I was scared to death in the seminal 1979 horror film Amityville Horror when the haunted husband kept waking up at 3.15am on the dot. I remember that clock ticking over in that movie as clearly as the weird freaky pig thing. Both terrified me throughout my childhood.
Now 3.15am haunts me in a different way.
Because 3.15am is the time I wake up, look at the clock and am seized by a terror that I won’t be able to get back to sleep.
Many women know the 3am horrors. Or the 4am. Or the 5am.
It’s like a plague – and it’s a phenomenon becoming more and more common.
Journalist Annabel Crabb says she often wakes at 3am and becomes consumed with big worries she's messing up at work, or little silly worries like ‘are my children polite enough?’
My mother and sister get it so often they almost accept it. I get it when I’m super stressed or when I’ve been out drinking champagne with the gals. I hate being awake at this time. There are no birds, no planes, no sounds except a thumping heart beat and a rising concern about being awake. The more I worry about being awake, the less chance there is sleep will claim me.
Whether its worry, bubbles, or menopausal hormone shifts, the predawn wide awake is torture. Women aged between 40 and 50 are worst affected, and it's twice as common among women as men.
Dr Moria Junge is a doctor of health psychology, sleep specialist and the spokesperson for the Sleep Health Foundation.
Her clients range from cleaners to judges, but what they have in common is "too much going on in their lives".
They are the ‘sandwich generation’ with elderly parents, young children, lots of work and crazy busy days. (Last night, my children took the sandwich thing way too literally and slept on either side of me, triggering yet another 3am awakening).
Moira says the good news is 80 per cent of the women she sees don’t have an actual sleep disorder: “they are just hyper aroused and over vigilant".
The bad news? "It’s not easily fixed, because we can’t change life circumstances."
Dr Junge says the best strategy is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT.