CLEVELAND — If you're trying to figure out why your eyes keep opening out of a sound sleep at almost the exact same time every night, know this: You're not alone. 

According to sleep experts at Cleveland Clinic, many people experience regular nighttime awakenings. Some almost exactly to the minute.

“At one point, you may have had a reason to wake up at that time, maybe in response to sleep apnea or a crying baby,” says Dr. Alexa Kane, psychologist and sleep expert at Cleveland Clinic. “Your body may have become conditioned to it.”

The good news is nighttime awakenings are usually harmless, especially if you easily doze off again. 

The problem is if you wake up and stay awake. 

“If you wake up and begin to experience worry, anxiety or frustration, you likely have activated your sympathetic nervous system, your ‘fight-or-flight’ system,” says Dr. Kane. “When this happens, your brain switches from sleep mode to wake mode. Your mind may start to race, and your heart rate and blood pressure may go up. That makes it much harder to get back to sleep.”

This scenario could lead to insomnia. Dr. Kane also mentions that regularly waking up at night also can be a symptom of sleep apnea. Patients with this condition occasionally stop breathing during sleep, as well as have disruption of your heart rhythm, and reduction of the flow of oxygen to your body.

So what should you do if you're waking up at 3 a.m., or 4:30 a.m., or whatever time? Dr. Kane suggests giving yourself 15 to 20 minutes to doze back to sleep, but if you’re awake longer than that, it’s best to get out of bed. 

Once out of bed, here are some suggested activities which will promote sleep: 

  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Meditate.
  • Read something boring.
  • Do not use your cell phone, check email or do anything else that might make your brain think it’s time to wake up and work.

Sweet dreams!