Awake at Night? Discover Causes & Get Better Sleep

Woman awake at night

There are countless reasons why we’re awake at night, and they can change from month to month. But the outcome is the same: We either can’t fall asleep, or we wake up and can’t get back to sleep. For many of us, the frustrating cycle of disrupted sleep often feels impossible to break.

However, before making major lifestyle changes to tackle your sleep troubles, first consider ruling out any underlying medical conditions.

A simple blood test can check for hormonal imbalances, iron deficiency, or other reasons that might be the root of the problem. Consulting your doctor is definitely a wise first step to getting targeted solutions without tapping in the dark.

In the meantime, let’s explore some possible reasons for those restless, sleepless nights:

Woman staring at clock during the night

Best not watch the clock if you’re awake through the night. It can make you more anxious.

Awake at Night Because of Menopause:

This phase of life is a common culprit for sleep disturbances. Changes in hormone levels, such as low estrogen and fluctuations in follicle-stimulating hormone (nothing to do with hair follicles) can disrupt sleep patterns.

Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood shifts towards anxiety or depression can further exacerbate the issue. Your healthcare professional can offer guidance and support if menopause is a factor, potentially including discussions about hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Stress, Depression, and Anxiety:

These conditions can wreak havoc on your sleep, even without the hormonal changes of menopause. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, a calming bath, or listening to guided meditations before bed can make a big difference.

Consider adding other practices like mindfulness and journaling to manage stress and anxiety levels more effectively. If these conditions significantly impact your life, then please consult a health professional. And by the way, both herbal and prescription medications can sometimes cause unwanted side effects.

woman taking medication

                                                     Some medications can disturb your sleep

Medications:

Certain medications can interfere with sleep. You can discuss any such potential side effects of your prescriptions with your doctor. Maybe there are other options you could take..or they might suggest a reduction of the dosages. Either way, it might be helpful to maintain a list of your medications, including dosages, so you can easily refer to them during consultations.

Nocturia:

This is truly one of the more frustrating problems. I’m speaking from experience.😫 Waking repeatedly to use the bathroom can be utterly annoying. Not to mention cause terrible disruption to your sleep.

But, there might be an underlying reason: it can be caused by medical conditions like diabetes, reduced bladder capacity, or an overactive bladder. Your doctor can help diagnose and manage the issue for you. If your need to go pee comes from excessive fluid intake before bed, then the solution is easy: reduce beverages in the evening and experiment with leg elevation in the late afternoon may provide some relief. It (sort of) forces extra fluid to exit our system before you want to go to sleep. It certainly helped my mum for a while.

When that stopped working, she was given an anti-diuretic. It totally reduced her urge to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. But sadly it is not suitable for everyone.

Cup of coffee

A cup of coffee late at night might put a stop to a good night’s rest.

Alcohol and Caffeine:

These substances are notorious for disrupting sleep. Limit or avoid their consumption close to bedtime. Remember, even if alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night. And caffeine’s effects can linger for many hours, making it best to avoid it entirely in the afternoon and evening. For me, if I have any coffee after midday, I can say good-bye to any sleep at night. Whereas my father could drink a double short black and fall asleep a few minutes later. Sadly I did not inherit that genetic trait from him…😭

Pain or Discomfort:

If aches and pains disrupt your sleep, adjust your sleeping posture and consider whether your pillow and mattress provide enough comforting support.

A supportive pillow that keeps your spine aligned and a mattress that suits your preferred sleeping position can make a huge difference. For me, a simple swap of too-soft pillows for firmer ones made a big improvement.
For specific types of pain, like arthritis or joint discomfort, gentle stretches before bed may be beneficial.

Another tip: avoid sleeping in hot, stuffy rooms. 🥵

I read that an ideal temperature of around 16-20°C (65-68°F) is best for most people.

Diet and Blood Sugar:

Your diet plays a crucial role in sleep quality. Eating unbalanced meals or consuming excess carbohydrates, (particularly processed ones), before bed can lead to blood sugar spikes and crashes during the night. This can wake you up and make it quite difficult to fall back asleep.

Here’s why keeping blood sugar stable is key:

Understanding Spikes and Crashes:

When you eat a high-carb meal, especially one with processed carbs, your blood sugar rises rapidly (a spike). Your body responds by releasing insulin to bring those levels down. But sometimes it does its job too well and brings levels down too drastically. And this can lead to a blood sugar crash. These fluctuations can cause feelings of hunger, irritability, and of course, sleep disturbances.

Tips for meal planning 

👉Focus on whole grains, some protein, a small amount of healthy fats, and plenty of fibre to smooth out your blood sugar levels for the whole night.

Pair Carbs with Protein and Fats:

Include a serving of protein (beans, tofu, tempeh) and healthy fats (think avocado, nuts, seeds, olives) alongside whole-grain carbs like brown rice or quinoa. These help to slow down digestion and prevent rapid blood sugar spikes. Check our templates in our Facebook groups for recommended portion sizes.

Snack Smart Before Bed:

If you need a bedtime snack, avoid sugary treats or simple carbs. Opt for a small portion of nuts and seeds with a piece of fruit or plain soya yoghurt for protein and healthy fat with berries. Or make some Bliss Balls and add some protein powder to the recipe for an even better snack.

👉Add some berries to your soy yoghurt because they are known to reduce blood sugar and insulin spikes due to certain antioxidants.

Track Your Meals:

Keep a food diary to pinpoint patterns between your food and meal choices and sleep quality. This can help you to make better decisions about what works best for your body.

A Note on Blood Sugar and Sleep: Because I’ve studied the impact of diet on blood sugar control for many years, if you have any questions on this subject, please ask me. I’m here to help.

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