Is it normal to awaken during the night?

It is common and benign for normal sleepers to awaken several times each night.  Generally, normal sleepers briefly awaken at least five or six times between sleep cycles each night, and then fall back asleep within seconds.  Typically these very brief periods of awakening are so short they are forgotten by morning.

Even the best sleepers awaken to some degree at least 10 to 15 times per night and forget about them by morning.  Finer indications of arousal, such as brain wave activity measured in a sleep lab, show that normal sleepers actually awaken some 10 times or more per hour on average, although these arousals typically last less than 15 seconds.  Transient awakenings like these are benign, and by themselves nothing to worry about.

Awakenings are a serious concern, however, for those with obstructive sleep apnea.  Persons with this condition may awaken over a hundred times per hour, unable to breathe.  OSA is a major medical condition that should be treated by a healthcare professional, and fortunately, effective treatments are available.  Even so, statistically very few of us with insomnia have this condition.

So if you do wake up in the middle of the night – and you’re not awakened by some external noise or disturbance – there’s a good chance you’ve just completed one of these natural sleep cycles.  You may also remember a dream from a just completed REM stage.

These brief periods between cycles are an especially important time to understand.  Because sleep tends to be lighter as we age, instead of falling back asleep quickly between cycles some people may move the other way – toward an increased level of wakefulness.  It may then take longer than a few minutes to fall back asleep.

For insomniacs, these brief wake-ups, even though normal, can become a cause for concern.  That concern can then feed on itself, developing into something more – a self-perpetuating negative cycle of worry.  In other words, worrying about falling back asleep keeps you up.

In this way, concern about being up can automatically trigger a heightened state of worried wakefulness, rather than the kind of drowsy state (Stage 1) that would be more conducive to falling asleep.

This is an example of how insomnia can inadvertently evolve from a conditioned response or learned behavior.  But just as it can be learned, it can be unlearned.  Bad habits can be broken, just as good habits can be intentionally cultivated.  These are areas of emphasis in the Sleep Training System, a comprehensive solution for better sleep without drugs.

In the STS, you will learn how to relax and fall asleep when you want.  You will learn relaxation tools and techniques that enable you to more easily let go, quiet your mind, and thereby move naturally back toward Stage 1, a drowsy state more conducive to sleep.

For more information on the STS, or to ask a sleep question, feel free to contact us.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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One Comment on “Is it normal to awaken during the night?”


  1. […] but the reason behind the awakenings (so Fitbit One is failing me on that analysis), but on one site I saw […]


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