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A Drowzee Sleep Intelligence article:

Waking Up in the Middle of the Night?

Nighttime awakenings hurt your sleep quality and drains your energy. This is a guide to get uninterrupted sleep.

Table of Contents

Waking up in the middle of the night?

Do you have troubles with night-time awakenings?

Are you tired of going through endless struggle to get a good night sleep?

Be optimistic. It’s 2020 and researchers have never been closer to demystifying the world of sleep. Following are a some insomniac-proof methods and working approaches to start getting control of your shut-eye.

Let sleep be your next superpower.

Contents:

– 5 Reasons why you wake up in the middle of the night
– How to train your ability to stay asleep

First off, some reasons why you might be waking up.

Why Nighttime Awakenings?

Woman lying in bed sleepless after waking up in the middle of the night
Frustrating: Why is it sometimes so hard to get the continuous sleep you need?

Around one of every ten people experience nighttime awakenings each and every night. This is a complex problem that can have many different causes and present itself with different modalities and frequency. Hence why it can be solved in many different ways.

There can be several reasons why you are waking up in the middle of the night.

Biological and physiological reasons

  • Stimulants: Intake of food and drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, in the last hours before going to bed affect sleep as they activate your brain rather than relax it.
  • Arousal: Exercising right before sleep will prevent the normal onset of sleep.
  • Regulation of sleep and wake cycles is caused by interactions between the body’s homeostatic processes  and the internal biological clock, which is called the “two-process model of sleep regulation” (Borbély, Daan, Wirz-Justice, & Deboer, 2016). If these processes are disturbed, as is the case in depressive states, they result in a worse sleep pattern.
  • Your age can influence the amount of sleep you need. Children usually need more sleep than adults and the elderly.
  • Naps: Naps during the day are common in many cultures and they are often beneficial. Normal duration of naps are about 20-60 minutes, but longer naps could affect the ability to sleep properly during the night.

Psychological Reasons

  • Emotions: Emotions and sleep are in a two-way relationship, where how you process and experience emotions influence sleep and sleep can in turn influence emotions (Kahn, Sheppes, & Sadeh, 2013). Sleep loss increase negative emotions and decrease positive emotions, and this is found both in natural and laboratory settings.
Stress and anxiety can make your sleep lighter and more interrupted.
  • Stress: Stress and worries are common in a hectic everyday life but taking them with you to bed could work against the restorative effects of a good night’s sleep.
  • Overthinking: Thoughts and perceptions of what fulfilling sleep encompasses, overestimating the time spent awake and how bad it will make your day if you don’t get enough sleep.

Environmental/external reasons

  • Bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. If you spend a lot of time in the bedroom during the day it may be bad if you’ve got trouble sleeping.
  • Temperature: The room could be either too hot or cold.
  • Noise: Weather outside and other sound such as the traffic and animals/pets.
Turn off notifications during the night: Your phone might be the reason you wake up at night
  • Natural light: Light from outside can cause you to wake up earlier, especially in some countries where daily light varies throughout the seasons.
  • Artificial light: Using technological devices (phone, pc, iPad etc.) in the last couple of hours before sleep.
  • Partners can be a source of interruption with their snoring, restlessness etc.

How to Stop Awakenings and Stay Asleep

Here are specific strategies that can improve your ability to stay asleep.

Train your ability to stay asleep

Some of the issues around nighttime awakenings are easy to understand and easy to fix.

However, a lot of us do all the right things, but still wake up in the middle of the night. For no obvious reason.

Here are some techniques to improve sleep quality and lower chances of getting interrupted in the night.

Sleep Hygiene

  • Darken your room or use an eye mask
  • Reduce sources of light and sound. If you live by a road with lot of traffic use ear plugs or other sound proofing gear
Woman sleeping with earplugs.
Sounds: Using earplugs can make it easier to sleep through the night.
  • Keep the temperature a bit lower than your living room
  • Rise and go to bed at the same time each day. The most important thing that could help stabilise your sleep pattern is the time you get up (Kallestad, 2016), so that is probably where you should start.
  • Don’t go completely hungry to bed, but not too full either. Both activates your brain to stay awake.

Low-Hanging Fruit and Experiments

  • Physical activity and fresh air during the day for at least 30 minutes.
  • Practice sleep restriction: get up at the same time each day, despite how tired you feel, and stick to this schedule.
  • Avoid checking the clock, computer, and mobile phone when you’re in bed.
  • Avoid long naps during the day.
  • Keep a sleep diary to log all nights and your sleep experience. This can be used to check how many nights are bad or good and the diary gives you a way to monitor your sleep pattern.
  • Mindfulness techniques can help lower stress. Research show that mindfulness reduce the total wake time and increase total sleep time (Martires & Zeidler, 2015).
  • If worries are what keeps you up, try to set a specific time each day where you can worry all you want for 10-20 minutes. And the clue is to postpone all things you worry about for this predetermined time (not too late). If a thought sneaks into your head before this time, put it away by telling yourself to do it later and continue with the activity you were occupied with (Berge & Pallesen, 2015).

Professional Services

Talking to a professional can be a good way to learn about and improve your sleep situation.

Sleep Therapy

If your sleeping problems impacts your day performance, and following common advice doesn’t help, it’s a good idea to seek some professional help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment program for insomnia, usually done together with a somnologist or psychologist. This program aims to identify and redefine your thoughts and behaviors around sleep. Many people with sleep problems have, after countless wakeful nights, developed a negative correlation with sleep. This makes them turn awake or get a rush of anxiety every evening when they go to bed.

CBT-I is the current gold standard in insomnia treatment, and has a 70-80% success rate at making people with severe sleep problems healthy again.

You can ask your GP to refer you to a sleep clinic nearby. Alternatively you can try one of the new online CBT-I offerings out there.

Underlying conditions

Get an examination by a doctor to figure out if there are underlying conditions that influence your sleep which may need treatment.

Medication

There are two common types of sleep medication:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Melatonin

Benzodiazepines are effective in the short-term, but they may have negative side-effects if used for more than 3-4 weeks. The risk lead to development of higher tolerance for the medication, and at the end of usage the sleep problems may reappear (Berge & Pallesen, 2015).

Melatonin, a natural hormone in the body, is involved in sleep timing and the internal biological clock. It is used for primary and secondary sleep disorders, but there is a need for more research on the effects (Auld, Maschauer, Morrison, Skene, & Riha, 2017).

Use medication with caution, but in some cases they can be an effective solution to the problem.

Brain training with Drowzee

Increasing progressions in brain science and neurotechnology might open doors to treat a lot of problems in ways not previously possible.

Drowzee provides training to improve your natural ability to sustain your sleep through the night.

At Drowzee we are developing a neural interface for training you brain’s own natural ability to fall and stay asleep. Drowzee’s programme works by training the brain’s own noise-cancelling system, and reinforcing the sleep behavior of the brain. This leads to deeper, and more restful sleep in the night with fewer interruptions.

The training with the Drowzee-device is done during the day for 20 minutes, 2-3 times per week. After some weeks, you can expect to get positive results. You will be more preventative against external and internal stimuli during the night. Results will be lasting.

The technology behind the device is called neurofeedback, and has been used in clinics and research environments for decades. We are making this technology available to everyone, and aim to provide an easy way to improve your sleep from home.

Read more about Drowzee Sleep Training.

Conclusion

As we all know, good sleep is very important to live a good, healthy life.

People waking up in the middle of the night often end up feeling of helplessness.

Whether your problems are big or small, there is something you can do to improve your sleep. Ranging from nutrition advice to neurotechnology, there are a lot of strategies you can try out.

What worked for you?

Drowzee is working on technology to gain control over our sleep and cure insomnia.