This blog is for anyone experiencing the frustrating phenomenon of waking up at the exact same time every night. I personally know how perplexing it can be, especially when the goal is to sleep through the night, not wake up in the middle of it.
So, what gives?
Well, it's actually not so strange at all. In fact, it makes perfect sense!
Let me explain...
To provide more context, let's look at a more common example of consistent awakenings...
Most people, at some point in life, must get up at the same time every day for work, school, or whatever. And oftentimes, our brains wake us up right before the alarm goes off.
But why would that be?
Well, we consider waking up on time important! We don't want to slack on our responsibilities. Plus, who hasn't experienced the consequences of oversleeping a time or two, which can be so not fun.
So, our brains remember this stuff!
The mind interprets waking up on time as a priority, so it makes sure to do so. Eventually, waking up right before the alarm becomes an automatic internal program.
The exact same thing happens in the middle of the night (even when we DON'T want to wake up).
Let's say you wake up 2:22 am one night and stay awake a little longer than usual. Then, maybe you think:
"Hmm... this is weird, why is this happening?"
"I've woken up two nights in a row at the same time, something is up..."
"Are my guides trying to tell me something?"
"Is it my liver?"
"Is my circadian rhythm busted?"
"I think this is becoming a problem."
"I have insomnia."
Suddenly you're paying a lot more attention to it.
The brain takes cues from our responses. So, when we are super perplexed trying to figure out what is happening and wondering what on earth is wrong with us, the brain takes note.
It goes: "Hmm... something important is happening here, I better wake them up."
Which is how 2:22 am becomes the new internal program.
Then, we might unintentionally reinforce the program by getting more and more freaked out about it. Perhaps we start Googling, or casually telling friends and family.
"You know, It's SO weird, I've been waking up at 2:22 am every single night..."
All the while, the brain is noticing how important this time of 2:22am seems to be!
Now you're probably thinking, “Okay, that makes sense. But what can I do about it?"
There is something I recommend to every single client, and still do myself.
It's called: The Timeless Night.
Give yourself the gift of going timeless. Removing all sources of time from your night will free your mind in multiple ways, including breaking the cycle of waking up.
When your brain doesn't know what time it is, there's no way to make a big deal about it! Plus, it will save you all the hyperarousal associated with "sleep math."
"If I fall asleep by 'x' time, I can still get 'x' hours."
Simply decide that after a certain time at night, you're not going to look at the clock anymore. I don't even have a clock in my bedroom. And if I did, I'm so out of the habit of looking at the time that I don't think I would.
Take the clocks out of the bedroom and bathroom, and if you're on your computer at night, put a piece of tape over the time.
If your brain feels a little rattled by this at first, that's completely normal. Humans have become almost addicted to time.
After a while it becomes a lovely way to live — a liberation from needing to control time.
Remember, all human wake up multiple times a night; this is a natural part of our evolution. Usually the awakenings are so brief and shallow that we don't even remember them. It's only when we respond like something unusual is happening that it becomes unusual. Otherwise it's just a normal part of every night.
Adopt an attitude of indifference about the whole thing and your sleep will get back on track.
I hope this was helpful 🧡
Beth Kendall MA, FNTP
Holistic Sleep Coach
Follow me on Instagram or Facebook where I offer bite-size nuggets on sleep, insomnia, and life 🧡
DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice or treatment. My goal is to empower you with information. Please make all health decisions yourself, consulting sources you trust, including a caring health care professional.
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