What To Do When You Can’t Sleep and Have to Wake Up Early

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on September 23, 2023
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We’ve all been there. Tossing and turning in bed, watching the minutes on the clock slip away, knowing full well that the alarm clock will be ringing in just a few short hours. 

It’s a frustrating predicament that can leave you feeling exhausted and unproductive. But what if we told you it doesn’t have to be this way?

With a diverse team of mental health professionals and a wealth of experience in telehealth, the Online Mental Health Review Team is uniquely positioned to guide you through sleep struggles. 

Our expertise spans neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral health, allowing us to provide evidence-based strategies for managing sleep issues and improving your mornings.

Let’s dive into some sleep info, strategies, and solutions!

The Problem: Struggling to Wake Up Early

The struggle of falling asleep and having to wake up early is a common one.

It can affect your productivity, health, and overall quality of life.

Lack of enough sleep also can lead to cognitive difficulties such as poor concentration and memory, mood changes, and an increased risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

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Why can’t I sleep if I have to be up early?

what to do when you can't sleep and have to wake up early

Feeling restless the night before an early start is a shared experience, but why does it happen? Let’s explore some potential reasons:

  • Anticipation or Anxiety: Your mind might be racing about the upcoming day, making it hard to relax and fall asleep. 
  • Disrupted Sleep Schedule: If you usually go to bed later, your body’s internal clock might resist an earlier bedtime. 
  • Poor Sleep Hygiene: Factors like late-night screen time, caffeine, or an uncomfortable sleep environment can interfere with quality sleep. 
  • Underlying Health Issues: Conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea could affect your ability to fall asleep. 

Understanding these reasons can be the first step towards better sleep.

What do you do if you wake up too early and can’t sleep?

Waking up too much early in the morning and not being able to drift back off can be frustrating, but don’t worry, some proven strategies can help you reclaim your rest:

  • Stay Calm: It’s easy to stress in these moments but remember, anxiety only makes it harder to fall back asleep. Practice mindful breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind. 
  • Keep Your Eyes Closed: Resist the urge to look at the clock or your phone. This can stimulate your brain and make it harder to fall back asleep. 
  • Use Visualization Techniques: Imagine a relaxing scenario or place. This mental distraction can help you transition back to sleep. 
  • Consider a Brief Change of Environment: If awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing, like reading a book. Then, return to bed when you’re feeling tired. 

Remember, having an off night is perfectly okay now and then. But if early awakenings become regular, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional or consider online therapy options.

Practical Tips for Improving Sleep Quality

Achieving better sleep isn’t just about getting more hours in bed. It’s also about improving the quality of those hours. but how much sleep?

According to the CDC, here are some strategies to help you do just that:

  • Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine: This conditions your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Activities like reading, meditation, or a warm bath can help signal your body that it’s time to wind down.
  • Create an Ideal Sleep Environment: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and calm. If needed, consider investing in blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine.

How can I force sleep early?

Falling asleep earlier can be daunting, but with the right strategies, you can retrain your body for an earlier bedtime earlier wake-up time. Let’s dive into some tips:

  • Establish a Routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time daily can help regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep early. 
  • Limit Evening Screen Time: According to Harvard, the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, so try turning off devices at least an hour before bed. 
  • Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment: A cool, dark, quiet room can improve sleep quality. Use earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine if needed. 
  • Try Relaxation Techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation can help calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep. 

Remember, changing your sleep patterns and habits can take time. Be patient and consider contacting a healthcare professional if you need further guidance.

Waking Up Earlier and Feeling More Alert

Stop Waking up Feeling Tired Every Morning (5 Things You Can Do)

Improving your bed early morning routine can also significantly impact your day. Try these tips:

  • Get Moving: Physical activity first thing in the morning can help wake you up and set a positive tone for the day.
  • Expose Yourself to Natural Light: This helps reset your internal body clock and can make it easier to wake up in the morning.

Stellar Sleep: Evidence-Based Mobile Sleep Treatment

Meet Stellar Sleep, the #1 mobile app based on science, designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Developed in collaboration with top sleep psychologists and therapists at Harvard, this award-winning app uses the power of psychology to help you sleep better. Our team bought and reviewed Stellar Sleep, and now we believe:

Stellar Sleep is not just an app; it’s a comprehensive sleep aid designed around cognitive-behavioral therapy – insomnia (CBT-I) principles. Meta-analysis shows CBT-I is a scientifically proven method that changes negative thought patterns and behaviors that can contribute to sleep problems. Researchers state, “CBT-I produces clinically significant effects that last up to a year after therapy.”

With Stellar Sleep, you get personalized, evidence-based treatment plans that guide you through habit-building exercises, CBT-I techniques, and more—all aimed at breaking the insomnia cycle and helping you achieve restful sleep.

Stellar Sleep Key Features

  • Personalized Treatment Plans: Based on your unique sleep patterns and needs, Stellar Sleep provides tailored treatment plans to help you conquer insomnia.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-Insomnia (CBT-I): This app utilizes CBT techniques proven to help manage insomnia, teaching you how to change negative thoughts and behaviors impacting your sleep.
  • Habit Building Exercises: Create healthy sleep habits that encourage restful nights and energized days.
  • Expert Collaboration: Developed with input from top sleep psychologists and therapists, Stellar Sleep combines expert knowledge with user-friendly technology.
  • Evidence-Based: The strategies used by Stellar Sleep are based on scientific research, ensuring you receive a reliable approach to managing your sleep.

Try the Stellar Sleep Quiz for a free 7-day trial!

Join the thousands of others who have improved their insomnia and sleep disorders!

What To Do When You Can’t Sleep And Have To Wake Up Early Conclusion


Remember, everyone’s journey to better sleep is unique. If you’re struggling with persistent sleep maintenance insomnia problems, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional. After all, a good night’s sleep isn’t just a luxury—it’s a cornerstone of good health.

Improving your sleep and waking up earlier doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. By making a few simple changes to your routines and habits, you can set yourself up for better nights and mornings.

We’d love to hear about your sleep strategies. What works for you? What doesn’t? Share your experiences in the comments below.

If You Are In Crisis

In a moment of crisis, it’s crucial to prioritize immediate safety over waiting for an online therapy session. If you’re in danger or have plans to harm yourself or others, please dial 911 immediately. Remember, your life matters. If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, reach out to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by simply dialing 988 – help is available around the clock. Additionally, 

if you’re grappling with mental health or substance abuse issues, you can contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This confidential helpline offers free assistance 24/7, every day of the year, guiding individuals towards treatment options and providing valuable information.

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