You know that horrible feeling you get when you wake up in the morning and see that you have woken up an hour or two too early? You know that if you get up now you will still be sleepy and groggy by lunchtime, but if you go back to sleep, the alarm will go off just as you’re getting comfortable and feeling very reluctant to get out of bed. It’s a real catch-22 situation.
Our sleep patterns may say a lot about us, but one thing is for sure - we all sleep a little bit different.
There are many reasons why you might be waking up early, but luckily there are a number of tricks that you can use to prevent this from happening.
It makes sense that you’ll wake up if you have slept enough. It’s recommended that each person sleeps at least 7-9 hours a night, but this is not always possible and usually depends on external factors such as the amount of work that had to be done the night before.
If you’re going to bed relatively early, sleeping well, then waking up well before your alarm clock, it might just be that your body has settled into an effective sleep routine for you. The best thing to do is to embrace this and get up and enjoy a couple of hours of peace before the rest of the world wakes up.
Alternatively, you could try to reschedule your sleep routine so that you go to bed later, and wake up later in the morning. Remember that if you’re waking up feeling refreshed then you’ve more than likely had enough sleep.
Our sleep cycle is mostly controlled by the hormone melatonin. At night, when it gets dark, this hormone is activated and you fall asleep, but as it gets light again, the production of this hormone is decreased and you wake up. Therefore, light mornings in the summer months can mean that we begin to wake up a lot earlier than we should, or that we’re not getting enough sleep.
There’s not a lot we can do to change the astronomical relationship that exists between the sun and the earth, but we can block out the light by using thick or dark curtains. We can also wear an eye mask while in bed.
Remember that we cannot always blame the bright sunlight – there are plenty of artificial light sources too, from light bulbs to laptop screens, so try to eliminate these light sources as well.
Night should be a silent time due to the fact that everything is shut down until morning, but this is often far from the case. It might be the bin lorry picking up the garbage at 6 am, it might be the morning chorus from the garden birds, or it may even be your pet that wakes you up.
If the noises are within your control, then it’s easy enough to take steps to eliminate those disturbing sounds. However, just like with sunlight, there’s not much that we can do to stop the birds from singing when we’re trying to sleep. Instead, we have to find a way to block out those sounds.
Earplugs are great for this, providing you can still hear your alarm clock for when it’s time to get up. Some people also find that playing gentle music in the background allows them to block out unexpected eternal sounds.
Though some people use alcohol to help them get to sleep, this isn’t really the best way to have a restful and restoring sleep. It will knock you out fairly effectively for the first bit of the night, but you’ll keep waking frequently during the second part of the night.
Non-alcoholic, caffeine-free, sugar-free drinks are the best types of beverages to choose at night. This is because they will properly hydrate the system, but not stimulate it into awakening. Water is also a good option and so are herbal teas.
Feeling anxious and stressed is one of the leading causes of sleep problems. Understandably, we’re able to relax and rest more effectively when our mind is not stirring, and when we’re not mentally trying to work our way through all our life pans or a pile of deadlines. If you’re worried about something happening the next day, you’re more likely to wake up early in anticipation, which rarely does anything to alleviate your worries.
Deep breathing is one of the first best steps to take when trying to de-stress and relax. If anxiety and stress are long-term issues, you might need to look for other ways of tackling this which are effective for you. It’s more than likely that once you have a grip on your anxiety levels, a good sleep pattern will be restored.
There are a number of sleep disorders that can cause disrupted sleep patterns, including sleep apnea and snoring. Though these conditions can cause you to wake up very briefly many times during the night, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic, it can also impact your partner, and it can be more difficult for them to fall back asleep.
If your early waking is the result of a sleep disorder or the sleep disorder of a partner, then you should seek medical advice to treat the underlying issue. Treatments for snoring or apnea can include a weight loss program or devices that keep your airways open when you’re sleeping.