First of all, understand that waking up in the middle of the night is completely normal and part of our human DNA, says Jose Colon, MD, founder of Paradise Sleep and author of The Sleep Diet.
"Nobody sleeps through the night," Colon says. In fact, he says even 4 to 6 nocturnal awakenings are considered normal. "This goes back to our caveman days where one would wake up, scan the environment, make sure there are no tigers, and then go back to sleep," he says.
RELATED: Why You Suck At Sleeping
That last part is key: You should be able to go back to sleep. If you can't, one of these 5 sleep stealers may be standing between you and a good night's rest:
1. Sleep Stealer: You Need to Pee
Nocturia (nighttime urination) has many triggers. But if you find yourself waking up 2 to 4 times a night to pee—even when you limit your evening drinking—you might want to try sipping more water before bed. Just add a pinch of salt, says Jonathan Steele, RN, executive director of WaterCures.org. Our bodies try to maintain an internal balance of water and electrolytes, Steele says. Too much water without enough salt, and your body may try to jettison some H20, which may explain why you're waking up in the middle of the night to pee.
Sleep Solution: About 30 minutes before going to sleep, drink a small glass of water with a pinch of unprocessed sea salt, Steele suggests. "Unprocessed salt helps the water to get into all of our cells," he says. You need to take the salt with H20 to ensure your body retains both, he adds.
2. Sleep Stealer: You're Overheating
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), feeling hot can make it hard to stay (and fall) asleep. "The temperature of the room, what you wear or don't wear to bed, the sheets and blankets—all figure in to keeping your body at the right temperature," says Marc Leavey, MD, a primary care specialist with Mercy Medical Centre in Baltimore.
Sleep Solution: People can sleep comfortably at a range of temperatures. But a room temp between 60 and 65°F is ideal for most, the NSF reports. Also, try a bath before bed, Leavey suggests. "Taking a warm bath raises your temperature in the tub slightly, while exiting the tub triggers a slight drop in temperature—a signal that your brain associates with sleep," he explains.
3. Sleep Stealer: Your Late-Night Tweets
If your bedtime routine involves scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, your updates may be messing with your sleep. "Exposing eyes to light during the evening stops the body from making melatonin, the sleep hormone," explains Dr. Richard L. Hansler, of John Carroll University. From tablet screens to smartphones, electronic devices are light sources people tend to hold close to their faces, which may make them potent sleep disrupters.
Sleep Solution: Dim your room lights and aim to make your last hour before bed screen-less. Too hard? Research suggests the blue light emitted from smart phones is the most problematic. Dimming your phone or tablet's light, and holding it at least a foot or two from your face, makes it less likely to mess with your slumber.
4. Sleep Stealer: Your Nightly Nightcap
While that second cocktail may make you sleepy, it can also disrupt your restful night's sleep. "Alcohol has a sedative effect that, if you drink enough, can put you to sleep quite easily," Leavey says. "Over the first few hours, you metabolise that alcohol, with the alcohol producing a form of sleep that can prevent the healthy rapid eye movement sleep that is most restful." This lack of REM sleep will make the second half of your night restless and fragmented.
Sleep Solution: The "best" cocktail to drink before bed? It doesn't exist, Leavey says. "If you are going to drink, you may not be able to sleep," he adds. (There's a reason "happy hour" and "cocktail hour" are early in the evening.) Take it easy on the booze and quit drinking a few hours before you go to bed, and you'll give your body time to metabolise the alcohol before you try to sleep.
5. Sleep Stealer: Stress
Whether it's a demanding boss or a troublesome toddler, stress can rob us of a good night's sleep. "Stress-reduction interventions, such as mindfulness meditation and progressive relaxation, have demonstrated some effectiveness for sleep disturbances, including frequent awakenings from stress," says Dr. Lekeisha A. Sumner, a board-certified clinical psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Sumner says meditation and similar practices may help decrease worry and improve mood, which supports sounder sleep.
Sleep Solution: While practices like meditation or yoga may help, Sumner says people with serious stress-sleep issues may benefit from psychotherapy. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy can enhance sleep quality by helping your brain get control of the stress-based thoughts that rob you of z's.
This article originally appeared on Prevention