Help me wake up!
June 27, 2009 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me get up in mornings!

I freelance, in where I can work anywhere and anytime. This gives me an unstructured life which is making it notoriously difficult for me to get up in the morning.

When I have an early appointment, I would get up within 30 minutes within the appointment despite wanting to wake up earlier so I can prepare for the day. But when I'm left to my own devices, I usually sleep 12-14 hours, and it's driving me crazy.

I usually to go to bed at a reasonable hour (around 11pm), but I end up sleeping into the next day. I'm deaf so I rely on vibrating alarms, but I would just hit the snooze button ad infinitum. I would wake up feeling groggy and depressed that I wasted the better half of my day.

I'm semi-conscious during the process, and I'm vaguely aware that I'm making the choice to sleep in, and when I do, I'd beat myself up for making that "choice" even though I really want to get up early.

This is beginning to interfere with my work and life. As I get paid by the hour, this is making me poor, frustrated and depressed.

It's driving me crazy! Suggestions?
posted by pakoothefakoo to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I'd first make sure there are no physical causes.

If it's just a matter of poor diet making you lethargic, or you're actually sick, then all the will power in the world won't help you. Also make sure that you don't have sleep apnea or some other sleeping disorder -- if you're just plain not sleeping well, you'll feel groggy in the morning.

Then take a look at your sleep habits. You go to bed at 11, but how quickly do you fall asleep? Do you read in bed after you go to bed? Do you wake up in the middle of the night a lot? I know that I always sleep poorly if I've brought my laptop into bed and surfed the web a little before turning off the light - I get caught up in that and end up not acutally going to sleep for an hour or more, even though I've "gone to bed" at 11.

If you find that there is some underlying cause for your sleepiness, you may find you also have more will power to "wake up" in the morning -- because you're not also fighting with your body begging you to get more sleep because it knows you need it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on June 27, 2009

Get yourself a brutal alarm clock. The old-fashioned kind with the bells do nicely. The alarm is loud and sudden and there's no snooze. After a while, your brain will start waking you up before it goes off out of fear.

Once you've gotten yourself the dominatrix of alarm clocks, give yourself a schedule. You're freelancing, which has its perks, but there's no reason you can't get up early and quit by a certain hour like full-timers.
posted by katillathehun at 9:18 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Getting in the habit of actually getting up at the same time every day (which, if you go to bed around 11, would mean... 730-8ish?) is, in my opinion, the hardest part of this - but once you're there, you should be able to sustain it as long as you're strict with yourself both in the morning and evening.

Having a more structured day would actually help. If you don't like to structure your work, that's fine - but even taking the time to write out a schedule, like...

8am-930am - get up/shower/breakfast
930am-X - work

...could help you internalize the fact that you probably *have* to have some sort of structure to work around just to be productive. Seriously, you sound like me, and it took me a while to realize that I have to be in a structured environment. I'm not asking you to change jobs - you can still work unstructured - but it sounds like your life itself might need a few more boundaries.

As for actually adjusting your sleep cycle... well, there's a few things. Sleeping 12-14 hours is what makes you so groggy and depressed, and internalizing the fact that you're not just wasting half the day, but seriously affecting your productivity for the other half, should be a good motivator.

Multiple alarms. Roommates? Get them involved. If you like coffee or tea, get some sort of automatic maker thing so it's ready for you in the morning.

I haven't had my tea yet (err...) but once I do maybe I'll think of some more.
posted by Muffpub at 9:19 AM on June 27, 2009

I frequently sleep about the same amount of time when I don't absolutely have to be up by a certain time. If you're doing it every day, try to determine if there's a reason you're sleeping that long. You say you feel groggy when you wake up - is there a possibility that you may have sleep apnea? Excessive sleep can also be a symptom of depression in and of itself, so that may be worth pursuing.

In the short term, is it possible to set up the vibrating alarm so that the snooze button is somewhere across the room? :-)
posted by CrazyGabby at 9:24 AM on June 27, 2009

On preview, what the others said. :-) And n-thing the need for structure. That's a huge one for me.
posted by CrazyGabby at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2009

For some people (like me), light is an important "wake-up" trigger. If your bedroom is very dark, maybe that's part of the problem. You could try arranging your curtains to let some light into the room in the morning. Another approach, especially if you have to wake up before dawn, is to turn on a lamp near your bed when the alarm goes off. Maybe you could get an alarm that turns a lamp on instead of vibrating? (Bonus points if the light shines directly into your eyes but the switch is across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.)

Also try arranging your day so that the first thing you do in the morning is something fun. Hobby time, bike ride, whatever. A half hour of something enjoyable before the daily grind starts seems to make it much easier to get out of bed.
posted by Quietgal at 9:27 AM on June 27, 2009

Tell us about your sleeping environment. Is it pitch black? Can't see the sunlight in the morning?

I never use an alarm because the sun tells me when it's time to wakey, wakey.
posted by foooooogasm at 9:29 AM on June 27, 2009

Response by poster: My room isn't pitch black, I live in a big city so it's never dark here. I use an eye mask, but it usually falls off by the morning.

I would love go for a walk in the mornings, but the problem is getting myself out of the bed which is near impossible in itself (by myself anyway).

I agree with the need for structure, and I WANT to implement one, but the problem is that I'd go "ok you have a job, you have to be at the "office" (library) by 10 am, if you're late you'll get fired etc. etc.) but I'd just blow past that hour, and well into noon.

I'm gonna look into sleep apnea... and other physical factors.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 9:39 AM on June 27, 2009

Oh, and because someone MeFiMailed me about this - I do realize that the OP is deaf. But the alarm clock in question with bells causes some mighty tremors when it goes off. That was my point, which I suppose wasn't made clear.
posted by katillathehun at 9:54 AM on June 27, 2009

I'm just starting to freelance, and I can already see this is going to be a problem. I'm thinking about signing up for some sort of morning workout class. Knowing other freelancers helps, too. Planning for coffee in the morning with them gets me out of bed and moving.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:00 AM on June 27, 2009

Try not thinking about a schedule implying that "if you're late you'll get fired," but that if you're late you'll be poor.
posted by rhizome at 10:24 AM on June 27, 2009

You might find it helpful to anchor your morning around some kind of event that makes you accountable to someone else to show up on time. A class (academic, gym, or other) could work, as could just making sure to schedule your client meetings at 10am as often as possible. The "somebody else is waiting for me" give you the motivation, and making it at the same time each morning will help your body to get into the habit.
posted by ourobouros at 10:35 AM on June 27, 2009

A little while ago someone else asked about advice for getting an annoying (novelty?) alarm clock to force themself out of bed in the morning instead of constantly mashing the snooze button.

I used to have exactly the same problem. Quoting myself from that thread:
You just have to face up to the fact that you're a pretty smart member of a tool-using species. Regardless of what technical trickery you find to force yourself awake, your sleep-addled morning self will find a way to outsmart it.

As an example, I once had one of those jigsaw alarm clocks. It worked for a month or two, then I discovered that if I slid it across the desk an instant before it went off (it made a tiny noise that I learned to half-wake-up-to), the jigsaw pieces would all bounce off the wall and land back on the clock, letting me reassemble them and turn the damn thing off without even opening my eyes. Then I'd drift back to sleep.

My point is that you're smarter than any alarm clock you're likely to buy. The solution that sounds daft but worked (and still works) startlingly well for me is here.
Thanks to that link, most mornings I find myself upright and halfway to the shower before I fully achieve consciousness. It's all about training yourself into the habit.
posted by metaBugs at 10:39 AM on June 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

IANAD - not even close. But 12-14 hours a day sounds like way too much sleep. About twelve years ago, it turned out that my dad was not a zombie, he just had a bad case of hypothyroidism. I'm not saying this is your issue, but a doctor's appointment should be next on your schedule.

In grad school, I had a lot of work to do on my own time. I made up a rough schedule for each week, breaking all of my tasks into intervals. I realized that telling myself "I'll work on my term paper for 8 hours a day for three days in a row" wasn't cutting it. I would get bored and distracted after a couple of hours. I factored in class time, paper writing time, reading time, and another essential - time off to relax.

I also started going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. I'm no longer crashing by noon, I'm not oversleeping, and I feel pretty damn good.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:46 AM on June 27, 2009

Get a cat and feed it in the morning. No free feeding! Kitty will make sure you get up.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Put the alarm clock as far away from the bed as you can in your bedroom. Make certain it is a loud enough alarm to awaken you every time. Do NOT let yourself go back to bed after you've gotten out of bed to shut off the alarm. Begin a morning routine which demands wakefulness: no pre-setting the coffee pot the night before (if you're a coffee drinker), go immediately to your computer and start checking email, force yourself to cook breakfast rather than just have cereal, shower within 30 minutes of waking up.

If you really want to jolt your brain into wakefulness, get a full-spectrum lamp and set it up in front of your computer to shine somewhat downwards on your face for at least 10 minutes within the first 30 minutes of waking up. This will trigger your thalamus gland into thinking that the sun is shining on your face shortly after dawn, and it will trigger a flood of "start the day" chemicals into your brain.

All of these should be accompanied by going to bed TO SLEEP at least 8 hours before your alarm. Don't go to bed and read, or to play games on your iPhone, or whatever. Reserve lying in bed for sleep or sex, and nothing else. Have some red wine for the first week or so about an hour before bed to help you get snoozy.

It should only take about 2-3 weeks to reset your body's normal clock to this schedule. If you are find that you still cannot adjust after about 6 weeks, you should apply for a sleep study. Chances are you have sleep apnea or some similar malady which is interrupting your cycles during the night.

Best of luck! And sweet dreams!
posted by hippybear at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2009

Try investigating your natural sleep cycles. You have periods in the morning when you're in a Stage 1 or 2 sleep and can get up easily. If you ever wake up naturally at an earlier hour, resist the urge to go back to sleep just because you don't need to get up yet. The risk you run is falling back into a deep sleep and finding it harder to wake up when the alarm goes off.

There are products (albeit, expensive) that help monitor sleep cycles and recommend a good wakeup time for you.

Ayurvedic thought also has some recommendations regarding sleep cycles for different body types.
posted by jclark79 at 12:07 PM on June 27, 2009

Have you tried "telling" yourself what time to wake up? I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's the only thing that works for me. When I'm climbing into bed, I set the alarm and have an inner dialogue: "It's 11:23 pm, I need to wake up at 8am, that's 8 hours 37 minutes of sleep. I need to wake up at 8am...etc." I think it's probably something akin to the method metaBugs linked to in that it tags in the subconscious mind somehow. Sounds implausible, I know, but when I do this I usually wake up 1 or 2 minutes before the alarm goes off, shockingly alert and amused that the method worked.
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I walk every morning for about an hour. I found it hard when I first started it, but now I just roll out of bed and out of the house before I have much time to think about it. When I first started I lived down the road from a coffee place, so that was an incentive. I'd get it with a straw, makes it easier to sip while I walk. Now there's no cofffee place so I take enough time to gulp down a cup of coffee. Maybe you could get one of those coffee pots with a timer so that the smell of the coffee would waft your way and entice you out of bed. If you don't drink coffee you could use the pot to brew some strong smelling tea.
posted by mareli at 1:37 PM on June 27, 2009

Get a paper shredder and an outlet timer switch.
Plug the shredder into the switch and set the timer for 1 minute after the time your alarm goes off.
Slide a twenty dollar bill into the opening of the shredder.
Get up before the timer does.

If that doesn't work, try sticking the edge of your bed sheet into the shredder.
posted by orme at 3:25 PM on June 27, 2009 [12 favorites]

Are you sleeping so much because you are tired and require that much sleep? To me, it sounds like the problem is simply a mix of lacking structure and enjoying sleep.

Starting with the trouble getting out of bed: Do you have trouble getting yourself out the door in general? For instance, let's say you're awake and out of bed, let's say it's afternoon or early evening so you've been awake for a while. You have a business or social meeting in 90 minutes, and you know it'll take 20-30 minutes to get there. Do you find that you leave at the last possible minute, or later? You spend the time in between tinkering with things, reading metafilter, etc. Fully knowing that you should be getting ready to go, but you just can't seem to do it? Do you procrastinate getting things done, or have a hard time getting started on your day, settling down to work? If some/all of these things sound familiar, your problem might be more about lack of discipline/focus, laziness (couldn't think of a less loaded synonym), procrastination or even ADD (not a possibility on its own, only if you also have other ADD symptoms, remember not all ADD is ADHD), and have less to do with sleepiness or sleep requirements. If these things sound familiar, look for previous askme questions about self discipline or getting over procrastination and apply the tips to all aspects of your life.

Enjoying sleep: Do you go to sleep at 11 because you are exhausted and ready to sleep, or is it just a reasonable bedtime? If you do wake up early, do you drag yourself through the day? If you feel fine - or even better - when you wake up early, then this is probably just luxury sleeping. Warm comfy bed, don't want to start the day sort of sleeping. If this is the case, there's really no easy solution. No special alarm clock, nothing like that. You simply just have to force yourself into the routine of getting up. Don't make elaborate "must get to the library by 10, if not I'll fire myself" plans, it's not going to help. You just have to FORCE yourself to be more disciplined. Keep it real, when you reach for the snooze, remind yourself that it's a self-indulgence you literally can't afford, you're going to have to get up at some point, so it might as well be now. Remind yourself that there's no physical limitation stopping you, your alarm clock is fine, there is no external limitation preventing you from getting out of bed at the hour of your choice, the problem is you and you need to get out of bed. Of course I don't mean these things harshly, I mean that this is the way you need to think in order to try to establish some self discipline.

I used to be like you. I was always getting in trouble at school or work for being late. I always wondered how people managed to get out of bed in the morning. It was a seriously painful process for me. I hated it so much, the idea of getting up early (or what is on time for most people) depressed me. When I watched tv/movies and saw families who got up, ate breakfast together, read the paper and relaxed before leaving. They might as well have been unicorns instead of humans because their mornings were nothing like mine, which consisted of hitting snooze and not getting out of bed till the time I should have been getting in to the car, racing from bed to the shower, pulling on clothes while headed to the door, blasting the car AC to try to dry dripping-wet hair, getting to work, dashing to my office while people notice me (see, I'm here, right at the stroke of 8) but quickly enough so they don't look at me before I've had time to close my office door and put on the makeup I didn't have time to do at home. Once, I was so mentally scattered from racing around, I didn't realize that I didn't change out of my flip flops (i hate being barefooted with slightly damp feet after a shower) and into my heels. My lateness caused me to spend the day in a suit and flipflops. You'd think that would have taught me a lesson, but no.

I learned to get up early when I started freelancing. Frustration, stress, unsteady stream of income and all sorts of things helped. If I didn't have enough projects going on, sleeping late made me feel like a complete slacker-loser. Another thing that helped was that I no longer set an alarm clock. With no alarm/snooze process going on, I'd just wake up naturally, which was a weird discovery after a lifetime of oversleeping and not being able to drag myself out of bed. Now, unless I took sleeping pills really late the night before, I can't sleep past 7:30 if I tried. Not even on weekends.

If none of these suggestions, or other people's suggestions work, consider shifting your schedule if your work will support it. Work from 12 - 8 or something, and then you can stop beating yourself up about sleeping late.
posted by necessitas at 4:17 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, another suggestion to force yourself to get up: before you go to sleep, put a bottle of watter or gatorade and crackers/breakfast bar/pop tart/whatever by your bed. When your alarm goes off the first time, force yourself to sit up and drink the water and eat a granola bar (or whatever). I know, crumbs in bed are nasty, but drastic times/drastic measures. To silence your sleepy id, tell yourself that you can go back to sleep if you want to after you're done with the bottle of water and snack. I guarantee that you'll lose interest in going back to sleep after you eat. Not because you ate, but by the time you're done, you'll be awake.
posted by necessitas at 4:22 PM on June 27, 2009

I second a light on a timer. When I have problems with waking up in the morning, unless I've stayed up later than usual, it's in the winter. Summer dawn usually wakes me up. I am hard of hearing and take out my hearing aids to sleep, so I understand problems with hearing alarm clocks.

I'd also love to hear of any really vicious alarm clocks that pinch or shock you (besides the four-legged, furry version).
posted by bad grammar at 4:39 PM on June 27, 2009

If you REQUIRE 12-14 hours of sleep at night, this sounds like sleeping disorder territory to me. Especially since I had a roommate who sounded a lot like you on the "canNOT wake up, needs 12 hours" scale. Get thee to a doctor?

Though really, if you freelance and DO need this much sleep, well, you've got the ideal way to handle it. Or if you are definitely going to sleep 12 hours no matter what, go to bed earlier?
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on June 27, 2009

I have the same problem. I've also lived in hotels for most of the last three years, changing hotels every couple of weeks. I've found that when I have a South or East facing window (I'm in the Northern Hemisphere), and I leave its curtains open, I get up much earlier and with much less effort.
posted by orthogonality at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2009

I've been battling the exact same problem, and I've had some success. You want to Google "sleep hygiene".

Others are right—you might be depressed, or eating poorly, or whatever. Lots of things can interefere with sleep. But sometimes it's as simple as conditioning your body to respond to appropriate "fall asleep" and "wake up" stimuli.

Here's what has worked for me:
  • No caffeine after noon
  • Bedroom as dark as possible
  • Dim lighting only for the hour or so prior to bed
  • Set the alarm for the same (early) time every morning
  • Bed is for sleeping and sex only—no television, dorking around on the laptop, etc.
  • Less alcohol
I've also experimented with the temperature of my bedroom, and found that I sleep better with things on the cooler side (as in, almost cold). YMMV.

For me, it becomes a self-reinforcing pattern: once I've gotten up on time a couple of days in a row, it's infinitely easier to get up on the third and fourth and fifth days. And I get so much more done, and feel so much better about myself, so I sleep even better and have that much more motivation to get out of bed in the mornings.

I recently read something that talked about practicing getting up. In the middle of the day, set your alarm for 10–20 minutes in the future, and lay down on your bed as if you're going to sleep. When the alarm goes off, get up. You're training your body to associate that stimulus, in that environment, with a specific reaction: getting out of bed and standing up. Makes sense, and it's certainly work a shot.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:24 PM on June 27, 2009

Force yourself to work somewhere - not at home - at a certain time. And make yourself get up for that time and go there. Maybe find a coffee shop where a nice barista works shifts that start at 9am. That way you'll have a reason to go there to do your work and become a regular.

This might sound like the opposite of what you want, but it might work: Start exercising in the morning, and in order to do that and get into a routine start waking up earlier. If in the back of your half-asleep half-conscious mind you know you have to get up, and not just for work, you might actually get up. Plan your workouts for say, 8-9am. Once you force yourself to wake up for a few days in a row at that time, you'll get used to it more and will find yourself not hitting snooze constantly and your body will get used to waking up the first time your hear/feel the alarm. It just takes a few days to get into the routine but after that it won't be such a big deal waking up early. It's just that you might need a push to wake up that early, and if work won't do it then maybe exercise will.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:25 PM on June 27, 2009

Oh, and seconding exercise. I have terrible exercise discipline myself, but it really does make your sleep patterns 200% better.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:29 PM on June 27, 2009

I'm severely hard of hearing. I use a vibrating alarm clock. I have the advantage of a partner that will get annoyed if I don't turn it off though. I can totally relate to waking up w/light. That is why, when I get away from my partner, I turn lights on and down some coffee. It takes me a while, but I do it.
posted by Librarygeek at 12:28 AM on June 28, 2009

Make yourself go somewhere -- it is the only good answer I can think of. I am unemployed but I still get up at 5.30 everyday to go to swim practice.
posted by dame at 4:00 AM on June 28, 2009

First, I would rule out medical causes of sleeping 12-14 hours. If it turns out that you have no underlying medical issues and don't actually need that much sleep, then work on getting up.

Personally, I find having my cell phone alarm set, and putting my cellphone across the room - ideally somewhere mildly difficult to get at - very helpful. By the time I've gotten out of bed, found the damn phone, and turned it off, I'm usually awake enough to stay away (I go back to bed maybe 10% of the time). I'm not sure how well that will work with a vibrating alarm, though.

Another strategy is to have multiple alarm clocks set to go off repeatedly. Like, your first alarm goes off at 7:00, you hit snooze. Second one goes off at 7:01, you hit snooze. Repeat - if you get woken up that frequently, you'll probably be annoyed enough to just get up.

I've heard some people wake up, take a caffeine pill, hit snooze and go back to sleep. By the time the alarm goes off again, the caffeine has kicked in and they're more awake. Haven't tried this myself.

It's really tough to start getting up earlier, but once you do, the habit is relatively easy to maintain.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:40 AM on June 28, 2009

My wife find the same thing as Quietgal - light helps her wake up.I got her one of these and she finds it helps. When the light is on full, next to the bed, it's surprisingly bright!
posted by monster max at 3:16 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

if you've exhausted all good advice in this thread, you can try this
posted by askmehow at 7:56 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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