You guys know the scenario. When you roll to the other side of the bed and wake up just to see that it’s still pitch dark outside. You don’t even need to see the time. You know its somewhere around 3 AM. Most of us wake up several times during the night whenever we change our sleeping position. Did you know that an average adult waking up 5-7 times a night is considered normal? Shocking right?
But there’s something peculiar about the 3 AM wake up call. I’m sure you’ll all want to know the reason why our bodies find it difficult to dose off again after waking up at 3 AM. Am I right? So let’s start with the countdown of 6 reasons why your body wakes up at 3 AM!
1. Historical Reason
Let’s go back to the time of the industrial revolution. Shall we? During this time, the North Americans and the Europeans decided to divide their sleep into 2 segments: first sleep and second sleep. With the emergence of artificial lighting, people were able to go to bed later and spend their evening either working or playing. This historically disrupted our circadian rhythm or our body’s 24-hour clock, and we started waking up around 3 AM.
2. Let the Liver Rest!
According to traditional Chinese medicine, our body’s organs work in specific time slots around the clock. For example, our stomach works from 7 am-9 pm. Similarly, our liver does its job from 1 am-3 am. The western diet that we all follow today, puts a lot of stress on our digestive organs. Our meals are loaded with processed sugar, oils, and alcohol. To top it all, we also deal with a lot of stress due to our fast-paced lifestyle.
When we are stressed throughout the day, our sugar levels fluctuate, and our stress or flight and fight hormones are worn down. Our liver uses glycogen from the body’s sugar reservoir. By 3 AM, there’s no glycogen left for our liver to regenerate. Due to this, the level of the stress hormone known as “adrenaline” rises in our body. The adrenaline rush is what keeps us awake after 3 AM.
3. You’re Running Low On Sugar
Our brain is active at night while we are busy sleeping. It performs various functions such as repairing, regenerating, converting short-term memories into long-term memories, etc. To do its job perfectly our brain needs glucose (blood sugar). If you’re done with your dinner by 9 pm, then chances are that your body will run our of blood sugar 6-7 hours after your meal. To protect itself from damage, your brain wakes you up by releasing cortisol in your blood.
Cortisol is a hormone that boosts our metabolism and makes us hungry. This is the reason why most of us wake up at 3 AM feeling hungry. However, if cortisol is released into your bloodstream at night to combat low blood sugar levels, then you might experience high blood sugar in the morning and not feel hungry when you wake up. This phenomenon is known as the Somogyi effect.
4. Light Sleep Mode
Our body sleeps in cycles of light and deep slumber. Our deep sleep mode lasts for only 5 hours. So if you go to bed by 10 and find yourself waking up at 3 AM, then it’s possible that your body is transitioning to light sleep mode. It becomes fairly easy to wake up during this transition.
5. Nature Calls
There are several reasons why you might have to go to the bathroom at night. Firstly around 3 AM, your body is transitioning to the light sleep period so it’s a bit more alert. Secondly, there could be medical reasons such as enlarged prostate, diabetes, etc. behind the 3 AM nature call. Lastly, it could also be because you consumed a lot of fluids before bed.
So to avoid staying awake after 3 AM, Do NOT look at your phone or switch on any bright light. This might give your brain the wrong impression that it’s time to wake up. Also, make sure that your heartbeat is around 60 beats a minute. Trust me, following these 2 steps will have you falling asleep in no time!
6. Hot Flashes!
Going through hot flashes is one of the most frustrating aspects of menopause. In menopausal women, the body responds to low levels of estrogen with a surge of body heat accompanied by intense sweating. This is termed as a hot flash. So if hot flashes are the culprits behind your 3 AM wake up call, try to take your supplements on time and keep an ice bag on your nightstand ready for use!
A good night’s sleep is crucial for your overall health. If you’re waking up at night for more than 20 minutes, at least 3 times a week, then you might want to consult a healthcare professional for the same. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, hypertension, and whatnot. So go fly away to your land of dreams for a healthier body and mind! Goodnight!