Middle Insomnia – When Waking Up Means Staying Up for Hours

Middle insomnia, also called maintenance insomnia, means you might fall asleep relatively soon after you get into bed – maybe within 30 minutes to an hour – but then you wake up some time after and guess what… you can’t go back to sleep, possibly for hours.

Middle insomnia is certainly common, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant. While some people, such as myself, experience all different types of insomnia, some people seem to stick mostly with one type.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this type of insomnia is feeling at first that you could go back to sleep if you just don’t think about it too much.

But of course you DO think about it, and then voila – like some kind of black magic, the very idea that you might or could fall back to sleep if everything goes well means that you CAN’T. And then it’s all downhill from there.

middle insomnia can mean hours of clock watchingMany people with middle insomnia also find that getting up for any reason – whether to go to the bathroom, check on the kid or the dog, close the window, turn off the heat, put on another blanket, or whatever – pretty much means they’re doomed as far as going back to sleep goes. It just doesn’t happen, at least not for a very long time.

On the bright side…

Having middle insomnia gives you one tiny advantage over someone with initial insomnia (meaning they lie awake for hours before they get any sleep). At least you did get some sleep in during the long hours of night.

Initial insomniacs can find themselves going the whole night without any sleep at all. This is because after a couple hours of staying awake, sleep anxiety can kick in and sabotages their chances to relax enough to go under.

But no type of insomnia is fun, so let’s talk about how to get rid of middle insomnia.

While it’s good to try to eliminate all disturbances that could cause you to wake up in the first place, especially if there is evidence of concrete causes, such as

  • noises outside,
  • lights going on,
  • changes in temperature,
  • or an internal problem like an allergy, pain, or other discomfort…

…the truth is, it’s not possible to eliminate every single thing that could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. It’s normal, natural and part of life to wake up during the night.

What’s not enjoyable is being unable to fall back to sleep for such a long time.

The Mind Body Connection in Middle Insomnia

If you have primary insomnia, which means your insomnia is not directly caused by a physical condition you have, such as sleep apnea or menopausal hot flashes, it’s quite likely that the disruptions in your sleep are at least partly caused by mental and emotional factors.

While people with mostly initial insomnia might be aware of thoughts circling around in their brains after they go to bed, those with middle insomnia might find the causes more hidden and more subtle.

But I can guarantee you that they are there, hidden or not.

Could subconscious causes of insomnia be at work here? Maybe. Find out more about subconscious causes in this article.

The Sleep Diary

The first step to any insomnia problem is to keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. It’s very important to keep track of all your sleep patterns:

  • when you go to bed,
  • what time you wake up,
  • what caused you to wake up (if you know-if you don’t know, that too is valuable information)
  • what you do and what you think while you’re awake,
  • when you fall back to sleep,
  • when you wake up again,
  • and so on.

It’s especially important for people with middle insomnia to keep the sleep diary daily. Why? Because it’s more difficult to know what’s going on. Middle or maintenance insomnia is a bit more mysterious than initial insomnia.

People with initial insomnia are generally more aware of the thoughts, feelings, physical factors and other things that keep them awake.

If you’re waking up and not going back to sleep, you could have disruptions in your sleep cycles that you’re not aware of.

Learn more about sleep cycles and sleep stages in this article.

Your sleep diary might tell you at what point in the sleep cycle you’re waking up. If, for example, you always wake up immediately after REM (dreaming) sleep, it’s possible that there’s a connection between your dreams and your wake-ups. But you won’t know unless you keep track daily, for at least a couple of weeks.

Learn more about the sleep diary in Day 1 of the insomnia self-help section.

It’s also important to recognize the role of hyperarousal as a cause of insomnia, which might help you understand your insomnia better. When your nervous system goes into a state of alert, it naturally follows that you would not be “wired” for sleeping long periods at a time.

If you find yourself thinking over problems after you wake up, you’ll want to follow the tips for moving your “worry times” from nighttime to daytime.

This helps you get that feeling that your day is “finished” which is so important in curing a chronic insomnia habit-you can read more about that here.

The most important thing to know about middle insomnia, though, is you can be cured of it permanently!

Learn more about other types of insomnia.