Q&A: Why Do I Keep Waking Up in the Middle of Night?

05/13/2014 | 1 min. read

Dr. Richard Wurtman

Dr. Richard Wurtman

Q&A: Why Do I Keep Waking Up in the Middle of Night?

I never used to have sleep problems, but more and more I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. As a result, I’m constantly exhausted. Is there anything I can do about this, or do I just have to live with it?

You’ve just described one the most common sleep problems that people experience as they age. And it’s not only exhausting, but also incredibly frustrating.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about.

Age-related sleep problems typically occur because of a natural decline in the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our internal clock. Decreasing levels of melatonin mean that our clocks are more likely to slip out of sync, and that we’ll experience a sleep problem such as not being able to fall asleep when we want to—or, as in your case, waking up before we’re fully rested.

The best way to solve this type of sleep problem is by taking enough supplemental melatonin to bump your plasma melatonin levels back up to what they were when you were a young adult. It doesn’t take much. My research shows that taking 0.3 mg about 30–60 minutes before bedtime is most effective. Some people will notice improvements in their sleep the first night, but everyone should take the supplement for 6–7 days in order to realize its full benefit.

Learn more about how to use melatonin to address sleep problems.

More Dr. Wurtman Advice on Sleep

Dr. Richard Wurtman

Meet Dr. Richard Wurtman

Richard Wurtman, M.D. is a noted Harvard doctor and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher specializing in sleep and cognitive sciences. He is widely recognized for his groundbreaking research on melatonin over the past 40 years. He has done research for the NIH and with NASA, and is the author and editor of 18 books, holder of more than 50 patents, and author or co-author of over 1,000 scientific papers.

More About Dr. Richard Wurtman