The reason we wake early after something upsetting (like a relationship loss or a job loss or during times of stress), is because its a throwback to our ancestors. Any change that is beyond our level of 'normal' is causes some disruption to our internal status quo.
Our lizard brain perceives this as a threat and we
feel a type of fear.
Our ancient mammalian
brain responds to this ‘fear’ response by assuming the threat is something like
a bunch of lions or hyenas near our cave and so makes sure we stay alert as
much as possible so we sleep badly and even if we sleep well, when we come to
the light period of sleep (after 4/5am) we will wake up to ‘check on the lion
or Hyena situation) to ensure the best chance of survival of our 'clan' against
the lions or Hyenas. (this response has kept the human race alive
for hundreds of thousands of years)
However, we also have a human brain and this is the thinking brain. The left part, likes to work things out. Fix things. And so off it goes at 5am. So of course, there’s no chance of sleeping again.
Now because we are hugely social animals and massively dependant on relationships being stable, if one is disrupted, we feel this as a scary change and so feel fear and so our body responds like it’s a threat.
But our left human brain
can not fix ‘the problem’ / disruption / threat like it likes to do.
So were stuck responding accordingly to our brain parts, but our human part is thinking this is all fucked up and wrong. (When of course, its not if you view the possible evolutionary aspect).
So, knowing that we can not fix negative emotions caused by our social and intimate relationships, can help understand our responses and behaviours, even if the responses are weird or out of character, like waking at 5:30am.
By Julie Morley (Hyp.dip, Ad.CP. MNCS)
Psychotherapist, Peterborough UK