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You set the alarm for 6 a.m., but for the third day this week you wake up at 1 a.m. instead. You know you need more rest, but falling back asleep takes a long time. When you finally do doze off, before you know it, your alarm clock is ringing.

If that sounds familiar, you may have a common form of insomnia that makes it hard for you to stay asleep.

What Makes You Wake up in the Night?

Middle-of-the-night insomnia affects almost twice as many women as men. It becomes more common in middle age.

Chronic pain, sleep apnea, and the need to get up over and over to use the bathroom are some things that can interrupt your sleep. So can the hot flashes of menopause.

Meanwhile, life's stresses take their toll. Marriage troubles, job losses, aging parents, or children leaving home all can leave your mind racing in the night.

Once you start waking up at night, a vicious cycle can begin. The more you worry about losing sleep, the harder it becomes to stay asleep.

"Everyone wakes up at night once in a while. Most people roll over and go back to sleep. But some people begin to fret about it," says clinical psychologist Theresa Lengerich, PsyD. She's the director of behavioral sciences at the Bethesda Family Medicine Residency Program in Cincinnati.

"As you lay there, you become tense, which makes it harder to fall back asleep. And then you become even more upset," Lengerich says. "If this continues night after night, it can become a conditioned response that can cause insomnia all by itself."