Why do I wake up continually through the night?

Q:  I awaken constantly during the night for no apparent reason.  I’m otherwise in good health, not stressed or anxious.  I go to bed at around 9:30 pm and get up at 7 am feeling exhausted.  I used to exercise but no longer do because I’m too tired.  At night, just as I’m about to fall asleep I often awaken with a jolt.  Last night it took me hours to fall asleep because my leg muscles jump.  I don’t like sleeping pills because they leave me groggy the next day, but don’t know what else to do.  Can you help?

A:  Two main suggestions.  First, see a doctor to either treat or rule out any potential medical causes for insomnia.  That said, most insomnia is not caused by a strictly medical issue.

Most insomnia is caused by some nonmedical combination of bad sleep habits and excessive worry about the idea of sleep.  Both may be going on with you.

For instance, your sleep schedule may be part of the problem.  You are allowing 9.5 hours in bed and that is probably too much.  The normal average for adults is a range of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.  So you may be well served by reducing the amount of time you allow in bed to no more than the minimum you actually need for sleep.

The constant awakenings during the night you describe are often the sign of excessive stress and/or anxiety.  You state you are not stressed or overly anxious, but there’s at least a possibility that you are and don’t realize it.  If so, better management of stress and control of anxiety will help you sleep better.

Exercise is a key part of good stress management and control of anxiety.  The beneficial effects of exercise last for hours, and the body responds to vigorous exercise by increasing the amount of deep sleep.  So dropping exercise probably is contributing to your insomnia.

The physical jolts you describe when falling asleep sound like hypnic jerks, which are common and normally benign.  But if you associate them with insomnia, these muscle jerks may become a learned cue for sleeplessness that contributes to insomnia.

Your description suggests you are at least somewhat stressed about the idea of sleep, and this also may be feeding the problem.

If you haven’t checked out CBT sleep training methods, that might help you a lot.  CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) specifically designed for insomnia is very effective, and helps most people who try it.  It is a drug-free and permanent solution that enables you to identify and address the most common nonmedical root sources for insomnia.  CBT sleep training methods also include components to manage stress and anxiety.

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist that uses CBT.  Or if you are the self-help type, try googling something like CBT sleep training methods and you will find many online resources.

So yes, there are solutions that don’t involve sleeping pills.  Be confident you can make this better.

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

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