Intermittent Night Time Awakening: Breaking the Cycle

Intermittent Night Time Awakening: Breaking the Cycle

Wondering why you cannot sleep a whole night uninterrupted? Sometimes waking up twice or even more in a single night. The whole experience might not be something to take pride in.

While waking up a few times, once in a while during the night to either urinate or grab a glass of water is normal, struggling to get back to sleep afterwards might be a problem resulting from several factors.

If in search of a workable solution, this is the right piece for you.

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Understanding the physiology of sleep

Sleep is one of the most essential body needs for proper functioning and survival too. It promotes memory and learning.

There are two phases of sleep, that is the rapid eye movement (REM) and the non – rapid eye movement. While asleep, you basically undergo 4 to 6 cycles of sleep about every 90 minutes.

Early in the night, more time is spent in the non- REM phase. It is also during this that a stage of deep sleep occurs. 

During the REM phase, your brain is active and usually, dreaming occurs in this phase, also later in the night. The body cannot properly regulate temperature in the REM phase of sleep.

Adults require at least 8 hours of sleep each night and a lack of this has detrimental effects on your overall well being.

Causes of night time awakening

Irregular sleep schedules

One study among university students in Taiwan found that an irregular sleep schedule had a negative effect on sleep quality.

Setting sleep schedules is not the same as adhering to them therefore people that do not sleep and wake up at consistent times have a disrupted sleep-wake cycle which interferes with their night time sleep.

Late night meals

Eating high calorie meals right before bed time increases the amount of time spent before falling asleep. 

To a large extent, it creates a discomfort that cannot let you sleep soundly. Eating late in the night creates persistent thirst to which you must respond by waking up to quench.

 Wake up multiple times and you won’t be having any good sleep left?

Sleep environment

Light, noise and room temperature all have an impact on the sleep quality. Excess nocturnal light exposure can cause excess awakening; it affects transitioning between sleep cycles and shortens time spent in deep sleep.

Extremes of temperature elicit arousal from sleep by affecting skin temperature. Noise has been found to decrease REM sleep, which is more restoring while prolonging the wake stage of sleep.

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Sleep apnoea

This is a condition resulting from obstructed upper airways while asleep. It is associated with arousal from sleep. Obstructive sleep apnoea not only results in non-restorative sleep but also poses a high risk for cardiovascular disease.


People that have anxiety or those faced with depression have a higher likelihood for insomnia and overall poor sleep quality.

By spending more time dwelling on their worries and fears, most of these find it hard to even initiate sleep.

Night time urination

Medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, some medications and certain lifestyle behaviours influence night time awakening to urinate. 

Behaviours such as high fluid intake prior to bed time, excessive alcohol consumption and consuming caffeinated drinks contribute to this. In the end sleep gets interrupted.

How to stop waking up frequently in the night

Getting rid of the night time awakening requires determination and consistency. A modification of lifestyle is also imperative. Here are some ways to solve it.

  • Setting a constant sleep schedule and adhering to it

A consistent sleep schedule has been correlated to better quality sleep, the average sleep time is increased in people with regular sleep schedules

A healthy sleep schedule translates into a healthy individual with lowered risk of heart disease.  Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day improves your physical and mental health.

  • Regular physical exercise

Adding physical exercise to your daily routine greatly improves your overall sleep quality, the time you spend in bed before drifting off to sleep is generally reduced. 

However, when you choose to exercise, the magnitude of physical activity determines its effects on your sleep quality. Exercising prior to bedtime can decrease the quality of sleep. This said, it is better to pick out a time during the day.

  • Avoiding caffeine late in the day

Caffeine is a brain stimulant and so promotes wakefulness. It acts on brain receptors associated with cognition, sleep and arousal. 

Its consumption causes reduction of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (a metabolite of melatonin) resulting in interrupted sleep

For better sleep, it is advisable to avoid caffeine at least 8 hours prior to bedtime.

  • Minimising number of naps

The frequency and timings of naps has a role to play in the quality of your night time sleep. 

Naps taken later during the day are associated with poor quality sleep at night, characterised by repetitive awakening. There is also a lot of time spent while waiting to finally fall asleep

Aiming to have fewer naps preferably early in the afternoon rather than evening will have a positive impact on your night time sleep.

  • Keeping a favourable bedroom environment

A dark and quiet room will promote better sleep at night. Darkness stimulates melatonin production from the pineal gland. Increased production of this hormone causes you to fall asleep faster and also have uninterrupted sleep. 

Additionally, avoiding loud sounds and minimising background noise in the bedroom increases the amount of deep restorative sleep with minimal awaking. 

Maintaining a comfortable sleep environment temperature is also important for sleep maintenance. 

  • Role of diet

Incorporation of sleep promoting foods into your diet has been found to have pleasant effects of sleep improvement. Such foods include fatty fish, milk which is a good source of tryptophan, and cherries

Furthermore, it is advisable to avoid late night meals. This contributes to discomfort within the gut, heartburn or may be associated with reflux and this might keep you tossing and turning all night.

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  • Limiting fluids prior to bedtime

Emphasis is placed on adequate hydration during the day while limiting fluid intake in the few hours leading to bedtime, at least 2 hours.

This helps to minimise awakening due to the urge to urinate in the night as a result of excess urine production.

  • Use of natural supplements

Supplements, particularly those containing B vitamins, melatonin (a sleep hormone) and minerals have been proven to have effects of promoting a normal sleep-wake cycle allowing you to enjoy a good night’s sleep with minimal disruptions.

Researchers have found an association between mineral and vitamin deficiencies and disrupted sleep. Vitamin B12 affects melatonin concentration in blood while vitamin B6 is a cofactor in the synthesis of serotonin and indirectly affects melatonin secretion.

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