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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

The 3 most common reasons why you wake up at 3am

One of the questions I get asked the most is “Why do I wake up at 3am?” Or 2 or 4am?

So many people wake up at the same time each night like clockwork. So I want to tell you what’s going in your body that is causing this to happen.

When I wasn’t sleeping well, I woke up almost every night at 3:30am and couldn’t fall back asleep for hours. After doing lab testing, I discovered that I had 2 out of 3 of these issues. And I learned that the third one was affecting me later.

I see all 3 of these issues in many of my clients so if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, these are likely affecting you, too.

It’s all about cortisol

Before I get into the 3 most common causes of waking up at 3am, we need to talk about cortisol. All 3 of these imbalances are causing a cortisol spike at night which is waking you up.

Cortisol is one of your stress hormones. To help you survive, it gives you energy, helps you think quickly (hello racing mind!), and raises your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Cortisol is also an anti-inflammatory hormone. So whenever there’s inflammation in the body, you’ll release cortisol. When this happens at night, you’ll feel wide awake (even though you’re exhausted).

These are the 3 most common reasons why your body is releasing cortisol at night and you’re waking up at 3am:

  1. Low blood sugar

Whenever your blood sugar drops too low, your body releases cortisol because cortisol tells your body to release glucose into the cells for energy.

If your blood sugar is fluctuating from extreme lows to highs throughout the day, that roller coaster is going to continue into the night.

Keep blood sugar levels steady by always eating fat and protein with meals, by not snacking, and by eating whole foods instead of refined sugars and processed foods.

Your fasting glucose level on a blood test should be between 75 and 90.

Insulin should be between 1 and 5.

(These optimal levels are different from what the lab’s “normal” ranges.)

If you suspect blood sugar is an issue for you, I suggest investing in a glucose monitor from the drugstore or try the Keto-mojo glucose and ketone monitor. Ideally, your blood sugar should be less than 140 mg/dl 1 hour after a meal less than 120 mg/dl 2 hours after a meal.

  1. A pathogen in the gut

Almost all of my clients have some sort of pathogen that is affecting their sleep.

85% of my clients have H. pylori, a bacteria that thrives in the stomach by raising the pH. This affects protein digestion and nutrient absorption and can lead to ulcers and stomach cancer.

Approximately 25% of my clients have candida or a parasite.

I had a parasite (blastocystis hominis) that I likely got from traveling in Nepal and India 12 years before I got insomnia! During those 12 years, it was damaging my gut leading to food sensitivities, thyroid issues and hormone imbalances.

Parasites, H. pylori and candida can thrive when your gut isn’t healthy. These creatures are nocturnal, so it’s the middle of the night that they’re eating, excreting and releasing lots of toxins which create a lot of inflammation. Cortisol comes to the rescue to deal with the inflammation but it also wakes you up.

If you wake up around 3 or 4am every night, it’s likely that you have a pathogen in your gut!

I use the GI Map to look for pathogens in the gut. This test is highly sensitive to H. pylori and since it tests directly for the DNA of these critters, it catches pathogens that may not be seen from a biopsy or endoscopy.

  1. Liver detox issues

Almost all of my clients need liver support.

Your liver is most active between 1 and 3am. If it’s trying to detoxify toxins and there are more than your liver can handle, those toxins will get into the bloodstream, causing lots of inflammation.

If you also have a pathogen in your gut, that’s putting an extra burden on your liver around 3am. It’s a double whammy!

There are many different ways the liver deals with toxins and each of the processes needs different nutrients.

I can tell what part of liver detoxification needs support for each person from the DUTCH (dried urine hormone and cortisol test) because this test shows how the liver is breaking down hormones. The GI Map also has a marker for liver function.

We help our clients lower toxins and support the liver so that they can sleep normally.

If you’re waking up in the middle of the night most nights, it’s likely that at least one if not all three of these issues are the culprit.

There can be other underlying health issues that cause you to wake up at night such as hormone imbalance, mineral deficiencies, mold toxicity and heavy metals.

The only way to know for sure is to test.

That’s why the Complete Sleep Solution program includes 4 functional lab tests that identify exactly what’s keeping you awake at night.

It’s testing, not guessing so that we know what to address and you get better as quickly as possible.

Book a free consultation to find out more and see if the program is a good fit for you. I know how much better life is when you’re getting a good night’s sleep every night. I want that for you, too! It is possible for everyone to sleep well!

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