Early to rise makes a cranky space_cookie crankier
December 6, 2010 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Real alarm goes off @ 6:30 am. Alarm in my head goes off @ 4:30 am. What gives?

The last 10 weeks or so I've been waking up about two hours before I'm supposed to and can't get back to sleep. This happens about three times a week, which is three times too many since I have a mood disorder that is rather fussy about adequate sleep.

The details:

-Yes, on crazy meds. I've been very stable on the same combo for several years.
-I take Ambien more often than I should.
-No caffeine after 10:00 am
-My bedroom is sufficiently dark and cool, bladder is sufficiently empty
-I go to bed at the same time every night
-I don't drink any alcohol on week-nights, only a glass of wine or two on weekends
-I used to be more of a night owl, but new job has changed that - this early waking roughly corresponds with said new job

My NP doesn't have much to say about what's going on except that it could be stress related. The thing is, I really like my new job. It doesn't stress me out all that much. He suggested I stop taking Ambien and use another sedative/hypnotic with a 1 hour half life to get back to sleep when I wake up early.

I'm not sure this is the best route to take. Any ideas Me-Fites? I'm tired of being tired all the time.

Yeah, yeah, YANMNP, YANMP
posted by space_cookie to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You getting enough exercise? Many people find that if they aren't active enough, they actually have trouble sleeping.
posted by valkyryn at 10:11 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have big things happening the next day, and at some level you're concerned about over-sleeping? Or is there significant stress in your job or life, so you wake up thinking about things you need to do?

I didn't need an alarm for years, as long as I got a decent amount of sleep. My wife has an alarm, and likes to set it a bit early, so she can get some "extra" sleep. For a long time, I'd wake up before the first alarm, and watch the clock tick the next few minutes away. The alarm would go off, she'd hit snooze, and would sleep a bit longer. I can now sleep until the alarm goes off, and even rest until the next alarm sounds, though I will wake up when the alarm would usually sound on the weekend, even though the alarm is off.

And recently, when we were going to take a friend to the airport at an unnaturally early hour, we set the alarm, but we both woke up a few times in the night, for fear of over-sleeping.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2010

If you don't get indigestion, eat lots of complex carbs zero to three hours before bed. Don't eat protein before bed, or eat just a little. Eat plenty of food throughout the day.

If you're running low on carbs, your body starts ramping up protein utilization as fuel. The adrenals are involved in this process and are one of the body's alarm clocks.
posted by zeek321 at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I certainly have found that waking early is highly correlated to my mental health. When I get anxious, it's far more likely to happen. Can you get up at 4:30 the next time it happens and exercise? My gym opens at 5:30, and I've been known to show up at opening when I couldn't sleep, and that certainly helped for the next night. I know it's the mefi answer for everything, but talk therapy (not about sleep, but about the anxiety) seems to have made the biggest difference for me in the long term.
posted by ldthomps at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2010

How much sleep does that end up amounting to?

When this happens to me, I try to use that time as a gift of extra time and get something done, and also as punishment for my body clock so that I'm more tired later that night.
posted by gjc at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2010

Concerns about oversleeping frequently wake me up earlier than necessary. Could the new job and the (new?) alarm be setting you up for this? When you wake up early, what are you thinking? Are you thinking, "is it time to get up yet?" or if you've overslept?

I also found that something about the time/light changes around this time of year usually cause me to wake up earlier. I know it happens to other people as well.

The advice to "just get up then!" is good advice that I wish I could follow. I would prefer if I got up when I woke up, but I completely understand staying in bed hoping that I'll fall back asleep.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:12 PM on December 6, 2010

Lifelong insomniac here, with a totally irregular work-schedule that doesn't allow me any real reliably regular sleep time at all. I have your problems, and this has really started to work for me:

-No sleep aids, ever, if I can help it. Otherwise, benadryl. You might have 3 or 4 nights of long sleeplessness, but it pays off afterwards. If you get an xmas break, maybe try to wean off then.
-No electronic devices for and hour or two before bed. This was huge, and difficult....no tv, no laptop, no smartphone. It really helps.
-I've never bought into not reading in bed. I love falling asleep with a book. (Or lately, an iPad, with the brightness all the way down and white text on black background.)
-Earplugs. I prefer not to, but I was being awakened by the snoring dog, cats walking around, etcetc.
-Booze really ruins my sleep for days.

And lastly, this is a hard one. I don't ever lie there obsessing about falling asleep for more than 20 minutes. If I wake up at 230am and I have to be up at 430am, I get up, pee, grab a glass of water, read a magazine under low light....just long enough to get my mind off of not sleeping. This last step doesn't work 100% of the time, but never doing the mental math thing where every minute ticked off has you thinking "if I fall asleep right now I'll get X minutes" has made a marked difference.
posted by nevercalm at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2010

I do this too. Basically I can wake up at 4-5:30am or after 9am. It doesn't matter when I go to bed or get up or what schedule I'm on, if any, from 6am to 9am is a black hole of sleep for me. Unfortunately its also the time I have to get up and go to work these days. Sucks. It's taken years for me to adapt am I regress every chance I get.
posted by fshgrl at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2010

filthy light thief: "Do you have big things happening the next day, and at some level you're concerned about over-sleeping?"

For me it's exactly this. If I know I have to be up at a certain time, I will start waking up ~2 hours beforehand and wake up every 20-30 minutes at first, going down to every 10-15 minutes. I think it's because as a kid/teenager I slept like a rock and needed 2-3 alarms to wake up. Now that I've grown out of that, my brain is worried about me oversleeping. I haven't really found a solution other than to not have to be up any earlier than I normally wake up. That is, if I'm waking up every morning naturally at 10am, I don't schedule anything so early that I have to get up at 8 instead.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:11 AM on December 7, 2010

Even if the new job isn't stressful in a bad way, it's still a new situation. If it were me, I bet I'd subconsciously worry about being late to a new job more than I'd worry about being late to a job I'd had for a while. Is your commute stressful?

You say you used to be more of a night owl. Does that mean you've shifted your regular bedtime an hour or two earlier? Your body may still need some time to fully adjust.

You may want to try jotting down whatever thoughts are running through your head soon after you wake up this way, to see if you can identify a pattern.
posted by spinto at 11:54 AM on December 8, 2010

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