Terminal insomnia, also called late insomnia, is a frustrating condition where you can usually fall asleep easily upon going to bed…. but then you wake up four-to-five hours later, unable to get back to sleep. So you are waking up too early in the morning, which leaves you feeling exhausted, foggy and cranky when you roll out of bed to start your day. Despite the ominous sounding name, terminal insomnia will not kill you but can certainly be a joy-killer.
To get started on a cure for terminal insomnia, it’s important to determine how many hours of sleep you really need to get a full night’s rest. Unlike initial insomnia (not being able to fall asleep for hours after you go to bed) and middle insomnia (waking up in the middle of the night and taking hours to fall back to sleep) where all the symptoms clearly point to the condition, some people who think they have terminal insomnia might instead simply be “short sleepers.”
And what does that mean? Well, some people only need four or five hours of sleep to properly function throughout the day. If you have always been able to feel fine on less sleep than some of your friends and relatives, you might not be experiencing late insomnia symptoms, but just going to bed too early for the amount of sleep that you need.
If that’s the case, your tired, cranky feeling might be the result of lying awake too long, beating up on yourself because you can’t fall back to sleep. Try going to bed later so you will wake up at a more reasonable hour and can arise and start your day immediately. And then be grateful that you have a few extra hours in your day to do something other than sleep!
If, however, you have never been a short sleeper, and you now find yourself increasingly exhausted after these short hours of sleep, you could very well be experiencing terminal insomnia. As you would for any other type of insomnia, once you have determined that you have terminal insomnia, it is time to find out why. You can’t fight an unknown force, so understanding the causes of your condition comes before treatment.
Start With Emotional Causes of Insomnia
To help you uncover the causes of your terminal or late insomnia, keep a sleep diary for about two weeks. In this diary you will write down your thoughts and feelings when you first wake up in the morning. This can help you to determine if there are emotional reasons that you are unable to get back to sleep. Because the emotional reasons behind your inability to sleep might be a little hidden — possibly subconscious — it is important to analyze the situation completely. Don’t skip this step!
I have found that initial insomnia — where you are unable to fall asleep when you first go bed — is often associated with feelings of fear, stress, worry, and anxiety. Initial insomniacs may even experience sleep anxiety where they are unable to sleep because they are so focused upon getting to sleep. These emotional causes of insomnia tend to make your body tense and restless, so you can’t relax physically or mentally enough to fall asleep.
People with middle insomnia or terminal insomnia, though, tend more toward feelings of depression, anger, and frustration. These emotions do not cause the adrenaline rush in quite the same way as anxiety and worry. They also tend to get pushed more into the subconscious mind, where we aren’t aware of them much at all. But they can gnaw away in the background of our minds, and wake us up in the middle of the night.
You can also determine possible physical causes of your late insomnia with the help of your sleeping diary. If you wake up at generally the same time every morning, there might be a physical reason or a combination of several physical reasons why this happens.
For example, if you have a thermostat set to change the temperature at that specific time, this change might be waking you. Does you neighbor leave for work at that time and turn on a bright light that shines in your bedroom window? Is there an increase in outdoor noise such as more traffic or a dog barking? Maybe your allergies are flaring up at that time. Some allergy suffers find that the predawn hours are the worst. By determining the cause or causes of your insomnia, you can then determine ways to cure the symptoms.