This Is Why You Wake Up At 3am After A Boozy Night

We've all been there.

You're at home, collapsed on the couch after a one too many drinks, when you start drifting off into a dreamless slumber.

Then the clock strikes 3am and suddenly you're up, you're wired and you can't get back to sleep.

Well, now we know there’s actual science behind the entire process, and that it’s not all down to that dodgy late-night kebab.

Sealy sleep expert  and sleep specialist, Olivia Arezzolo, told ten daily that the sudden wake-up call is all thanks to a very scientific symphony going on in our brains.

“Alcohol is a sedative that helps our body relax and it actually does help us get to sleep more efficiently. But when the sedative effect wears off – which usually happens at around 3am – you get a spike in your cortisol levels and that wakes us up,” she said.

For those playing at home, cortisol is the hormone released by the body when we’re either under stress or when our blood glucose levels are low.

But that’s not all alcohol does.

“In the later part of the evening is when we have our REM (rapid eye movement) sleep,” Arezzolo explained.

“Now you need your REM sleep to help with emotional processing and to consolidate memories. When you have alcohol you end up missing out on this element, which is why most of us can’t remember what happened after a night of drinking.”

For Arezzolo our booze driven culture isn’t the only issue affecting our sleep.

“We’re a country that doesn’t value relaxation,” she said. “Think about it, look about how many activities in our daily lives promote stress. Being busy is almost championed – speak to anyone and they’ll be proud that they’re ‘so busy’.”

Arezzolo said that we also tend to marvel at people who can get by on little sleep. “We just don’t seem to be engaging in enough stress relieving actives during the day which absolutely impacts the quality of our sleep”.

But don’t stress (no, seriously, cut it out), because Arezzolo shared some of her best tips and tricks to help guide you on your journey to the Land Of Nod.


“You want to start limiting your intake of caffeine by the early afternoon.

“As everyone already knows caffeine is a stimulant and it will heighten the release of cortisol. So as we’re getting closer to the evening, we want to limit those feelings of anxiety and stress," she said.


“Interesting, even though tea does have caffeine in it, it also contains a component called L-Theanine, which is actually used to help treat anxiety.

“That’s why when you drink tea instead of coffee, at least tea has a calming effect which will help relax you,” Arezzolo said.


“I feel like people tend to forget that sugar is also a stimulant, and so people end up having these really sugary afternoon treats as a pick-me-up.

“These will just end up causing our cortisol levels to rise. Here’s the other thing with cortisol, when you have too much of it swimming around in your system your body can’t produce melatonin – the chemical your brain releases to make you sleepy,” she said.

One Hour Before Bed

‘This is when you should start your bedtime routine. I recommend jumping into shower, and then switching off from all social media and any work activities.

“It’s also the time to switch off the television, because studies have shown that when we watch television before bed you end up suppressing your synthesis of melatonin, and that will delay your sleep by around 90 minutes,” she said.

Start Meditating

“In order to rest our brains need to move from beta and alpha brainwave states to theta and delta, and theta is the brainwave that’s dominate in meditation,” she said.

Arezzolo added: "About 30 minutes before bed start listening to a meditation track – something really slow – and that will help calm you down. If you really can’t get into meditation then try binoral beats. It’s a scientifically engineered kind of music that reflects the brain waves we’re trying to achieve, and helps the brain move into a slower pattern.”

Set yourself up for success

At the end of the day it’s vital you invest things that will ensure you're setting yourself up for sleep success in every way you can.

Arezzolo recommends addressing the key three: Temperature, noise and comfort.

"If you’re susceptible to overheating in the summer months try to turn off your electronics in the room that may radiate heat, opt for loose and breathable sheet fabrics or a mattresses with fabric treatments that move heat away from the body.

“White noise has been a popular method of settling the mind for optimal sleep, and now pink noise is being touted as an even better alternatively.”

If you're still tossing and turning at night -- it might be time to invest in a new mattress.

Arezzolo advises to spend the time shopping around: “Do your homework. List out your key sleep disruptions and hit the stores ready with a list of questions to make sure the one you choose has been designed to address your key sleep concerns.”

Feature Image: Getty