why do I get angry when someone wakes me up?
Better Sleep

Why Do I Get Angry When My Sleep Is Interrupted?

Last Updated on August 30, 2023 by Louise Carter

Being woken abruptly can be a frustrating experience. A snappy, angry response is among the most common side effects of being woken up suddenly, whether by accident or design.

The scientific explanation for this anger lies within the amygdala, the part of the human brain that manages emotion.

According to Cureus, insufficient sleep leads to a functional deficit between the amygdala and the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC).

The vACC controls the brain’s decision-making and conflict resolution. If you awaken naturally, following 7-8 hours of rest, you may be unhappy about getting out of bed, but you’re ready for the day.

If you’re roused from sleep early and unexpectedly, the amygdala hijacks your entire brain, refusing to communicate with the vACC, provoking a response based entirely on emotion.

A lack of sleep is often linked to anger, and frustration will be behind your feelings. Take steps to improve your mood upon waking to start the day with a positive mindset.

Minimize sleep debt so you’re less exhausted if your rest is disturbed, practice sleep hygiene for quality sleep, and train the brain to manage emotional responses and outbursts. 

Why Do I Get Angry When Someone Wakes Me Up?

Being awoken before we’re ready is frustrating, regardless of the reason. Loud external noises, babies and pets needing attention, or the need to use the bathroom can all disturb sleep.

Being woken up by somebody else in the home is among the main causes of anger and resentment.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings explains how a snoring partner can negatively influence sleep, a common source of conflict among couples sharing a bed.

Third parties that don’t share a bed or bedroom can cause frustration by disturbing sleep. Kids making noise or roommates that don’t have the same sleep-wake cycle could lead to broken sleep.

Expressing anger in these circumstances may just be dismissed.

It’s easy to accuse somebody of “getting out on the wrong side of the bed in the morning.” Understanding why you’re annoyed at being woken up prematurely can reduce your adverse reaction.

effects of being woken up suddenly

Startle Response

If abruptly woken from a deep sleep, the body will be roused before it has concluded a full sleep cycle.

This can lead to a “startle response,” especially if physically shaken awake, which may lead to feelings of tension and anger toward the person who woke you up.

A full sleep cycle takes between 90 and 120 minutes to conclude and involves 4 stages:

  • Stage 1 – The muscles relax, and your heart slows down as you start to fall asleep.
  • Stage 2 – The body temperature drops, and you begin to enter a light sleep.
  • Stage 3 – Known as “slow-wave sleep,” this is a deep sleep. Your body is relaxed, healing tissues and muscles, and electrical activity in the brain slows down.
  • Stage 4 – REM sleep. The body remains inactive, but brain activity is sharply increased.

Stage 3 of the sleep cycle is the most frustrating to be roused from. The mind and body will be suddenly pulled from their state of relaxation and healing and will likely be shocked at the interruption.

Getting wrenched from stage 3 of sleep is also more likely to cause an amygdala hijack, with emotions overpowering rational thought. The brain is startled and concerned at this sudden and unexpected call to action and immediately triggers a threat response.

In some people, this will manifest as fear and confusion. Alternatively, you may experience anger and frustration until your thoughts catch up with the reality of the situation you find yourself in.

Sleep Debt

If you fail to gain 7-8 hours of sleep in 24 hours, you’ll likely experience ‘sleep debt.’ This means the body and mind haven’t rested adequately and won’t function well.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology stated that sleep debt is linked to negative emotions, notably anger. The more sleep debt you accumulate, the more irritable you’ll feel when awoken.

This anger will likely be directed at the person who woke you, especially if this is a regular occurrence. Being roused from sleep happens and may only be a mild annoyance.

If you fail to get enough sleep consistently, perhaps because a roommate makes too much noise at night or a partner comes to bed late and disturbs you, this sleep debt will build.

If you can find the reason for escalating sleep debt, and all evidence points to a third party being responsible, have a calm conversation with this person during waking hours when your emotional responses are more moderated.

Explain that their actions affect your sleep and quality of life, working together to find a solution. This is more likely to lead to a positive resolution than an angry outburst shortly after awakening.

How To Improve Your Mood Upon Waking

If you ask other residents to allow you to sleep until a set time that most people consider reasonable, you’ll understandably be displeased when not permitted to do so.

Manage your anger at being roused from sleep before you’re ready to wake up. To maintain harmonious relationships with others, follow these techniques to improve your mood in the morning:

Minimize Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is among the main triggers of irritability, anger, and displeasure at being awoken. The lower your sleep debt, the less agitated you’ll feel when woken up against your will.

Keep sleep debt to a minimum, catching up with sleep whenever possible.

If it’s an option, take a nap on a day you were woken early to catch up on lost sleep, although this should be scheduled so you don’t struggle to sleep as usual in the late evening.

Practice Sleep Hygiene

Quality sleep is more important than quantity. It’s better to be woken early from 6.5 hours of restful sleep than to rest for 9 hours in broken increments.

Practice sleep hygiene before to get quality rest. Examples include:

If you practice good sleep hygiene and establish a routine, you’re likelier to enter a deep and unbroken sleep. This increases the likelihood of completing several sleep cycles.

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

Some interruptions to sleep in a shared home are unavoidable. If this is the case, you may need to meet others halfway and adjust your sleep-wake cycle.

While you expect other people to make reasonable adjustments to their behavior, like not playing loud music, a partner or roommate may have no choice but to wake up earlier than you.

If this is the case, and you regularly find yourself angry at being woken up an hour earlier than you would like, amending your lifestyle is the easiest solution.

Go to bed an hour earlier in the evening, and make this new morning hour your expected waking time.

being woken abruptly by someone

Take Deep Breaths

Being unexpectedly roused from sleep, especially slow-wave sleep, leads to an emotional response. This reaction can be managed through mindfulness techniques, notably deep and slow breaths.

When pulled from a restful state, the amygdala will seize control of your brain and body, leading to a fight-or-flight response. While your gut reaction may be to express anger and rage, attempt to take – and hold – a deep breath before you respond.

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience stated that breath control can overpower a rush of cortisol, the stress hormone that floods our bodies during an amygdala hijack.

Rather than surrendering to aggressive impulses, take slow, deep breaths, focusing on this activity.

While the mind concentrates on breathing, it lacks the opportunity to respond to hormonal messages from the brain. After a few seconds, the initial frustration at being woken up will pass.

If you practice this technique numerous times, you’ll find it easier to manage the stress and anger of being roused from sleep suddenly and unexpectedly.

Hydrate Upon Waking

Upon waking, the brain is dehydrated, increasing feelings of confusion and foggy thinking. A dehydrated brain takes longer to adjust to what’s happening.

Keep some water by your bed, and take a drink upon waking, even if it’s not your scheduled time to get up. As well as improving critical thinking, this improves access to the amino acid tryptophan.

According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, tryptophan is directly linked to the release of serotonin, the “happiness hormone.” Drinking water will reduce anger and frustration, replacing them with acceptance.

Nobody likes interrupted sleep, and being pulled from a deep sleep is particularly frustrating.

Take steps to mitigate your mood when this happens so an emotional response to being pulled from sleep doesn’t cause ongoing problems throughout the day.