipsychotic medications.
It’s important to discuss with your doctor or psychiatrist how to avoid these medications if you are suffering from sleeping problems.
Ways to Prevent Waking Up at 3am
It is a good idea to create a routine for the evening before bed. That way, you will know what to expect and be well-prepared for a night of rest.
One thing you can do is take time to enjoy life’s simpler pleasures, such as reading a book or watching your favorite TV show before going to bed. Another thing you can do is write down any thoughts you have on the day so that they don’t keep you up at night.
Should I See a Sleep Expert?
If you are somebody who wakes up at 3 am every night, it may not be because of something like insomnia or sleep apnea. It could be that your body has a hard time regulating its internal clock. This is called Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder.
Normally, your internal clocks are set to match light and dark periods of the day. But for some people, this doesn’t happen correctly, which means they don’t get enough or too much sleep during their day. A sleep expert may help you correct this.
It is common knowledge that sleep deprivation can be bad for your health. Waking at odd hours can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. It is important to get a good night’s sleep every single night.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try to do some yoga or meditation before bedtime. This will help you relax and fall asleep easier. Some people also find it helpful to read a book or have a cup of herbal tea before bedtime.