Help me make better decisions in the morning
November 1, 2008 10:14 AM   Subscribe

How do I make better decisions in the morning?

I hate waking up early in the morning, and because of this I end up screwing up a lot of things when getting out of bed. Some examples of stupid decisions taken just so I could sleep a bit longer: missing classes and exams, medical appointments, not going to the gym, missing (many) flights, not answering important phone calls, and the list is very long.

I seem not to have good judgment when deciding whether or not to get out of bed. How can I improve that?
posted by dcrocha to Science & Nature (37 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Go to bed earlier.
posted by devbrain at 10:19 AM on November 1, 2008

How's your judgment about when to go to bed?
posted by amtho at 10:20 AM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: I have always been a night person, my judgment is usually best mid-late afternoon, evening and night up to 3am.
posted by dcrocha at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2008

Get more sleep.
posted by box at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2008

Alternately, stop scheduling classes, appointments, flights, etc., for early in the morning.
posted by box at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @box

The problem is when those are scheduled for me... I travel a lot and usually flights are in the morning, or else I won't reach my destination (usually U.S. and Europe) on a convenient time.
posted by dcrocha at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2008

I am a night person too by inclination, but you need to go to bed earlier if you intend to meet obligations.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Give yourself a really good reason to get out of bed, such as having to pee. Drink a large glass or two of water right before going to bed.

You can also adopt a cat whom has taken to wanting its breakfast in the morning, and let it roam around your sleeping area. My cats make excellent alarm clocks. This solution creates its own set of problems though.
posted by kellyblah at 10:35 AM on November 1, 2008

I've been a night person because of work: By staying up it felt like I had more free time than I really did. It worked, in a way.

Thing is, if you do this you'll be miserable. Go to bed earlier!
posted by dunkadunc at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: Oh, get out of my life, dcrocha.

I can talk myself into or out of anything while in bed, if it means an extra 30 mins of sleep. ("I don't need a shower today. That person can wait. If I skip wearing socks I can sleep one extra minute.") And it doesn't seem to matter how much or little I have slept, either. I am also a night person and pretty useless for the first four or five hours of any day, no matter how well-rested. People I work with have learned to just wait me out: I'm not morning-bitchy, it's just that my brain really isn't in gear yet. And my judgment sucks, too. People ask for my opinion on something, I tell them, and then four hours later I have to find them and say "Wait, wait, I wasn't thinking yet, here's a better idea..."

I fly a lot too, couple times a month at least. I never sleep before a flight, because the morning is too hard on me. So I stay up the night before and sleep on the plane, every time. Might not work for everyone, of course, but it turns NY-LA into a 20 minute flight.

When I must get up, I use a few tricks: Very loud alarm clock in the next room so that I have to stand up and walk a little to get there. A coffee-maker on a timer so that the smell of "morning" inspires me to move. In hotels, three wake up calls 20 mins apart.

I knew a guy a few years ago with this problem and a very nerdy solution. He actually set up some kind of elaborate auto-payment from his bank account (Paypal? I forget) that would take $50 (I think) out of his bank account and transfer it to some other account that he could not reach... his uncle's, I think. Every day he had to get up and cancel it by 10am or he'd automatically pay the "penalty" fee.

I doubt that would work for me (I just know I'd be in bed thinking "pffft, fifty bucks" and then later regret it, over and over again), but I had to admit it was pretty creative.

Outsmarting your own big brain is hard.
posted by rokusan at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2008 [18 favorites]

Best answer: I think I can relate. My brain doesn't work well in the morning either: I forget things people tell me while I'm waking up sometimes, and I frequently can't remember why I thought it was important to be up at a specific time the night before, and so I'll sleep longer than I should.

Maybe you need some kind of reminder in the morning that isn't just an alarm but an explanation about why you need to get up and at 'em. Maybe before you go to bed, tape a 3x5 card with a list of things to do to the alarm clock. Maybe record yourself telling you what you need to do and set up a computer or tape player to spit it out at the given time. If you check email or facebook or something first thing in the morning, message yourself there. Anything that can re-orient you on what you knew was important when your brain was working better sounds like it could help.
posted by weston at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you're consistently not getting enough sleep, you can condition yourself to nap in the early evening. This may help you make more rational decisions, because your brain will be functioning better in general. It won't make your bed any less comfortable, though.

I do find that if I make up my mind before I go to bed that I am getting up on time, and that time is X o'clock, I find the alarm to be less of a shock. Not whooo! face the day ready!! but not TIME, SHE IS FUCKING WITH ME either.

If missing things with serious consequences financial or otherwise, like flights and exams, doesn't convince you to suck it up and get out of bed, I don't know what will. I'm a night person too, I HATE getting up in the morning, I have certainly rationalized myself into lateness for sundry things, but I can't imagine sleepily deciding to go ahead and miss a flight.
posted by desuetude at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2008

I seem not to have good judgment when deciding whether or not to get out of bed. How can I improve that?

Decide the previous night and then stick with it. Cut down on the number of things in the morning—if you have trouble with it, then it's probably not the best time to go to the gym. Schedule your medical appointments in the afternoon. The phone shouldn't be waking you up unless you are on call 24 hours. If there is the chance of an important phone call in the morning then you should be awake by that time, or convince the callers to call you at some other time.

You need to decide when you are going to bed, too. I think 3 a.m. is a great time to go to bed, if your first activity of the next day is at noon. Otherwise, something needs to change.

I have a sunrise alarm clock which means that it is easier to get up. It also has a sunset feature which makes it easier to go to sleep. At the appointed time I read in bed as the light dims and I get sleepy.

If I feel there is any chance I might decide to sleep in or fail to wake up, then I set multiple alarm clocks, on different sides of the room, ten minutes after each other. It gets pretty hard to ignore.
posted by grouse at 10:45 AM on November 1, 2008

Nthing if you're not getting enough sleep, that's the first thing to remedy. Try getting a solid eight hours.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule - go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. I've successfully trained myself into an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule this way. Limit caffeine to lunchtime or earlier, and don't eat a big heavy meal close to your bedtime (leave at least 2 hours between dinner and bed).

Finally, if you go to bed early and still have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning even with incentives, yes, you may be a biological "night owl" but you may also have a sleep disorder that is preventing you from getting quality sleep. People have gone undiagnosed for a looooooong time with sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome if there is no bed partner to complain about one's snoring, or kicking. Look into a sleep test, especially if you've heard complaints that you snore like a bear or kick like a kangaroo.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: What you're talking about has to be a personality change before it can be a lifestyle change. I was exactly the same way as you- hated getting up early, considered myself a night person, etc- but making a major commitment to school and having 9am classes every day made me realize that I had to actually start learning to enjoy getting up early in order to be successful. In short, you can't just train yourself to live with getting up early, you have to actually learn to enjoy it.

I know this sound ridiculous, perhaps impossible, but once you get on the morning routine schedule you'll really enjoy it. Getting up early feels good, I really feel like I get more done in a day now. What I've found is that the "night person" mentality is more about habit than your actual personality-- once you get used to getting up early, you'll find that you no longer desire to stay up late, preferring to get some good sleep so you can enjoy that 7am cup of coffee.

The greatest thing about being an early riser is not having to feel rushed when you have an early appointment. If you're up at 7 every day because you enjoy it (and at some point it just becomes habitual- I can't sleep past 8am anymore), then having to be somewhere at 8:30 or 9 isn't something you have to have to fight against yourself to accomplish, because you're already awake and ready to go. Have to be somewhere really early? Not a big deal, you're just getting up an hour earlier, as opposed to 3 or 4 hours early, which is a real drag.

If you really want to make it easy on yourself to make these kind of morning commitments easy to maintain, you have to make the morning routine part of your lifestyle. The best way to get acclimated is just to start getting up at 7 (or whenever) every morning, no matter what. This means that you're going to lose sleep for a week or two, because if you're used to going to bed at 2am every night there's no way you can just make yourself fall asleep by 10:30 or 11. By forcing yourself to go into sleep deprivation, your body is eventually going to run out of steam midweek and you're going to have to start going to sleep earlier. It's kind of a mean thing to do to yourself, but once you've adjusted to it you'll sleep better, feel more productive, and not have to rush to make those early commitments.
posted by baphomet at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I can't get up early either. I don't so much make bad decisions as I have a Bad Personality and make bad decisions as a result of that. It took me a long time to get my life to the point where this was not a really terrible problem for me and the solution was a combination of strategies for getting out of bed combined with moving heaven and earth to make it so that I didn't HAVE to get out of bed. So...

- I fly all the time and I fly the night before so that I arrive at my destination the next day. Takes a day out of my life but that beats getting fired because I couldn't or wouldn't get up, I think. Sometimes I do what rokusan does and schedule really early flights and stay up. I fly red eye flights a lot and tend to enjoy them. Getting home and going to sleep exhausted at 8-9 pm is a rare sublime pleasure for me
- I go to the gym mid-day. I had to be honest with myself and say that if I was serious about going to the gym I couldnt' schedule it for the morning. Similar with classes, similar with doctor's appointments. You have to be honest with yourself and if it's truly a case where you CAN'T get up and do it, you have to rework your life.
- drugs. there are some times when you can't rework your life, for these times there are drugs. I will either have a few beers or Ativan or a few benadryls and put myself in bed at 10 pm on the rare rare occasion when I need to be somplace early. it's very hard for me to sleep longer than 10-11 hours if I'm not sick and if this is the only way I'll get out of bed, then so be it.
- Develop night time and morning routines that you actually like and look forward to. If you're a coffee drinker have a coffee maker alarm clock so smelling coffee actually gets you up and drinking it. Have a buddy you IM with in the morning, or a walk to get the paper. Learn to associate the start of your day with something GOOD, not with a bunch of tasks or, worse, yet, missed appointments. Similarly, if you have something you like to do right before going to sleep, you can condition yourself to do that a little earlier and then your body's "it's bedtime now" trigger will be set off and you may find yourself being able to sleep earlier.

Basically I get up now in the range of 9-10 am, but the big deal is that six days out of seven I don't have to do anything until noon (except check in to MeFi which again, is a routine in the morning that I actually enjoy) and so I am free to have my morning the way I want to have it. When I travel I've gotten to the point where I can pretty much insist that I don't have "work" to do before 11 am but I had years and years of suffering before I got to the point where this was something I could reasonably request and receive. Utimately though getting out of bed is worth it if what you have to do after getting out of bed is better than what you can do while in bed, so make sure you're sleeping well, are not depressed or avoiding things and turn on some lights and shuck off the covers as soon as you get up. Good luck, the solution may be a while coming but I believe it's possible.
posted by jessamyn at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2008

As baphomet says, despite being a night person myself, there's nothing better than when I luck out (changing time zones, weird previous night, something) and end up waking up at 4am. That gives me my usual 3-4 hour "wake up time" and then I'm rarin' to go at 8 or 9am like normal people.

Sometimes I manage to keep a schedule like that (by accident, not design) for awhile. It means falling asleep at 9 or 10pm, but I usually have a productive week or so before slowly sliding again.

Your problems may be different, but understand I'm from a planet with 27.5 hour days, though, and so my pattern just does not fit into 24 hour chunks easily. If left to my own "natural" cycle, my sleep and wake times creep forward by 3-4 hours per day, indefinitely.

I use various multiphasic tricks, none with any great discipline, to shoehorn myself into Earth time. You might try some of those: a lunchtime nap, waking at midnight and making 5pm the END of your day, and so on.
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are you reflexively smacking your alarm clock's snooze button? If so, maybe you need to get an alarm clock that will force you to obey its get-out-of-bed command: a mobile alarm clock or a flying alarm clock.
posted by CKmtl at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2008

get a coffeemaker with a timer?
posted by paultopia at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2008

Response by poster: @paultopia

I don't drink coffee...
posted by dcrocha at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2008

The problem is when those are scheduled for me... I travel a lot and usually flights are in the morning, or else I won't reach my destination (usually U.S. and Europe) on a convenient time.

I think you, rokusan, and I could be from the same team. rokusan already said it, but yes - turn those fucky early morning actions into late night actions. Any flight earlier than about 10am becomes the last thing in the day I do (the day before). Always time to sleep on the plane.

Going to bed early is impossible for me, but computer games / Internet until 7, just in time to leave fo rthe airport, is a special treat. Be good to yourself, dcrocha.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:46 AM on November 1, 2008

I don't drink coffee...

There's your problem right there.
posted by zadcat at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

2-3 alarm clocks on opposite sides of the room set for a minute apart each? slightly less tempting to go back to bed once you've gotten up to turn them off. especially if they go off a minute apart each, you'll probably just stay awake and out of bed instead of going back to bed for 45 mins. after 3 mins of being awake, less tempting to go back to bed.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 12:55 PM on November 1, 2008

Best answer: Okay I don't think anyone has said this one yet, but it's the best one. I promise. I am the type of person who will snooze the alarm 3-4 times before I actually get up, and sometimes even turn the alarm off and end up missing things because of it.

The secret to not doing this is to practice getting up.

I'll summarize.

Sometime when you've got a few minutes, set up your sleeping area in exactly the way it will be set up when you go to sleep. Precision is important here, you want to try to replicate this exact setup do your room every time you go to bed. Set your alarm for 2 minutes into the future, climb into bed, assume your natural sleeping position, and wait for the alarm.

Everything you do here is important. Be very deliberate in your movements and the things you choose to do. Where you set your alarm, everything.

When the alarm goes off, pop right up out of bed (it's easy, you're not sleeping), and do something purposeful. I like to go to the window, open the blinds, take a deep breath, and smile. Then I walk straight to the bathroom.

So you have your morning routine decided? Okay, now do this routine, complete with setting the alarm and climbing in bed for 2 minutes, 5 more times. Exactly. The. Same. Way. Exactly.

Do this on 3 or 4 consecutive days, and then when you go to sleep, do exactly the same things you practiced doing. In the morning, I swear to FSM, it will be like a miracle. You'll pop out of bed, do your routine, and be out of your bedroom before you even know it. It really works, I swear by it.

Steve Pavlina came up with this idea, and it's all about training yourself to automatically respond to the alarm, because your morning self cannot be trusted to make good decisions. You know this fact, it's why you posted this question. Try it out.
posted by zhivota at 2:23 PM on November 1, 2008 [18 favorites]

I've been there too. I've really screwed myself over this way on several occasions and slightly screwed myself over countless times. It's beyond just opting for sleep. Sometimes my brain still functions like I'm dreaming. (I've done "math" with the numbers on the clock to "prove" to myself that I didn't need to get up yet.)

Being aware of how your brain works when you sleep can be helpful. The brain cycles through deep and shallow sleep periods (roughly once every 45 minutes, if I remember correctly), and I think this explains why sometimes it's so much harder to wake up than at other times. I've learned to identify when I wake up (even just for a few seconds) in one of these shallow periods because I'm thinking more clearly, and the thought of getting out of bed isn't quite as mortally terrifying as it is at other times (though it's still unpleasant). If I can remember a dream coming to a gradual end (as opposed to a sudden jarring by an alarm or other outside influence) as I wake up, then it's definitely going to be easier to get up. I make a point of checking the clock (really huge numbers because I'm mostly blind without my glasses; still need to lean over and squint, but it helps) whenever I wake up (especially if it's at a natural shallow stage), and if I've got less than 45 minutes before the alarm's going to go off, I try to get up. However painful it is, it'll only be harder to do it if I try to do it in the middle of the deep part of the cycle.

Sometimes I get myself out of bed to start getting ready by arguing that I can always go back to bed for a few minutes once I've brushed my teeth, put on most of my clothes, whatever. By the time I've carried out the action, I usually decide not to go back to bed anyway. But as long as the option's there (don't let yourself do this if you turn off the alarm clock and don't reset before going back), it's not so painful to get up.

I've had three alarm clocks, including one hidden under my dresser before, and it never helped me with the snoozing problem. Sharing a bed with someone who gets up some time after you is extremely effective, but not always an option. In any case, if by using any trick at all, you can get into the habit of not using the snooze button (or even using it a small, fixed number of times), it becomes much easier once the trick is no longer in effect.
posted by ErWenn at 2:31 PM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Perhaps the actual getting-out-of-bed part would be easier if your alarm clock ran away from you beeping. Chasing appliances first thing in the morning might be annoying, but it will get you out of bed.
posted by workerant at 3:51 PM on November 1, 2008

I have this problem too. It takes me 30 minutes to an hour to wake up enough to be able to minimally function. What has worked the best for me was to train myself to wake up at a pre set time. So if I go to bed at 11 and have to get up at 7, I envision waking up at that time. 90% of the time I will start to wake up 10-15 minutes before the alarm goes off and be alert enough to hear it.

Setting numerous alarms won't help, I can sleep through a fire alarm no problem. But having a single alarm that I know and sub consciously listen for works well. I use my cell so I can take it to hotels etc with me.

I also find that the worst time for me is about 6-9am. I can get up at 5 or 5:30 OK and after 9 OK too. So sometimes I will get up earlier than I have to to hit that sweet spot.

And most importantly I try very hard not to schedule anything for early morning. I am more likely to sprout wings and learn to fly than to make it to the gym before work. I stay up all night before morning flights etc..
posted by fshgrl at 4:54 PM on November 1, 2008

I don't wake up. I merely move about and do the things that I have practiced. I can walk dogs without actually being awake.

If you see me on the evening news, having killed someone, if they died before 10 a.m. odds are that they messed with my morning program and had to die.

Seriously, I put out my clothes, I get all my stuff ready, if library books need to be returned or whatever they are in my backpack. If I could have a Wallace machine to put me in my clothes, I would.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:58 PM on November 1, 2008

zhivota's method is brillliance on a stick.

Personally, I use my phone with three alarm times set, a glass of water and modafinil pill beside my bed, and a cat. At 5am the first alarm rouses me, I fumble for the pill, swallow it with the water, and immediately go back to sleep. At 6am the second alarm briefly rouses me and I switch it off. Between 6am and 7am the cat attempts to wake me. At 7am, the alarm goes off and I get up, feed the cat, and stagger to the bathroom.

The modafinil helps a hell of a lot; it's prescribed for a medical condition that amounts to a near-constant desire to sleep (but which falls short of actually falling asleep ala narcolepsy). You may actually have a medical problem of some kind yourself. Difficulty waking is associated with a variety of sleep conditions. Apnoea is by far the most common of these, and if you snore and/or are overweight, I'd be pretty much certain that you are suffering from it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:34 PM on November 1, 2008

Discipline. It's difficult.

Go to bed early. Get up early. It's just that simple.

As a younger man, I was a vampire. Stay up all night, never get a job, life was perfect.

The first real job I got, I was terrified I wouldn't be able to get up in time to be on time.

Turns out, all you gotta do is maintain a schedule.

Discipline. It's difficult. Give it a try.
posted by valkane at 7:08 PM on November 1, 2008

Dude, listen to zhivota. The Pavlina method -all his other batshitinsanity notwithstanding- works incredibly well.
posted by Cobalt at 9:04 PM on November 1, 2008

You are making a conscious decision to sleep instead of attend class, take a flight etc etc. I think this is a matter of respect - you need to ask yourself what you really value in life and then you will want to get up and do it.
posted by micklaw at 10:21 PM on November 1, 2008

Are you staying hydrated enough? Are you eating enough in the evening to get you through to the morning? I don't have this exact problem, but I do have the tendency to get very irrational when my blood sugar drops, I haven't had enough protein to eat or I get dehydrated. Same when I'm ill. I would try eating some protein before bed and making sure you've had plenty of water before bed and keep a big glass next to your bed. This may or may not be a problem, but it's something to watch for.
posted by whoaali at 11:32 PM on November 1, 2008

micklaw You are making a conscious decision to sleep instead of attend class, take a flight etc etc.
I disagree, and I present as evidence the very fact that the question is asked here, and commonly arises in people's lives. At best, it's a semiconscious decision. Human beings make very, very few "conscious decisions" in the sense you imply. We ride around on a lumbering mule, constantly searching for new carrots and sticks to direct it, constantly dealing with the ongoing effects from consumption of previous carrots and whacking with previous sticks.

then you will want to get up and do it.
However in this you are spot-on: making yourself want to do it will control your subconscious. It's far easier to get up for some good reason, than against lovely, warm, comfortable sleep.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

You are making a conscious decision to sleep instead of attend class, take a flight etc etc.

He probably isn't. I can't even walk a straight line in the mornings (literally), I can't drive a car until I've been up for 30 minutes to an hour. I am not even remotely mentally competent at 7am. It's like being drunk or something.
posted by fshgrl at 6:43 PM on November 2, 2008

Response by poster: @micklaw

I asked the question here because of the fact that I can't think clearly in the morning. This is explicitly stated in my question. It's not a conscious decision, it's semiconscious, therefore my objective is not to let my judgment be affected in the morning anymore, as it's being today.
posted by dcrocha at 6:35 AM on November 3, 2008

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

A doctor can give you a diagnosis and help with a sleep routine and medications to readjust your sleep cycle. You should locate a neurologist who specializes in sleep. IANAD.

Though I'll admit that the best cure is a small child who wakes up every morning at 7 am. That gets me out of bed and up to a level of minimal functioning so that I can stay awake till the caffeine kicks in.
posted by AuntLisa at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2008

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