How to get some sleep
March 20, 2011 10:59 PM   Subscribe

Would getting up at the same time be beneficial even if I cannot go to sleep every night at the same time?

I'm a college student looking to get a little bit better control on my sleeping hours. I know that routine is good for your sleep and the best thing would be to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time... I can't really commit to this for social reasons at school.

However, on nights where I come in extra late, sometimes I will just sleep until my body wants to get up. I end up sleeping half the day and and still ridiculously tired when I wake up. My whole body just feels out of order...

What do you do for sleep routines? Is sleeping more hours randomly actually going to make me more tired in the future?
posted by lakerk to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have unpredicatable hours for going to bed, but I find that despite that, a standard get-up time every day helps, yes.
After enforcing it a while, your body will naturally wake up at that moment every day, and so you start you day consistently. And when you do go to sleep, you know ahead of time when you'll be waking up, so if you didn't get enough sleep last night, you know exactly when to go to bed to get the necessary hours, whether it's worth sacrificing some fun, and you won't end up sleeping the whole day (unless you want to).

I still don't enjoy having to get up, but I find that regularity is worth it, and I almost never sacrifice the social reasons and odd hours of getting to bed.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:19 AM on March 21, 2011

I used to have to get up at 6:45a to hit the road five days a week. I would have to get up even though I would get to bed anywhere from 10:30p to 1:30a. The crazy part is that on the weekends, I would sleep in until... 8a.

After two weeks of getting up at a strict time, your body self-adjusts. At that point, I didn't even need an alarm as long as long as I was getting 6-8 hours of sleep. I highly recommend it. The key is to be strict with yourself and not hit the snooze.

Some things to help get you up:
- Open your blinds so that the sun shines into your room in the morning.
- Set up a light on a timer if you have to.
- Figure out how much sleep you need to wake up without an alarm. 6 hours, I would wake up no problem. 5 hours and 30 minutes, I would sleep through the alarm.

The usual advice:
- No caffeine after 6pm
- Exercise a couple hours before sleeping.
- Only sleep and sex in bed. No reading, no computers.
- Avoid light from all screens after 9pm.
- Be strict with your wake-up time!
- Alcohol will screw up your sleep.

You're probably hitting some sort of weird sleep cycle. You know how you feel refreshed from some naps but groggy from others? Figure out the timing. This was immensely helpful in college because I could strategically nap before mid-terms without feeling groggy.

For some people:
- 20 - 30 minutes is a power nap
- 30min - 1.5 hours feels terrible
- 2 hours feels amazing
- 2.5 hours feels terrible again

Good luck with the sleeping, it is definitely underrated in college.
posted by just.good.enough at 12:29 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

The basic concept of sleep debt is that, at some point, you have to pay the piper. If you want to get up at the same time every day that's fine, but if you stay up late a few nights in a row, be prepared to go to bed earlier to make up that debt (or suffer the consequences as sleep deprivation accumulates).
posted by Menthol at 1:08 AM on March 21, 2011

My rule on days off is that I don't sleep more than three hours later than the time I would usually wake up. If I didn't have to wake up for work at 4am during the week, I'd probably cut the difference down to two hours. So yeah, if you're studying full-time, you could make your usual start time 8am. On nights when you're out partying, you could go to sleep by 3am and wake up by 10am. The next evening, you'll be tired enough to sleep early-ish and then the next day, you'll be back to waking at 8am. I do recommend trying to set good sleep habits while you're young - it's amazing how much misery you can avoid just by reliably getting a good night's sleep.
posted by embrangled at 1:21 AM on March 21, 2011

I could swear that I've read somewhere that getting up at the same time every day is actually more important for good sleep than going to bed at the same time every night, but I can't find a reference. I feel like that's true for me - but I wake up at about the same time every day without hardly trying, and actually have a lot of trouble sleeping late. When I was in college, though, I would routinely make it to 8AM classes during the week and then sleep through lunch on the weekends.

Menthol and embrangled both make good points!
posted by mskyle at 6:35 AM on March 21, 2011

I agree with the above sentiments: waking up at the same time every day has helped me feel better even though sometimes I don't get much sleep as a result. I recommend it!
posted by ootandaboot at 7:04 AM on March 21, 2011

just.good.enough has excellent advice.

Getting up at the same time is the best thing to do. It sometimes hurts to get started on, but for most people, it catches on pretty quickly.

There is one downside: it trains the body to not want to oversleep. So don't expect to be able to catch up on sleep this way.

But what it does is set the body clock to be on a 24 hour cycle. Eventually (and fairly quickly) it realizes that if it wants to get enough sleep, it has to make you tired earlier in the evenings. If you need to catch up on sleep, the best thing to do is power through that afternoon/evening "MUST NAP" time, and then by like 9pm you will be a zombie. Hit the sack, and you will wake up at 6 or 7 on your own, fat and happy-ish.

(The caffeine thing is also really good advice- maybe everyone is not the same, but my experience with myself and secretly observing others is that the "hey, I feel awake" buzz you get from caffeine is only half of its effects. That might work for a couple of hours, but then there is another few hours of exhaustion but inability to sleep (well). Like many drugs, you "feel" the effects as the blood level is increasing. And you start to feel it "wearing off" as the blood level starts to drop.

Made up numbers and times: suppose you power down a cup of coffee. Over the course of an hour, your blood level of caffeine rises from 0% to 50%. You are feeling good. After another hour, it peaks at 100% and starts dropping. Even though you felt great at 50% when it was rising, on the other side, 50% feels like ass. You are dragging. So you have another, and your levels rise maybe to 125%. Feeling OK again. Now, as the levels drop, you are feeling crappy at 75%. The shit is coursing through your veins and you are unable to sleep, but dammit, you are dog-ass-tired. This is what happens at the end of the day when you haven't given the caffeine enough time to flush out. You are in bed, exhausted, and you are tossing and turning, almost vibrating with not-sleepiness. You get up, and all you want to do is get back in bed. By the time the caffeine washes out and you can sleep, it is 3am and you have to be up in a few hours.)
posted by gjc at 7:39 AM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

So six months of the year I have to wake up at 4:45 am six days a week, no matter what time I went to bed. It sucks, but it would suck more to have it move around. If I go out late one night, I wake up at normal time the next day, do my stuff, and then take a nap. Having a regular wake-up also means that I care more about my sleep, value it more, and am less likely to waste my time at night, before bed. I still read, but I am much less likely to spend 45 minutes perusing Wikipedia articles for no real purpose.
posted by hepta at 11:39 AM on March 21, 2011

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