Can’t sleep without awakening every hour

Q:  I have trouble staying asleep for more than a hour.  This has been going on for years.  I started keeping a sleep log, and here’s last night:  bed at 1 a.m.  Awakened 6 times, each approximately 1 hour later than the previous.  Sometimes when I lie in bed I can’t tell the difference between dreams and reality.  What could be causing this?

A:  If you fell back asleep quickly after after each awakening, you could actually be sleeping 7 hours or more, which would put you into a normal category.  But without knowing what time you got out of bed in the morning and the duration of each awakening, it’s impossible to determine with any certainty.

However, you should be assured that the mind-body system is powerfully conditioned to get the sleep it needs, despite these frequent wakeups.

In addition, there is a strong possibility that you could already be sleeping more than you think.  This is suggested by your description of the difficulty telling the difference between dreams and reality while in bed.

In fact, such sleep state misperception is both common and widespread.

The fact that you are logging your sleep is very helpful.  We’d suggest also including the approximate duration of each wake time, and the time you get out of bed.  This will help you more accurately determine how much sleep you’re actually getting.  You might be surprised.

As for wakeups on the hour, that may have something to do with the predictable cycles of sleep we normally experience each night.  Most of us proceed consistently through 4 to 6 such sleep cycles each night, although they are typically closer to 90 minutes rather than 60.  Even normal sleepers will briefly awaken between each cycle, typically after a REM dream stage is attained, when sleep is lightest.  The difference is good sleepers tend to fall right back asleep after a cycle ends, and completely forget about these benign awakenings by morning.

However, if you are in something of a hyperaroused state, sleep can be lighter and more fragmented.  Instead of falling back asleep quickly between cycles, those that are hyperaroused tend to move the other way:  toward a state of worried wakefulness.  Instead feeling drowsy and letting go, you may instead have occupying or worrisome thoughts, especially about the idea of sleep.

Hyperarousal is often caused by excessive or unremitting stress and anxiety.  A doctor can help you determine if you are hyperaroused, and if so, why.  Your solution may be something as simple as getting more exercise, or it may involve management of a legitimate psychiatric disorder.

You should be confident, however, that sleep can be significantly improved by using effective sleep improvement methods, which, by the way, does not necessarily mean drug therapy.  Many of these methods are drug-free and natural.

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

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2 Comments on “Can’t sleep without awakening every hour”

  1. […] commonly causes this is hyperarousal.  This typically results from unrelenting stress and/or anxiety experienced nonstop throughout the […]

  2. […] commonly causes this is hyperarousal.  This typically results from unrelenting stress and/or anxiety experienced nonstop throughout the […]

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