Why Do I Wake Up After 2 Hours’ Sleep?

Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
6th November 2021

In 30 seconds…

Why do you wake up after 2 hours’ sleep? Firstly, it’s totally normal that you wake up during the night. That’s because your sleep cycle usually lasts between 70 and 120 minutes, and you’ll typically be awake briefly in every cycle.

However, sleep disturbances can be made worse by poor sleep habits, health problems, and lifestyle choices. Sleeping in a room that’s noisy or too warm can affect your sleep, while stress, and alcohol and caffeine abuse can contribute. More seriously, sleep apnea and insomnia are common sleep disorders.

Luckily, there are methods out there to help you sleep better. Exercise should be your first port of call, along with changing up your bedtime routine. Natural remedies – such as chamomile and lemon balm – can help too.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

It helps your body heal, it supports your mental health, and it’s responsible for maintaining your mood, immune system, and sexual health. Sleep is incredibly important. But it doesn’t always come easily.

Here, we’re looking at some of the common causes of sleep disruption – i.e. waking in the middle of the night. We’ll show you how you can beat these sleep problems and get better, more restful sleep.

So, why do you wake up after 2 hours’ sleep? Let’s look at some possible answers.

Your Natural Sleep Pattern

Everyone sleeps in their own way. The number of hours of sleep you get – and the times at which you get them – can differ dramatically from one individual to the next.

Yet, there are some rhythms that we all share in our sleep patterns. And these might help to explain why you wake up after two hours. Here’s how your sleep pattern works:

  • Awake: This is when you’re first dozing off and there will be moments during the night when you briefly wake up. This is perfectly normal – and yes, it can happen every couple of hours.
  • Light sleep: You’ll spend about half of the night in light sleep, when your heart rate drops and your breathing slows. You can be woken fairly easily during this time.
  • Deep sleep: In this stage, it’s difficult to be woken up – and you’ll feel quite groggy if you are.
  • REM sleep: During rapid eye movement sleep, you’ll become physically immobile, and your dreams will be very vivid.

During a single night’s sleep, you will typically pass through this cycle four or five times – from waking to light sleep, deep sleep, REM, and then back again. Crucially, that means that each cycle lasts roughly 70 to 120 minutes, in which you are likely to wake up. That’s completely normal.

However, most people don’t notice these awakenings – and they rarely become wide awake. If you wake up during the night and stay awake, there might be something else that’s up.

Find out more: How Much Sleep Should You Have?

Why Do I Wake Up After Two Hours’ Sleep?

The most common reason for waking up after two hours’ sleep is simply your regular sleep schedule. Yet, other causes could be contributing. Here are some to consider:

1. Lifestyle Factors

Sometimes you can be making your sleep worse without even knowing it. Some things you do before you go to sleep, or more generally throughout the day, can have an effect:

  • Devices and screens: The lights from our mobile phones or computers can affect the quality of our sleep – particularly in the hour before you turn out the light. Meanwhile, having a device in our bedroom can cause sleep interruptions, lower sleep quality, and a reduced chance of getting enough sleep overall, according to studies.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it prevents you from reaching deep sleep and REM sleep, the most restorative forms of sleep. You are highly likely to wake up when the alcohol wears off – and that means sleep disruption.
  • Caffeine: Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks make it harder to fall asleep, and they reduce sleep quality overall. One study found that caffeine intake even six hours before sleep reduces sleep time by as much as an hour.
  • Drinking too much liquid: A simple one: drink too much before bed, and you’ll likely need to wake up to pee.
  • Your sleep environment: Sleeping in too warm or poorly ventilated rooms can cause poor sleep, while an excessively noisy environment will have an impact too.
  • Changing sleep habits: If you work on night shifts or have a changing sleep pattern, it can be difficult for your body to find a rhythm. This can result in interrupted sleep.

2. General Health Conditions

Sometimes your health can get in the way of your sleep. Before we look at some specific sleep disorders, it’s worth considering some health conditions that might be affecting you more generally:

  • Stress and anxiety: We’ve said that it’s very natural to wake up during the night. But if you struggle to get back to sleep because your mind is racing, it might be due to stress or anxiety disorders. It can feel like a vicious cycle, in which stress causes low-quality sleep, which can cause further stress. But the solutions below, such as exercise, can help, and they’ll boost your wellness overall.
  • Depression: Mental health conditions such as depression – as well as bipolar and schizophrenia – can cause trouble sleeping. In fact, sleep disturbance has been described as “the most prominent symptom” of depression. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings. There is help out there for you.
  • Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, can cause disruptions to your sleep. Obesity, alcohol, and smoking can all make this more likely.
  • Digestive problems: Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux can increase the chances of disrupted sleep. Probiotics, such as Manual’s Gut Care supplement, can help.

3. Sleep Disorders

Finally, you may have a problem with your sleep itself: 

  • Sleep maintenance insomnia: This is the name for the condition where you can fall asleep, but you can’t stay asleep. The symptoms might be waking up every couple of hours or waking very early in the morning. Studies show it is much more common as we age.
  • Restless leg syndrome: Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless leg syndrome is characterised by an irresistible desire to move your legs – that’s usually felt in the evening and night. This means it can be difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
  • Age: It’s not a given that when you get older, you suffer worse sleep. But our sleep patterns do change – and lighter, more easily interrupted sleep is one of the things you can expect.

How to Improve Your Sleep and Prevent Sleep Interruptions

Luckily, there are plenty of things that you can try to help improve your sleep. Some of the most effective include:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene: That means turning off devices at least an hour before bed, sleeping in a cool room, and dimming the lights before sleeping. All of these measures should prepare your body for sleep.
  • Go outside at least once a day: Natural light helps regulate our bodies’ cycle of waking and sleeping – or what’s known as our circadian rhythm. Ensuring you spend at least half an hour outside a day is most effective.
  • Exercise: Exercising can improve the quality of our sleep, the speed with which we get to sleep, and our mood on waking. Just don’t do it immediately before you go to bed – otherwise, you might struggle to nod off.
  • Melatonin: One of the best-known sleep aids out there, melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in your body that causes feelings of sleepiness. You can take it in supplements too, to help you fall asleep.
  • Try sleep supplements: Natural remedies such as chamomile, lemon balm, and tart cherry have all been found to improve sleep quality and prevent sleep interruptions.

Try Manual’s Good Nights sleep support supplements, which boast all the benefits of these natural ingredients.

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Key Takeaways

Why do I wake up after 2 hours’ sleep? Likely, it’s just your natural sleep cycle at work. However, if you wake up during the night and stay awake, stress, anxiety, or poor sleep hygiene could be to blame. 

There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up during the night. But Manual’s Good Night sleep supplements can be a perfect, natural way to improve your sleep overall.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Further reading

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