The year came and went like a fever dream. And chances are, 2022 may have had some sleepless nights because of discomfort or pain. This year we've had dozens of experts weigh in on what's waking you up. While some may be minor instances, a few reasons do require serious medical attention.
Here are some of the reasons you may have lost sleep in 2022, and how to fix them so you can sleep soundly in the new year.
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1. You Woke Up Shaking
Waking up shaking can be an unnerving experience, especially if you don't know why it's happening. Body tremors can be a symptom of a serious condition, but doctors say that's usually not the case.
"There are lots of kinds of shaking (trembling, shivering, voluntary versus involuntary and violent versus subtle)," says Carl W. Bazil, MD, PhD, a neurologist and professor at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "It's also difficult to know whether movements began during sleep and caused awakening or if awakening happens first."
Common reasons for tremors are low blood sugar, anxiety, a reaction to medication or too much caffeine. If you regularly wake up from shaking, it's a good idea to see a doctor to determine what's causing it.
2. You Woke Up With Numb Hands
Numbs hands are not to be ignored. In some cases, the cause can be as simple as temporary poor circulation after sleeping in a weird position. But more severe cases could mean something serious, like a nerve issue. Numbness and tingly fingers at night could be related to carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by pressure on the median nerve.
"Numbness in the thumb and first finger (and frequently the middle finger) is commonly due to compression of the median nerve in the 'carpal tunnel,' a narrow passageway composed of ligaments and bones on the palmar side of the hand," says neurologist Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, director of the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies at the University of Michigan.
If you're experiencing persistent numbness in your hands or in other parts of the body, you should seek medical attention immediately.
3. You Had Heartburn
If a burning pain in your chest kept you up at night, it could be a sign it's time to do something different. A common reason for heartburn is GERD — a severe, chronic acid reflux condition. "The number one cause of GERD in America is obesity," says Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York-based gastroenterologist. "That's because excess weight can place pressure on the stomach, propelling its contents up into the esophagus."
If extra weight isn't the problem, your heartburn could be caused by stress, a hiatal hernia, a medication side effect or pregnancy. In most cases of heartburn, uncomfortable symptoms can be improved by working with your doctor to determine proper lifestyle changes.
4. Your Vision Was Blurry
Waking up with cloudy vision is no doubt a scary sight. It can mean there's something mild or severe going on with your body. Best case scenario, your eyes are just dry first thing in the morning. This should be a quick fix after a few blinks to rehydrate your eyes.
"A sudden change in vision which does not clear with a blink or a moisture drop should prompt one to seek medical attention," says Howard R. Krauss, MD, a surgical neuro-ophthalmologist and clinical professor of ophthalmology and neurosurgery at Saint John's Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Blurry vision could also be a sign of infection, a concussion, a detached retina or even a stroke. These serious conditions require immediate medical attention.
5. You Had Chest Pain
Unlike heartburn, a sharp pain in your chest is more likely to be a serious situation. And if that pain occurs early in the morning, it's a telltale sign of a heart attack. "The peak time for a heart attack is around 6:30 a.m.," says John Higgins, MD, a cardiologist with UTHealth Houston. If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call 911 right away.
Heart attacks aside, chest pain can come from many different serious heart conditions that require medical treatment including pericarditis, myocarditis and angina. It could also be sign of a chest injury or pulmonary condition.
Before you begin to panic, it's possible chest pain is associated with less severe conditions like heartburn or anxiety. Chest pain could also be due to a benign condition called costochondritis, which can worsen when you lie down or are breathing deeply, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
When in doubt, you should get checked out by a doctor.
6. You Were Anxious
Anxious thoughts can often lead to sleepless nights, or a rough start to the day. When your mind is racing it can be hard to get quality sleep. According to experts, the timing of anxiety has a lot to do with biology.
"Anxiety occurs first thing in the morning for many people because of the body's natural rise in the stress hormone cortisol that we produce when we sleep," explains Lana Lipe, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Honu Therapy Services in Honolulu.
Morning anxiety can be managed by how you choose to start your day. Try cutting back on caffeine (sorry, morning latte!), have a hearty breakfast, go for a walk, make a daily to-do list or try meditating.
If managing anxiety on your own isn't working, therapy might be a good option. "There is no better place than therapy to unpack what your anxiety is sitting alongside and what it is trying to say to you," says Pauline Peck, PhD, a Santa Barbara, California-based psychologist. "Emotions are messengers, and they give us information."
7. You Kept Waking Up At 3 a.m.
You probably aren't setting your alarm for 3 a.m, but for some reason your body thinks it's time to wake up. Consistent 3 a.m. wake-up calls can quickly turn sweet dreams into a nightmare.
Nighttime awakenings are common and typically nothing to be concerned about, but there could be a chance of a sleep disorder or a serious condition, like sleep apnea, a circadian rhythm disorder or a nightmare disorder. If your rest is consistently disturbed, consider seeing a sleep specialist who can properly evaluate and determine your condition, then treat it accordingly.
8. You Had Knee Pain
Knee pain is a classic sign of an injury, and if it's keeping you up at night it's probably time to do something about it. One common condition is runner's knee, medically known as patellofemoral pain syndrome. It's an injury caused by overuse and can usually be treated with some ice, rest and elevation.
While some injuries can be treated at home, including iliotibial band syndrome and a torn meniscus, other conditions, like a torn ligament, call for medical attention.
Severe knee pain could also be signaling other serious issues that warrant further testing, like an X-ray.
9. You Had Stomach Pain
Abdominal pain is not only uncomfortable, but also disruptive for sleep — and any other part of your day, for that matter. If you've ruled out low-risk reasons for a stomachache like hunger, consider other factors.
Sharp stomach pain can come from several conditions including GERD, a stomach ulcer or IBS — all of which should be discussed with and treated by your doctor.
No matter the time of day, if your stomach pain is severe or accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, jaundice or constipation, talk to your doctor as soon as you can. These symptoms could also be signs of serious GI conditions like appendicitis, diverticulitis, pancreatitis or other non-GI concerns.
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.