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Why Do I Keep Waking Up At 3am?

There could be many reasons why someone is having trouble sleeping- from stress, to anxiety, to sleep disorders like insomnia where people find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. The latter can be disruptive if you’re waking up in the middle of the night and finding it extremely difficult to fall back asleep. 

(While we want to preface that melatonin supplements are not designed to treat or cure sleep disorders, it might help some people deal with some forms of sleep issues.)


Reasons for trouble staying asleep

Finding out why you’re waking up in the middle of the night is unfortunately case by case. Different reasons for difficulty sleeping or staying asleep will ultimately affect the course of action needed to alleviate those issues. 

For example, people who are light sleepers or wake up easily to light disturbances might want to start with noise-canceling headphones or changing their sleep environment, rather than a more intense solution like sleeping pills which often have warnings against long-term use and more severe side effects.

In other cases, people have underlying issues that affect their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders, characterized by either difficulty falling asleep, not getting enough restorative sleep, or not being able to stay asleep. People may experience insomnia very differently, since insomnia does not have one single cause. For some people, insomnia might be a symptom of another underlying cause or condition.

Health conditions like sleep apnea might also contribute to difficulty sleeping. With sleep apnea, your breathing stops and restarts as you sleep which can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. This can disrupt sleep, resulting in feeling like you didn’t get enough sleep.

Anxiety or depression- or both- can also be a source of insomnia. A study found that more than half of people suffering from depression have difficulty sleeping at night. Another found that stress tends to exacerbate sleep reactivity, which correlates to greater tendency to experience difficulty sleeping. 

Other reasons you might not be able to sleep include:

  • Short-term stress or anxiety 
  • Feeling pain or discomfort at night 
  • Poor sleep hygiene, such as using devices late at night 
  • Jet lag 
  • Underlying health disorders or conditions 

Short-term causes like jet lag might resolve in a few nights on their own. But if you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping that’s affecting your quality of life for a long period of time, speak with your physician to discuss what the issue might be. 

 

Lack of sleep leads to greater issues 

In the short term, not getting enough sleep can make it hard to get out of bed the next morning. But a long term lack of sleep can have more debilitating effects on your health and your daily life. 

Sleep is an essential part of maintaining your health. When you sleep, you recover energy lost during the day and replenish functions that are essential for growth and physical wellness. Sleep is important for hormone regulation, muscle repair, tissue growth, hormone regulation, brain development, and other functions that have a major impact on your health. 

A lack of sleep can greatly impair your mental and physical capabilities. Poor concentration and cognitive function, impaired memory, and exhaustion could greatly hamper your day to day life such as at work or school. 

Other side effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Poor motor capabilities or control 
  • Increased stress or agitation 
  • Daytime exhaustion 
  • Grogginess and poor mental cognition 
  • Lack of focus and memory 

Long term or chronic sleep deprivation is correlated to increased likelihood of developing conditions such as obesity, heart conditions, diabetes, and other conditions that have a profound effect on your health. 

Sleep deprivation can also greatly increase your risk of getting in motor accidents caused by impaired driving.

The repercussions of a severe lack of sleep can be massive. This is why it’s essential to get enough restorative sleep and also practice good sleep habits. The average adult needs about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

 

Can I use melatonin to go back to sleep?

For many people, melatonin is a safe and effective sleep aid to help their sleep issues. 

Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles and signals to your body that it should prepare for sleep. Taking melatonin close to bedtime should initiate this cycle and onset sleep at the intended time. 

If you wake up in the middle of the night, you could use melatonin to reinitiate that cycle and go back to sleep. Doing so should not cause any negative side effects if taken appropriately, but you should be careful not to take too much melatonin- especially if you’ve already taken it prior to waking up. 

Look out for signs that you may have taken too much melatonin:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or grogginess 
  • Feeling tired in the morning 
  • Elevations or drops in blood pressure 
  • Nightmares 
  • Agitation or mood swings

The average recommended dose for melatonin is between 0.5mg to 10mg. We suggest starting with the smallest dose possible before adjusting to higher doses. This will help you minimize the possibility of experiencing side effects from taking too much melatonin. 

 

Will melatonin keep me awake?

Melatonin shouldn’t be keeping you awake, as its intended purpose is to signal to your organs that it’s time to sleep. If you feel that melatonin is keeping you awake, discontinue using it and speak with a healthcare physician about finding a sleep aid that works best for you.