What's with my weird sleep pattern?
March 12, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm having the craziest sleep as of the past year or so. It's not extreme like sleep walking, I just wake up at odd times early every day. Have you done anything to adjust this?

I usually wake up once in the middle of the night, usually to use the restroom, around 2 to 4 am. That's totally fine. BUT then I wake up again between 5:30 and 6:30 AM when my alarm is set for 7am.

So I end up hitting snooze until 7:30 when I wake up that early so I can try to catch some extra Zzz's, then I crawl out of bed late and groggy. It's totally messing me up!

I'm working on less screen time, more reading time before bed. I recently started exercising. I was chronically ill but had surgery a couple months ago with no change for this weird morning waking up. I know I should just get up, but when I wake up I'm still so tired that I want to snooze!

Relevant details:
It doesn't matter how light or dark it is in the room. (or time of year, or sleep mask, etc.)
I live in an apartment but don't hear anyone else's alarm, cars, music, etc at this time.
My husband snores, but he does that throughout the night. (He also gets up later than I do.)
No TV in the bedroom, I do some phone reading and am trying to do either no phone reading or book reading only.
Doesn't matter what time I go to bed or if/when I wake up in the middle of the night.
It happens literally every morning between 5:30 to 6:30.
The time change didn't change it. Still waking up at the same time. (Which is weird, wouldn't it move if it had to do with how much I slept?)
I feel horrible if I don't get enough sleep. I try to be in bed by 11pm as I need to wake up by 7am.

Has anyone else had this? Did you do something to fix it? Am I doomed and should just get up? I'm just so tired!

Again, I know I should just get up if it's like 6:35am, but I can't justify getting out of bed at 5:30am. I'm just too tired and I can only get to work so early. I'm also worried that if I start getting up at 6:30 that I'll start waking up an hour before that too! It just seems so weird! It's only happened during the past year and worse in the past 6ish months.

Other notes, I have a GP and a therapist. It's something I will be bringing up. ( I was hoping it was due to things that got fixed with surgery a couple months ago, apparently not.)
posted by Crystalinne to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Again, I know I should just get up if it's like 6:35am,

Have you tried this yet, to see what it would be like? Maybe you could just try it for a week and see how it works out. If it helps, then you've solved the problem, but if it doesn't then you can cross if off the list of possible solutions.
posted by sam_harms at 12:02 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

How old are you? The same nonsense just hit me upon turning 32. Sleep cycles change with age.

Doesn't happen if I go to bed way past my bedtime and am therefore more tired/late in a sleep cycle in the early morning hours. That doesn't help the grogginess though.
posted by slateyness at 12:02 PM on March 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Age? This started to happen to me in my late 30s/early 40s. Now I get up once to go to the bathroom around 2 or 3 am and wake up about 5 or 6 am (1.5 hours before I need to actually get up). I fear it's my new (middle-aged) normal.
posted by Lescha at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Again, I know I should just get up if it's like 6:35am, but I can't justify getting out of bed at 5:30am.

This happens to me from time to time, too. I try not to fight it.

Picking up a book and just lying there reading for an hour is actually a really nice, relaxed way to start the day. No rush, you can stay in bed where it's warm, you get up when you're ready to get up. Highly recommended.
posted by phunniemee at 12:15 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

This happens to me too, it started when I was in my late 30s. Apparently there's a number of causes for early waking which include hormonal (inc. thyroid) imbalances, emotional disturbances (mine is triggered by anxiety/stress), and well, aging.

Things to try if you haven't already: melatonin (works for many, however it made me super groggy well into the next day so maybe test it out before a non-work day), reducing stress (hah!), and vigorous exercise. The things that work best for me: no screens of any sort at least two hours before bedtime and to get a few hours of bright light exposure during the day.

I've also stopped fighting it when I do go into these bouts of early waking after it became clear that laying in bed desperately trying to will myself back to sleep wasn't working. If I wake up after 4, I just start my day. If I wake up before 4, I do some quiet activity such as reading and will often fall back asleep after a hour or so.
posted by jamaro at 12:25 PM on March 12, 2015

Response by poster: I'm 25 next week. I haven't tried getting up yet because I hoped it would go away or I'm like too annoyed and snooze anyway out of defiance.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:26 PM on March 12, 2015

I have read that depression can be one reason that people wake up earlier. Also, there's a small chance you're hearing something but not registering it when you're awake...you could try this sleep monitoring gadget that records sounds (and will track disturbances that actually wake you up).
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:42 PM on March 12, 2015

I used to do this probably because I was terrified my alarm wasn't going to go off so I would wake up three or four times throughout the night to make sure it was on and that I hadn't overslept and I never really got to sleep properly because I couldn't relax. It's stopped happening since I've been better medicated. You say you're in therapy, which is great! There is a possibility that this is related to anxiety or depression.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:47 PM on March 12, 2015

How long have you been waking up at that set time? You could have just sort of re-set your internal clock out of a habitual schedule, so that no matter what your body has gotten used to "I need to wake up right aboooooooout.....now".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on March 12, 2015

Move your clock or phone so that you can't see the time while you're in bed. This may help train you out of some of the anxiety-inducing minute counting that can happen when you know you only have X number of minutes before your alarm goes off. If some part of your brain is on alert because you're anxious you won't wake up with your alarm, set a seperate back-up alarm as insurance. Remember that laying in a comfortable bed resting with your eyes closed, while not quite as good as sleep, is still rest and better than being up and getting ready. When you wake up early, try to remember your dreams - this can sometimes help my mind stay in a sleepy space and fall back asleep.
posted by Yellow Silver Maple at 12:59 PM on March 12, 2015

Have you tried holy basil? A really high quality one like New Chapter's Holy Basil Force does wonders for my occasional bouts of bad sleep, and when I take it I wake up feeling quite zen-like.

Off topic: Melatonin is way more commonly used and recommended than it should be. In my opinion it's fine to use in acute cases of sleeplessness but to help solve chronic sleep issues? Not good at all. Give yourself enough melatonin and the body stops needing to produce it itself. That's a huge step backwards!
posted by peterpete at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2015

Long shot, but do you have a thermostat that automatically turns the heat up every morning about that time? I've always had issues with waking up in the middle of the night at various times, but a few weeks ago I started waking like clockwork at 5:30 AM. We eventually figured out that our thermostat was set so that it reached daytime temperatures by 7AM, which meant it started rising at 5-5:30. We switched it to hit daytime temps an hour later, and I stopped waking up at 5:30.

(Didn't help me last night, when I woke up at 3 and stayed awake til 4:30, but at least I didn't wake up again at 5:30.)
posted by telophase at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2015

Yeah I do this too. Same as you describe. The only thing that has worked for me is to keep relation files on my phone which is plugged in next to my bed and some headphones that aren't too uncomfortable. When I wake up I pop on the headphones and play the relaxation music/guided meditation. Sometimes this helps. Sometimes it doesn't.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2015

This happens to me sometimes, and its the worst! My triggers are stress/anxiety and alcohol consumption. Even a moderate amount of alcohol, like a glass of wine after dinner, can mess up my sleep if I'm also stressed.
posted by fermezporte at 2:04 PM on March 12, 2015

you should talk to your GP about having a sleep study. i had the same sort of trouble for decades (from my 20s to my 50s) and i tried lots of things on my own. seeing a sleep specialist was the thing that finally worked; experts in this area have learned a TON about sleep in the last 15 years. for me, they diagnosed multiple issues (both noise sensitivity and apnea) within a couple weeks. the solutions (earplugs and a CPAP) have changed my life for the better. i'm so very happy to not wake up tired anymore.
posted by bruceo at 2:44 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I usually wake up once in the middle of the night, usually to use the restroom, around 2 to 4 am. That's totally fine. BUT then I wake up again between 5:30 and 6:30 AM when my alarm is set for 7am.

Have you tried reducing the amount of liquid you consume before bed? (Also, are you drinking more liquid after you get up to go to the bathroom at 2-4am?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2015

(I'm wondering whether maybe your throat is drier lately for whatever reason [heating? change in diet or meds?] so maybe you're drinking more than usual.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:22 PM on March 12, 2015

I was waking up at 5:30 am every weekday morning for quite some time before I happened to notice that that was about the time my jerk neighbor left for work in his exceptionally loud truck. Turns out he was waking me up without me realizing it. It still happens but, now with the mystery solved, I can go back to sleep faster.
posted by myselfasme at 6:47 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have very weird and disrupted sleep patterns, but need A LOT of sleep (think 9-11 hours). I've dealt with it in two ways.
1. I go to sleep really early. Sometimes 7 or 8pm early, so that I can be sure that even with waking up, I get 9-10 hours of sleep.
2. If I do find myself awake an hour before I am supposed to get up, I do mellow things in the bed, like read the paper etc. I am terribly groggy when I wake up in the morning, so having this real slow entry into the morning with some downtime in bed helps a lot.

An earlier bedtime and a more gradual wake up might both help you with the disruptive nature of the 6am wake up.
posted by Toddles at 8:28 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

This used to happen to me occasionally, and I'd do something quiet and calming and enjoy the magic stillness of the early morning before anybody else is awake. That's fine if you're not actually feeling tired when you wake up.

It now happens to me more often, and when I've had a lot less sleep, so it's more of a problem. Some things I've noticed:

(1) You might not think you've heard anything, but that's because you were alseep when you heard it. I've had a couple of incidents where I eventually figured out that I was being woken up by a noise that I just didn't remember. If you've got some sort of audio device with enough capacity, maybe try kicking off a recording when you go to bed and seeing if you can identify anything?

(2) I've found that being tired makes it more likely that this will happen, and going to bed earlier can actually make it easier to sleep later. I've noticed exactly the same thing going on (but more obviously) with my 3yo son.

(3) Whatever you do, give it time to work, because it will take time. Also, worrying about "will it work this time or do I need to take a different approach argh" will make you more anxious going to bed, which will make things worse.
posted by doop at 4:13 AM on March 13, 2015

Limiting my caffeine really helped with this. I thought it only made it hard for you to fall asleep but it was also waking me up at night.

Another thing - try going to bed at 10? Then make yourself get up at 6:30.
posted by dawkins_7 at 10:09 AM on March 13, 2015

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