Why am I waking up so early?
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 are getting comfortable. It’s a real catch-22 situation by the looks of it.
‘I keep waking up for no reason’ is one of the most common cries from 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.
1. Going to bed too early or spending too much time in bed
It is generally recommended that each of us should get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night; although, this figure can be influenced by external factors such as the amount of exercise we have done during the day. However, it makes sense that, if you’re going to bed extremely early, then you’re also going to wake up at a correspondingly early time the following morning.
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 your 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 so 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.
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 instead you start to produce more cortisol, a steroid hormone which helps to wake you 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 blinds
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.
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.
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.
5. Stress and anxiety
Feeling stressed and anxious are some common 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. We offer plenty of useful tips and information over at A.Vogel Talks Mood, so I would definitely recommend starting here. It is more than likely that once you have a handle on your anxiety levels, a good sleep pattern will be restored.
You could also try our natural sleep remedy Dormeasan, which contains a combination of Valerian and Hops. These plant extracts can actually help to prevent any degradation to the GABA neurotransmitter, soothing your nervous system and helping you to relax. This action, in turn, allows you to drift into a deep, natural sleep making it a good option for those whose sleeping patterns are hindered by anxiety.
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, they can also impact your partner, and for them it can be more difficult to drift back to sleep. If you want to learn more about why you could be snoring, I’d recommend reading my blog, ‘5 surprising reasons why you could be snoring’.
It’s also possible that narcolepsy could be playing a role. 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 you’re 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.
7. It could be your digestive system
If you’ve read my blog, ‘Waking up at 3am’, then you’ll already know that, according to Chinese medicine, waking up between 5-7am can sometimes hint that there’s an issue with your large intestine. Usually, when we wake up at this time, we might find that we need to move our bowels; however, if you’re constantly waking up at this time without feeling this urge, it could suggest that a larger problem, like constipation or even dehydration, could be at work.
My advice: Drink plenty of water when you do get up
If you’ve woken up early then the chances are you’re going to want a carb-heavy breakfast and a hot cup of coffee; however, I would resist these cravings if you can. If you’re dehydrated or your digestive system is a bit sluggish, caffeine is unlikely to do you any favours and could actually make things worse as it can act as a diuretic. Instead, what you should really try to do is drink a nice, big glass of tepid water.
Water should help to nudge your sluggish gut into action and can aid the removal of waste products from your body. It can also increase your energy levels so, if you’re feeling a bit groggy, a glass of water might help get rid of any brain fog. Once you’ve allowed the water to go down (leave it around 20 minutes) you can then think about breakfast.
Why not swap those refined carbs and processed cereal for healthier options? A.Vogel Talks Food has an incredible selection of simple, but delicious breakfast recipes that should offer some inspiration.
(Published 23/08/2015, updated 22/05/2019)