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Sleep expert explains why you keep waking up at 4am

Tom Wood

| Last updated 

Sleep expert explains why you keep waking up at 4am

A sleep expert has explained some of the reasons that you might keep waking up a four in the morning, and offered some tips on how you might be able to get a better night’s kip.

If you find yourself staring into the dark in the wee small hours of the morning, and wonder why that might be, this is the piece for you.

There are a lot of theories – including some that suggest things more supernatural or strange – but the truth is probably a lot more simple.

Isn’t that so often the case, after all?


The expert in question is Lisa Artis, who is the deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity. They’ve partnered with Simba mattresses and are attempting to debunk some common myths about sleep.

On why you’re always up at 4:00am, she explained: “We start to experience less deep sleep after around four to five hours.”

If you're struggling to sleep, here's some good advice. Credit: Pexels
If you're struggling to sleep, here's some good advice. Credit: Pexels

So, if you went to bed at around 11:00pm, which is a pretty usual time, then by 4:00am you might just have left that deep sleep cycle and be starting to wake up a bit.


Things can wake you up a lot easier during that period.

However, that’s not the only thing that could be contributing.

Your hormones could be keeping you up in the middle of the night, too.

Artis continued: “Sleep is guided by our internal clock or circadian rhythm. One of the most significant and well-known circadian rhythms is the sleep-wake cycle.


“Sleep is regulated by the levels of two hormones: melatonin and cortisol, which follow a regular 24-hour pattern.

“Melatonin assists you in dozing off, while cortisol helps get you up, and keeps you awake.”

Keeping those hormones in check is vital for a good night’s sleep, so trying to relax before bed is advised, as well as putting down the screens, as blue light emitted by smart devices can impact melatonin production.

Your diet will obviously play a bit part in sleep health, too.


Too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine, large heavy meals, and a lack of magnesium and B vitamins can all have a negative effect on your sleep.

Artis said: “It’s unlikely you’ll feel hungry in the middle of the night if your blood sugar dips,

“But to reduce ungodly hour awakenings, trial alternatives for your last meal or snack of the evening.

“Instead of carb or sweet-based snacks, opt for protein-packed and magnesium-rich foods, like hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, spinach, dark chocolate, cashews, chicken thighs or turkey.”

Nobody likes waking up feeling awful. Credit: Pexels
Nobody likes waking up feeling awful. Credit: Pexels

Protein is good for keeping you fuller longer, whereas magnesium supports sleep.

Carbohydrates and sugars can be problematic before bed.

Getting up for a wee in the night can be an issue too, so try to reduce fluid consumption before bed, as well.

Age can be a factor, as sleep patterns change with age, as can hormonal changes such as the menopause.

Anxiety is key, and worrying is obviously no good for your sleep, so try to get rid of any lingering worries or concerns before bed - writing them down can help, as can mindfulness and meditation exercises before bed.

It’s a lot to think about, but add all of that – or just some of it – together and you might see some improvement in your sleep.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels/Reddit

Topics: Science, Health, Sleep

Tom Wood
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