It seems to me that these days those who have trouble sleeping don't get nearly as much attention as the chronic snoozers. For the latter group waking up too early might sound like a good problem to have. But it does take a toll on one's mental, physical, and social health, probably even more than oversleeping all the time.
If your eyes are wide open long before the alarm clock buzz, it means that you have an underlying problem that needs to be solved. Here are the most common reasons for this and suggestions for how to stop waking up early.
Many people think of insomnia as a long-term difficulties with falling asleep or not being able to nod off at all. But insomnia has many faces. It can manifest as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up multiple times per night, and keep waking up early.
The most common versions of this disorder is sleep onset insomnia and sleep maintenance insomnia. The former is more common in teens and young adults while the latter is more typical in older people.
Insomnia in any of its forms signal about deeper psychological distress or physical ailments. The best thing you can do is to see your GP, especially if this draining sleep pattern persists for a longer time. If you don't believe you have any physical health problems, don't dismiss the idea to consult a psychologist.
2. Sleep apnea
This is not a typical go-to reason for nightly resting troubles. But if you or your partner notice any other symptoms of this disorder, it can mean that this is the root of your nightly rest problems.
The main characteristics of this disorder are pauses in breathing and shallow breathing while asleep. The most obvious symptom is abrupt and loud snoring that usually comes after the pause of breath. The resuming back to breathing can sound as choking or snorting.
It may seem like not much of a problem, but in reality it disrupts the quality of sleep quite significantly. The good news is that it's very much treatable. So if you have any suspicion that you may have it, ask your partner or a friend to check on you during your shuteye. If the way you breath doesn't sound normal to them, you'll know for sure you need to go and see your doctor.
3. Stress and anxiety
Early morning awakening can be caused by temporary anxiety due to some stressful events in your life. Getting a new job, starting off at college, or another reason for drastic changes in your daily schedule may get you anxious about oversleeping. One of the signs this might be the case is if you find yourself waking up suddenly being completely alert.
Only you can say if there's anything you feel scared, anxious, or stressed about at this moment in your life. If you don't seem to be able to put a finger on it, it might be a good idea to visit a psychologist to help you out on this.
Depression and insomnia are deeply interlinked. Troubles with nightly rest can put you on the edge and actually cause symptoms of depression, such as low energy, apathy, and negative thinking. However, it could be the other way around, meaning, that your insomnia is one of the symptoms of depression.
To find out what came first you have to try and remember when did this pattern of waking up at the wee hours of the morning start. If you think that symptoms such as negative self-talk, bad mood, irritability, rumination, changes in your appetite, and cognitive difficulties preceded your nighttime struggles, don't wait any longer and get yourself an appointment to a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
5. Retiring for the day too early
There is a chance that you're not living according to your individual circadian rhythm. What to do when you wake up early? Sometimes the answer to this question is plain and simple – go to bed later. Sure, sometimes this is easier said than done, especially if you don't have the luxury of freedom to make your own life and work schedule.
However, you might want to take another look into what is in your power to change in your life and accommodate your sleeping hours to your real personal needs. Forcing yourself to go to sleep and be wide awake ignoring the protests from your brain and body will soon start showing in all the areas of your life.
Take some time off to analyze your personal sleep preferences and the changes in your productivity levels throughout the day.
In his book "The Power of When" Dr. Michael Breus argues that we should ditch the idea of morning birds and night owls. Instead he proposes a theory of 4 so-called chronotypes: Bear, Lion, Wolf, and Dolphin. Check it out – it can be helpful in trying to figure out what works for you.
6. Age-related changes in sleep
We get used to certain kinds of sleeping habits that shape our lifestyles. But we tend to overlook that fact that circadian rhythms actually change with age. It's most evident when you grow out of adolescence into adulthood, although at that time the changes might be very much connected with entering the workforce.
From the middle-age on, lots of people find themselves wanting to go to bed and getting up earlier and earlier. And this is completely normal. However, if it starts to go out of hand and your sleeping patterns start to interfere with your social and romantic life, it's a sign something isn't right.
As people get older, the deep sleep stages get shorter, meaning that it gets a lot easier to be waken up by even the slightest of noise or light. So these are the things you need to address first. Make sure to control the things that may disrupt your sleep as much as you can.
Following common sleep hygiene recommendations, such as putting away all gadgets an hour before bedtime, avoiding caffeine, nicotine, heavy meals, and liquids hours before turning in, is also helpful at any age.
You may find a white noise machine or a recording very helpful if you're one of those people who don't like it when it's too silent (it's quite common, actually). Light therapy can also be highly beneficial.