In a world where most people struggle to wake up in the morning and get to sleep at night, being someone who wakes before their alarm and falls asleep early in the evening can be very isolating. In fact, an early sleep pattern can be so disruptive to normal life that medicine has even labeled it as a sleep disorder: Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder or ASPD.
When is Waking Early a Problem?
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder isn't waking up in time for an early shift or long commute; it's waking naturally, without an alarm, hours before the time you want to wake up, even if you went to bed late. This disorder can have a serious effect on your social life, as you may find it very difficult to stay awake when your friends and family want to spend time with you later at night.
When to See a Doctor
If you think ASPD could be affecting your sleep patterns, see your doctor for advice. Your doctor may be able to diagnose medical problems that are causing you to wake too soon. However, many cases of ASPD have no obvious cause, in which case you'll need to try making some lifestyle changes to see whether you can shift your sleep schedule.
Tips for Sleeping Later and Staying Awake in the Evening
Keep your bedroom as dark as possible in the mornings. Install opaque indoor blinds to block out the first rays of dawn light. Indoor roller blinds are a good choice, as they can extend beyond the window to prevent light seeping in around the edges.
If you wake up before dawn, don't turn on the main light. Use a dim lamp if you need to light your way to the bathroom or kitchen.
Use a light box in the evening. The bright light may help you feel more alert compared to ordinary household lights, which are often very dim compared to natural daylight.
Shift your bedtime a few minutes later each night to encourage your body to adopt a new sleep pattern. If you stay up hours later than usual, you'll probably find that you wake close to your normal time despite the lack of sleep, which could lead to you falling asleep even earlier the following night.
Ask your doctor to prescribe slow-release melatonin capsules. These capsules slowly release sleep hormones into your bloodstream, which could help you to stay asleep throughout the whole night, rather than waking in the early hours of the morning.