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Early Waking

Q: It never fails. Every morning I wake up at 5:30; a full hour before my alarm actually goes off. I'm not ready to get out of bed yet, but it seems like no matter how tired I am, I can't fall back asleep. It's especially frustrating since I rarely get to bed early enough to make up for that lost hour, so I'm almost always exhausted. How can I break out of this cycle?

Dr. Donnica:
This sounds like a matter of sleep conditioning. If there's nothing in particular that's waking you up (having to urinate, a baby crying or a partner snoring), then this may be just a matter of retraining your body. The best way to do this is to go to bed 10 minutes earlier each night. I know it's difficult, but you need to make it a priority. If you're drinking caffeine after 3 pm, stop or cut back. When you wake up in the morning, don't agonize over trying to go back to sleep. Just get up and start your day. I know you feel exhausted, but getting regular physical exercise (even 20 minutes per day) will help you sleep better. The extra hour you have in the morning may be a good time to do that. My only medical concern here is whether you may have underlying, undiagnosed or untreated depression. One of the classic physical signs of depression is early morning awakening. This may be worth discussing with your healthcare provider.

Created: 6/29/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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