A 2 hour sleep night – how is this even possible?

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Martin Reed 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #30137

    ✘ Not a client

    So I have a problem with early morning awakening. Like I’ve mentioned before, I go to sleep around 23, and wake around 5. I can’t nap, and I have to work a lot, so things aren’t really easy for me. I know there are worse cases, of course, but this is mine.

    Anyway, right now I am genuinely curious about what happened to me last night.

    So, last night I go out with a group of people from work after a really long time. It’s fun so we stay up way past my bedtime (I know, not smart) and I come home at 3 a.m. I hit the sack , fall asleep around 3:20, AND STILL WAKE UP AT 5:10! I am so down right now, but I’m not writing to complain. I am genuinely asking – how is this possible? How does my mind seem to KNOW that it is around 5 a.m. and wakes up as if on cue? I can understand that the mind gets used to a limited DURATION of sleep after some time, so I would understand if I woke up at 8 or 9 (and thus slept for my usual 5.5- 6 hours), but I can’t understand why it has an internal alarm set at 5 no matter when I go to sleep.

    Can anyone explain this? Is the internal body clock an actual clock that knows what time it is?

    I know it may sound like a dumb question, but I haven’t found the answer anywhere in literature.


    ✘ Not a client

    I have another question I’ve been meaning to ask, so instead of posting a separate thread maybe I could post it here.

    Does anyone else feel tension when trying to sleep? I feel no tension when I go to sleep at night, but I do sometimes feel tense when I wake up too early and try to go back to sleep, and I ALWAYS feel tense if I try to nap. It doesn’t take long for the tension to develop, I lie in bed for about 20-30 min, and if I’m not asleep by then I get very tense and even angry, for no reason I can think of, except the fact that I’m not sleeping.

    That is the main reason I doubt CBT would work for me, so I don’t even try. I highly, highly doubt that getting up and doing something until I feel sleepy would work for me. Doing something actively to get to sleep reminds me of trying to nap, I would probably get tense as soon as I went back to bed.

    I think all in all that I developed hyperarousal around sleep during the course of my life, and that hyperarousal prevents me from napping and feeling relaxed when trying to go back to sleep.


    ✓ Client

    Hi Edgar,

    I’m not able to offer much help in answering your first question although I have experienced something similar a few times. When our sleep system is out of whack it seems that anything is possible when it comes to a bad night of sleep – being awake all night, sleeping only a few hours, or like in your case and I’m sure for a lot of us, naturally waking up at the same damn time regardless of what time we went to bed. My theory is that the subconscious, which is the system that takes care of the thousands of little and big things involved in sleep is in action and makes this happen. Why? Because it’s off, it’s out of whack, it’s simply not working properly, it lost its ability to work efficiently due to some original source that messed it up: acute stress, anxiety, trauma, illness, pregnancy, etc.

    As for your second post: I can say with 99.99% confidence that all of us who have insomnia have experienced or experience tension going to bed – it’s how insomnia develops in the first place! This is called conditioned arousal and a huge part of CBT-I is to work exactly on that: removing this learned conditioned arousal, which let me tell ya – takes quite some time and work, but slowly you start seeing improvement.

    Conditioned arousal happens because our subconscious learns to associate bed with stress/anxiety due to a period of bad nights of sleep we may have had during a time of high stress (or for biological reasons, like pregnancy). Once that association is made by the subconscious, we start to feel stress and anxiety when we go to bed, which then makes it hard  for us to fall asleep and stay asleep – you can see how this becomes a vicious cycle and perpetuates itself. My advice to you is: reach out to Martin. Try out his free online course. A lot of us here have learned and are learning that our attitude towards sleep actually plays a huge role in how we sleep and there is one specific thread where we are all supporting one another to not beat ourselves up about this and reminding each other to stay at least neutral about our insomnia (to be positive is asking a little too much, right?)

    I hear you about CBT reminding you of “trying to sleep”. I felt EXACTLY the same way when I started, especially because I had already worked on the tension part of my insomnia on my own and had learned tp “relax into it”. So when I started CBT-I the tension came back and even stronger because like you said, it felt to me like I was actively trying to sleep by following the techniques of CBT-I. It did take some weeks but eventually this new tension faded and for the past few weeks I generally fall asleep within 5 or 10 minutes since now I feel relaxed in bed. The techniques involved in CBT-I are designed to get rid of all the little things that perpetuate insomnia although at first it can actually enhance them – you just have to give time, have patience, consistency, and commitment. Advice: reach out to Martin. take his free online course. You don’t have anything to loose by doing so, so why not?


    ✘ Not a client

    Hi, Borgesbi,

    Sorry for the late response.

    Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate you taking the time.

    I agree about the subconscious mind being behind all this. I wish sleep was like people used to think – you pass out, nothing happens for 8 hours, you wake up. And you’re right, it’s so easy to get the sleep system out of whack. But how the subconscious knows EXACTLY what time it is will have to remain a mistery, I guess.

    Thank you for explaining about CBT. So it is normal to feel even more tense at the beginning of the protocol.

    I keep meaning to try it, and when a particularly bad night hits I’m sure I want to, but then I get a couple of okay nights and I go back to my usual “better not even think about this.”

    I am glad Martin’s site exists, and it’s there if I need it. I’m a teacher, and summer holidays are coming, so I’ll try to relax more and see if it helps. Then, if it fails, I know CBT is always an option.


    ✓ Client

    Yes, I miss just being out for the night as well. I remember before insomnia, on weekends I would sometimes sleep 10 hours straight with no problem at all. Ah, the good ol’ days..


    Martin Reed
    ★ Admin

    Hello Edgar

    It’s not completely unusual that you woke at 5:00 AM even after going to bed really late one night. We all have an internal body clock that can become surprisingly good at waking us at a certain time each day. If you regularly wake around 5:00 AM, then the fact you still woke at around this time — even after going to bed late — isn’t very unusual.

    If you go to bed around 11:00 PM and wake around 5:00 PM without much wakefulness between, this suggests you are getting around six hours of sleep each night. Are you unhappy with this amount of sleep? How do you feel during the day?

    As explained by Borgesbi, CBT-I is specifically designed to help address conditioned arousal so it’s far more likely to be effective for you than not. If you don’t give it a try, you’ll never know!



    ✘ Not a client

    @ borgesbi – yeah, I miss weekend sleep-ins, too. Now it doesn’t matter if it is the weekend or not, 5:00 o’clock (more or less) it is.

    @ martin

    My sleep is kinda all over the place, but usually between 5 and 6 hours a day. I think I’m getting more and more used to it by now, so even though I’m tired, I can manage.

    It is the random 2 hour night that gets to me and I have to let off some steam here.

    I have MS for about 10 years and epilepsy for 4 years, both of which affect my energy levels and for both conditions, especially epilepsy, it would be great if I could sleep sufficiently. This probably subconsciously adds to the tension I sometimes feel. And again, makes me kinda nervous about screwing around (sorry, couldn’t think of a better expression 🙁 ) with the 5-6 hours that I manage to get. I know SR would mean a lot of 0-2 hour nights for some time.

    Thanks for explaning about the internal body clock. It really is one for Ripley’s Believe it or Not.


    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by Edgar.

    Martin Reed
    ★ Admin

    Since you mentioned that you have epilepsy, it’s important to know that CBT-I might not be an appropriate solution for you (particularly stimulus control techniques). So, if you decide to try CBT-I, please talk to your doctor first.

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