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Why you wake up at 3am and worry about fears and failures

Why you wake up at 3am and worry about fears and failures

An expert has explained exactly why the phenomenon affects us so much

When it comes to restless nights, endless stirring and groggy mornings - we have most definitely all been there.

Many people have reported feelings of intense worry over certain fears and failures in their lives - but the odd thing is how relatable the specific timings of such thoughts are.

Well, be baffled no more as an expert has explained exactly why we are so haunted with perpetual anxiety in the early hours of the morning.

An expert explains why we wake up at 3am and worry about fears and failures.
SHVETS production / Pexels

It's horrible when you feel like you've just drifted off to sleep only to be jolted at 3 o'clock in the morning by none other but an avalanche of anxious thoughts.

Namely, thinking about all your minute fears, perceived failure or even just a compilation reel of your most cringe-worthy moments - it seems that this bizarre phenomenon is far from uncommon.

Many have since taken to social media to try and crack the code as to where these odd 3am thoughts come from and why they seem to happen at the time they do.

Comedian Rhys Nicholson asked: "Is everyone else waking up at at about 3 or 4am every single morning to do a quick mental round up of all their fears for 45 minutes then falling back asleep?"

People have flocked to social media in a hopes to figure it out.

Putting all the questions to bed - pardon the pun - one psychology researcher with expertise in mood, sleep, and the circadian system has explained just why this happens to us.

Greg Murray, Professor and Director at the Centre for Mental Health at the Swinburne University of Technology explains that the starting point is understanding what our body is doing around the 3am mark.

According to the expert, our neurobiology 'reaches a turning point around 3 or 4am'.

Physiological processes include a rise in core body temperature, a reduce in sleep drive, melatonin secretion and an increase in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

All these things happen as our body 'prepares to launch us into the day'.

A psychologist has explained what happens to our bodies at 3am.
Pixabay / Pexels

The cognitive therapist joked, in an article for IFL Science, about how 'the only thing good about 3am waking is that it gives us all a vivid example of catastrophizing'.

Catastrophizing revolves around individuals believing that they're in a way worse situation than they really are or exaggerating certain difficulties faced in life.

"Around this time in the sleep cycle," Murray explains, "we’re at our lowest ebb physically and cognitively.

"From nature’s viewpoint, this is meant to be a time of physical and emotional recovery, so it’s understandable that our internal resources are low."

Additionally, the expert highlights that we 'lack other resources' in the middle of the night like social connections and other coping skills.

"Our mind isn’t really looking for a solution at 3am."
Ivan Oboleninov / Pexels

He outlines: "With none of our human skills and capital, we are left alone in the dark with our thoughts.

"So the mind is partly right when it concludes the problems it’s generated are unsolvable – at 3am, most problems literally would be."

However, it's not all doom and gloom as, once the sun's up, our 3am problems are finally 'put in perspective'.

Murray notes that many can't even believe that the simple solution to the once-catastrophized problem was so easily 'overlooked in the wee hours'.

"The truth is," the expert continues, "our mind isn’t really looking for a solution at 3am."

While we may think we are working hard at solving a problem by mentally ironing out issues in the early hours - Murray explains that this is the furthest thing from productive problem solving.

The expert offered a whole array of techniques to cope with the 3am thoughts.
cottonbro studio / Pexels

Instead, he dubs it 'problem solving’s evil twin - worry'.

To handle the hassle, the expert suggests an array of coping techniques including bringing attention to your senses, meditation, reading in low light, and - most importantly - convincing yourself during daylight hours that you want to avoid catastrophic thinking.

If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone

Featured Image Credit: Pexels / Pixabay

Topics: Mental Health, Science, Weird, Sleep