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Medical News Today: Why do I keep waking up at night?

Nearly everyone will wake up in the middle of the night at some point in their life. For many, the cause is benign and short-lived, such as needing to urinate due to drinking too much liquid before bed.

However, regularly waking up in the middle of the night can become problematic, as it interrupts sleep.

Sleep is a necessary function that helps restore the body. Not getting enough sleep can give rise to significant health problems and impair cognitive function.

The following are some common causes and potential remedies for a person waking in the middle of the night.

Sleep apnea

A person with sleep apnea may frequently wake during the night.

Sleep apnea is a common cause of waking in the middle of the night. It causes shallow breathing, which may cause a person to wake up several times per night. In many cases, a person will not even realize that their sleep is interrupted.

A person with sleep apnea may notice symptoms such as:

  • headaches in the morning
  • gasping for air at night
  • daytime tiredness
  • snoring
  • difficulty concentrating during the day

Treatment and remedies

If sleep apnea is the cause or likely cause of frequently waking up in the middle of the night, a healthcare provider will probably refer the person to a sleep center. They may also recommend a treatment plan to address the sleep apnea.

Treatment options may include undergoing surgery, using airway pressure devices, or trying oral appliances that help open the airways.

Anxiety, depression, or worry

Anxiety and depression can cause insomnia. The opposite is also true; insomnia can cause either of these conditions.

Both anxiety and depression make it difficult for a person to quiet their mind or shut down their thinking processes. This can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Treatment and remedies

A person should speak to their healthcare provider if they feel anxious or depressed. There are several therapeutic options they can try, including:

  • speaking to a therapist
  • taking medication to treat anxiety or depression
  • practicing relaxation techniques

Home remedies for anxiety and depression often involve relaxation techniques. These include:

  • playing calming music
  • exercising regularly
  • reducing the number of tasks to do
  • meditating
  • creating a calming environment in the bedroom


Insomnia is a condition wherein a person finds it difficult or impossible to fall or stay asleep. It causes daytime tiredness and therefore makes getting through the day very difficult.

Insomnia is linked with depression and anxiety, and it can be both the cause and symptom of these conditions.

Treatment and remedies

There are many potential remedies a person can try to reduce the severity of their insomnia. Some techniques include:

  • not eating heavy or spicy meals before bed
  • meditating
  • regularly exercising during the day
  • not napping
  • sticking to a regular sleep schedule
  • doing a repetitive activity outside of the bedroom

A need to urinate

Taking medications and drinking before bed can cause a need to urinate at night.
Taking medications and drinking before bed can cause a need to urinate at night.

The urge to urinate can wake a person in the night. Though some people may be able to prevent this feeling by reducing liquid intake at night, others have this issue due to an underlying condition.

Some factors that can cause nighttime urination include:

Treatment and remedies

Treatment depends on what causes the need to urinate at night. Some potential solutions to these problems include:

  • limiting fluid intake before bed
  • taking medications earlier in the day or switching them with others if possible
  • avoiding spicy foods

If pregnancy is behind the need to urinate during the night, this symptom should subside at the end of the pregnancy.

Night terrors

A person who experiences night terrors may not actually wake up. Instead, they may scream, thrash around, cry, or appear fearful. Sometimes, the person does not remember what occurs to cause the terror.

Though children are most likely to experience night terrors, they do affect adults as well.

Treatment and remedies

Children typically outgrow night terrors as they age. However, caregivers should contact a pediatrician if:

  • the child is tired during the day
  • the child is in danger when the terrors occur
  • the frequency of the episodes increases
  • terrors either wake the child or others in the house
  • the episodes persist into adulthood


A person sleeps best when their body temperature is cool.

At times, a person’s body temperature may rise too much. For many people, this is because their bedroom is too warm. For others, it may be due to night sweats.

Treatment and remedies

People who sleep in a warm environment should take steps to cool the room down. For example, they may use air conditioning or a fan or remove a blanket from the bed.

Night sweats can occur due to medications a person is taking, autoimmune disorders, infection, or anxiety. If night sweats occur, a person should speak to their doctor about ways to treat the underlying condition.

Screen use and noise

According to the National Sleep Foundation, screen time before bed can cause problems such as a reduction in melatonin and a disrupted body clock. This can make sleeping difficult and may cause a person to wake in the middle of the night.

In addition, noises coming from a TV, cell phone, or other electronic device can cause a person to wake up from sleep.

Treatment and remedies

To help prevent these issues, the National Sleep Foundation recommend stopping the use of electronic devices 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed. This will allow the brain to start to settle and may promote staying asleep.


Eating too much food or spicy food too close to bedtime can cause sleep issues.

Indigestion causes uncomfortable bloating and gas that can make it hard to fall asleep, and it may wake someone up in the middle of the night.

Treatment and remedies

To prevent indigestion at night, a person should eat heavier meals earlier in the day. For people who are hungry before bed, a light snack is the best choice.

When to see a doctor

A doctor can assess a child experiencing frequent night terrors.
A doctor can assess a child experiencing frequent night terrors.

A person should see their healthcare provider if they:

  • are frequently waking up in the middle of the night
  • are getting enough hours of sleep but still feel tired the next day
  • notice that a partner is showing signs of sleep apnea
  • have a child who has severe or worsening night terrors

Specifically, a person should investigate any unexplained fatigue. It is possible that the fatigue is due to an undiagnosed medical condition.

General sleep hygiene tips

There are several steps a person can take to improve their sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to setting up the environment and changing some personal habits in a way that aims to make sleeping easier.

Some steps to take to improve sleep hygiene include:

  • reducing or removing light by using blackout curtains
  • removing unnecessary electronics from the bedroom
  • positioning an alarm clock away from the bed
  • using dim lighting, if any, at night
  • not using electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bedtime
  • keeping a consistent sleep schedule
  • not napping
  • developing a relaxing bedtime routine
  • not eating heavy foods before bed
  • avoiding stimulants before bed
  • exercising during the day


Occasionally waking in the middle of the night is not necessarily an issue. However, if a person frequently wakes up at night, they should try to address this.

There are steps a person can take to stop waking up in the middle of the night, such as making appropriate lifestyle changes, seeking medication changes, and treating any underlying conditions.

Getting enough good quality sleep is a vital part of a living a healthy life.