Why Can’t I Stay Asleep?

It’s still dark when you wake up. You check the clock. There’s 3 more hours before your alarm clock is set to ring, but you can’t fall back asleep.

Regularly waking up throughout the night is a form of insomnia. Not only can it leave you feeling exhausted the next day, but it can also take a toll on your mood.

So how can you sleep soundly throughout the night? The first step is to understand what’s causing these interruptions.

Q. Why do I always wake up to pee?

You may be drinking too much in the evening, says Sanjeev Kothare, MD, director of the pediatric sleep program at NYU Langone Medical Center. Scale back on how much you sip before bedtime.

Those nighttime urges may also be because of a medical problem, like a bladder infection or a medicine. Talk to your doctor. He can treat the medical problem or adjust your medicine.

Q. Will drinking alcohol help me sleep?

At first, those glasses of wine or cocktails will make you feel drowsy. But this effect lasts only a few hours.

“After it wears off, alcohol has a stimulating effect,” says Jeffrey Barasch, MD, the medical director for the Valley Hospital Center for Sleep Medicine. This can cause you to toss and turn. So stop drinking alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime.

Q. What should I do if heartburn is keeping me up?

That's a common problem. When you’re lying down, it’s easier for your stomach juices to flow back up, says Amy Meoli, MD, medical director of the Penn State Hershey Sleep Research and Treatment Center.

Try these moves to avoid and treat the burn:

  • Have dinner 3 to 4 hours before you hit the hay. Also, keep your meal light -- a full stomach increases your chances of heartburn.  
  • Avoid heartburn triggers, like spicy and fatty foods.
  • Raise your upper body with a pillow to help keep the acid down.
  • Try an over-the-counter medicine. Let your doctor know if you have heartburn often.