Terminal insomnia — also called “late insomnia” — is what you have when you can fall asleep easily soon after you go to bed… but then wake up too early in the morning.
For some reason your brain thinks “sleep time” is over, but you’ve only had three to five hours or less. And you can’t go back to sleep no matter what you do.
You’ve probably already tried a few things on your own in an attempt to make up for lost sleep.
Maybe you’ve tried going to bed earlier (doesn’t help — you just wake up earlier to make up for it)…
…or staying in bed longer (doesn’t help — you still can’t fall back to sleep even when you drag yourself out of bed at nine o’clock).
First, it’s a good idea to determine if you truly have terminal insomnia or if you’re simply a “short sleeper.”
This means that you don’t need as much sleep as most people do, and can get along fine with fewer hours.
I have relatives who are short sleepers. They only need five or so hours of sleep, and even after I’ve asked them some annoying questions, they claim to feel quite fine, well-rested and alert during the day.
I envy them. I need about seven hours to feel as good as they apparently do with five. Life isn’t fair.
If you are a short sleeper, good for you. Find some interesting stuff to do with your extra two or three hours of awake time and most of all, enjoy yourself.
On the other hand, if this is a recent change in sleep pattern for you… meaning that at one time you could put in a full night’s sleep of six to eight hours, then you probably do have a problem. Go ahead and tell everyone you have terminal insomnia. Enjoy watching the look of concern come over their faces before you explain what “terminal” means in this case.
OK, I know having terminal insomnia is not the least bit funny, so let’s get to some ways to get rid of it.
As with all the types of insomnia that are primary rather than secondary, terminal insomnia can be attributed to a variety of causes.
I have found that the type of insomnia is not as relevant as the cause of insomnia.
Some people seem to have a greater tendency to fall asleep and then wake up, while others seem to take forever to fall asleep in the first place. There could even be a genetic component in all of this, although even sleep scientists don’t seem to understand much about that.
Anger, frustration and depression were definitely more associated with my episodes of middle and terminal insomnia.
I can’t use my own experience to concoct a whole theory, of course. So I won’t do that.
But I will recommend that you keep a sleep diary diligently for the next two weeks to find out what your state of mind is when you wake up very early and can’t go back to sleep. By writing down your thoughts, you can get some clues of some possible emotional causes of insomnia.
It has also been my experience that the all-important emotional component seems to be more hidden or subtle — maybe even subconscious causes of insomnia are at work here – with terminal insomnia than with initial insomnia.
You also need to analyze any possible physical causes and room causes that could be attributing to your terminal insomnia.
- Is there a temperature change in your bedroom at about the time you wake up?
- Is there a bright light switched on from a neighboring house or building at that time?
- Is there a noise, such as a dog barking or a car starting or an increase of traffic noise?
- Do you have allergies that flare up at about 4:00 every morning? Many allergy sufferers do find the predawn hours to be their worst. Both indoor and outdoor air-borne allergens seem to build up and reach a peak at that time.
- Do you have muscular pains or arthritis pains that tend to get worse at that hour?
- Is there any discomfort from the state of your mattress that might be contributing (four hours of sleeping on a sagging or lumpy mattress might be the limit)