How does a night owl become an early bird?
March 8, 2009 1:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I finally adjust to a new sleep schedule and start getting things done?

Back in August, my work schedule was changed from 8:30-5 to 6:30-3. I didn't really have much choice in the matter and I assumed that my body would eventually adjust.

I now wake up around 4:30 am, giving me enough time to drowsily check my e-mail, shower, prepare food to eat while driving and commute.

The problem is that, for several years, I've always been the most productive between 9 and 11 pm. Now, to have a chance at even seven hours of sleep a night, I need to get to bed at 9:30.

But I'm not sleepy at 9:30. Or 10:30. Instead, I'm sleepy and lethargic for most of the day, then I finally get a "second wind" right when I should be going to bed. I end up having to choose between accomplishing more tasks (like applying for other jobs) and being intensely sleepy all day or accomplishing nothing and going to bed earlier.

I'm really hoping to find a new job soon. But, in the interim, how do I convince my body that it really wants to be an early riser?
posted by nayrb5 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Would it work to take a long nap - even a 2-3 hour sleep - right after you finish work? We used to do something similar in medieval times.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

How early is your second wind? I find I need to get in bed and be asleep before it hits. Even if that means being in bed really early one night.

The other thing to do is increase your activity level right after work so you're tired earlier.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2009

Power nap for sure. Crash as soon as your shift is over. Then rise later in the evening; do your productive stuff and return to sleep in the early hours.
posted by baggymp at 1:55 PM on March 8, 2009

Stop drinking all caffeinated products. Lower/eliminate your sugar/junk food intake. Exercise. A short nap before dinner (1/2 hour max) may also help.

Save the checking e-mail and all non-getting-ready-for-work activities for after work to shorten the amount of time you require between rolling out of bed and arriving at work, possibly allowing you to sleep in a little longer. You can prepare your food, lay out your clothes for the next day & shower the night before.

I worked the 6am shift for years and could be in the car on my way to work fifteen minutes after rolling out of bed. I rarely went to bed before midnight.
posted by torquemaniac at 1:59 PM on March 8, 2009

No caffeine is a great idea, but no caffeine after lunch might be a good compromise.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2009

Best answer: What worked for me is a light box. I have one of these apollo light boxes (the P1 I think).

I look at it for about 15-30 minutes at full intensity in the morning. The big difference is that I am actually tired at bedtime. It's amazing. Shortly after getting the light box, I was doing a rotation during my last year of pharmacy school at a hospital. I had to be in at 7 am. In January and February. I was predicting it would be a nightmare. But toward the end of the 6 week rotation, someone commented that I was always there on time or early, and always cheerful. I can honestly say no one has ever said that to me before.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:41 PM on March 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the great comments! I'm definitely going to try the nap idea and look into a light box.

I've been pretty good about avoiding caffeine after lunch, but will try it throughout the day as well.
posted by nayrb5 at 7:34 PM on March 8, 2009

I gotta say, my old apartment had these massive vanity lights in the bathroom. I accidentally bought some "blue" white "150W" CFLs that I wound up sticking in there. Bright as hell and really wakes your ass up. I don't know if it will cure morning lethargy, but it did help adjust my eyes faster in the mornings.
posted by pwnguin at 9:31 PM on March 8, 2009

I have a sleep disorder that makes my body think that 2AM is "bedtime." Now, I have to go to bed a LOT earlier than that to get a reasonable amount of sleep for work. Since this is a "disorder," I do take prescription meds to help combat it. However, the two things that have helped the most in re-setting the clock, since all prescription sedatives do is put you to sleep - not really caring about *when* - are #1) taking a small dose of melatonin 1-2hrs *before* bedtime and #2) exposing myself to bright light at wake-up time.

Light boxes are great for this, but my sleep doctor told me that the same effect can be reached for many people simply by turning on all the lights in the house. This is what I do, and it works. My eyes can't necessarily tell the difference between one or two lights on, but my brain certainly can. Full-spectrum bulbs will help with this, the idea being to simulate daylight as much as possible.

Honest to Dog, these two things have helped me achieve a stable sleep schedule such that I fall asleep an hour or two later and get up no more than three hours later than my normal work time on my off-days as opposed to being off by as much as six hours.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:00 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, realistically speaking, you can't if you are a born night owl, as this experiment will tell you. But it has plenty of tips on how she tried her best to convert herself.

You have my sympathies. I was completely messed up after 4 months of working 7-4, if I hadn't gotten laid off from that job I don't know what I would have done.

That said, I pretty much ended up doing Steve Pavlina's method (i.e. go to bed when you are tired and get up when you have to) in order to deal with 8-5, and to some degree it works. I wake up early even when I don't want to now. I still don't get enough sleep and I am still not perky in the mornings, mind you, because 9-11 is my productive time too and I'm way too wound up to go to bed before 11, but I will get up.

Good luck on the job hunting.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:07 PM on March 9, 2009

This has also been an issue for me for as long as I can remember. I never wake up and feel awake. Have you tried setting a bedtime and then no matter what you are doing, stop, so that you can make that bedtime? Maybe get in bed 20 minutes prior to this bedtime, do some body tensing/relaxation exercises and sleep damnit. Hope something helps - and share when you find it!
posted by mokeydraws at 8:58 PM on March 10, 2009

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