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Waking Up at 3 a.m. Every Night? Here’s Why, According to 3 Sleep Experts

Updated: Feb 16

DrLullaby's founder, Lisa Medalie, PsyD, DBSM contributes to this Microsoft News Lifestyle article, explaining the effects of too much blue light, jetlag, and sleep hygiene on your sleep. Also, tips for what to do if you can't fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night.


1. You might be O.D.’ing on blue light

A better fix than those blue light glasses, which, when worn in the afternoon, won’t make much of a difference? Expose yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning by going for a 15-minute walk, suggests behavioral sleep medicine specialist Dr. Lisa Medalie, PsyD, CBSM. “It improves circadian rhythm and morning alertness, thereby reducing insomnia.”


2. It could be jet lag or daylight savings

Traveled recently? This could be the culprit of your sleep disruptions, especially if you changed time zones. Similarly, your body might need at least a few days to adjust when you set your clocks forward or back to account for daylight savings time. This is because your circadian rhythm, your body’s natural 24-hour cycle, is thrown off when you are suddenly trying to sleep on a different schedule, Medalie and Dawe explain—and just because the clock says one thing doesn’t mean your internal clock will necessarily agree. It might take a few days (or even a week) to get back on track.


3. Your sleep hygiene may be crappy

Even if you have no problem initially falling asleep, the way you set up your bedroom is extremely important and can affect your quality of sleep throughout the night, Medalie explains. If you watched TV, checked email or played video games within an hour of bedtime, this is likely what caused your sleep disturbances.


So, you’re up reading this at 3 a.m.? Here’s what to do:


1. Get out of bed and sit in a chair (ideally one that's next to your bed or nearby) and read a book or magazine for five minutes, Medalie suggests. This is a technique called "stimulus control,” and it’s an effective strategy for insomnia.


2. Normalize the idea of waking up in the middle of the night. Instead of panicking that you're up and can't fall back asleep (ahh, the rolodex of anxiety!!), take a second and tell yourself that this is totally normal. On average, a sleep cycle is 90 to 120 minutes long, so waking up a couple times isn’t anything to stress out about, Medalie assures us.

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