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Why do I wake up at 4am?

107 Answers
Last Updated: 07/13/2020 at 10:14am
Why do I wake up at 4am?
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Danielle Gonzales, PsyD


Hello! My name is Dani, I am a Psychologist and registered Psych Assistant. I have a passion for helping a different types of clients from all diverse backgrounds!

Top Rated Answers
September 4th, 2015 9:01am
Probably you have lot of work and you are stressed out. This phenomenon is called “sleep-maintenance insomnia" by doctors. Doctors say that this can even be a sign of depression, but not always. You lay your head on the pillow, and events from the day keep streaming through your brain. You’ll benefit from relaxation techniques. Consider meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or biofeedback. Sometimes the problem is stimulants — stimulant medicines or an alcoholic “nightcap” before bed. Alcohol makes many people sleepy and helps them fall asleep. But a few hours into sleep, alcohol becomes a stimulant to the brain and causes people to awaken easily. There are many other reasons too like pain, loss of a loved one, etc.
July 13th, 2020 10:14am
Sleep disorders are a common problem that many of us experience. According the CDC, 75% of Americans between 20-59 years old complain of regular sleep difficulties. Some of us are early risers (larks), who wake up in the early morning hours. Usually they sleep earlier and rise earlier. Others are late risers (owls), who sleep later and rise later. Most people are in the middle. Our sleep patterns are determined by our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal body clock. These internal signals include a drop in blood sugar and internal body temperature, and an increase in the hormone melatonin (which makes us feel sleepy). The pattern of these signals can differ depending on if you are a night owl or an early lark, or somewhere in between. If you are interested in finding out your pattern, take the Morningness Eveningness Questionnaire online.

You might also want to consider if you might have insomnia. For example, you may have sleep maintenance insomnia, where an individual has the inability to stay asleep. You might also suffer with sleep-onset insomnia, which occurs when an individual has difficulty falling asleep initially. If this is the case, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered a beneficial therapy to help improve sleep quality.

If your goal is to wake up and go to sleep at certain time, it is a good idea to check on your sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene involves healthy habits that we practice to help maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Articles by The National Sleep Foundation suggest sleep hygiene can be improved by getting into the habit of reducing caffeine intake before bed, avoiding artificial light (specifically blue light, like the ones on our phones), and creating a relaxing sleeping environment (the room should not be too warm, little noise and light, a comfy bed). A recent study in 2018 also found that wearing socks to bed improved sleep quality. In general, having a routine before bed by sticking to the same sleep schedule, perhaps by using an alarm clock, might improve your sleep quality.

Finally, you may want to consider if there could be any medical basis for your sleep disruptions. Chronic pain, problems with your gall bladder, liver, large intestine and many other physical health problems could be the cause of your disrupted sleep. A medical check-up, alongside changes to your current sleeping habits, may increase the quality of your sleep.
August 29th, 2015 5:21pm
Have you ever wondered why you always seem to wake up during the night at particular times? And it’s not just an odd night here and there. After a while you begin to realise you’re waking up again and again, the nights of sleeping through a distant memory. You start to look at the clock and find it’s always at the same time – 2:55am or between certain hours like 4am to 5am. You’re not drinking coffee late in the afternoon, you’ve cut down on your much loved sugars and you’re fairly active during the day (incidentally if you are drinking coffee all afternoon and you’re dipping into refined sugars, consider stopping and then see how you sleep!). Sure, life’s a bit stressful but how is it that it’s always 2:55am?! Those who use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) would tell you “that’s easy – look at the Chinese Medicine ‘Meridian Clock’”. It’s one of my favourite tools to use in Kinesiology. The great thing about the Meridian Clock is you don’t have to be a Kinesiologist or a practitioner of TCM to understand it or gain insight from it. Here’s a basic explanation to get you started. Chinese Medicine ‘Meridian Clock' CHINESE MEDICINE ‘MERIDIAN CLOCK' What’s your time? Firstly, have a look at the clock above and find the time you’re waking up. Take note of the name that sits directly beneath it. For example, if you’re waking between 1am and 3am then you would look at the information about the Liver meridian. Don’t worry – it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your liver, it’s just the way they’re named in English. 14 major meridians – our electrical system There are 14 major meridians or flows of an energy substance (you may have heard of Qi/Ch’i which sustains life) with 12 of them sitting within the 24 hour clock. All are constantly flowing with energy from your environment and penetrating your body through your skin, central nervous system and organs. These portals on the skin are what acupuncture and acupressure use. Each has a two hour period where they are the primary meridian. Each meridian is linked to particular parts of the body, mechanisms of the body, other meridians, thoughts and emotions, colour, sound, seasons and other spiritual aspects. They’re also partnered together as Yin (receiving energy) and Yang (expressing energy) of an element – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. Think of it like electrical circuits – when the energy of a meridian is not flowing well due to a block (like stress), you’ll find that you’ll experience a sign or symptom from the meridian(s) involved. This block will also cause an imbalance in the flows between meridians. So when waking up in the night at the same time, or becoming exhausted with 3:30-itis in the afternoon, you can look at the meridian at work and what may be happening with you. Here’s a list of the basic emotions of each element (the ring below the meridians). Earth – Empathy, sympathy, balanced giving and receiving Metal – Grief and loss Water – Fear and anxiety Wood – Anger, frustration and resentment Fire – Love, hate and joy What now? Self reflection people! It can be quite simple; you just need to stop and listen. Your body is trying to tell you something by waking you up at the same time. Back to our previous example, if your time is the Liver meridian and the Wood element – ask yourself “What am I angry or frustrated at?” Or think of the Liver organ and apply this to your life “What is toxic in my life that I need to get rid of?” Perhaps you have symptoms that your digestive system is not working so well? I’ll leave you with this as food for thought. Spend some time to reflect on your life and what’s keeping you awake based on the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I will cover this in more detail in the next post Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night (Part II). If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, have a read through the Sanctuary of Sleep Series Part One Sleep & Stress: Why You Can’t Fall Asleep If you’d like to read more about Traditional Chinese Medicine start with ‘The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine’ by Ted Kaptchuk. This post is the first instalment of a series I’ll be writing on Traditional Chinese Medicine and how you can use it to help you in daily life. Easy!
August 30th, 2015 6:19pm
There is science behind the 4am awakenings; while tedious and perhaps lunar-oriented, it's easiest to adjust our mindset. As soon as we create the story that we wake up every night at 4am, it will continue to happen. I find when this happens to me, I try to stray from analyzing it, but re-orient myself back into night by reminding myself I am safe and worthy of sleep. The stars and moon may be making some noise but it's time for us to quiet.
August 20th, 2015 10:38pm
You could be waking at 4 am because your body knows you have something thats not finished. For example If you didn't do your homework and you go to sleep worrying about it your more likely to wake uo cause your body is under streess
August 19th, 2015 2:17pm
I don't know...i wake up at 4:30 am or 5am to go to pee and hope to fall asleep again before getting hungry xD
April 15th, 2016 2:52pm
I've woken up early for no reason before too. It was scary at first, but then I realised how peaceful being alone is. It's comforting to know that everyone's asleep, and that you're alone with your thoughts at not-quite-morning-or-night time
November 26th, 2015 8:39pm
it makes you positive right from the starting of the day!u watch sunrise..the breeze..birds singing..true essence of life! feels alive n blessed! :)
August 27th, 2015 2:41am
you probably are anxious or excited about something or there is alot going on in your mind before or while your sleeping.
November 22nd, 2015 10:37pm
A few days ago i was listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer Spiritual guide and mentor and he said that waking up at 2-3-4 am was a calling. That you should embrace it and see what this moment of inspiration has to offer. I know it sound wacky but hey! just give it a try. The only thing you have to do is breath and hope for inspired thoughts to come to mind.
August 28th, 2015 6:32am
I either have a lot on my mind and think myself awake with unsettling emotional dreams, or I have a lot of urine in my bladder and need to pee. I try to drink water earlier in the evening instead of right before bed so I don't have to go to pee in the night. Outside sounds also wake me up, like the neighbor's dog who barks. I sometimes bark back. In times past, I have been awaken by anxious or menacing spirits. That was frightening then, and interesting in hindsight. I don't get that anymore. Probably because my own energy/vibration has changed.
November 28th, 2015 5:31pm
because of your cicle of sleep ended at 4 pm we humans have a cicle of sleep of 4 hours, that's why we need 8 hours of sleep basically 2 cicles ^^
August 19th, 2015 1:30pm
i would wake up at 4am to feel the fresh air and meditate, do some breathing exercises and to get things done through out the day without any rush.
August 22nd, 2015 4:04am
Waking up in the middle at 4 can be normal if you go to bed really early but if you have not slept enough, or are tired, it can be a sign of depression. If it continues, you might want to see a doctor or therapist.
September 11th, 2015 1:36pm
when you sleep, you go through 5 stages. 1 is a light sleep, where your eyes move and your muscles still flex. 2 is where your body and brain begin to relax. 3 and 4 is your deep sleep period and 5 is your REM sleep, in which you dream. You go through these 5 stages a couple times a night. When you wake up at 4AM, without wanting to be awake at 4AM, it could be that something disturbed you while you were in stage1.. or maybe your body had enough sleep.There is an APP that allows you to check your sleep pattern. This is a really helpful way to determine what might causes you to wake up at 4am. Try to relax without tv/computer/phone prior to going to bed, only use your phone to turn the sleep pattern app on, make sure your room is well ventilated and see what the App says when you wake up. It will give you the best idea on why you woke up at 4 and how to change that.
April 18th, 2017 6:45am
Often times people wake up at early times, because when the brain is transitioning out of the REM cycle, your brain has time to wander. If it your brain thinks of something that causes anxiety/fear, or other extreme emotions - it may be enough to trigger your brain into waking up, rather than continuing into the next sleep cycle.
September 2nd, 2015 8:18pm
You probably have trouble with sleep or youre feeling a bad emotion , look for symptoms of insomnia .
August 20th, 2015 2:05pm
My boyfriend is really good at a number of things, and waking up extremely early is one of them! Fortunately, I've never had a problem falling right back to sleep. We're a pretty perfect pair in that.
August 22nd, 2015 11:11pm
Maybe you get anxious during sleep and get up earlier than others? Or maybe you just are a person who gets up earlier than other, an 'early bird'. Do u wake up tired?
September 25th, 2015 2:22pm
Once there was a time when I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep too. This was back when I had trouble between work, school, and home life... I don't know what your story is, but a good night's sleep is important to both your physical and mental well being and if you are having trouble sleeping I would advise consulting our 7 Cups of Tea Guide for Sleeping Well which can be found here ... If the problem persist consider bringing up the topic with someone you trust. I know that everyone's story is different, but for me I started sleeping better when I finally talked to someone I trust about everything that had been weighing on my mind, both good and bad.
October 30th, 2015 1:30pm
There are many reasons why someone might keep waking up in the middle of the night. A major reason could be that you are suffering from a sleep disorder. These include insomnia, sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Sometimes, sleep disorders aren't the culprit. Your sleep pattern can be affected if you have an underlying medical condition for example - anxiety, bipolar disorder or an enlarged prostate. Of course, you might be waking up because of the environment you are in. Noise and strong lights can disrupt your sleep. It is very important that you speak to a medical professional if your sleep problems continue.
August 19th, 2015 9:49pm
During times of stress it is normal to wake up earlier than when you are use to. Identifying your emotions and increasing support from friends and family help. Then getting a full nights rest will be easier.
September 6th, 2015 2:56pm
i wake up at that time in the morning to study for exams or do some homework prepare for school , drink a cup of green tea at dawn , man that's beautiful
April 24th, 2018 5:58pm
There could be a multitude of reasons for this, you could have a sleep disorder, nightmares, need the bathroom, your brain may just feel the need to wake up. If you have had a previous routine based around waking up at 4am then this could cause this.
August 22nd, 2015 12:50am
Your brain has many signals, when to fall asleep and when to get up. Depending on if waking up early os a rutien for you then thats why you wake up so early.
August 22nd, 2015 5:34pm
Your mind might be thinking about a lot of things at once. Possibly about things needed to be done? Events coming up in the next week?
August 23rd, 2015 4:10pm
For me, it's mostly because of nightmares that wakes me up at night. It could be because your sleeping cycle might be perturbed too.
November 15th, 2015 8:06pm
This is normal. our body tends to wake up at random times for no efficient reason. Try sleeping in a different position
November 29th, 2015 3:27pm
maybe because you can't sleep or something woke you up or maybe you went to sleep early only you will know why you wake up early
August 21st, 2015 5:06am
Stress and depression can cause us to be restless. Thinking about an important deadline of upcoming test, or even when you feel terrible about yourself can all cause irregular sleep patterns. Try drinking teas to help you sleep, or use lavender oil to help aid in relaxation.