Why You Can’t Sleep Longer Than 6 hours.. and How to Fix It


There’s nothing worse than waking up at a crazy early time and not being able to get back to sleep. Especially if you need to rest for an important day, or you’re wanting to have a relaxing lie-in.

I’m no expert on sleep, but as someone who’s struggled to fall back asleep after waking up early, I’ve looked into this to try and find out why it happens.

Sleeping for more than 6 hours may be due to a variety of reasons:

  • Your natural sleeping pattern
  • Your bed and/or sleeping position
  • Undiagnosed sleep disorders
  • Heat in the summer mornings
  • Bad sleeping habits
  • Need for nicotine if you smoke
  • Going through a stressful period

If any of these sound like they might apply to you, there are things you can do to help. Let’s explore them.

Bad Sleeping Habits

This section was originally going to be at the bottom of the post – but I’ve moved it to the top. Changing my sleeping habits is what really allowed me to enjoy a full night’s rest, and I think it’s the first thing we all should look at if not getting a good sleep.

Your sleeping routine is SO important. Don’t feel like you have one? Then chances are any sleeping problems you have are down to not setting yourself up for success.

I’ve written about this a lot since starting this blog – but there are three key things you need for a perfect sleep:

  1. Quiet
  2. Darkness
  3. Coolness

Those are the three factors which are proven to be most important for getting a good sleep. If you can’t get all 3 right now – don’t worry. There’s plenty you can do to help.

Quietness

If you live in a city that doesn’t sleep, this can be a real toughie. If noise is an issue, I really suggest getting a great pair of earplugs, listening to a great audiobook, or introducing white noise into your sleeping environment.

(White noise is anything from a gentle fan to sounds like ocean waves or wind – anything calming and continous. If there’s spiky variations in the sound (like car noises outside) that’s what will keep you awake).

woman-putting-in-ear-plugs
Ear plugs can be a great solution – just make sure you use the right ones!

Darkness

Sometimes you just can’t block out the street lights, or deal with early morning summer sunlight. If so, a good eye-mask should take care of this – but nothing beats real black-out blinds.

Coolness

In a hot summer this can be so tough to tackle, but there are plenty of things you can do – even if you don’t have an air conditioner. Check out the guide I wrote here.

Remember that this can be especially true if things are heating up quickly in the mornings. If that’s the case, try and put extra effort in stopping the sun having such an effect on you. Consider moving your bed away from any windows that see sun in the morning, and keep doors open to let the cool air from other rooms flow in.

Diet

Now, a healthy diet can often be said as the cure to just about everything? Stressed? Eat better. Getting ill? Eat better. Children being annoying? Eat better. It’s everywhere these days.

However, when it comes to sleep the important thing is timing. Food is fuel, and so a late dinner will be giving you energy you don’t need which can make it hard to get to sleep.

The opposite is also true – not eating anything hours before bed can mean you’re waking up with a stomach that’s demanding food. If that might be the case for you – try having a light snack like a slice of toast, glass of milk, or even just tea & honey.

Drugs!

Now, I know you’re probably not searching sleeping issues after popping illegal drugs – what I mean by that heading is caffiene & alcohol. These can really affect how early you wake up.

Caffeine

While a cup of coffee gives us a great focus boost, it lasts for ages. It’s got a half life of 6 hours – which means 6 hours after drinking, half of the caffeine is still in your system. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine (if you are anxious or have quick thoughts), it can stop you from getting into a deep sleep.

If that sounds like you, try not to have any caffeine after 1-2pm. Remember that soft drinks have caffeine in them too!

Alcohol

According to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, ‘alcohol is one of the biggest suppressors of REM sleep that we know of’.

In other words, a few drinks at night can really prevent you getting that deep sleep you need. I don’t know about you, but I always wake up super early after drinks with friends. Which is fine.. until I crash mid-afternoon because I could never get enough sleep.

While I’m not saying you should go teetotal or stop having a social life, just keep this in mind!

Nicotine

If you’re a smoker – there’s yet another downside to this notorious habit. Nicotine is a hugely addictive substance, as you know. So addictive, in fact, that your body can wake you up from sleep because it’s craving a nicotine hit so much. Unfortunately there’s no two ways about this – if you’re a heavy smoker. Good sleep is just another sacrifice you’re making for those cigarettes.

Exercise

The age-old method of tiring yourself out to get a good night’s sleep is totally true. Getting some exercise can help get rid of all that extra built-up nervous energy that you get after sitting around all day. If you’ve been constantly fidgeting, bouncing your legs, and not being able to focus – you likely need to use that body of yours.

It doesn’t have to be much – a 20 minute walk will do the trick. Just give your body an outlet to use up some energy. Otherwise, your body might be waking you up because it’s ready to go – even though your brain isn’t fully rested.

Your Mattress

What you’re sleeping on is hugely important. Being able to sleep for long periods of time goes hand-in-hand with being able to get a good quality of sleep.

If you’ve got a mattress that’s hitting it’s twilight years, and pillows that are waay past their use-by date, consider treating yourself to an upgrade.

A good mattress and pillows are really priceless. If you think that might be a reason, I can only stress how important it is to get yourself something that will invite you to get a good night’s sleep. Not sleeping well affects EVERYTHING! Your mood, immune systems, stress, anxiety, concentration – everything!

It is totally worth the money on a good mattress if it will help improve your sleep – and so improve your whole day-to-day life. You are worth it.

If you can’t afford a new mattress right now, a great money-saving solution is just to get a good memory-foam mattress topper. For a fraction of the price, it can make your mattress a ton more supportive and comfortable.

mattress-sleep-in-ocean
A good mattress can make you feel worlds away..

How You Sleep

If you’re a big snorer, and/or tend to sleep on your stomach – maybe it’s time to address that.

Sleeping on your side, particularly your left side, is the best position for getting a good sleep. If you want to change your sleeping position – here’s a quick guide to do just that. A better sleeping position is also great for helping with snoring too.

If you’re a snorer, it can also be a huge deal. The noise can prevent you from getting into a really deep sleep, meaning you wake up super easily (not to mention the same goes for any sleeping partners). If changing your sleeping position doesn’t help – it’s worth consulting with your doctor to see if they think you may have sleep apnea.

Going Through A Stressful Period

Stress affects just about every aspect of our lives – especially sleep. If not being able to sleep beyond 6 hours is a recent thing, maybe think about whether you might be going through a stressful time right now.

If there’s anything constantly bothering you, that worry might be what’s keeping you from fully relaxing.

Obviously some things can’t be changed, but you can at least take steps to reduce the effect that stress has on you. Here’s some things to try:

  1. Be grateful – try to think of three things that you’re grateful for in your life. Think of other people who make your life better by being there for you especially.
  2. Try meditating – meditation is proven to help sleep and reduce stress. Google ‘Headspace’ for a great app that provides the best introduction to beginner’s meditation.
  3. Exercise – similar to meditation, exercise is fantastic for ‘shrugging off’ day to day stress and releasing those incredible feel good endorphins.

Your Natural Sleeping Pattern

There are over 7 billion of us on this planet right now. And from the way we sleep to the toppings we like on our pizza, we are all unique. Being unable to sleep for long periods of time may just be a sign of your ancestry and natural tendencies.

If, for example, you take naps during the afternoon – you may have what’s called a Biphasic Sleeping Pattern. I’ve been reading a great book called ‘Why We Sleep’  which covers this. Many hunter gatherer tribes, like the Gabra in northern Kenya or San people in Kalahari desert who have been untouched for thousands of years, sleep differently. They get by on a maximum of 7 hours of sleep a night, with a 30-60 minute nap in the middle of the day.

If that sounds like you, maybe you’re just doing things the natural way! Many sleep scientists believe that the one 8-hour sleep at night is a product of our modern society, and not how our ancestors did it.

Your Need for Sleep

Similar to sleeping patterns, you may just be lucky enough to not need a full 8 hours’ sleep. If you sleep for 6 hours daily and feel fine – not needing a midday nap – then perhaps you just don’t need anything more.

Be warned, though – you may just be used to getting less sleep. The gene that allows for 6 hours sleep to feel refreshed is only found in 3% of people. If you don’t have it but are getting less sleep, you are making yourself more vulnerable to extra stress, illness rates, and even cancer – not a pretty picture!

Conclusion

Waking up too early sucks – especially when all you want is to try and get back to sleep. I hope that this post has given you a few things to consider, and really hope they help you to get that revitalising full night’s rest you deserve. Sleep well.

 

 

 

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