“Beauty sleep” is called so for a reason. We need a minimum of six to eight hours of undisturbed sleep for a healthy body and an alert mind. Frequent awakenings and poor-quality sleep have been known to cause obesity, hypertension, and even diabetes. Most of us wake up three to four times during the night for varied reasons, and this is considered a part of a normal sleep pattern. However, a lot of us wake more frequently, sometimes even every two to three hours in the night. This is a reason for concern.
If the sleep problems are persistent, they indicate serious health conditions. So, it is prudent to be aware of the reasons that may be disturbing sleep every few hours at night.
1. Causes pertaining to the surroundings:
Table 1. Environmental factors
A room that is too cold, too hot, or too humid may cause frequent awakenings.
Most doctors recommend keeping the thermostat set between 60-67 °F to get good sleep.
The bedroom should be completely dark.
Using room-darkening shades or curtains may help.
The Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram updates may be messing with sleep.
The eBooks, mobiles, or tablets that emit blue light disturb the sleep pattern.
Try to switch off social media an hour or two before bed.
Try using the blue light guards.
An uncomfortable bed.
Choose breathable, light-colored, clean bedsheets, a medium-firm mattress, and a good quality pillow.
2. Sleep apnea syndrome: One of the important causes of sleep awakening, sleep apnea is often caused by obesity or poor muscle tone. Sleep apnea causes the tongue to fall back over the throat in sleep leading to a pause in breathing for a few seconds. These episodes often result in night-time awakening. The syndrome is diagnosed by sleep studies and managed by weight loss and a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP device.
3. Upper respiratory tract issues: A stuffy nose may cause frequent night-time awakenings due to dry cough and throat irritation. Several conditions may cause a stuffy nose and sore throat. Visit an ear, nose, throat (ENT) specialist if any of the following problems is suspected:
- A deviated nasal septum
- Seasonal allergies
- Nasal polyps
- Large tonsils or adenoids in a child
- An overly large tongue
4. Sleep disorders: Various sleep disorders (see Table 2) that disturb the normal sleep patterns may often result in night awakenings. These need to be diagnosed by a health professional and treated accordingly.
Table 2. Sleep disorders
Restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD)
A genetic disease with an uncontrollable urge to move the legs.
The jerking of legs in sleep causes awakening.
Shift work sleep disorder
Seen in the individuals working nights or rotating shifts.
The changes in the sleep period often disturb sleep patterns and cause frequent awakening.
The person involuntarily falls asleep at regular intervals throughout the day.
This causes fragmented sleep at night.
Xyrem (sodium oxybate)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac
Disturbed sleep due to air travel across different time zones.
Stress over days. This may be work-related, study-related, or general stress.
5. Gastric issues: Often the issues, such as acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion, can keep a person from having a good sleep. Having a smaller meal in the evening, avoiding spicy foods at bedtime, and limiting caffeine intake can help prevent heartburn. Medication and antacids will help as well.
6. Increased need to urinate: Frequent need to pee can also result in night-time awakenings. These may be seen in several cases.
Table 3. Diseases that cause frequent urination
Get the blood and urine tested for sugars. Once the sugars are normalized, the frequent urination will stop.
Seen in males aged 50 years or older. An enlarged prostate can cause frequent urination.
Treatment is medications or surgery.
Seen in people who consume a lot of caffeine and alcohol or have weak muscles, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple myeloma.
Treatment is Kegel exercises and medications.
Get the urine tested and start medicines for the same.
Other urinary tract issues
Urinary stones, pressure over the bladder due to a prolapsed uterus, a stent placed in kidneys after kidney surgery may cause frequent urination. The management is treating the cause.
Diuretics (water pills) if taken at night may cause increased urination.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Why Do I Wake Up Every Two Hours at Night? Related Articles
Insomnia SlideshowWhat is insomnia? Insomnia by definition is trouble falling or staying asleep. Insomnia causes are varied. Learn 10 tips on how to get a good night's sleep and avoid sleep disorders such as insomnia.
20 Tips to Beat InsomniaGood sleep hygiene leads to better sleep. Avoid insomnia and sleep better by minimizing stress, exercising, and taking proper naps. Learn the health benefits of good sleep. Discover how pets, allergies, electronics, and other distractions can rob you of a good night's sleep.
Sleep DisordersA number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help maintain good health and enable people to function at their best. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual and change throughout your life. The National Institutes of Health recommend about 7-9 hours of sleep each night for older, school-aged children, teens, and most average adults; 10-12 for preschool-aged children; and 16-18 hours for newborns. There are two stages of sleep: 1) REM sleep (rapid-eye movement), and 2) NREM sleep (non-rapid-eye movement).
Sleep Disorders in Children and TeenagersSleep needs in children and teenagers depend on the age of the child. Sleep disorders in children such as: sleep apnea, parasomnias, confusional arousals, night terrors, nightmares, narcolepsy, and sleepwalking which can affect a child's or teen's sleep. Healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene can help your infant, toddler, preschooler, tween, or teenager get a good night's sleep.
Sleep ApneaSleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. The three types of sleep apnea are central apnea, obstructive apnea (OSA), and a mixture of central and obstructive apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the brain to activate the muscles of breathing during sleep. OSA is caused by the collapse of the airway during sleep. OSA is diagnosed and evaluated through patient history, physical examination and polysomnography. There are many complications related to obstructive sleep apnea. Treatments are surgical and non-surgical.
Sleep Disorders: Causes of NightmaresEveryone has nightmares from time to time. But could your habits make you more likely to have them?
Sleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and MoreLearn about the different types of sleep/wake disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. Explore the symptoms, causes, tests and treatments of sleep disorders.
What Are the 8 Types of Sleep Disorders?Here are the 8 most common types of sleep disorders, which include obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy.