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Experts reveal why people are randomly waking up at 3 am and share useful solutions

Experts share their opinions on the increasing trend of people being unable to sleep through the night and share solutions.

Experts reveal why people are randomly waking up at 3 am and share useful solutions
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | John-Mark Smith; The Conversation | Greg Murray

A good sleep is essential to have a functional day. In its absence, people are forced to go through the day exhausted and lethargic for crucial things. Unfortunately, lack of sleep has become a common phenomenon, especially after the pandemic. Sleep Foundation has revealed that at present one in three people deal with this issue. There are a lot of factors behind it, from stress to heightened sensibilities at night. A unique pattern noted in this sleeplessness is how individuals are waking up at 3 a.m. Various experts put forward their opinions regarding this pattern to help get an informed solution to this problem.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Rachel Claire
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Rachel Claire

In his article with The Conversation, Greg Murray shared that the 3 a.m. phenomenon occurs mainly because of the changing neurobiology at that time. It is quite normal for individuals to wake up several times during the night. In the state of deep sleep, people are not aware of these awakenings, but it is noted by the body when it undergoes light sleep. The light sleep phase is elevated due to factors like stress.


As per Murray, at 3 a.m., our "core body temperature starts to rise, sleep drive is reducing (because we've had a chunk of sleep), secretion of melatonin (the sleep hormone) has peaked, and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are increasing as the body prepares to launch us into the day," which causes individuals to wake up. The phenomenon occurs at 3 a.m. because of the conventional sleep schedule. People usually doze off between 11 p.m. and midnight and have to wake up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and 3 a.m. falls smack dab in the middle of this entire schedule. It is at this phase where the sleep drive with which people began starts to wane and stress begins getting in its claws.


Aneesa Das explained in her article with Ohio State University, "Throughout the night, our sleep cycles between rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Each stage of sleep has a different threshold for how easy it is to be woken up. One likely explanation for waking up at the same time each night is that you go to sleep at the same time and then, at the same time each night, you reach a light stage of sleep and wake up." The role of stress in this phenomenon is visible in the amount of time a person has in their deep sleep and light sleep phase.

Michael K. Scullin, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Texas, shared in his interview with Newsweek that one of the biggest agents of stress in such cases is incomplete commitments. "Scientists have suspected for about a hundred years now that unfinished tasks rest at a heightened level of activation in the brain until they can be completed," he said.

Representative Image Source: Pexels |  Ivan Oboleninov
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Ivan Oboleninov

He proposed a simple solution to this problem. The expert suggested people keep a notepad at the bedside where they make a to-do list and write in detail everything that is stressing their minds. In this way, they already have gone through the issues plaguing them in their mind before sleep and there is less chance of it cropping up in their mind during sleep. In order to have a good night's sleep, it is vital that people go to bed with a head that is clear of worries. In many cases, people keep sidelining the issues they have with sleep because of other priorities. But that shouldn't be the case, as it is the primary way people reenergize their brains. Therefore, if people can not calm themselves enough regularly to get proper sleep, then they must consult a doctor or sleep expert.

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