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Waking up and can't get back to sleep

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I have a recurring problem where sometimes, for up to a week at a time, I'll start waking up around 4 / 4:30am, and within moments will realise I'm wide awake. I'm then stuck there, awake, until around 6:30am, at which point I start to get sleepy again - often nodding off just in time so that when the alarm goes at 7:15, I'm dead to the world.

I go to bed fairly consistently around 11:30-12:00pm, and normally get to sleep pretty quickly. Getting to sleep isn't a problem - it's the waking up early that then leaves me tired and grumpy all day!

This problem started around a time when I was under a lot of stress, when it occurred every single night. Now it's down to something that comes and goes, but I've never fully shaken it. I've had various theories as to what might trigger it - the latest is trying to avoid eating dinner after 8pm - but that still doesn't seem to fully explain what brings it on.

Any ideas? I have seen similar postings and it was suggested that the problem was not keeping a proper circadian schedule, but I'm pretty consistent - I'm up at 7 or at most 8 nearly every day, and don't nap during the day.

Thanks in advance!!
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replied December 10th, 2017
Active User, very eHealthy
Hi, you're probably right about the initial stress-related insomnia morphing into something longer term. You might consider some drug-free sleep consolidation methods.

This involves first setting and keeping a consistent wake time 7 days a week. Do not allow yourself to sleep in, and do not try to 'catch up' on lost sleep, and avoid napping longer than about 15 or 20 minutes/day. Any of those could contribute to the too early wakeups.

Then set a consistent bed time. You might try allowing about 7 hours for sleep and see how you do. If you're used to more like 8, then this will have the effect of revving up your homeostatic sleep drive and consolidating your sleep better.

Then stay with it. At your wake time, be sure to get up and get going right away. Expose yourself to bright light immediately upon awakening.

It may take a week or two but soon this consistency will strengthen your sleep system, then you can gradually add in more sleep as you like.

These methods combine parts of what's known as sleep hygiene, stimulus control, and sleep consolidation, all core methods in a CBT sleep training program. Much good info online if you are the self-help type.
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replied December 10th, 2017
Big thanks for this - I really appreciate the detailed reply. Back when things were really bad, I did try the ‘Sleepio’ program of sleep restriction, which started to work but then seemed to become ineffective. In the end, things just gradually improved enough that, most of the time, I now sleep broadly OK - but with these persistent bad patches.

However, I am a demon for lying on in bed after the alarm goes, too tired/lazy to move, when really, I should just get straight up. With your advice in mind, I’ll work on that, and try to be really consistent about my going to bed/getting up timings, with some restriction on the length as well.

Thanks for the advice!

James
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replied December 16th, 2017
You take any SSRI's? I get this with ZOLOFT.
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replied December 24th, 2017
I don’t even really know what SSRIs are, so that will be a ‘no’, then Smile Thanks for the suggestion, though - and good luck with your own troubles!
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