Why you should (and shouldn't) go back to sleep if you wake before your alarm

Should you go back to sleep if you wake up before your alarm? Yes and no…

A man in bed reaching for his phone
(Image credit: Eren Li / Pexels)

It’s happened to all of us where we’ve woken up, checked the clock and found that the alarm is set to go off in 15 minutes. When this happens, most people – myself included – will turn over and go back to sleep until the best alarm clock goes off. But is this recommended or should you get up and start the day?

Sleep is completely unique to each person. While you might thrive off of having only six hours of sleep a night, others might need at least nine hours of sleep to feel alert and ready to conquer a new day. With this in mind, the reason you’ve woken up minutes before your alarm might not be as random as you initially thought.

Waking up in the middle of the night or an hour before your alarm can be attributed to many different factors. It could be because of an external noise like a bird chirping or your partner pulling the best duvet away from you. But in most cases, it has to do with your circadian rhythm.

According to Sleep Foundation, the circadian rhythm dictates and regulates processes in the body, like sleep, body temperature and appetite. In general, your body’s circadian rhythm or internal clock is naturally aligned with the cycle of day and night, which is why you feel sleepy as it gets later in the day. Sticking to a healthy circadian rhythm relies on a consistent sleep schedule and other rules of good sleep hygiene.

When it comes to waking up before your alarm, it could be to do with your circadian rhythm telling you that you’ve had enough sleep. In general, adults should be getting around seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If your body believes you’ve had enough sleep, its natural reaction is to wake you up, so if this happens to you before your alarm goes off, and you’ve had those amount of hours and are feeling alert, it’s a good idea to start your day.

However, this wake up might not have anything to do with your body’s natural processes and instead, something or someone disrupting your sleep. If you’ve woken up before your alarm, a helpful thing to do is ask yourself if you’re done sleeping. If you’ve been woken up and you’re still feeling tired and haven’t had enough sleep, this is a sign it could be worth turning over and going back to sleep. 

alarm clock on a bedside table

(Image credit: Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash)

As mentioned in Business Insider, “if you’re waking up early on just a few hours of sleep, you should probably try and squeeze in some more shut eye. If you get up early, you’re not only depriving yourself of sleep but you’re also robbing your body of the majority of REM sleep.” Rapid eye movement or REM sleep is said to provide energy and keep you alert throughout the day so if you’re not getting enough of this, you might feel more sleepy than usual.

Whether you should go back to sleep if you wake up before your alarm or not depends on the circumstances. For those who wake up naturally and feel rested, it’s worth turning off your upcoming alarm and starting your day early. But if you’ve woken up and still feel exhausted, it’s recommended to get those extra few minutes of sleep so you can perform at your best throughout the day.

Want to break-up with your alarm clock? Here are 7 ways to wake up naturally without using an alarm.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!