Why This Certain Time Each Night Is Known As 'The Witching Hour' (And How To Get Through It)

It's an eerie time of night.

witching hour clock ju_see & charles taylor / Shutterstock

Why is it that we dread the early morning hours?

By 1 or 2 a.m., we may feel peaceful and at ease, nice and warm and safe in our beds. But when the clock strikes 3 a.m. and we wake up, we might start praying that the creatures that go bump in the night don't get us.

Because it's this time that is known as the witching hour.

When is the witching hour?

There has been a long-standing debate about the specific time of the witching hour. Some believe that the witching hour begins at the start of a new day (midnight), while others believe it starts at 3 a.m. and lasts until 4 a.m., with the peak at 3 a.m.


The reason this is debated is because when the term originated, most people had a sleeping schedule that involved them waking up in the middle of the night, known as segmented sleep.

Despite no concrete evidence that the supernatural events said to occur during the witching hour exist, we’ve all been told that nothing good happens after 3 a.m., so whichever time zone you're in, the time of night between 3-4 a.m. is considered to be the witching hour.

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What is the witching hour?

Also known as the devil's hour, the witching hour is believed to be the veil between life and death when the night is at its thinnest. Some see the witching hour as the time of night when spirits can interact with the earthly realm, while others say the witching hour is when witches practice spells and magic.

While the phrase "witching hour" dates back to 1775 in Rev. Matthew West's poem, "Night, an Ode," the significance of a 3 a.m. witching hour is deeply tied to the Catholic Church. In 1535, the Church forbade activities from 3-4 a.m. because of concerns about the practice of witchcraft throughout Europe.

The witching hour is referred to as the devil’s hour because of its association with the death of Christ. Jesus was crucified at 3 p.m., so the reversal of his death's time would be 3 a.m., implying the devil’s presence in our world. There’s also the belief that the devil’s hour begins at 3 a.m. as a mockery to the Holy Trinity.

Despite the witching hour also being known as the devil's hour, witches and the devil are not the same entity. While both come from the spiritual realm, Satan has nothing to do with witchcraft.


What happens during the witching hour?

The witching hour allows powerful magic to be conducted. Since there is a high level of spiritual ability, witches are said to perform magic and spells during the witching hour. Although these spells could be used for bad, they typically promoted positive change.

Conversely, the witching hour involves a period of time in which the devil is said to be at his strongest and able to possess innocent men. For example, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family at 3:15 a.m. during the witching hour, inspiring the story of The Amityville Horror.

The witching hour is a time when supernatural events are said to be at their peak, and some say this period of time permits spirits and ghosts to travel between two worlds. It's also believed that this is the time of night when witches, psychics, and mediums have the strongest powers.

Who does the witching hour affect?

While this might not have much to do with the supernatural, there is a span of time known as the witching hour in which babies tend to be the most fussy. This time period occurs between 5 p.m. and midnight, and affects babies between 2-3 weeks old.


This fussiness could be due to a lower milk supply at night, the busyness of this time of night, and growth spurts in babies.

But the witching hour can also affect fully grown humans, and is mostly related to biology rather than the supernatural.

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What does it mean when you wake up during the witching hour?

For spiritual or superstitious individuals, there’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night, only to realize it's 3 a.m. You don’t want to make any sudden noises that would call attention to you being awake, and maybe you even feel the sense of spirits around you.


The negative and potentially scary feelings you get during this time are not uncommon. And while many believe it’s because of the supernatural occurrences said to take place during the witching hour, it has more to do with your sleep cycles.

The REM stage of sleep is when your body is in its deepest sleep possible, and occurs around 3 a.m. for most people. During this stage, your heart rate is slowed, body temperature decreases, and other functions are generally dulled.

Additionally, some may experience nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis, and other terrifying sleep disturbances. And because there is less cortisol in the blood this late at night/early in the morning, it can exacerbate symptoms of other illnesses like asthma and the flu.

As a result, waking up during this time will inevitably be disorienting, so it makes sense that the natural reaction to this disorientation is ultimately fear.


That said, you’re more likely to feel off-balance and confused by your REM cycle being disturbed as opposed to the witching hour. Nonetheless, people still wonder why they’d be woken up from such deep sleep if it weren’t the doing of spirits around them.

Can you protect yourself during the witching hour?

For those that believe in the existence of magic, they probably believe in the witching hour.

Some prefer to be cautious in the event of waking up in the middle of the night, while others may not think twice about their unusual fear. For people with psychic abilities, they might feel comforted by this time of night that enhances their energy.


But for people who believe in the power of the witching hour, there are ways to protect one's self:

  • If going outside of the home, steer clear of reflective surfaces like mirrors, and don't wear anything with a reflective surface.
  • Keep holy items nearby your bed, like a cross, Bible, or holy water.
  • Pay close attention to where your pets are, as they have a paranormal sense.

Your best bet is to simply stay inside, in your bed, until the witching hour is over or until you fall back asleep.

Regardless of how you view the witching hour, it’s important to remember that any surprising behavior will not always affect you. Just because the presence of strong power and magic is around you, that doesn’t mean it will create any upsets within your life.

With the belief in a spiritual realm that interacts with the earthly realm, nothing seems too far out of reach. Perhaps we should all use the witching hour as a way to find solace in the bigger purposes we can’t see face to face.


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Isabella Pacinelli is a former contributor to YourTango, features editor for Ashland University's The Collegian, and freelance writer for Medina Weekly News. Follow her on Facebook for more.