Lizzy DeningSleep

Why do I wake up so early?

Lizzy DeningSleep
Why do I wake up so early?

Why do I wake up so early for no reason?

Waking up too early and being unable to get back to sleep is a really common problem, particularly between 2am and 4am, and especially in older adults. One study found that while 10-20 per cent of the population in general suffers from insomnia, the percentage rises to 40 among older adults. This is because as we age, we spend less time in ‘deep sleep’ and are therefore more easily woken.

Missing out on sleep on a regular basis can lead to all sorts of health problems, as your body needs the opportunity to heal and process the day’s events. Missing sleep increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, anxiety and stress. There are lots of reasons it might be happening to you, find out which one fits.

Why do I wake up early after drinking?

Alcohol affects your sleep as although it may help you fall asleep quicker, it stops you spending enough time in deep sleep and more time in REM sleep, so the quality of your sleep is affected. Drinking increases the risk of snoring too, so you may sleep more lightly. Also alcohol is a diuretic so you're more likely to need to get up in the night to use the loo.

Why do I have heartburn when I wake up early?

While sleeping can improve heartburn for some people, if you suffer from supine acid reflux you'll find symptoms get worse when you lie down, which may cause you to wake up in the night. Apparently sleeping on your right side can make this worse, so experiment with different sleeping positions to see if it helps.

Why do I wake up early feeling sick?

While you might expect some morning sickness during pregnancy, it can also be a problem for lots of people who aren't pregnant. There are lots of possible causes, from depression to reflux, sleep apnea or stress. It can also commonly be caused by changing hormone levels. Keep a diary on when you experience nausea in the mornings, and talk to your GP.

I keep waking up early but I'm still tired

There are lots of reasons you might still be tired after a night's sleep. If you have headaches and a sore jaw, it's possible you might be grinding your teeth. In which case a trip to the dentist is recommended. It's possible also that you may have sleep apnea; be suffering from stress or depression or, simply, don't have a comfortable enough bed. It may help to invest in a fitness tracker that measures sleep, as many can be preset to wake you gently at the optimum time during your sleep cycle, so you'll feel more awake.

Why do I wake up early even when I go to bed late?

Firstly, don't panic - it's actually a myth that we need eight hours' sleep a night (especially when we're older) and most people get by fine with around six. But going to bed late isn't a great option - much better to spend the time winding down with a soothing bath and reading a good book if you really can't sleep. 

Why do I wake up early at weekends?

If you've had a busy week at work or watching the grandchildren, you might be looking forward to a lie in at the weekend...only to find you're awake at the crack of dawn! It's typical, and it's probably to do with your circadian rhythm being set to early mornings. Next time you want a long lie, try using a blackout blind on your window or wearing an eye mask to block out morning light and help you stay asleep for longer.

Do I have insomnia?

Struggling to fall asleep or waking up in the night are most commonly associated with insomnia. It’s hard to entirely separate insomnia from other factors that might be keeping you awake, but research has found it can be treated either way. If you find you nod off earlier than you’d like in the evening, it could be worth investing in a SAD light, or just any bright lighting, to keep you alert until you choose to go to bed – this should mean you rise later too. Similarly, making sure to get out and about in the daylight can also help you sleep better at night, as it helps your body tune into its circadian rhythm.

Cognative behavioural therapy can be used specifically to treat insomnia (usually within four to eight sessions) so it’s worth discussing this as an option with your GP, who wil be able to refer you.

Do I have sleep apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that means you have pauses in breathing while you sleep. These pauses can last between a few seconds to a few minutes, and occur up to 30 times an hour. If you think you might be experiencing sleep apnea, the first thing you can do to help is try to lose weight, as being overweight has a big impact. Also, if you’re a smoker, it’s time to stop. Cutting down on alcohol and avoiding sleeping tablets can also help. Other alternatives include surgery to remove excess tissue in the throat, sleeping on your side rather than your back or using a CPAP device – a pump that delivers air through a mask while you sleep.


Am I being woken up by anxiety or worrying?

If you’re going through a very stressful time, sleeplessness can often be a problem. But if it happens more often than the odd occasion, it could be worth seeking help for your anxiety. Consider counselling sessions, trying calming exercises such as yoga and meditation, or even just keeping a diary and writing down your worries on paper. Again, as with general insomnia, CBT can be useful for relieving worries and helping you sleep.

Being woken by pain

Pain, especially caused by arthritis, can often be responsible for a lack of sleep. It’s quite common, the US National Sleep Foundation found that two thirds of people with chronic pain have trouble sleeping. Pain can stop you spending enough time in deep sleep, prevent you nodding off and affect the position you feel comfortable in. The first step is telling your doctor that your pain is stopping your sleep – there may be sleeping pills or painkillers they can prescribe.

Needing to use the toilet in the night

Try not to drink anything in the two hours before you go to bed to stop you needing to pee in the night. If you need to use the loo, try to stay as sleepy as possible, and don’t turn on the lights (as long as you can reach your bathroom safely in the dark!) If you suffer from bladder weakness, check out our guide to urinary incontinence for advice.


How to sleep through the night

  • Keep a notebook and a pen (ideally one with a little light attached) beside your bed so you can jot down any thoughts that occur to you in the night, before falling back to sleep, safe in the knowledge they can wait until morning.
  • Don’t look at your clock. Knowing the time, especially if it’s the small hours, will only make you panic, and make it harder to drift off again.
  • Avoid drinking tea, coffee or any other caffeinated drinks after 2pm (or experiment with cutting them out entirely).
  • Make your room a cosy, calm space. Make sure you have a comfy mattress and pillow, and use the space only for reading and rest – no watching TV.

Products to help you sleep

This Works has a range of products that can help you sleep. We love the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, 75ml/£18 and Deep Sleep Bath Soak, 200g/£22.

Before bed, try a sleep-boosting caffeine-free tea. Clipper Teas have an excellent range, including Sleep Easy, Super Green Organic Sleepy Decaf and Snore and Peace.