Ask SleepBetter: Waking Up Early

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer? Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter. You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form. We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues. Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is from a site visitor who wants to stop waking up early:

“How can I stop myself from waking up exactly at 5 a.m. and staying up? I’m required to wake up at 6 a.m. for school so I end up losing an hour of sleep. Plus in part I get scared of being woken by my alarm clock.”
-Sharon R. (via Email)

The first thing we suggest is that you discuss this with your doctor.  While this doesn’t seem like a dangerous problem, it’s always a good idea to get a face-to-face medical opinion first.

There are a few possibilities to consider, once you’ve ruled out any physical issues.  The first thing to look at is whether something you’re ingesting is getting in the way of sleep.  Alcohol before bed can help you fall asleep, but many times you’ll wake when it wears off, and will be unable to get back to sleep.  Also, if you’re taking any medicines, it may be good to talk to your doctor to see if there is a side-effect of wakefulness.

Another possible cause for your early “wake-up call” could be that there is noise in or outside your bedroom that is waking you up every morning at the same time.  Is there someone else in the house with an alarm that goes off at that time?  Perhaps there’s a noisy neighbor or even the trash truck?  It may be a little early for it, but morning light coming in your bedroom can also be a problem.  A white noise machine can be invaluable in blocking out unwanted noises.  Room darkening shades, meanwhile, can keep unwanted light from your room so you can sleep.

Still another possibility is that your body clock is set to wake at 5 a.m.  If you’re going to bed at 9 or 10 p.m., that means you’re getting seven or eight hours of sleep.  You didn’t mention your age, but if you’re an adult that’s the right amount of sleep for most people, and maybe 5:00 is just when your body is done sleeping.  Instead of fighting it, you could get up and do some chores, exercise, or read before starting your school day.  If you’re younger, however, your body may need as much as nine or ten hours, and a solution is needed.

One final, and perhaps most likely, possibility is something that you mentioned — fear of being startled by the alarm clock or even oversleeping.  Those kind of concerns can certainly cause you to wake early. One solution for this is to make sure your alarm clock is set to wake you, and then put it face down on the other side of the room.  Not being able to see the time on the clock may be liberating to you, and allow you to focus on sleeping rather than worrying what time it is.