When "Early to Bed and Early to Rise" Becomes a Problem

Do you wake up very early in the morning, long before your alarm sounds? Do you struggle to stay awake in the evening? If you're stuck on an excessively early sleep pattern and you can't seem to fix it, you could have Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD).

What is Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder?

ASPD is a condition that makes you wake up excessively early in the morning and fall asleep long before your desired bedtime. Although less well-known than the opposite condition, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, ASPD can have a devastating impact on sufferers' social and family lives. Some people with this disorder wake up as early as 3am, even if they went to bed late the night before and intended to sleep in. As a result of their excessively early waking times, people with APSD often fall asleep in the early evening, which can mean missing out on social events or family time.

How to Cope With ASPD

If you're struggling to break free from an excessively early sleep schedule, try these tips to reset your body clock.

  • Keep your bedroom dark in the mornings. Prevent the first rays of dawn from waking you by blacking out your windows. Some people tape blankets, cardboard or aluminium foil over their windows to block out the light, but ready made curtains made from light-blocking materials are a more elegant long-term solution. 

  • Expose yourself to bright lights in the evening. Ordinary household lighting may not be enough to make you feel awake and alert. Try using a light box to increase your wakefulness in the early evening when you would usually begin to feel sleepy.

  • If you go outside in the early morning, wear sunglasses to reduce your light exposure.

  • Make gradual changes. Forcing yourself to stay up much later than usual is likely to result in exhaustion if you wake up at your usual early time, which could mean falling asleep even earlier the next day. Gradually shift your bedtime a little later each day.

  • Some people with ASPD use slow-release melatonin to help them sleep through the night. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Pills that gradually release melatonin into your body during the night can help you stay asleep until the time you want to wake up.

  • Consult your doctor. Your doctor can give you advice about safely using melatonin, lifestyle changes or light therapy to shift your sleep schedule.