I was curious to know why it is that a lot of us wake up between 3 and 4 in the morning. We were told it was because of stress. So I did some digging around on your behalf to see if we were all stressed.
It turns out that we aren't stressed at all. If you have been following my posts you will know that our physiology and psychology are inextricably linked - what goes on the brain is reflected in our body and vice versa.
Recent research tells us that not only is 'gut instinct' a genuine thing, our stomach and heart have similar neurotransmitters to what is found in the brain. Crazy. (Your body, not you).
So why do we wake at 3 am? It has to do with our digestive system. The same chemical reaction that occurs in digestion also occurs in the fight or flight response. Chemicals are released into our stomach when we are afraid, angry, worrying, etc., to burn up undigested food so that we have immediate energy to fight or to run. (I always choose the latter these days, I fought enough fights in my last career.)
If you are in the wrong part of REM sleep i.e. the lighter part, the chemical reaction in your stomach tells your brain that it is ready to run. Your brain wakes up and says 'If I have to run I must be afraid, angry or worried.'
So how do you stop this from occurring? Eat a piece of protein immediately before you climb into bed. The piece of protein stops this chemical reaction as well as delaying the release of enzymes from your liver, also part of the digestive process.
Research suggests this works for 90% of people. It worked for me. I choose to eat a piece of cheese immediately before bedtime. I know what you are thinking, “doesn't cheese give you weird dreams”. Yep, sometimes. That's why I eat cheese, let's see what kind of weird dreams I can come up with. It can be fun!
Of course the other thing that occurs now that you know why you wake at 3 am, you are more relaxed when you do wake up. You now know that millions of other people are waking at the same time so you are not alone, and that there is nothing for you to worry about it’s just your body working as it should be.
If you wake between 3 and 4 am, roll over and get back to sleep silly. It's just your brain messing with your mind!