Do You Wake Up All Night Long Like Clockwork?

In our sleep feature, we identified five different sleep types. Is this one you? Once you find out, begin your personalized slumber solutions.

Sleep Type: The Human Alarm Clock
You crash as soon as your head hits the pillow, but wake like clockwork at 2, 3, or 4 a.m.

What's Going On? 
"We all wake up briefly -- two to three dozen times a night -- without awareness or memory," says Paul Glovinsky, Ph.D., coauthor of "The Insomnia Answer." If you're all too aware of your awakenings, a number of things may be going on. Simple conditioning, a la Pavlov's dogs, could be to blame. Your body can be "on the lookout for that awakening, especially if there's a clock in the bedroom," Glovinksy says. Also consider stress: You may fall asleep out of pure exhaustion, but as soon as your sleep needs are slightly quenched, anxieties wake you up again. For some people, says Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., director of Sleep Programs at Miraval Resort, the body's inner clock, or circadian rhythms, may be malfunctioning

What to Do
Whatever's behind your awakenings, hiding your neon time reminder is step one. If you can't see the clock, you won't panic as you calculate how many hours remain until daybreak -- and how little you've slept. "Put it on the floor or cover it up in some way," says Joyce Walsleben, R.N., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at New York University. "When the alarm rings, you can get up, but otherwise, you're in bed to sleep." For many people, this simple shift alone reconditions their brain.

Step two? Address your stress, using the recommendations from "The Power Thinker." If the problem persists for more than a week, says Naiman, visit a sleep specialist to see whether you have a circadian-rhythm problem -- in which case, strategies such as light therapy or a melatonin supplement might help. If intense dreams wake you up, "pay attention to them," says Naiman. "Write them down, and think and talk about them." This doesn't mean you should take them literally: "Dreams are symbolic, not concrete." Working with your dreams can have payoffs for your psyche and your slumber, he adds. "When people start working with their dreams, the intense ones (or nightmares) become less jarring."

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Text by Sarah Schmelling

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