How to make myself go to bed at 10pm or 11pm each night?
April 26, 2010 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 33 year old woman in good health who lives alone. Recently, for reasons I don't fully understand, I have been staying up too late (between 12 midnight and 3 am, once even to 5am), and it is making me very tired during the day, so I would like to stop.

The problem is, I hate going to bed, because : 1) Since 19 April (and possibly earlier), I have been having unpleasant dreams every night. 2) I wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask to treat my sleep apnoea, which is a bit uncomfortable and a bit of a hassle. I've had my CPAP machine since November 2009, though, so it's not that new. 3) There seems to be another, mystery reason that I hate going to bed, but I can't work out what it is. My bed is physically comfortable: wool underlay, electric blanket, cotton sheets, wool blanket, teddy bear to cuddle. My bedroom is quite dark and not too noisy. Any suggestions for how to get myself to go to bed at 10pm or 11pm each night? My late nights are really starting to mess with my productivity (and mood) during the day.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
It might seem obvious, but exercise more? My sleep schedule is much better when I'm going to the gym regularly.
posted by ripley_ at 5:31 PM on April 26, 2010

Has something changed in your day to day activities? I know that when I have something I don't want to do in the morning, or when I'm just sick of work and am dreading waking up the next morning to go in, I end up staying up much later than I should. Its like the irrational part of my brain is saying, the longer you put off going to bed, the longer you put off having to get up in the morning and start your day again. Just a thought to consider.
posted by bluloo at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2010

You could try watching an hour of something like the Earth or Life series before bed, or find another good winding down activity.
posted by meepmeow at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2010

Are you on the computer in the evenings? I find that if I'm on a computer past a certain time at night, I am unable to go to sleep when I ought to.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Do you watch TV in the evenings, or read a book or surf on your laptop? Maybe you could do these in bed, so once you're finished you're already there and ready to start stacking Zs.
posted by Quietgal at 5:36 PM on April 26, 2010

Are you napping during the day? If so, cut that out and force yourself to stay awake. Are you wearing your CPAP faithfully? Not wearing it and suffering episodes of apnea will cause exhaustion, fatigue, and stress as you know. Every time your body has to wake up and gasp for air, cortisol is dumping into your system.

Read or watch something pleasant before bed. Maybe you'll dream about the pleasant things. Practice positive self-talk (I'm not afraid to go to bed. If I have a nightmare, it's okay. I'll dream about pleasant things. I'm going to feel so well-rested tomorrow. This sleep is necessary for my health. )

Practice some stress release activities like yoga and vigorous cardiovascular exercise. It sounds like you're having a great deal of anxiety. Exercise will help with that.

Last but not least think about your vanity. Not getting adequate sleep takes a toll on your appearance.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 5:37 PM on April 26, 2010

A couple of things:

Sign off of metafilter. In fact, the whole internet entirely. I can't tell you how many times I've stayed up waaaaay too late, simply because ooh! there's one more thing I want to read before I go to bed. I find short stories or magazines to be particularly helpful, because if I'm reading a book, there's always another chapter. Reading something finite helps me get myself to actually put it down and go to bed.

Go to bed as soon as you feel tired. Get your teeth brushed and into pjs and everything early in the evening, so that at the first twinge of sleepiness you can just turn off the light and lie down. When I've had bouts of insomnia, sometimes if I miss the first sleepy moment, I'll just miss the night entirely. Not sure if that makes sense.

For me, and this might be weird, sometimes I get bored with the whole bed thing and need a change of scenery. There have been times when I've dragged a blanket and pillow to the couch, a chair, or even the floor. It's like changing it up for a night or two hits the reset button and I start sleeping normally again.

Most importantly, don't worry about it so much. If I've not been sleeping well, I'll get myself all worked up and anxious about sleeping. Like, "OMG IF I DON'T GO TO SLEEP RIGHT THIS SECOND THEN I'LL GET AT MOST SIX HOURS AND FOURTEEN MINUTES OF SLEEP AND THAT IS NOT ENOUGH," and then I'll never fall asleep (or if I do, I'll have really fitful dreams). Your body needs sleep and eventually it will work itself out again, especially if you're getting up at the same time every day. It might just be something you need to wait out.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2010 [12 favorites]

I find myself staying up "too late" for a number of reasons, usually because I:
1. Am really enjoying the day and don't want it to end.
2. Don't want to deal with the next day.
3. Like the rebound alertness and sense of well-being I get once I get past the sleepy stage.

I have nightmares every night, but sometimes they get really, really awful. One psychiatrist suggested that they might be a result of my sublimating a great deal of anxiety or stress, and that it came out in my nightmares. When I think back on the timelines of these (usually 3-4 week) episodes, I am usually able to determine (in retrospect) that there was some shit I wasn't dealing with, and I believe the doctor's theory works in my case. Maybe this might be the case for you as well?
posted by mireille at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you watch TV in the evenings, or read a book or surf on your laptop? Maybe you could do these in bed, so once you're finished you're already there and ready to start stacking Zs.

Reading a book is fine, but staring at a bright screen right before bed is likely to make your sleeping problem worse.
posted by kylej at 5:40 PM on April 26, 2010

When my mom got her CPAP she went through three or four different masks before finding one that was comfortable. Maybe you should look into getting a different one to make yourself more comfortable.

Have you tried some kind of nighttime ritual? Kind of like what parents do with newborns. Take a warm bath, do all your night primping, then settle down with a book and relaxing tea. After about half an hour of reading go to bed. It might take a while, but your body will start to associate those activities with bedtime and they will actually start making you sleepy. The ritual could help with the not wanting to go to bed, it's just something you do without thinking about it so there's no stress.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:43 PM on April 26, 2010

No coffee or anything sugary after 7pm.
posted by majortom1981 at 5:44 PM on April 26, 2010

Left field idea if the other excellent suggestions do not help you: look into lucid dreaming.

It takes time, but you might be able to control your dreams, which will help you avoid nightmares.

In addition, the training process for lucid dreaming (such as there is), might make you more excited to go to bed at night.
posted by mmmbacon at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2010

Two ideas:
1. set an alarm for bedtime (Or rather your desired getting ready for bedtime). When the alarm goes off, start your bedtime routine and go to bed. Having to get up and walk over to turn off the alarm will break the hold of whatever activity you are doing.
2. try melatonin at the proper bedtime - it helps trigger the "time to go to sleep" messengers in your brain.

On the theory that the bad dreams may be related to something you aren't dealing with for the week or so, I have two different suggestions (neither one of which should be done at bedtime)
a. start keeping a journal, write down whatever is on your mind, make an effort to include feelings and not just facts.
b. try to figure out your dreams. My personal technique is to scribble down the main points as soon as I wake up. Later I type up the dream and print it out with lots of space between each line. Underneath each object of action, write what you associate it with. So "I saw a flowered purse on the floor of the locker room. I knew who it belonged to but I couldn't see her anywhere in the room"
Now, in my subjective worlds
purse = mothers
flowered purse = 1960's psychodelic
locker room = changing oneself like changing clothes
couldn't see owner = something or someone lost

The dream went on from there. The result is jumbled but it will often make sense. It's like the subconcious is looking for a symbol for each idea it wants to put in the dream. The sequence of symbols doesn't have to make an logical sense, the meaning is in the associations that made your subconsicous pick those elements. Do not use a dream book - your subconsicous doesn't and no one else knows what a symbolic baggage a particular item carries for you.

When I looked at the complete "translation" of that particular dream, I realized that on some level I was worried about my mother-in-law's health although I had no conscious awareness that it was on my mind. Then again, I tend to be the strong type who denies having any upsetting problems so my body has to come up with indirect ways to let me know that something is emotionally wrong.

Good Luck
posted by metahawk at 6:21 PM on April 26, 2010

Anxiety? I hate going to bed when something's bothering me, because I know if I'm less than utterly knackered my thoughts will drift to whatever it is that's been bugging me in that idle time before I drift off. Of course then it starts a vicious cycle of not going to bed --> not sleeping well --> not being alert enough to deal with whatever it is that's causing the anxiety --> etc.

Just a thought, anyway.
posted by AV at 6:25 PM on April 26, 2010

Set the alarm for 6am. First thing you do when you get out of bed is put on your exercise clothes and exercise vigourously for at least 30 minutes. After a few days of this you should start getting tired in the evenings again.

Seconding that you will have to nix computer time for at least 30 minutes before bed, try reading paper books or magazines instead.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2010

You've developed a habit. You need to break this habit.

Me, I'd start with the weird dreams. Make yourself a margarita, or some other tipple involving tequila. I do this and sleep like a log afterwards, and look Ma, no bad dreams!

On subsequent nights, go to bed at a decent hour, doing whatever things will make you sleepy - hot bath, long walk, good book. whatever.

Do this for at least a week, preferably two.
posted by LN at 6:42 PM on April 26, 2010

Exercise is a great suggestion, but timing is also important: late afternoon/early evening -- 4 to 5 hours before bedtime -- is the ideal time to exercise in order to help yourself feel sleepy at bedtime.
posted by palliser at 6:52 PM on April 26, 2010

I used to have the same problem. To break the habit of staying up too late, I set a timer on my TV that shuts it off at 10pm. When it goes off, no matter what I'm doing on the computer, I know my time is up and I shut everything down.

Then I take a hot bath, which usually puts me right to sleep as soon as I hit the bed. (Usually. Not always. On those nights, I take a TylenolPM).

In other words: get a bedtime routine and stick to it like clockwork.

Can't help you with the dreams, though.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 6:55 PM on April 26, 2010

Drink alcohol, and then take Valerian and ZMT. Perhaps only the second two, but they all work. Simply Sleep does also, but then you will be bleary in the AM, same if you overdo the alcohol.
posted by caddis at 7:19 PM on April 26, 2010


I am the world's worst proofreader.
posted by caddis at 7:21 PM on April 26, 2010

I've been listening to the Meditation Podcast's "Falling Asleep" meditation lately when I can't fall asleep and it's helped 90% of the time. It might be worth a try.
posted by choochoo at 7:29 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The next time you're visiting your doctor, ask if it's appropriate to have your thyroid checked.
posted by dws at 8:01 PM on April 26, 2010

I've gone through phases of this myself, and agree with pretty much everything the other posters have said about exercise, staying on a schedule, mitigating anxiety if applicable and using relaxation techniques in the evening.

The one thing important I'd like to add, though, is that Valerian has given me absolutely insane, vivid nightmares every time I've tried it. This is commonly reported.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:06 PM on April 26, 2010

Staying off the computer in the evening after seven or so made a big difference for me. The bright light in your face throws off your sleep cycle. Also no caffeine after 5 or 6, sit far from the TV, and try taking some melatonin.
posted by tamitang at 8:31 PM on April 26, 2010

You might be interested in this recent NY Times blog post about efforts to reset circadian rhythms using light therapy.
posted by messica at 8:43 PM on April 26, 2010

I had a similar problem: I simply got into the habit of staying up ridiculously late.

It's a habit, and I found that the usual techniques to establish new habits were effective here.

In my case, I simply resolved to:

1. Never eat anything within 3 hours of my designated bedtime.
2. Always be physically in bed at my designated bedtime.
3. Always get up at my designated wake-up time.

And what really put the habit-building "teeth" into this is that I posted a scorecard right on my fridge. Three checkboxes for every day, one for each of the three new rules I was trying to turn into habits. If I followed the rule, I got to put a checkmark in the box for that day. This was a surprisingly effective feedback mechanism that drove me to bound into bed one minute before the official "bedtime" for fear of having to give myself a bad mark.

After a couple weeks of this, the habits were so ingrained, I didn't even think about them anymore, I just did what it took to be in bed on time.
posted by Dimpy at 8:56 PM on April 26, 2010

I just wanted to say: Please do NOT try drinking alcohol to go to sleep. It will affect your sleep poorly (usually you will sleep well half the night and then wake up and won't be able to go back to sleep until morning). Turning to alcohol is not a healthy solution. You're far better off to follow the other advice and improve your "sleep hygiene" (no caffeine/sugar after 7, no watching TV or using the computer in your bedroom or after 8 or 9 PM or whatever, block out light, try white noise to help you fall asleep (I personally cannot sleep in total silence)).
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2010

Insomnia and nightmares? That sounds like depression or anxiety.
posted by spork at 9:27 PM on April 26, 2010

I agree there's probably something serious underlying this, which you'll want to deal with, etc etc etc. But also, having suffered from insomnia for decades at a time, my thing these days is:

1. I choose a bedtime, then queue up an audiobook. I tell myself I don't have to fall asleep, but I do need to at least lie in the dark and listen to the audiobook for one hour. After an hour I can get up, use the bathroom, fidget, whatever, for about 15 minutes - then it's right back to bed.

I have a small collection of audiobooks which are my favorites, so it's like bedtime storybook reading for adults! Very soothing. At the very least, lying in the dark in that twilight half-asleep state is better than sitting up watching TV or whatever.

(I use iTunes' playlist feature to set up one-hour audiobook playlists. Otherwise I wake up at 3AM and the audiobook's still playing and I get very confused.)

2. Instead of thinking about how much sleep I'm losing tonight, I focus on how tired I'll be tomorrow night. And how great it will feel when I finally DO fall asleep. And how - *stifles yawn* - cozy the bed is, when you've just hit the sleep button for five more minutes in the morning.

This is surprisingly effective.
posted by ErikaB at 9:55 PM on April 26, 2010

I like listening to CBC and BBC podcasts before falling asleep. It keeps my mind from wandering and stressing about things, plus there is something very soothing about public radio voices.
posted by carolr at 9:57 PM on April 26, 2010

YOu don't want to go to sleep because you fear something when you wake up in the morning. You internally tell yourself not to go to sleep because after sleep is something you dread. If you do get too little sleep to be productive, it works as a rationalization for not doing whatever it is you dread. You can take all the above suggestions about how to go to sleep, but it is my opinion that until you figure out what it is you are avoiding, you will not get a good night's sleep. The CPAP machine could be the issue if it is so uncomfortable or if you are embarassed by it.

I know. I am answering your question at 3:10 am avoiding facing my day tomorrow. I also wear a CPAP fwiw.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:10 AM on April 27, 2010

I have heard that certain types of marijuana are ideal for transitioning one into sleep. Temporary usage may help reset your clock. Nancy Reagan would not approve. YMMV.
posted by quadog at 2:07 AM on April 27, 2010

Are you eating anything different lately? I find that eating things like pizza or spaghetti in the evenings always gives me weird, unpleasant dreams. An antacid helps immensely in preventing this. Come to think of it, try the antacid even if you haven't been eating anything unusual. Could be you've developed nighttime reflux.

Maybe try a few different supplements to see if they change the nature of your dreams. L-theanine and ZMA are both said to help sleep, and I do think I dream differently when I take them.

Reading in bed rarely fails to knock me unconcious in minutes. Just no horror, mystery or anything that ends each chapter with a cliffhanger.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:45 AM on April 27, 2010

It doesn't sound like you are having any trouble with falling asleep, just going to bed.

Decide what time you should get in bed, and do it then even if you feel like staying up and reading or cleaning or whatnot. Set an alarm if you need to, treat it like any other thing you need to do at at certain time.

There's no special trick other than doing it even if you don't want to.

Well, maybe one trick... turn your heat down to 50. Be sure you have nice warm blankets. Leads to trouble getting up in the morning though.
posted by yohko at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2010

You might find the answers to this question helpful—I certainly did!
posted by dyslexictraveler at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2010

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