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Waking Up with the Midnight Blues: Why it Happens, How to Stop it

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why are you waking up with the midnight blues? how to stop Elena Elisseeva/PhotoSpin

I have noticed an increased volume of Facebook postings by friends lamenting about being awake at 3 a.m. and unable to go back to sleep. My response of encouraging them to call "Jake from State Farm" has gone down well.

But this pervasive sleeplessness also gives pause, making me wonder why so many people have a hard time either with falling asleep or with another form of insomnia -- getting to sleep relatively quickly but waking a few hours later and being unable to find sleep again.

There are almost too many reasons for sleeplessness to write in one article but some main ones include:

- Depression/anxiety

- Medications

- Menopause

- Diagnosed illnesses

- Undiagnosed illnesses

- Pregnancy

- Pain

- Drug or alcohol abuse

- Poor sleeping conditions

Oftentimes, when we can figure out why we cannot stay asleep, we can make the changes necessary to facilitate a good night's sleep and a good day ahead.

The Health section of the New York Times answered a question about this inability to sleep through the night. Dr. Meir H. Kryger, a professor at Yale School of Medicine, had ideas on how to deal with this problem. The frustration experienced by poor sleepers doesn't help.

“We see that in patients who’ve had insomnia for a while,” Dr. Kryger said. “They wake up and become so angry, frustrated and aroused that they can’t fall asleep.”

Dr Kryger suggested quitting smoking, since nicotine raises blood pressure, is generally bad for one's health, and something that interferes with good sleep. The same is true about alcohol.

Limiting naps to about 20 minutes per day (and preferably early in the day) is a good idea, too. He also recommends steering clear of heavy and spicy meals and getting up out of the bed and reading if sleep does not come back quickly after initially waking. This can help to avoid the frustrations that insomniacs know so well.

If there are no underlying mental or physical reasons for poor sleep, medications and therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be of great benefit.

Making sure bedding is clean and the room isn't too hot or cold can make a difference too. If snoring is an issue, a visit to the doctor is important to rule out sleep apnea or other potentially dangerous conditions .

EmpowHER talks about insomnia frequently because the condition affects so many of its readers. In her article 5 Ways to Beat Insomnia and Get a Better Night's Sleep, Vonnie Kennedy has offered some great suggestions.

She recommended some simple lifestyle changes in order to sleep better, including stopping caffeine by lunch time, using herbs like lavender (in the bath or in a spray) to help calm the mind and body, and adding calcium and magnesium to the diet to encourage rest.

Meditation and yoga are great calming tools. Kennedy also recommended using bedrooms for nothing more than sleep (and sex). Nowadays, our bedrooms are our offices, workout rooms, sleeping rooms, studies and more.

She quoted Health Magazine's interview with Dr. Kenneth Lichstein PhD, director of the Sleep Research Project at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

"People should be conditioned to know that this is a place for sleeping, not for other non-sleeping activities,” Lichstein said. "...if you are serious about getting a good night’s sleep, you have to shut down TV, phone, laptop, or anything else that tends to stimulate your brain."

As soon as we awake, most of us know if we have slept well or not. It doesn't take minutes for that to sink in. We also know how great we can look and feel coming from a healthy, restful sleep the night before. If basic techniques for dealing with insomnia are not working for you , a trip to the doctor may well be worth it to permanently get rid of those midnight blues.


The New York Times. Well. Ask Well. "Ask Well: Awake at 2 A.M. " Web. Retrieved February 23rd, 2014.

EmpowHER.com. Mental Health. Sleep Disorders. Insomnia. Web. Retrieved February 23rd, 2014. " 5 Ways to Beat Insomnia and Get a Better Night's Sleep."

Reviewed February 25, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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