By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After falling asleep, do you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night?

What’s waking us up? And, does it mean we can still get good rest? Good Question.

“It’s actually pretty normal,” says Dr. Roxanne Prichard, a sleep expert at the University of St. Thomas. “If you measure people’s sleep, like in a sleep study, they’ll wake up dozens of times each night and feel perfectly refreshed sometimes.”

She says sometimes people remember waking up, but other times they don’t.

A number of factors can cause people to wake in the middle of the night – everything from a dog barking, to the temperature in the room, to a bathroom visit, to stress.

“It’s often normal to wake up after a REM sleep episode,” Dr. Prichard says. “In REM sleep our brains are going very quickly, we’ve been dreaming and it’s normal to wake up and say that was strange, what was that?”

She says people who suffer from anxiety, PTSD or stress are more prone to wake up in the middle of the night as well. Dr. Prichard says some of that could have to do with evolution. For example, centuries ago, people needed to be somewhat alert while asleep if there was danger nearby.

“But, the problem is now that most of our everyday stresses won’t kill us in the middle of the night,” she says. “So, we have a false wake-up response to something that’s not relevant.”

Even while waking up several times a night, it’s still possible to get a “good” night’s sleep.

“It entirely depends on how you feel the next day,” Dr. Prichard says.

If you’re dragging, you might not be getting good sleep, but if you’re refreshed, you likely are.

If you awake and do remember it, the general rule of thumb to get back to sleep is to lie in bed, relax, not look at the time or phone and spend 20 minutes trying to get back to sleep. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet, calming and boring. Dr. Prichard matches socks.

As people age, they are more likely to wake up at night due to hormones, temperature regulation and how often they need to use the bathroom. The most sleep-efficient age? Eight years old.

Heather Brown

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