What's the most effective way to force myself back into a healthy sleep cycle?
November 22, 2010 10:25 PM   Subscribe

What's the most effective way to force myself back into a healthy sleep cycle?

After months of getting up at a reasonable time in the morning after a healthy amount of sleep, I seem to have fallen into a practically nocturnal sleep pattern. Over the past couple of weeks I've had several essay submissions and exam preparations for my University courses, which has meant a lot of really late nights. Now I'm finding it really difficult to force myself back into a healthy sleep cycle. I keep telling myself that I'll just go to bed early one night, but that's harder than it sounds when it's time to go to bed and you're wide awake. I've thought about trying to just stay awake all night and day so that I'll be exhausted enough to sleep at a reasonable time, but so far I've failed and always end up falling asleep around 6am. Has anyone got any suggestions on the best way to force myself back into a healthy and productive sleep cycle?
posted by Spamfactor to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Get up earlier than normal. Avoid caffeine all day (if you swing that way). Maybe some exercise, but not too close to bedtime. Then, if it's an early bedtime and you are still wide awake, take a sleeping pill - I use Benadryl in these situations.
posted by cabingirl at 10:29 PM on November 22, 2010

I've been through this recently. I went to bed at the normal time (post-midnight) but set my alarm really early (pre-dawn) and then forced myself to get out of bed when it went off. It made me tired enough that night to go to bed a little earlier, and I set the alarm for 15 minutes later so I didn't end up sleep deprived. Took maybe a week to get back into normal sleep patterns. For me, anyway. YMMV.

And leaving my bedroom windows open so the goddamned parrots wake me early with their shrieking is also effective in ensuring an earlier bedtime that night.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:36 PM on November 22, 2010

"I went to bed at the normal time (post-midnight) but set my alarm really early (pre-dawn) and then forced myself to get out of bed when it went off. "

I've tried this, when I've gotten on a sleep cycle like the one you describe - but I guess I just don't have the willpower to get up. Once I finally get tired enough to go to sleep, is seductive pull of my bed was just that much stronger in the early am. I'm also in college, like you - lots of late nights studying for Arabic exams and writing papers etc...

So, when I want to get back on my schedule :

1. Get off the computer at least one hour prior to bed. No TV, either.
2. This F.lux program to change the lighting on my PC once the sun goes down has worked well for me, but I know some other people who don't really like it.
3. Melatonin! Benadryl makes me groggy the next day, Ambien puts me in a drugged dream-stupor.
4. Baths before bed, if you like them.
5. Clean sheets and decent pillows! Make your bed appealing.
6. White noise (for me, a fan on low) once you go to bed.

So my schedule is :

9:00 bath
9:15 take melatonin
9:30 reading something on couch
10:00 in bed

I usually fall asleep easily, and wake up early, around 6. I also feel pretty decent, not tired and hating mornings like I usually do if my schedule is off.
posted by HopperFan at 11:03 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

"is seductive pull of my bed"

This is also why I shouldn't try to write papers at 2am, but just get up in the morning and work on them then.
posted by HopperFan at 11:04 PM on November 22, 2010

The best way to get a craving for bed early is to get up early that day. Set your alarm to go off earlier than you usually get up/earlier than you want to, and force yourself out of bed when it goes off. Your body will be shocked and make you need sleep that night to catch up. This might take about a week of doing, which will probably be pretty grim, but it works.
posted by Solomon at 11:15 PM on November 22, 2010

I'd second getting up early to make you go to bed early, it's the best method I've found to reset.

Could you arrange to do something with a friend very early in the morning? Or even just ask someone who gets up early normally to knock on your door. It's very easy to just give up and go back to sleep otherwise.
posted by lucidium at 11:30 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get out, walk, run, go shopping, go to an exercise class, move some.

I've been in cycles of insomnia before now and its always been when I've been sedentary. The tired you get from staying awake, sitting around all night is not the same as the tired you get from having an active day.
posted by Ness at 1:47 AM on November 23, 2010

In the past I've shocked my body into a new sleep cycle when things have gone out of wack by deliberatly missing a night's sleep. Stay up all night, potter about, keep yourself occupied, don't be tempted to go for a lie down when you get to the dead hours before dawn. Keep busy the next day, though you'll feel rough then go to bed at a reasonable time.

You can have a few late nights but it's easy to push yourself into a new sleep cycle. I've got a definite tendency to do this. Long term you need to set an alarm and get used to getting up at the same time. Even at weekends.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 AM on November 23, 2010

if this is something that happens often, you might think about buying a blue light. it can help re-set your circadian rhythm yadda yadda yadda. plus with winter coming, it can help simulate enough fake sunshine so you don't go bananas. here's the one i have - it's good and i would recommend it, but there are probably other great ones too.

you can use it for 10-15 minutes in the morning (but NOT at night) and it can help you wake up, but most importantly, feel sleepy in the night time.

good luck!
posted by andreapandrea at 4:56 AM on November 23, 2010

You can't force yourself to fall asleep, really the only thing you can control is when you wake up. Get up every day at 6 AM and I guarantee you will be ready for bed at 10:00. I've also cut out TV and computer stuff after 8:30-9:00. Pick up a book or do something without sitting in front of a lighted screen. I find I also sleep like a baby when I stick to an exercise regimen.
posted by sanka at 4:58 AM on November 23, 2010

Three words: Melatonin.

Use the other two words however you wish. I might suggest you use them to search for "jet lag" since the problem of jet lag is basically the problem of resetting your sleep-wake cycle.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:36 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can also add "gut bombing" to your "get up early so I'll go to bed early" attempt -- you eat something warm and very, very carb-y not long before bed, then sit in a dark room with limited light sources. Like pizza followed by a book read by a reading lamp, or a quiet movie in a dark room. The combination of warm carbs in your stomach and dimly-lit room and tiredness will zonk you right out.

(N.B.: Also works on small children.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:01 AM on November 23, 2010

Yes. Melatonin. If possible, get the time release kind, 3mg works best for me. You take it, read or whatever and 30 minutes later you feel naturally sleepy. This works for me even from a wide-awake state.

If you fear chemistry, you just have to get up early and stop having any caffeine before noon. No internet surfing or video game playing before bed.
posted by Kimberly at 10:24 AM on November 23, 2010

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