Waking in the middle of the night, especially 3 in the morning, can leave you in a cold sweat. Blame it on watching one too many horror movies or hearing the scary stories where the pinnacle occurs at 3 am, but something about the witching hour has us scared for what it means to suddenly be woken up.
The Witching Hour
What is the Witching Hour?
According to lore and myth, the witching hour is when ghosts, demons, and demons are most active. Because of this, the witching hour is said to be when most supernatural events occur.
This increase in activity is said to occur because, during this time, the separation between the living and dead disappears or becomes warped, meaning the living can more easily feel the presence of the dead, and the dead can interfere with the living.
Whenn is the Witching Hour?
The timing of the witching hour itself can vary based on cultural and religious beliefs. For some beliefs, the witching hour is between 3 am and 4 am, but for others, it is for the entire night, from sunset to sunrise. Christians, in particular, view 3 am as the devil’s hour, while most other beliefs are wary during the entire nighttime for supernatural activity.
The History of The Witching Hour
The witching hour got its name from the assumption that witches cast their spells in the blackness of night when they can go undetected and when the veil between life and death is at its weakest.
The 3 am time that Christians commonly call the witching hour stems from when it is believed Christ died. Religious beliefs place his time of death at 3 pm, and because the devil works in inversions, the witching hour, or the time when we are farthest from holy power and supernatural activity is at its greatest, is 3 am. Legend typically does not equate the devil with witchcraft, but nevertheless the two are often linked together.
Why Do We Wake During The Witching Hour?
It may be unsettling to wake in the middle of the night and see that it is 3 am. Our minds can go crazy imagining what might be going on, even if we understand how unwarranted these thoughts are in the light of day.
However, waking up at 3 in the morning has nothing to do with supernatural activity and everything to do with your sleep cycle.
While sleeping, your body goes through different phases of sleep, with each one serving different purposes and affecting the body in different ways.
Around 3 in the morning, most people are in the middle of the REM cycle, which is the deepest sleep you experience during the night. When in REM sleep, your heart rate drops, your breathing slows, and your body temperature decreases. In addition, many functions in the body are reduced or stopped altogether, including movement of your limbs. The body goes through these changes to help you get as much quality sleep as possible, but it can be concerning when you wake suddenly during this time.
Whether a noise wakes you or mother nature calls, waking during the deep sleep of the REM cycle leaves you feeling disoriented and cold. Your body reacts to these feelings with fear because the way you wake up is not a natural mode for the conscious body. Like how you feel panic when you wake up somewhere that you did not fall asleep, the body also experiences terror when it wakes up feeling differently from when going to sleep.
Add in the fact that the witching hour has become an ingrained part of society, and it’s no wonder that when you wake up in a panic at 3 in the morning, you think something unnatural is happening.
How To Make it Through The Witching Hour
If you find yourself waking at 3 am, try following these tips to promote better sleep and help you fall back asleep when you do wake up.
Start an Exercise Routine
When you exercise during the day, you have an easier time falling (and staying) asleep because the body has exerted additional energy. Exercising also helps to improve our mood and can be quite relaxing, which can help you fall asleep and have a calmer mind when trying to sleep.
Use a Sleep Mask
If you keep waking up in the middle of the night, the culprit might be a light shining on your face and disturbing your sleep. Try using a sleep mask and see if that is enough to keep you asleep throughout the night.
Try a White Noise Machine
Next to visual disturbances, the other common disturbance in the middle of the night is an unexpected noise. To prevent you from waking up to every noise that occurs, try a white noise machine to disguise the distracting sounds.
Try a Sleep Podcast or Sleep Music
When you wake during the witching hour and struggle to calm your mind and heart enough to return to sleep, give a sleep podcast or sleep music a try. Music intended for sleep is calming and relaxing, which can help calm your heart rate. Sleep podcasts provide you something to focus on other than what might have woken you up, also helping you fall asleep.
How To Make it Through The Witching Hour
The witching hour is a product of folklore that can occur during the entire night, or just between 3 am and 4 am, depending on your religious and cultural beliefs. It is believed that the witching hour is when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, making it easy for the line to cross and the supernatural to interfere with humans.
Despite its origination, waking up in a panic during the witching hour likely occurs due to being woken up during REM sleep, which is the deepest phase of sleep. It can be concerning for the body to wake up colder than it went to sleep, which can contribute to the panic we wake up with.
If you continue waking in the middle of the night, try adopting healthy sleep habits and using a sleep mask or sound machine to help you stay asleep. If you do wake up, sleep music or a sleep podcast can help you get back to sleep; no witching involved.