Why You Are Waking Up Between 1-3 am

Hopefully, after reading my last few blog posts, you have learned why sleep is so important to our health and wellbeing, the most important steps to integrate into your night time routine, and what “hacks” you can use to get a good night’s sleep when all else fails. Today I am going to cover a problem that I commonly see amongst my patients. My patients often tell me that they have no problem falling asleep, many of them literally fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow! Unfortunately, this sleep doesn’t last too long, and they find themselves wide awake at some point between 1-3 am! There are many different reasons this can happen.

Top 5 Reasons You Wake Up Between 1-3 am

  • Low Blood Sugar- Also called hypoglycemia, this is the #1 cause of night waking that I see in my practice. The theory behind this is fairly simple. Many people, especially those who are trying to be careful about what they are eating, eat dinner somewhere around 6 pm and then do not eat again before bed. That means if you go to bed between 10-11 pm you have already gone 4-5 hours without food. If you plan to wake up between 6-7 am, you will have gone 12-13 hours without food! Even people who do eat food in the evening, it tends to be a carb heavy snack. When we eat snacks that are high in carbs and do not have much protein and fat the body burns through them fairly quickly. What should happen when we go to sleep is our stress hormone cortisol starts off low and should gradually rise over the night until about 6 am when it signals your body that it is time to wake up and “break the fast”. Waking up between 1-3 am can be caused by a premature cortisol spike. When we run out of food or fuel, our body starts secreting cortisol, which signals your body to wake up. The most effective way to overcome this is to have a snack that contains protein and fat a half hour to an hour before bedtime. Good snack options are
    1. Pumpkin Seeds- Contain both protein and fat and are also high in magnesium, nature’s muscle relaxant
    2. Cashews
    3. Almonds
    4. Small Piece of Meat and ¼ Avocado


  • Waking to Urinate- You should not have to wake up during the night to go to the bathroom. If you do wake up, it should be one time max. There are many reasons people wake to urinate, but the most common I see is that they are drinking a lot of water in the evening. It is a good idea to slow down water intake in the evening after dinner. Frequent urination can also happen when you are drinking a lot of water, but do not have adequate salt/sodium intake. If you are making most of your own food and not adding salt you are at risk for a sodium deficiency. This can make it feel like water “goes right through you”. To combat this, add salt to taste to your food. If you have high blood pressure, speak to your doctor or naturopathic doctor before adding more salt to your diet.


  • Chinese Medicine- In Chinese Medicine, waking between 1-3 am is related to the liver. The liver starts rebelling and waking you up if you have been under a lot of stress, eating fried fatty foods, drinking too much alcohol, feeling extra irritable and having a shorter fuse than usual. The best time to help the liver get back on track is spring. Doing a detox is very beneficial, as is starting your day with lemon water, and exercising for 10-30 min/day.



  • Your Children- Many of my patients are not waking up on their own, but are being woken up by their children. Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to get your child to sleep through the night!

Do you wake up during the night? Post in the comments below.

Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is currently accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here



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