Why Do I Wake Up Once or Twice Every Night?

Biology and behavior can contribute to waking up at night, but it can be challenging to figure out the main reason.

Q: I’ve always slept soundly, but now that I’m 40, I wake up once or twice every night. What’s the problem?

A: Shifting hormonal status might contribute to changing sleep patterns once you turn 40. Sometimes excessive stress, depression or anxiety can lead to poor quality of sleep. If your awakenings interrupt your daily functioning, see your primary-care physician for an assessment. But first off, try to improve your sleep environment—keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Maintain structure, set wake-up and bedtimes, and refrain from taking naps. Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine four to six hours prior to bedtime. And don’t forget to exercise—but not right before bed. If you’ve made some lifestyle changes, but your awakenings still interrupt your daily functioning, make an appointment with your doctor to receive an evaluation.


Dr. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., is the founder and director of UPMC’s Weight Management Center. She is the diet and nutrition editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and is the author of The Runner’s Diet and The Real You Diet. Also, visit “Health Journal with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom,” a health and wellness blog at iVillage.com.

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