So- I am a frequent night-waker. It's rare that I get through the night without waking up multiple times. This has been something that has been happening with me for years- and also something I've never really given much thought to. I've always chalked it up to not being able to shut my brain off before bed.
I've had so many conversations about so many things with my amazing and intelligent friend, Dr. Camille Krause- and this came up in one of our chats awhile back. I had NO idea waking up at different times in the night could mean different things.
In regards to the Move to Heal Project- a big learning component for me over the years has been looking at how to love and care for myself. Getting a good nights sleep definitely falls into this category, which is why I wanted to share it here.
If you're wanting more info on Dr. Camille Krause, you can find her info under our FEEL TO HEAL page, as well as through the link at the bottom of this article.
Happy Sleeping :)
Dr. Camille Krause, ND
So, you're waking up in the night?
Different times of waking can actually mean different problems. Sorting these problems out is the type of thing I do daily with my patients to get them sleeping through the night.
(I'd love to share some of this information with you below!)
2am Wake Time
If you start waking up at 2am, the likely culprit is blood sugar.
When blood sugar gets too low the body thinks it’s a matter of survival and will send out alarm signals.
The alarm signals are sent out as adrenaline, which may feel like different things depending on the person:
Some people may feel this as being wired and wide awake in the middle of the night without knowing why, without anxiety or hunger signals.
Some people may also feel ravenous in the middle of the night.
Other people may experience this as sweating, jitteriness, heart palpitations - ie, anxiety!
Try a snack before bed. Something that includes fat, fibre, and protein. The easiest example would be a small handful of nuts.
Balancing your blood sugar through the whole day is also important!
This pattern of 2am waking is also seen in some people when they have had alcohol in the evening. Alcohol causes blood sugar to rise and then drop off suddenly within a 1-3 hour span.
The type of alcohol doesn’t necessarily matter – so even though wine actually has very little carbohydrates, it’s not the sugar that is causing a blood sugar spike, it’s the body’s response to alcohol.
See if you notice a pattern of whether your sleep is affected by alcohol.
5am Wake Time (or, 1-2 hours before your alarm)
the likely culprit here is cortisol.
This means you're feeling wired (as if it's time to start the day) even though your alarm hasn't gone off yet.
Cortisol is known as a stress hormone, but it’s also an integral part of our circadian rhythm. It’s our "get-up-and-go hormone", and helps us feel awake and alert throughout the course of the day.
You may notice that if you sleep in past this early morning wakeup, you actually feel more drained and groggy – because the cortisol is no longer as high and helping with alertness.
The goal is to calm down the cortisol overnight, so that it isn't overactive in the early mornings, and lets the person get those restful last few hours of sleep – then have cortisol be available to them during the day, when they need it to focus!
Many things calm down cortisol before bed, including exercise (earlier in the day), mindfulness, no screens or stimulating content before bed, and a bedtime routine that shakes off the thoughts of a busy day.
If you are waking throughout the night, and the times aren't constant, there is more complexity to the issue - but of course it is still solvable!
Nighttime waking may be related to hot flashes, progesterone deficiency, or serotonin deficiency, as a few examples.
Lastly, if someone is waking multiple times in the night to use the washroom, this could mean they are not sleeping DEEPLY enough.
The body should be able ignore signals of a full bladder (within reason), while still maintaining sphincter function, and allow you to sleep.
If those bladder signals are making it to your conscious mind, you are sleeping too lightly! I use the number of nighttime trips to the bathroom as a marker for how deeply someone is sleeping. We cannot always increase how long you sleep for, but we can certainly improve sleep quality.
Track your sleep and your wake times. Note how many times you’re using the washroom in the night, and whether you’re able to fall back asleep easily when you do wake.
Do you notice what wakes you up in the first place?
With regard to the root cause of your different wake-up times, both the
1) 2 am pattern of blood sugar dysregulation AND
2) 5 am cortisol dysregulation
can also be rooted in burnout. Burnout can be treated! Sleep is a foundation for all the other hormones and biochemistry of the body to work properly. When someone is able to sleep deeply through the night, their body can function better on many different levels.
Often tracking the pattern is a helpful place to start, and a healthcare practitioner can better guide what those patterns mean, and what to do about it.
You’ll find more information on burnout atwww.FatigueFixWaterloo.com