How do you get to bed on time?
January 8, 2005 7:19 PM   Subscribe

How do you get to bed on time? [MI]

In order to get to work on time (Mon-Fri), I need to get up at 7:30am. And, ideally, I believe that adults are supposed to get 8 hours sleep a night, which would mean going to bed at 11:30am. But, supposing that I could get by with 7 hours sleep -- yeah, you can see that I'm rationalizing already -- that would be 12:30am. So, each night, I intend to get to bed by around 12:30 but I procrastinate and it usually ends up being 1:00 or sometimes 1:30 before I get to bed. Needless to say, I'm pretty tired by the end of the week. Does anyone have any strategies for getting to bed when he/she intends to? And, as a related question, is that 8-hours thing an old wives tale or do you find yourself feeling well-rested with less/more than that?
posted by Handcoding to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I do not think 8 hours is an old wives tale, because personally, it's the bare minimum I can get without being an absolute nightmare the next day. I do know a lot of people who get by on a lot less, so YMMV. I try to give myself 9 hours of "sleep" time when I can, but I've had a lot of the same problems as you with procrastinating bedtime.

The only way I can get to sleep on time is to have a set routine. I know it takes me 45 minutes to do everything I have to do to get ready for bed, so since I strive to be in bed by 10:30, I start to get ready for bed at 9:30 every night, and then read or watch tv in bed for 15 minutes. If I let myself ignore my nighttime routine at 9:30, then I usually stay up at least until midnight. In general, I use timers (like the kitchen timer) a lot when I'm doing something that can cause me to lose track of time - because I lose track of time very easily when I'm engrossed in something.
posted by tastybrains at 7:26 PM on January 8, 2005

I find a "white noise" machine helps, and occasionally a couple of beers.

And to give myself some more time in the morning I eat before bed and skip breakfast, that whole idea that it puts on weight is an old wives tale.
posted by bobo123 at 7:32 PM on January 8, 2005

Don't knock napping. Short, shallow naps can work wonders; you can train yourself to do them.

There are also nutritional supplements you can get into that reduce need for sleep, but the ones I've experimented with have some unpleasant side-effects, so I wouldn't recommend going there.

As for the 8-hour thing, it kind of is and kind of isn't. "8 hours" dates back to an old observation from pre-Socratic greek medicine, that we spend "a third" of our lives in sleep. So it was probably a well-established average truth. But my parents tell me that their doctors tell them it's quite normal to need no more than about 6 or even 5 once you pass into middle age; and if you're in good physical condition, you'll need somewhat less.

Oh, and I wouldn't recommend meditating before you sleep. If you're doing it right, it will leave you WIDE AWAKE... I used to find it a great way to wake up in the morning, though. Back in my pre-coffee days. You know, ancient history...
posted by lodurr at 7:35 PM on January 8, 2005

... should have caught this on preview, but alcohol as a sleep-aid is not a good idea. Aside from the dependency factors and what it does to you sugar metabolism, alcohol causes produciton of a number of metabolic waste products that are very antagonistic to sound sleep -- resulting in the infamous "beer sleep." So more often that not, it makes a chronic problem worse.
posted by lodurr at 7:38 PM on January 8, 2005

I take Tylenol PM. Without chemical aid I can't fall asleep unless I'm absolutely exhausted.
posted by bingo at 7:47 PM on January 8, 2005

Sounds stupid, but a DVR helps. Watch TV when you feel like it. If it matters to you.
posted by yerfatma at 8:05 PM on January 8, 2005

Alex, I've had a lot of problems with this too. I've had two doctors tell me that when most adults sleep uninterrupted, they will naturally sleep for nine hours--so I don't think the 8 hours thing is an old wives tale, but of course, that's just my opinion. And it's also worth noting that I'm not someone who does ok on less than 7 each night. Doing what tastybrains said is a great idea--if you know how long it takes you to get ready for bed, just make sure you've done those things before it's bedtime. I've also read that it's a bad idea to sleep or watch tv in bed---but personally, I find that both are helpful in getting me to relax and fall asleep. Do whatever you need to do--because I've found that the later you stay up, the more stressful falling asleep can be. Because you're always thinking about how many hours you're getting or not getting. When you go to bed at a reasonable time, sleep is much better, and you can take your time falling asleep. It's also helpful to try to convince yourself that sleep is very important--because I don't know if you do it, but I used to feel like everything else I wanted to do was just so much more important, but then I'd feel crappy all week. Feeling good at work and by the weekend is just so much more worth it.
posted by fabesfaves at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2005

Read in bed. This summer, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and I were averaging a 9pm bedtime.
posted by saladin at 8:37 PM on January 8, 2005 [2 favorites]

What works for me is a regular schedule - go to bed at the same hour every night (including weekends) and get up at the same hour every morning (weekends too)

Ever since I switched to this schedule I've felt better and have more energy. Even if I sleep only 6.5 hours a night
posted by seawallrunner at 8:37 PM on January 8, 2005

Alex, I take your original question to be about getting yourself into bed on time, rather than putting it off until it's too late to get enough sleep?

If so, I have two possible solutions, and a suggestion:

1. Continue doing what you're doing until it causes problems for you. Your problem seems to be that the extra hour of being awake is worth more than the being rested the next day. Once something happens that makes being awake during the day more important than being awake during the night, it will be much easier to remember to sleep.

It's not hard to get to bed at the right time, let's face it. Right now your problem is that you want to get more sleep in principle, but in practice it's not worth the extra effort (or missed opportunity to stay up) to you. *

2. Do a manual reset on your sleep schedule by going to bed at, say, 1:30AM, and getting up, no matter what, at 5:30AM. You will be tired during that day, but the next night you will have no trouble getting to sleep early. Maintain this as much as you can, and repeat the process when you get off track.

3. A seeming exception to (2): Do not stay up til 2am on weekends. You screw up your internal clock doing that. Set a sleep schedule and, within a couple hours either way, keep it.

*please note, I have the same problem, so if it sounds like I'm being hard on you, it's just me talking to myself
posted by Hildago at 8:48 PM on January 8, 2005

This may be useful.
Make a routine in the evening. The last 2-3 hours before bedtime stay out of the bedroom (bedroom is only for sleep and sex), and switch off all the screens: no TV, no computer, no gameboy. Reading a book while sitting in an armchair in the living room is fine. Just sitting on the porch and thinking will help you wind down. As the evening progresses gradually turn down the lights. Once the bedtime arrives, go to the bedroom, go to bed, switch off the light (pitch darkness) and go to sleep if you can. If you cannot, get up for a few minutes, but keep your lights dim, still no screens, no caffein, no food.
And this may be useful as well. There's a seven step plan at the end of the article.
If all this sounds too scary or untested for you, there could be another way to get by on less sleep: Sleep less. Seriously. "If you reduce your time in bed you shorten your stage one sleep and lengthen your stage four," explains Arthur Spielman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the City College of New York. "You become a more efficient sleeper. That's just logic." Long sleepers like me tend to putz around in stage one, take our sweet time smelling the flowers at the start of stage two, and eventually settle in stage three and four for the really good stuff. It's classic inefficient sleep. But by carefully restricting our sleep over the course of several weeks we can train ourselves to maximize the sleep we get and eventually do just as well -- maybe even better -- with less of it.
posted by euphorb at 9:00 PM on January 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

One thing my graduate advisor told me to do is this. Go to bed at a constant time for a week, then sleep in on Saturday. If you wake up within an hour of when you do during the week, you're getting enough sleep. Otherwise, sleep more. Best way to figure out your sleep requirements. Of course, I've never been able to do it, too often I have irregular work schedules.

I don't know what to do to keep your requirements once you know them, but it can be useful to know just how much is the right amount.
posted by stoneegg21 at 9:00 PM on January 8, 2005

Melatonin works utter wonders for me, but then -- I have a bizarre schedule.
posted by RavinDave at 9:02 PM on January 8, 2005

I've just accepted I'm a night person and made ways around it. You might be able to starve yourself into resetting your sleep clock, but even that doesn't work for me. I cannot fall asleep before one; midnight if I'm terribly terribly exhausted. Even if I stay up for twenty-four hours, trying to bed down earlier doesn't work: I either toss and turn until one or wake up three hours later unable to sleep.

Now, I have a job where I can sleep late because I work on my own schedule. Because I am a night person, that was part of what I looked for in a job. Before, when I had to be at the office, I just made a practice of napping--I'd get up at 8.30 for work, get home at 6.30 and sleep till 8.30, then do whatever till I went to bed around 2. It took a few weeks to get used to it, but that's the only thing that worked.
posted by dame at 10:00 PM on January 8, 2005

Q:How do you get to bed on time?

A: change my expectations of what "on time" means.

Personally I've found that I'm okay with around 6 hours provided I can sleep in until noon-ish on either saturday or sunday. But I drink lots of coffee.

Melatonin works for me, but I don't like relying on a pill. (Not that the coffee's any better for you.)
posted by juv3nal at 1:22 AM on January 9, 2005

I don't believe that there is any substantial scientific evidence for 8 hours sleep being either normal, healthy or more desirable than any other length of time. Ultimately the amount of sleep required for individuals varies greatly, and in fact I read a recent study showing that people who live longest actually get 7 hours sleep, not 8 hours (yeah yeah, correlation != causation), a finding which is worth some consideration.

I wouldn't worry about aiming for 8 hours sleep, especially if you find that you can quite happily get along with less. Personally I only need 7 hours a night but I know others who just can't function without at least 8. And while I am not a neuroscientist now, I was six months ago.
posted by adrianhon at 2:30 AM on January 9, 2005

A solution that works for me is that I only allow myself to watch The Daily Show in bed (11pm).
posted by SNACKeR at 6:43 AM on January 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I take four benedryl capsules two hours before bedtime. It's the only way that I can get to sleep before 11 pm. Benedryl is Tylenol PM without the Tylenol.
posted by Juicylicious at 7:23 AM on January 9, 2005

500 ml or so of a nice Shiraz followed up with a Melatonin (wicked dreams!) and I'm pretty much out of it thirty minutes later.

Oh! The routine things definitely works, and also you have to think nice, pleasant thoughts.
posted by Mutant at 7:32 AM on January 9, 2005

I sympathize with AH, because I'm often more tired at 6pm than 10pm.

I second the stay-away-from-bright-monitor-light advice. Also, love melatonin--just hope it doesn't cause tumors or something. Also, wine is very good, but no less than an hour before you want to go to sleep (otherwise, you'll fall asleep and wake up). Also, try getting up extra-early at first.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2005

My husband turned me into a 10:30 bedtime person after an adult lifetime of midnight or much later. I just started making myself go to bed when he did, and after just a few weeks of actually getting enough sleep, 10:30-11:00 became my permanent crash time.

I lost the ability to substantially sleep in about the time I turned 30, and while I hate that sometimes I think it does keep me in check. I can't catch up later, so I am always sleepy by 11. Allow yourself the luxury of sleeping until 8:00 or 8:30 on the weekends, but that's it.

If you have the best intentions of going to bed at X time and finding yourself losing track of time until much later, set yourself an alarm. When the alarm goes off, stop what you're doing, brush your teeth, and go to bed, non-negotiably. You may toss and turn the first few nights, but if you're actually giving your body a taste of a full night's sleep, it will respond. Before long, you'll be getting sleepy at the right time and going to bed will just be something that happens.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 AM on January 9, 2005

I just don't go to sleep until I can't possibly stay awake any more, and then wake up whenever my alarm is set. Seems to work for me. It's kind of self regulating because if I don't get enough sleep one night, I'll go to bed sooner the next.

Also, I am aware that this is stupid. Oh well.
posted by recursive at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2005

Melatonin. Also: avoid bright lights (TV and Computer) 1/2 hr before bed. Regular schedule helps. If you climb in bed and find you can't sleep after 20 min -- get up, go to a different, dark (not computer) room and get bored. Bored bored bored. You'll feel sleepy soon enough.

Re: melatonin: my sleep doc says take Melatonin 4 hrs before bedtime, about 1-2 milligram. It may make you sleepy faster than this. If so, adjust your timing. Don't waste that sleepy feeling -- go with it. If you 'push on through' you'll get back to that wakey feeling. And then you'll have to go get bored again.

I find reading to be a reasonable activity before bed time, but definitely computer time doesn't help...
posted by daver at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2005

I have my living room lights on timers (because I don't like to come home to a dark house). They're set to turn off at 10pm. That's my signal to go to bed. It doesn't always work if I'm watching something good on tv or in the middle of something on the computer, but it's helpful to have a reminder of the time.
posted by belladonna at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah. Here's and interesting article (Ok, a whole new blog) on sleep rhythms: Circadiana. I'm not sure what expertise the author has, but it's got interesting stuff to say.
posted by daver at 10:01 AM on January 9, 2005

I can't function without at least 9 hours a night. I often take 10-12. However, I can function great with about 5 hours of sleep, anything between 6-8 means I will be an ass all day, but I need to catch up the next night with about 12-15 hours.

Anyone, one fix is to do something at bed time that you look forward to. No, I don't mean that. In my case, I listen to archived radio shows from the BBC Radio 4 or BBC 7 Web site about science, art, English, history, whatever. I look forward to listening to these, so I'll go to bed and enjoy them, falling asleep somewhere near the end.
posted by wackybrit at 12:51 PM on January 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

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