How can I stop falling asleep in movie theatres?
April 4, 2005 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I can easily stay up until 2am programming or doing other engaging tasks, but put me in a movie theatre (even in early afternoon) and I am compelled to sleep within the first hour of the movie, although I will wake up frequently and try desperately to not fall asleep.

It does not seem to matter how loud the audio is or how much action there is, I still fall asleep. Extremely frustrating, especailly since I only go to see movies in the theatre that I really want to see these days. The problem occurs at home watching a movie on TV as well, but to a much lesser degree.
posted by SNACKeR to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
It sounds like you are just responding to the darkness of the setting.

Unfortunately, you can't get them to turn up the lights in the theater.

Maybe if you started sleeping with the lights on...

Or do what I do when I'm trying to finish that damned, damned paper.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2005

It sounds to me like good old-fashioned sleep deprivation.

I used to stay up til four all the time, but put me in front of a book in a nice quiet room and I was out in ten minutes. Although my sleep cycle/bodily clock/insomniac craziness had me staying up late, I wasn't getting enough sleep, and my body would take advantage of signals such as quiet, being still, or sitting in a soft chair and say to itself, she's not doing anything vitally important, grab more sleep.

In your case your body seems to switch into sleep mode because of sitting still in a dark room at movies.

So my solution to this was eventually to go to bed earlier and get up later (no more early morning classes), and just generally give sleep a higher priority in my life. I can now successfully read books without falling asleep.
posted by mai at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2005

I have the same problem. I think it's because - surprise - I dont get enough sleep. I'd focus not on staying awake during the movie but on changing your sleep schedule/environment so that you're better rested.
posted by whatisish at 9:44 AM on April 4, 2005

Best answer: At the keyboard, though you're not moving around much, you're moving -- arms, fingers, shifting your feet, etc. This keeps your blood pressure a bit higher, and more blood flowing to the brain than if you totally relax while watching a movie.

So, try watching a movie with a squeeze ball in your hand, wiggle your toes now and then, shift around in your seat, chew gum, etc. Fairly minor use of muscles like that should help. Works for me.
posted by beagle at 9:44 AM on April 4, 2005

Best answer: I experience the same thing, SNACKeR, precisely because of non-stop action and loud audio. Most American films do this to me. It's information overload, and may be intentionally done to put you in sponge mode for product placements. Try watching a quiet, foreign film, like Mostly Martha. I bet you're wide-awake until the end.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:10 AM on April 4, 2005

Don't eat before the movie, or wait at least a couple of hours before you go in after a meal. Drink lots of caffeinated soda just before hand and during the first hour of the film.

Of course, your bladder will be close to bursting by the end and your belly gassinated but you will be awake.
posted by gsb at 10:19 AM on April 4, 2005

My father has this problem. He can't stay awake in a movie theatre no matter how much he wants to watch the movie. He doesn't have similar problems at home. He does often fall asleep while watching movies on TV, but it's not like in a theatre where he simply can't stay awake. We believe it's just a function of the darkness.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:19 AM on April 4, 2005

I have this problem watching DVDs at home. Usually within the first 20 minutes I'm either dozing or so sleepy I might as well turn the TV off and snooze. It's a great film that doesn't make me feel sleepy.
posted by TheDonF at 11:26 AM on April 4, 2005

It could definitely be sleep deprivation. Even if you sleep relatively well, every minute you miss that isn't compensated for stays as sleep debt for a long time before it goes away on its own, if ever. Those 2AM coding sessions could actually be the cause if you're not sleeping in enough afterward.

It could also just be that you respond strongly to the darkness, to the tune of a mild sleep disorder. I definitely know of people with this problem, but I'll leave it to someone wiser to say what it's actually called.
posted by abcde at 11:45 AM on April 4, 2005

Best answer: Check out the book The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, a Stanford sleep researcher, re: the sleep deprivation issue. He says any kind of drowsiness during the day, e.g. in boring or quiet/dark situations like this, is definitely a sign of sleep deprivation, which is not only bad for your health, but can actually be quite dangerous, being that you could just as easily fall asleep while driving or in some other dangerous situation. "Drowsiness is red alert", he says.

It may be that the movie theater is the only place you can't distract yourself with real life things to do, and the movie just doesn't hold your attention enough for you to stay awake.
posted by mcguirk at 1:29 PM on April 4, 2005

I would agree with the sleep deprivation, but it could also be conditioning at this point. I had a book I used to (start to) read any time I wanted to take a nap; I'd read three pages and then close it and take a nap. But then when I wanted to actually read the entire book, my eyes would pretty much automatically close after I read three pages. Same thing happened with a classical CD I used to play in college when I wanted to sleep but my roommates were making noise. My brain/body/whatever just associated those things with sleep -- it was like flipping a switch.

So if you can use some of the techniques above to make yourself stay awake through one or two movies, it might help break the conditioning and make staying awake through subsequent films easier.
posted by occhiblu at 3:04 PM on April 4, 2005

Response by poster: Great responses, thanks!

re sleep deprivation, I don't find it satisfactorily explains that I get drowsy in movie theatres, but it could be a component

re "any kind of drowsiness during the definitely a sign of sleep deprivation" I find a bit hard to believe 'cause I think there are natural ebbs and flows to alertness - after eating a big pasta lunch, who isn't drowsy?

re action movies being the cause - I think there is something to that - it is definitely related to how my brain is engaged - or the lack thereof. It is true these movies can be a numbing assault - I just saw Sin City and it was freakin' LOUD.

re movement to stay alert - I like the simplicity of this, I am going to try the stress ball technique!

The funny thing is during Memento I found myself gradually getting more awake ;)

And thanks everyone, even knowing I am not alone helps...sniff.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:00 PM on April 4, 2005

Response by poster: and thanks for the book, mcguirk. I am going to check it out.
posted by SNACKeR at 6:03 PM on April 4, 2005

Eat popcorn and drink a coke. Who naps in the middle of a meal?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:32 PM on April 4, 2005

Take furiousxgeorge seriously. I had this problem in afternoons at work, and found munching something, or chewing gum, made a good improvement.
posted by Goofyy at 12:14 AM on April 5, 2005

You're drowsy after a big meal because of lack of bloodflow to the brain. It's fairly unnatural to eat that much.
posted by abcde at 7:52 PM on April 13, 2005

« Older London Wireless Internet for Free?   |   What studies have been done on the lifecycle of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.