How to get rid of sleep interruptions — once and for all

Everybody knows them. Everybody hates them.

What I’m talking about?

Nightly awakenings. Sleep interruptions. Whatever you like to call them.

For some people these occur only a few nights, others suffer regularly. Every single night. Some are lucky and always sleep through the night.

You don’t have to envy these people, as of the end of this post you probably know enough to take care of the most common interruptions.

(Before we jump right into these, I want to give you one specific piece of historical information, which might be interesting.

Awakening during the night was probably common during the medieval times. Some theories say that our sleep was bi-phasic (meaning it was segmented in 2 phases instead of one), during that time. People went to bed when it got dark, sleep a few hours, got up for a few hours, i.e. visiting neighbors and going back to sleep until the morning.

For most people today this would be counterproductive, since they need time & energy during the day, not during the night.

Unfortunately for many people waking up during the night is still an everyday occurrence, that will not only be bad for your health, but for your mental abilities as well.

A recent study, conducted at the John Hopkins University, found that waking up during the night for multiple times resulted in a greater decline in mood than going to bed later. Furthermore the interruptions during the night resulted in less deep slow-wave sleep, the type of sleep that is especially restorative.

Another study found that being interrupted during the night is as bad for attention and cognitive function as restricting sleep to only 4 hours per night.

Waking up during the night is not only annoying but also bad for your mood, mental abilities and as a consequence for your health.

Why do people wake up during the night in the first place?

There are several reasons for waking up during the night. Some are common among many people and some are only true for a few individuals. Below I’ll list, as what I think are the most common ones. I’ll also provide a solution and a personal suggestion.

Ready to take care of those interruptions and finally sleep through the night?

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Most common reasons for sleep interruptions.

#1: Lights.

You probably know this already, light, especially blue light, keeps you awake. Blue light is mainly emitted from electronic devices.

This causes not only trouble getting to sleep, but also during sleep.

Although you might not notice it, even if your eyes are closed lights will not only decrease the quality of your sleep, but also increase the probability of waking up. For finding a solution is helpful to distinguish between lights within your room and outside your bedroom.

  • Taking care of “inside lights”. This one is pretty straight forward. Either unplug everything that emits light (all of your electronic devices) or cover up all the LEDs and other lights. If there is some light coming from the crack under your bedroom door, either cover that up as well or make the connecting room completely dark (you’ll read more on that below, when taking care of outside lights.)
  • Taking care of outside lights. Again, quite simple. You can’t switch off outside lights, but you can at least make them not light up your bedroom. If you already have blinds, close them completely, so that no light is passing through. If you don’t have any blinds I’d recommend black out curtains.

#2: Sounds.

We are very sensitive to sounds while we are sleeping. Of course you can train yourself to sleep in any environment, but due to evolutionary reasons, sounds tend to wake us up easily. Again, let’s distinguish between outside or inside sounds, coming up with a solution for both.

  • Taking care of inside noises. The most common inside noises include:
  1. ringing phones. Solution: Put in airplane mode, (when you expect and important call, enable only those people to call you)
  2. falsely set alarms, double check your alarms and turn the ones off you don’t need.
  3. other electronics, shut down all your electronics (one time the PC of my girlfriend started playing a movie in the middle of the night. Not funny!).
  4. snoring partner. Unfortunately I haven’t found a proper solution for a snoring partner, but eventually you might want to contact a physician to make sure everything is okay!
  • Taking care of outside noises. Since moving into the city center, my nights got way noisier: drunken college students walking by (and screaming) or illegal car chases go hand in hand with the more “usual noises”. I had to take action and as much as I like to sleep with an open window, I had to close it, along with the blinds. You should do the same. If it’s to warm to close the window, earplugs might be a good alternative.

#3: Bathroom break.

  • How can’t relate with this one? Going to the bathroom is a bare necessity for everyone. But going to the bathroom in the middle of the night is annoying as hell.
  • Taking care of the bathroom break. Quite simple. Stop drinking water approximately 2 hours before going to bed. This time works for me. Maybe for you it’s 1 hour or 3 hours.
  • Still, make sure to drink enough during the day, as water is as essential as sleep. Drinking enough water can have tremendous effects as you can see in the self experiment this women did (LINK?). If you have a thirsty feeling right before going to bed, take a little sip of water and avoid salty and spicy dinner dishes for dinner.

#4: Partner in bed.

  • I already mentioned this one above. Unfortunately without an proper solution for a snoring partner (comment if you know of any!).
  • Not surprisingly partners can wake each other up without snoring. The two main reasons I think are moving in bed and having different wake up times (read: alarm times).
  • Taking care of a sleep disrupting partner. If your partner is waking you up in the middle of night because he/she is moving around in the bed (maybe even “stealing the blanket”) you might think about investing in a bigger bed with two separate mattresses.
  • Additionally, if you are sleeping with one blanket, you can start by adding a second one. Having two separate mattresses and two separate blankets decreases the chances of waking up your “partner in bed”.
  • If you and your partner have different alarm times, the one of you how has to get up earlier might invest in a bracelet with a built in alarm. Most fitness tracker have those.
  • If your wake up times are not that far apart you might think about getting up at the same time.

#5: Climate in your bedroom.

The climate in your bedroom consists of mainly two separate things: temperature and humidity.

  • If you are waking up during the night feeling either hot or cold you might want to check the temperature in your room and adjust it accordingly.
  • Taking care of the temperature. I’ve already mentioned this in previous blog posts so I’ll keep it short. According to research the “ideal” sleep temperature is somewhere between 16–19°C (60–67°F). I’d recommend you set your thermostat to that temperature and adjust it depending on how you feel.
  • Other possibilities to “regulate” the temperature is opening/closing the window (be aware of outside noises!), getting thicker or thinner blankets and sheets, wearing pyjamas or not.
  • Have you ever woken up with a dry mouth and nose? You did? Then you might want to check the humidity in your room. Having too little humidity in your room, will also make you more prone to colds and infections, since your mucous membranes are too dry to “fight” of bacteria. I had a lot of trouble with this as well (and unfortunately still do, but there are various things you can do!)
  • Taking care of the humidity. The recommendations for humidity in your bedroom are usually somewhere between 40–60%. If you want to get real data on this you should invest in an device that measures humidity in your room. I just bought this one and I’m pretty happy with it. There are a few possibilities to increase the humidity in your room:
  • Get a humidifier. There are many reviews online. I haven’t found the right one yet, as most of them require a regular cleaning, to get rid of bacteria in them. My favorite one. I’ll test it soon.
  • If you have a radiator in your room you can either put wet towels on it (also quite annoying over time) or put on of these things on them (LINK). I have one of those, but in my room it is not working that good.

#6: Thirstiness.

Did you ever wake up during the night being extremely thirsty?

  • It usually doesn’t happen too often, but when it happens it’s quite annoying: getting up, going to the kitchen, pouring a glass of water, drinking it, going back to bed. Annoying, but also a sign from your body that you probably didn’t drink enough during the day.
  • Taking care of thirstiness. Make sure you drink enough during the day. Official recommendations are often around 2–2.5 liters (65–85oz) for women and 3–3.5 liters (100–120oz) for men. Those amounts are a good starting point, but a good personal indicator is the color of your pee. If it is colored, it’s a sign you drank too little. If it’s clear you drank enough.
  • You also should avoid spicy and salty food for dinner, as mentioned before. For some people even carbohydrate rich meals make them extremely thirsty, since carbohydrates (glycogen exactly) bind water in the body.

Taking care of those six interruptions will increase your sleep quality tremendously. I hope you liked this article.

Additionally I created a bunch of bonuses you can download below. Sign up and get rid of sleep interruptions.

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