Reasons you wake during the night and what to do about it

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Too often I hear people say that they are waking up during the night, but “that’s normal, right?” Though be it common, not sleeping through the night is not normal if we are in optimum health. And for that matter, neither are headaches, premenstrual symptoms, constipation…but I digress. There could be a whole host of reasons as to why people can’t get a full night of sleep, but there are a handful that I encounter most frequently. Here they are, along with a few tips for putting them to rest.

I have to go to the bathroom.

If you have to go to the bathroom, then yes, you should definitely get out of bed. However, if that’s the main reason you wake up, let’s address it. I don’t care how much water you think you need, sleeping through the night will always trump getting that last 8 oz. in before you snooze. As a generally rule, we should not have food within 2 hours of our sleep time and avoid drinking any quantifiable amount of liquid within an hour before sleep. Really, we should be winding down after 7pm or so. If you have a medication that you need to take, that’s a little different. Still, the amount that it takes to get a tablet down should really only be a couple of ounces at max. If you give this a whirl and you’re still awakened by nature’s call, consider the amount of caffeine or diuretics you have during the day. And if that still isn’t on the list? Males, have your prostate checked. Women, be sure you aren’t experiencing any other symptoms of pelvic disorders.

I’m hot.

When we think of heat at night, we think of hot flashes. This should be on our list to consider, so if you’re not sleeping because you are hot, see your health professional (Ayurvedic practitioner!) for some ideas on how to regulate your hormones. However, consider that it might actually be your mind that is making you hot. Each emotion and mental tendency that you experience produces a temperature shift in your body. It happens that things like responsibilities, goals and problem solving have the ability to warm us up. If you are waking up hot during the night, also observe what your thoughts are like when you wake up. If you’re checking off your “to do” list, there’s good chance that’s the culprit. Perhaps there are too many things going on in your life? Because we can’t always just drop a responsibility, try making a list before bed. Maybe if you organize and purge all of those things on your mind in advance, they won’t wake you up.

My Mind is Active.

If this is what is waking you, you may have no idea. It might take some observation to really dial this one in. In this case, consider an active mind with many thoughts different than a problem solving mind. Active in this case means that your mind is racing, that you’re worrying, that your head is on the hamster wheel. This might even be anxiety knocking at your door. While journaling before bed can often help most types of excessive thoughts during the night, this one might respond even better to oil. By quality, anxiety is light. Oil is heavy. Something simple as oiling your feet at night can settle your mind. Using organic, unrefined sesame oil will work. If you’d like something more potent (and luxurious), I’m into Banyan Botanical’s Sleep Easy Oil and Lotus Wei’s Quiet Mind and Inner Peace serums. Of course, a little breathing and meditation never hurts.

I’m in pain.

Never ignore pain. I’m a firm believe that time can heal all wounds, but usually there needs to be some assistance with it. If you are waking up because you are in pain, it could simply be that you need a new mattress or pillow, but there are also more serious conditions that will wake you during the night. If you wake up with pain on a regular basis, see your healthcare practitioner. If you think it’s a problem with your muscles or joints, your chiropractor is a good place to start. Bottom line: Don’t ignore pain.

I really don’t know.

If none of these things describe you, it’s also possible that you have a crappy schedule. That’s right. Crap. If each day is so different that you eat at different times, go to bed at different times, wake up at different times (you get my drift), that’s enough to make your sleep cycle confused. Combine that with using devices that emit a light that make you believe that it’s daytime and you’re really screwed. While in these cases I’d suggest cleaning up your routine and making sure you aren’t using anything with a blue light after 7-8pm, herbs can also be helpful. As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I reach for things like valerian, shatavari, scullcap, passionflower and bhringaraj. Yet often times the best for this type of situation is the short term use of melatonin. Melatonin regulates our sleep cycle by regulating melatonin. A change in routine is something you can start to work out on your own, but when it comes to herbs or melatonin, reach out to a professional for guidance.

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