Early Awakening Insomnia
In this form of insomnia, the sleeper has no trouble falling asleep but then wakes up far earlier than he or she would like. As with difficulties in initiating sleep, difficulties with early awakening may be a pseudo-problem in some cases. It’s quite possible that the early riser really doesn’t need more than five or six hours of sleep, so his or her early mornings actually represent the gift of more time. It’s also possible that the early riser does need seven, eight, or more hours but might consider an earlier bedtime rather than trying to sleep later. (If the sleeper is waking before it gets light, however, it’s unlikely that this is his or her “natural” time to wake up.)
This type of sleep disorder may be particularly frustrating to ambitious, self-directed people, who’d have no trouble following a program to allow themselves to get to sleep, but who feel that an unscheduled waking time is particularly out of their control. These inadvertent early risers can’t battle their problem head-on with a warm glass of milk before bed- time or a soothing night time routine. They don’t even know whether they’ll have a problem until they find themselves awake and unable to get back to sleep. There are ways to overcome unwanted early risings, of course, but the problem sleeper may have to consider more subtle changes in his or her lifestyle or outlook.
Like the other categories, unwanted early risings may also be related to anxiety and/or depression. Specialists tend to generalize that difficulty falling asleep suggests anxiety while difficulty staying asleep indicates depression, but of course, there are numerous exceptions to this rule. Certainly, people may find themselves thrust out of sleep, full of worries about an impending deadline or a foundering love affair just as they may find that feelings of hopelessness or helplessness keep them from comfortably finding their way into sleep.
People who are depressed may also sleep more than usual. Alternately, they may experience difficulties initiating or maintaining sleep along with an increased need for sleep. Thus, a person who is depressed might go to bed at, say, 10 p.m., wake up unwillingly at 4 a.m., try for several hours to fall back to sleep without success, and finally wind up sleeping from 9 a.m. to noon. That’s a total of only nine hours of sleep-yet fourteen hours have been consumed.