Every night I wake at 3am

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Ever since I was a child I've woke around 3 in the morning. When I do this, I usually go to the kitchen and have a snack. when I was a child, I was afraid of burglars, so I waited til my parents slept, and then y I crept into my sister's bed. That, however, ended when I wet her bed. Basically, I'm now thinking all this happens because my perpetrator must have startled me awake at about these times during my childhood. Often, I can't get back to sleep. Does this happen to any of you? Is it a common occurrence among PTSD sufferers? Let me know, I really want to know. What do you do to deal with it? I deal with it by listening to the radio. I love snacks, but I'm over weight. So a snack is certainly not helping me at all.


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It's really really common to wake up between 3-4 at night for many many people, with and without PTSD (or other mental disorders). From what I understand (when I researched it a long while back) it has something to do with our hardcoded circadian rhythms and nightly metabolism.

I've woken up somewhere between 3:30 and 4ish without fail almost every day for pretty much two decades (unless I'm really really really physically exhausted), ever since I was a teenager. Whether or not I also had this before, I don't remember, so I don't want to claim whether or not it started in adolescence or way earlier. But it was/is so consistent, I could literally tell you the time without even looking at a clock. However, I don't have trouble falling back asleep and don't get up and actually *do* anything.

Like you, I too at some point made the connection with trauma. My trauma happened around 4am (when I was 13). It's a logical conclusion. And I do think it plays a big part in this, at least for me. But I did want to mention that it's really not uncommon. I feel like I remember @somerandomguy mentioned something along those lines somewhere at some point. I also know my boss (no trauma/PTSD) often wakes up at 4am, but like you (and unlike me) he's also *up* then.

To answer @joeylittle 's question: for me it's independent from when I went to bed/fell asleep. Also independent from any seasonal influences (subtle changes in outdoor ambient light in the summer with its early mornings, for example)

ETA: Keep in mind that there are genetic morning people and genetic night owls. It's a thing. Our personal circadian rhythms are hardcoded and very very very hard to actually change (without any health impacts). I would assume a genetic morning person waking up at 4 is more likely to be up for the day than a night owl who'd naturally sleep till 8-10 if they could. I'm the latter, so I don't think it's surprising that, while I do wake up consistently around that time, I also have no problem falling right back asleep, while my boss for example is a genetic morning person.
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4am is my witching hour when I’m doing badly. I’m always up... whether it’s stayed up until 4 or wake up at 4. I’m awake awake awake. Whether I’ve slept for 7 hours or 20 minutes. If it’s past midnight I try to stay up, because even if it’s only a few minutes until 4, I will be wired and locked cocked ready to rock moments later. At which point? I’m up for the day. No matter how cross eyed tired I am. The only thing that affects the witching hour is chemical kick in the ass.


- From Nov-May I was ALSO up at 4am when I was doing well (snowboard season) for the better part of a decade. So it’s hardly a surprise that not long after Halloween? I start waking up around 4. Every day. Even on days we weren’t riding AND Even during years I’m not snowboarding at all <<< The big difference with this one? I can go back to bed. 💕😴💕 And if I stay up until 2am? Or 3:55? I won’t be waking at o4oo but after I’ve met my minimum sleep requirements. As it’s simply a habit with the force of years behind it that’s tied to seasons... not some kind of chemical maelstrom in my noggin.

- And my kid was also up at midnight & 3am whenever he was in a growth spurt. 9pm bedtime, 6am wake up, places 12 & 3 exactly where they need to be to be cramming in more more more mooooooore foooooooood every 3 hours around the clock. Kids just tend to do that when they’re growing. Whether they eat every 3 hours or every 6 hours, their belly-clock is louder than the most screaming alarm.

My habit of years was only a decade. And almost another decade later? I’m still waking up in time to hit the slopes all winter long. If you’ve been doing this since you were a kid? That’s over 50 years of habit behind it. So whilst it may be trauma-tied? It may also just be what you always do, because you’ve always done it. Or some from column A & some from column B.


I agree with the aforementioned comments. I also know from my own experience and the information my psych provided me that specific times can be connected to trauma. I've dealt with one part of the day where my body and brain start ramping up for many years now. It is helpful to understand that it is what happening and that you are safe despite whatever your body and brain might be doing.

I think @Changing4Best - I'd try not to eat, drink or even get out of bed unless you must. Have a boring book next to you and if your eyes spring wide open and sleep seems far away try reading for a few minutes till your eyes feel scratchy again then fall back into sleep. ( do use not electronic devices at this time) Practice some measured breathing focusing on slowing respirations (thereby signaling your brain that all is well) to counter any deeply embedded trauma response you may be having.

I know of several people that tell me they routinely wake at that hour so it may not be trauma related. In fact when sleeping we wake and change in terms of depth of sleep during the night, every night - if we sleep.
Every since my trauma happened, without fail I wake up at 3:00am and then I'm awake for the day. I think the lack of sleep literally made me crazy (well, crazier) for many years.

Hydroxyzine has saved my ass.
I second what someone said about this time frame being a hardcoded circadian rhythm. On one of the many mornings I would wake too soon, I read an article about how we used to have different sleep patterns until electricity was invented. Knowing that of course didn't help me sleep! Melatonin wound up being my savior. For me, only one brand works quickly unlike most brands, AND takes away my night terrors!!

One of the kids I nanny used to wake daily at 3am and sing his little heart out the rest of the morning. He would then fall sleep at school for sometimes an entire hour. It wasn't until he started melatonin that he could finally sleep to a normal hour. Other kids I work with also wake this early, their parents are exhausted from it... and I have some friends that regularly are up posting with me on facebook in the 2:30 am-4am range as well.

I have a backup plan to achieve enough sleep by also going to bed MUCH EARLIER, so I ensure a good enough segment of sleep in case I still wake up early. Then, when I do wake at 3ish, I just use that time to start reading things like here, news articles, workout, or self care like doing my own nails, hair color etc. Even just take more time with my coffee etc.


I grab cold water from the fridge (skip the snacks) and head for my recliner in the basement. (because I don't want to wake my wife) Grab a blanket and curl up. Usually I just put on something I have watched 100 times before like a sitcom or something. Turn it way down and hope my cat shows up. Usually if it wasn't a nightmare that woke me I can get back to sleep.
If I wake for no reason repeatedly, I just get up and start my day. After a few days I'm tired and start sleeping through.
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