IS WAKING UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT BAD FOR YOU?
Sleep is an essential component of our lives that is often taken for granted. It is a basic biological need that enables us to restore and regenerate our bodies, consolidate memories, and process emotions. Despite its importance, many people struggle with getting enough sleep, and the consequences can be severe. However, is waking up in the middle of the night unhealthy?
Better sleep can be yours! Consider sleep tips for the weary.
Many people believe that sleeping in one continuous block from the moment they fall asleep until they wake up in the morning is the ideal way to get restful sleep. However, waking up in the middle of the night is normal. A normal sleep cycle lasts from 90 to 120 minutes, including the time it takes to transition from lighter to deep sleep and then into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. As each period of REM ends, a person may briefly wake up.
Dr. Brandon Peters, a neurologist and sleep specialist, says that waking up a few times in the middle of the night is normal and won’t impact your sleep quality. Typically, a 7-8 hour night of sleep allows for about 3 to 5 complete sleep cycles, which also means 2-4 awakenings between them.
It’s also common for people to awaken briefly out of light sleep as many as 20 to 30 times a night. These normal arousals are so short or non-eventful that we don’t remember them. Dr. Peters explains that if the awakening is fewer than five minutes long, there will be no memory of it.
Despite this being a normal part of sleep, many people can feel unsettled when they wake up in the middle of the night. Clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Shelby Harris suggests avoiding worrying when you wake up in the middle of the night. Sleep can’t be forced, so if you start worrying, Harris suggests using a simple mind trick to take your mind's attention off of your need to sleep. One of his favorites? Coming up with a word for each letter, starting at the end of the alphabet, and then spelling it forward and backward. For instance, you might start with “zebra,” spelling it both forward and backward before moving onto “yellow.” This offers just enough mental stimulation to distract yourself from worries, but not enough to keep you awake long.