You know that horrible feeling when you wake up in the morning and see you have woken up an hour or two too early? You know that if you just get up now you will be sleepy and groggy by lunchtime, but if you go back to sleep, your alarm will go off just as you getting comfortable and feeling very reluctant to get up. It’s a real catch-22 situation by the looks of it.
Alfred Vogel was a great believer in tackling the root of any problem, and it makes sense – if you didn’t wake up too early, then this dilemma of whether to get up or try to go back to sleep wouldn’t be happening. There are many tips and tricks to try to stop you from waking up too early.
‘I keep waking up for no reason’ is one of the most common cries of our sleep-deprived nation. Actually, it is very rare that there is no reason for early waking, though it can take a little detective work to find out the reason. Some triggers are more common than others, but if you can find the cause, the cure is so much easier.
Cause #1: Going to bed too early or spending too much time in bed
It makes sense that you will wake up if you have slept enough. While it is recommended that each person sleeps seven-and-a-half to nine hours a night, as well as external factors such as the amount of work or exercise they have done during the day.
My advice: Embrace or adjust your sleep routine
If you are going to bed relatively early, sleeping well, then waking before your alarm clock, it may just be that you body has settled into an effective sleep routine for you. The best thing is to embrace this as a luxury, get up and enjoy a couple of hours of peace before the rest of the world wakes up.
Alternatively, you could try to re-schedule your sleep routine such that you go to bed later, and wake later in the morning. Remember that if you are waking feeling refreshed, then you have probably had enough sleep.
Cause #2: Light mornings
Our sleep cycle is largely controlled by the hormone melatonin. At night time, when it is dark, this hormone is activated and you fall asleep, but as it gets light, production of this hormone reduces and you wake up. Light mornings in the summer months can mean that we can begin to wake up much earlier than we should, or that we are not getting a deep enough sleep.
My advice: Blackout
There is little we can do to alter the astronomical relation between the sun and the earth, and let’s face it, we really wouldn’t want to. What we can do, however, is block out the light using thick or dark curtains, even lining the crack at the bottom of the door with a towel, or wearing an eye mask in bed.
Remember that we can’t always blame the bright sunlight – there are plenty of artificial light sources too, from light bulbs to laptops, so try to eliminate these sources as well.
Cause #3: Things that go bump in the night
Though we often think of night time as silent, when everything has shut down till morning and there are no sounds to disturb our slumber, this is often far from the case.
It may be the bin lorry picking up your rubbish at 6am, it may be the morning chorus from the garden birds, it may be the heating coming on or it may even be pets padding about that wake you up. Often by the time we have woken up we don’t know what noise it was that disturbed us, making us think we have woken up for no reason.
My advice: Quiet!
If the noises are within your control, then it’s easy enough to take steps to eliminate the disturbing sounds. Like with sunlight, however, there is little that we can do to stop the birds from singing when we are trying to sleep. Instead, we need to find a way to block out the sounds.
Earplugs can be great for this, providing you still hear your alarm clock when it is time to actually get up. Some people also find that gentle music playing continually allows them to block out unexpected sounds.
Cause #4: Too much tipple?
Though some people use alcohol to help them get to sleep, we have found that this really isn’t the best way to have restful and restoring sleep.
It knocks you out fairly effectively for the first half of the night, but leaves you restless and waking frequently in the second half of the night. This is why waking early can often be linked with alcohol consumption at night.
My advice: Choose your nightcap wisely
Non-alcoholic, sugar-free and caffeine-free beverages are the best types of drinks to choose at night time. This is because they will properly hydrate the system, but not stimulate it into wakening.
Water is always a good option, and so are herbal teas. Certain teas have relaxing properties, such as chamomile or lavender, helping you to drift gently into deep and restorative sleep.
Cause #5: Stress and anxiety
Feeling stressed and anxious is one of the leading causes of sleep problems. Understandably, we are able to relax and rest more effectively when our mind is not whirring, and we are not mentally trying to work our way through all our life plans or a pile of deadlines.
If you are worried about something happening the next day, for example a presentation, moving house or an interview, you are more likely to wake up early in anticipation, which rarely does anything to alleviate your worries.
My advice: Take a deep breath
Literally, deep breathing is one of the first best steps to take when trying to de-stress and relax. If stress and anxiety are long-term problems however, you may need to look for ways of tackling this which are effective for you. It is more than likely that once you have a handle on your anxiety levels, a good sleep pattern will be restored.
Cause #6: Sleep condition
There are several sleep disorders which can cause disrupted sleep patterns, including sleep apnoea and snoring. Though these conditions can cause you to wake up very briefly hundreds of times a night, leaving you overall feeling tired and lethargic, it can also impact your partner, and for them it can be more difficult to drift back to sleep.
Narcolepsy is a condition in which the body is unable to regulate sleep patterns, leading to waking throughout the night and brief periods of falling asleep throughout the day.
My advice: Medical Intervention
If your early waking is being caused by a sleep disorder, or the sleep disorder of a partner, then you will need to seek medical advice to treat the underlying condition. Treatments for snoring or sleep apnoea can include a weight loss programme, or devices to keep airways open when sleeping.
Narcolepsy is a condition which normally needs to be treated with specialised drugs alongside a healthy lifestyle.
What else can I do about early waking?
Establishing a good sleep routine is vital as this will train your body to sleep and wake when you want it to rather than allow it to take command. Additionally, you can supplement a healthy sleep routine with herbs which have been found to help you sleep.
For example, valerian is one of the oldest herbs in Europe, which has a tranquilising effect and can calm the nerves, making it great for promoting good sleep. It can be found in licensed herbal products such as A.Vogel’s Dormeasan® Sleep Valerian-Hops oral drops.
What time do you wake up in the morning?