Knock me out
February 11, 2011 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Can you help a night-owl go to sleep early just this one time?

Next weekend I need to wake up at 4am to catch a 6am flight to New York City where I plan to meet up with a friend by 10am and hopefully party all weekend. In order to get a decent night's sleep for the long day ahead, I'll need to be out by 7 or 8 pm.

Problem: I'm a die-hard night-owl. If I get into bed at 8pm, I'm just going to lie there until at least midnight thinking about how I really need to go to sleep RIGHT NOW. Is there something I can do or take that evening to knock me out as early as possible?
posted by Rora to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do really intense exercise about an hour before you want to sleep. I mean the sort that has you sweating and panting and involves using your muscles until they turn into jelly. Then warm shower and hit the bed. That always works for me when nothing else does.
posted by lollusc at 9:50 PM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

You could try melatonin.

In my case, sublinguals seem to hit me quickest.

Also, start dimming the lights a couple hours before you want to be asleep.

Artificial lighting can suppress melatonin levels.
posted by edguardo at 9:53 PM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

A) I don't know about international flights out of Canada or your proximity to the airport, but in the US, I would be getting to the airport at 4 or earlier for a 6AM international flight.

B) To your question, start now. Set your alarm a half hour earlier each morning (and actually start your day earlier) until your trip to get used to the time. A little Diphenhydramine (Benedryl or OTC sleep aid) might help with the falling asleep part. Take 30 minutes prior to bed time.
posted by cecic at 9:53 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tylenol PM & earplugs. But don't forget to take them out in the night so you can hear your alarm clock. Have fun!
posted by jsslz at 9:54 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

What works for me: one or two Benadryl tablets, taken about an hour before you want to go to sleep. However, the downside is that it may make you somewhat somewhat groggy the next day. I can soldier through this; some people cannot.
posted by anderjen at 9:55 PM on February 11, 2011

Start winding down around 6 p.m. Dim the lights, as edguardo says. Why not exercise and warm shower, as lollusc says? Then camomile tea. Then sleep. Remember, lying in bed is also restful, so if you don't doze off, you don't doze off. Also, sex (either solo or with someone else).
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Exercise, yes. Also, sometimes it just takes focus. Count your breaths, think relaxing thoughts, and don't give up. Just keep trying, don't move around too much in bed, and don't watch the clock. Turn it so you can't see it. Otherwise, you'll be thinking, if I go to sleep right now, I'll get six hours forty one minutes, and so on.

Also, listen to this on repeat.
posted by Rinku at 9:56 PM on February 11, 2011

Skip caffeine all day, or at least after noon (if skipping it completely gives you a headache). It lasts a surprisingly long time in your body and could sabotage your plans for an early bedtime.

If you end up tossing and turning and look over and see it's midnight and start fretting that you won't wake up in time...try getting up and drinking a few glasses of water. Your bladder will wake you up FOR SURE in 2-3 hours.
posted by cabingirl at 10:07 PM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm definitely going to second the hot shower. Try reading about something that you have absolutely no interest in online. This can be accomplished by typing sciencey sounding words into the search engine of your choice. Oh, and be sure to include "applied" or "applications" somewhere in there! Eventually, you'll find some scholarly text that is indecipherable to anyone outside of the field of subject. Start reading, (The less you understand the better), and you'll ready for bed in no time flat! Might I suggest as an example Biochemical Systems Theory to Metabolism in Human Red Blood Cells.

posted by Krazor at 10:07 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Melatonin - I take two, sometimes three tablets of the name brand Midnight stuff when I really need to shut my brain up and allow myself to sleep. Take them while you're in bed, with the lights off, all ready to go.

Eat an early dinner so you're not still digesting right when you want to go to sleep, too, and round about sunset dim all your lights to the bare minimum to get around. Read a book instead of watching tv or going online. To keep yourself from thinking cyclical stress thoughts about making sure everything is packed and good to go in the morning, make a detailed list and physically strike everything off so you know for sure there's nothing for you to think about.

If all else fails, and you end up lying in bed awake for 5 hours, keep in mind that just lying down in the dark is fairly restful. No, it's not sleep, but it's still better than nothing. Have a friend call you in the morning to make absolutely sure you're awake and don't miss your flight no matter what.
posted by Mizu at 10:08 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

2 Tylenol PM washed down with a beer about an hour before you want to be asleep. THen climb in bed an hour before your fall asleep time and start reading something. You will pass out on schedule. Make sure to have set alarm before all thiis.
posted by AugustWest at 10:12 PM on February 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by dfriedman at 10:14 PM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

It really sucks, but the only method that's ever worked for me is sleep deprivation.
As pointed out above, you can't really control when you go to bed, only when you wake up. But, I think you want your miserable sleep-deprived day to be Thursday or Friday, rather than Saturday.

So, I would barely sleep on Thursday night (pull an all nighter, or set the alarm <4hrs after your usual bedtime). Friday you'll be wilting and go bed early enough that 4am results in plenty of sleep.
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:16 PM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Start going to bed early several days ahead of time and work your way up to an 8pm bedtime.
posted by fshgrl at 10:17 PM on February 11, 2011

Early yesterday evening I wasn't feeling well, so I popped a Tylenol PM (it was the only tylenol in the house). I was out cold by 8pm, even though I slept till like 11am yesterday.
posted by Sara C. at 10:27 PM on February 11, 2011

Zaleplon (Sonata) works perfectly for me, with no hangover drowsiness and no noticeable side effects. Looks like it might not be available in Canada, though.

If I were stuck in your situation with no access to Zalelplon, I'd fall back on melatonin, taken an hour or so before the desired bedtime.
posted by LBS at 10:39 PM on February 11, 2011

Early yesterday evening I wasn't feeling well, so I popped a Tylenol PM (it was the only tylenol in the house). I was out cold by 8pm, even though I slept till like 11am yesterday.

I've taken Tylenol PM's in the past to try and sleep (on flights) and they did nothing. Of course, YMMV.
posted by kylej at 10:40 PM on February 11, 2011

If you can somehow get adderall into your system about an hour before you need to wake up, you will wake up. However this problem is circular. If you can get up to take it, you can get up. If there's somebody else there to give it to you, they can wake you up. If however, your problem is one of snoozing, falling asleep half dressed, etc. this can help.
posted by Brainy at 11:38 PM on February 11, 2011

Diphenhydramamine (sleeping pills or benadryl) does a good job of knocking me out for 3-4 hours (to get me started with sleep)w/out it being hard to get up in the morning. I had to leave for somewhere at 1:30 am a few weeks ago and taking one in the early evening allowed me to sleep for a while and get up at 1am no problems. A store brand bottle will cost $3 or $4.

When is this happening? You might do a trial run the week-end before!
posted by thylacine at 12:32 AM on February 12, 2011

Benadryl or Tylenol PM. Knocks me right out.
posted by fifilaru at 12:36 AM on February 12, 2011

Get drunk. You'll sleep like a baby.

Also, watch out on the exercise... too close to bedtime is not a good thing. It should be more like 2-3 hours before bed, so that you give your body ample time to relax.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:48 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently have been pulled into the herbal tea hippy cult. Lavender tea (if you can find dried food-grade lavender at a health food/bulk store) works quite well for me.

For something more potent and easily available, try Valarian Root tea (or the capsules) and a melatonin capsule taken on hour before bed.
posted by GEB's fun world at 12:49 AM on February 12, 2011

One thing that always knocks me out cold is Dramamine. The last time I took it, I slept through a morning at Disneyland (!). Maybe that would help you get to sleep early?
posted by I_love_the_rain at 1:00 AM on February 12, 2011

Bum some Ambien off someone. But take it 10 hours before you need to be up just in case it knocks you out extra-long. Also, lie down right away and put your laptop and phone out of reach just in case Ambien-you is as prone to bizarre text messaging, Facebook status updates, and Amazon purchases as Ambien-me is.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:03 AM on February 12, 2011

Everyone I ever know who has used melatonin had the same side effects as me: grotesquely violent dreams. Generally me perpetrating violence on others...wanton, horrible, awful violence. Kinda fun, but then you start to wonder.

Anyway, forget prescriptions, forget melatonin. You need Valerian. You can get it in tablets, in tea, or in powder form at a local herbs/co-op shop. For a flight, you're gonna want it in tablet or powder form---probably tablets.

Be advised that it doesn't smell awesome, and I would not recommend that you use more than 2 tablets. For me, Valerian puts me down fast (helps me turn of the internal dialogue), sleep through the night (no trips to the bathroom, no waking up randomly), and I wake up without feeling hungover like sometimes happens on heavier sedatives like NyQuil or like could happen on prescription narcotics.

Bonus is that it's super, duper cheap, and you'll have plenty left for the next time you want restful sleep.
posted by TomMelee at 5:52 AM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Edit: I would take one pill in your situation.
posted by TomMelee at 5:53 AM on February 12, 2011

I have to do this half the week (wake up at 6am, then some days wake up at 4am ugh).
I think it's a really personal thing as to how people do this, so since you've got 30 replies already, I don't know how much it will help:

I don't use medications, because I have too much anxiety about sleeping through my alarm (I've done that on sleeping pills/Benadryl/etc). so my ritual is just about doing my things associated with bedtime, all behavioral stuff.

my evening ritual starts pretty darn early - don't drink coffee past the early afternoon. Don't make plans. Wind down early. Don't do anything particularly stimulating, I usually either practice music, read a book, study, zone out on the internet, watch a TV show on hulu. Be low-key. if your housemates are around, hide in your room, ask them to leave you alone.
Take a hot, decadent shower close to when you need to lie down, and change immediately into pajamas. Sometimes masturbation puts me out, sometimes it really doesn't. ymmv.
Lately, putting on music quietly helps as I go to bed/sleep, and helps drown out the sound. For some reason, peeing right before I lie down to go to bed solidifies in my mind that yes, I'm going to sleep now.

I think it's really harder to do this as a one-off sort of thing.

a final note about racing thoughts: I've had some anxiety lately with things going on, and one of the big problems with heading to bed early is just having your thoughts race around endlessly (as you identified). I started using the Diana Winston's guided mindfulness meditations (the UCLA ones) while lying in bed to just really try to calm down my mind and stop the crazy thinking/obsessing. you can download them all on iTunes for free! and they're seriously woo-free, if you're worried they might be ridiculous.

have fun in NYC! sounds like you're going to have a fun trip!
posted by circle_b at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2011

The sleep-causing ingredient in Tylenol PM and Benadryl is exactly the same, diphenhydramine. No reason to take the Tylenol unless you have a fever or pain or something. To answer the question: 2 Benadryl (or generic diphenhydramine, which is also the active ingredient in many OTC sleeping pills) an hour before bed will work for me, but if you go past the hour, the sleepy can convert to jittery, and for some people, the sleepy never happens, only the jittery, so I would suggest you try it out on a night before you NEED to sleep.
posted by biscotti at 8:19 AM on February 12, 2011

The only thing that's ever worked for me is sleep deprivation and adjusting my sleep schedule that way.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2011

Ambien is perfect for this situation. It's fast acting (< 30 minutes), it's fairly short acting (~ 4 hours), and it doesn't interfere with quality sleep.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2011

Krazor-"Might I suggest as an example Biochemical Systems Theory to Metabolism in Human Red Blood Cells."

Hey! That was interesting, thanks!

Why not get a hotel room really close to the airport, have everything packed by the door, print boarding pass out, just be completely ready, this will take away some of the anxiety associated with traveling and more time to sleep without worrying about getting to the airport on time. I take heavy doses of Xanax to sleep so I never have any problems conking out UNLESS I have to catch a flight or go to an early meeting...

OR you can suck it up and be tired the first day.

posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:19 AM on February 12, 2011

Simple. Wake up early the day before you leave. Take 50mg diphenhydramamine half an hour before bed then sip a couple of beers until you're too drowsy to do anything but get under the covers.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:13 AM on February 12, 2011

Take a benadryl. Never fails for me.
posted by bibliogrrl at 10:17 AM on February 12, 2011

Wow, thanks for all the suggestions and tips, everyone. I'll take a trip to the drugstore this week, but you've also given me a solid reason to start going to bed at a reasonable hour, something I've been trying to make myself do for ages.
posted by Rora at 10:46 AM on February 12, 2011

Everyone I ever know who has used melatonin had the same side effects as me: grotesquely violent dreams.

Everyone I know who has used melatonin has found that the unpleasantly intense dreams are an effect of taking too large a dose. For me, the right dose is around 0.5 milligram or less — they don't sell it in pills that small, though, so I have to chop them up.

What I like about melatonin is that it's not so much a sedative (like diphenhydramine) as it is a sleep-phase-adjuster. If I need to adjust my sleep cycle to a new time zone (i.e. jet-lag), or just because I've gotten into the habit of staying up late and need to change that, melatonin is the perfect thing. On the other hand, if I can't sleep because I'm anxious or something, melatonin will do nothing for me.

My suggestion is, take melatonin half an hour before you go to bed, two nights before you leave so your body has a day to adjust to the new sleep phase. The dim lights and exercise are also great ideas, IMHO. If the melatonin doesn't work, on the second night you still have the chance to resort to sleeping pills, alcohol, German philosophers, etc.
posted by hattifattener at 1:44 PM on February 12, 2011

You've got some good suggestions but there are two that I would not recommend:
  • I have always heard that exercise before bed wakes you up, rather than make you sleepy. Exercise will raise your body temperature by a degree or two. However lower body temperature is the signal you want your body to receive (your body temp is lowest around 4 or 5 am).
  • Getting drunk? I wouldn't do it: the need to pee plus any residual hangover doesn't seem so pleasant.

posted by jeremias at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I have always heard that exercise before bed wakes you up, rather than make you sleepy. Exercise will raise your body temperature by a degree or two. However lower body temperature is the signal you want your body to receive (your body temp is lowest around 4 or 5 am)."

I find that a small amount of exercise, or something light (going for a walk, stretching) wakes me up. The total exhaustion muscles-to-noodles thing, on the other hand, really does work. I think because it floods your body with endorphins, which make you feel so good that my brain shuts down on all the worry/thinking it usually runs around doing when I am trying to sleep.

Also, as for the body temperature thing, maybe I am weird, but I get sleepy when I am warm. Deep sleep only occurs once my body temperature drops, but to fall asleep I need lots of blankets, warm socks, hot water bottle etc.

If you WANT to drop your body temperature as a clue that sleep is imminent, though, may I still suggest the exercise thing, followed by a COOL shower? That would drop your temperature from its exercise-elevated high point quite rapidly and might bring on sleep for people who get triggered by cold.
posted by lollusc at 5:16 PM on February 12, 2011

Read something really, really boring about an hour or more before you want to sleep. And continue to read it no matter what. Like the phone book.
posted by Taurid at 10:04 PM on February 12, 2011

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