I'm currently on a break from college until it starts back up in February and I must say, this is fucking up my sleep cycle. Today i woke up at 12, with the intention of waking up at 7. Yeah, that is rather early but there just needs to be more daylight hours in a persons day.
Now, i do set my alarm every night, for 7. But when i wake up, it isn't unusual for me to have either slept through it, turned it off or even have switched it to 'pm'. All subconsciously too, even if i put my phone (alarm) across the room i might wake up with a slim memory of flinging myself across the place to grab it but nothing in great detail.I do, on occasion wake up naturally. Still a bit tired, but usually earlier than my intended rise. Annoyingly this is never convenient. I've done some research about sleep and have learnt a few things.
1. What you need is REM sleep.
The state of Rapid Eye Movement is when the brain and your body are really recovering. Unluckily this state takes a good deal of time (90 minutes, from memory) and if you are woken from this or near to this stage, you wake with the shitty feeling that sends you (and me) straight back under the covers.
2. REM sleep comes in waves.
You basically want to be woken up at the opposite end of the dip into REM sleep. This i believe is that feeling of waking up totally naturally, an alarm ten minutes to or from this point is probably best.
3. Electronic screens before bed is BAD.
So is food in general and any other strenuous activity. I agree since i had a stint where i read before bed and it helped quite a bit but since i got my android phone that schedule is out the window.
4. Schedule is key.
Aim to go to bed at a certain time, and have the lights off and your eyes closed (No playing Tiny Tower or Checking twitter on your phone). Pick a decent time to wake up. What i learnt from back in my secondary school days is that if you keep getting yourself out of bed at the same time everyday, your body will anticipate this and make you tired at the right time at night. Doing what your body tells you to do is nearly always the way to go.
That's all i can really think of in regards to sleep. But i'd probably think of more after a more defined nights sleep.
Oh and check out this website for a little more detail on sleep cycles and when to wake up.