Eighty percent of all Americans report problems with sleep at least once a week. That's according to a 2018 Consumer Reports survey of 1,767 U.S. adults. Surprisingly, the most common problem people face isn’t falling asleep—it’s staying asleep.
Almost 50 percent of Americans reported trouble staying asleep, meaning they wake up at least once in the middle of the night and then have difficulty nodding back off again.
An occasional 3 a.m. awakening is nothing to worry about, but if you’ve been waking up in the middle of the night at least once a week for over a month, then experts say you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Consumer Reports shared five ways to address frequent middle-of-the-night wake-ups.
Check For Medical Issues
If you find that you generally seem to fall asleep readily, but later wake up and have trouble going back to sleep, the culprit may be an undiagnosed health condition. Experts say common culprits include sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, diabetes, enlarged prostate, or menopause. Most of those conditions can be diagnosed with a sleep study or a visit to your doctor.
Try To Stay Calm When You Wake Up
If your insomnia isn’t due to a medical condition, it could be caused by psychophysiological insomnia. This happens when you wake up and get so stressed about not falling back to sleep that your worry keeps you awake.
If this happens, the best way to cope is to stay exactly where you are because getting up and moving to another room can cause your body to wake up more. Also, don't grab your phone because the blue light may make it harder for you to fall back asleep.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed as they can impact your sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at about the same time each day to get your body used to a fixed sleep schedule. And make sure that you’re getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week; regular physical activity has been linked to sounder sleep.
Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Groups like the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy over sleep drugs as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is often covered by insurance. Certain sleep clinics offer CBT; find one accredited by the AASM here. You can also find a therapist who specializes in sleep disorders through the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
Avoid Sleep Meds
Experts say both over-the-counter and prescription sleeping medications can carry health risks if they’re used long term. They should only be used short-term, under the supervision of a doctor—and even then only sparingly.