Expert Explains the Reason Why People Wake Up in the Middle of the Night

Ever wonder why we wake up hours before our alarms? It’s not because we’re not tired, judging by how we feel the next morning. An expert has shared insights on why this phenomenon occurs, and it actually makes a lot of sense.

Waking up at night can be annoying, especially if you have trouble going back to sleep. Whether it’s thinking about a choice you made a long time ago or going over an argument with a friend, many people spend this time thinking about lots of things, especially if something is already bothering them.

Psychology researcher Professor Greg Murray has penned an article on the topic, shared through The Conversation, shedding light on the role of our ‘neurobiology’ in this occurrence.

Murray clarifies that during a typical night’s sleep, a crucial shift occurs around 3 am. Our core body temperature starts to increase, our sleep requirement diminishes as we’ve likely had a substantial amount of rest, and the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, begin to rise. Cortisol’s increase in the morning is designed to assist in waking us up.

Murray clarifies that these biological changes occur independently of environmental factors. So, even if you have blackout blinds, for instance, you may still wake up in the early hours.

Furthermore, if you’re going through a stressful situation, the likelihood of waking up increases. This explains why people often experience disrupted sleep when something is bothering them.

In addition, stressing about the need to be asleep can exacerbate the problem.

“Concerns about being awake when one ‘should’ be asleep can cause the person to jolt themselves into anxious wakefulness whenever they go through a light sleep phase,” Murray says.

If you’ve ever found yourself waking up in the night and spending hours trying to solve and overthink a problem, you might be relieved to know that this is often an unproductive endeavor.

“The truth is, our mind isn’t really looking for a solution at 3 am,” he says. We might think we are problem-solving by mentally working over issues at this hour, but this isn’t really problem-solving; it’s problem-solving’s evil twin – worry.”

Murray suggests that if you find yourself in a cycle of waking up at 3 am, meditation can often be a great help. He also recommends turning on a dim light to read.

“This action may seem mundane, but at 3 am, it is powerfully compassionate and can help draw you out of your unproductive thinking,” he says.

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Source: The Conversation

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