Waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep again?

Tonight was one of those nights were I woke up in the middle of the night and was unable to go back to sleep. I just was awake, and it felt like somehow there was “no more sleep in me”. Even though I wanted to sleep, and I knew that I hadn’t yet gotten enough sleep. There’s a name for this specific phenomenon: middle insomnia.

I feel asleep around 22:00 and woke up around 2:15 am. So that makes for a good four hours of sleep, which really isn’t enough and I know it’s going to hit me later today, and I’m not going to be in my best mental, emotional or physical state.

It’s always tempting to grab a screen and just keep yourself busy or distract yourself, but I was actually trying to go back to sleep, and I do know that the light that screens emit affect your body’s chemistry in a way that reduces melatonin production, and essentially will prevent you from falling asleep. (Which is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t fall asleep watching a screen, whether that’s your phone or a TV or whatever). So instead I listened to some podcasts and took some voicenotes.

Despite this, I wasn’t able to fall back asleep.

So the question is:

Why wake up in the middle of the night? When you have difficulty maintaining sleep, what are the causes?

Well for one I had a late dessert that contained lots of sugar and flour. So I know that can affect me. And I woke up with a kind of burning feeling in my stomach—so I think this was the main reason for why I woke up in the middle of the night.

In addition to that, I just felt hot. The room temperature was too high. So I turned the air-con on higher.

Strategies for still getting the most out of the day after a night of not enough sleep

Here’s what I like to do on a day like this. As I’m writing this, it’s 6 am, which means I’ve been awake now for 4 hours already, which in and of itself is ridiculous. I’ve spent the last 4 hours trying to fall asleep in vain.

Daytime naps

But I know that I’m not going to function at 100% today. So I’m going to use this opportunity of accumulated lack-of-sleep to work in some short nap-times today. That being said, I also gotta be careful with this, because if I overdo the napping in the daytime, I’m going to be unable to sleep well again at night. So I’m aiming for 1-3 short 15-minute nap sessions for today.

Traditional Chinese Medicine & Waking Up In the Night at Specific Time

I do know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine they associate waking up ta certain times of the night with specific organ imbalances.

They divide the night into different timezones, and if you wake up within any of these timezones, it’s likely tied to a specific organ:

9 p.m. – 11 p.m. – Triple Burner


11 p.m. – 1 a.m. – Gladd Bladder

1 a.m. – 3 a.m. – Liver

3 a.m. – 5 a.m. – Lung

Now it is important to notice that “organ” is a somewhat unfortunate translation. What’s referred to in TCM as liver is not the same as the physical organ we consider liver, and the same is true for the lung, the gall bladder, and obviously the Triple Burner (a concept that doesn’t exist in Western Medicine).

Also keep in mind that the most meaningful insight you can take away from this is if you keep waking up at a specific time of the night, and there’s a clear, consistent pattern.

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