How can I make mornings less of a pain in the butt?
September 22, 2011 4:03 PM   Subscribe

I have been skipping sleeping some nights lately, just to avoid the unpleasantness of waking up. How can I get some sleep at night without having to deal with a "sleep hangover" in the morning?

When I wake up in the morning I feel truly awful. I have a killer headache, I feel like my body is falling apart, I experience alot of anxiety and non-stop anxious thoughts, I feel really depressed, I don't want to face what is ahead of me, and already feel behind with what I have to accomplish for the day. Basically I just hate my life and feel extremely sorry for myself for awhile. It's a mix of physical and emotional symptoms, but it definitely is not just emotional/anxiety. My headaches really are bad, alot of times my eyes hurt when I wake up too (maybe always?).

Usually this wears off fairly quickly, but the experience is bad enough that I avoid it whenever possible. It seems when I can wake up naturally, without having to force myself, things are alot better. This leads to me sleeping in anytime I possibly can. Over the summer, this lead me to sleeping in almost every day (think 11am or noon most mornings. 9am or 10am would be a good day). But know I have early classes and have to wake up very early every weekday. I've surprised myself that I am actually able to wake up at 5:30 on a consistent basis, I actually was not sure it was possible for me.

I tried being really strict with myself and forcing myself to go to bed by 11:30 every night, figuring this would have to make the mornings easier. Honestly, it didn't do much for me. It seems like no matter how early I go to be, my body still won't be happy about waking up early. So now I have a new way to deal. Instead of sleeping in which is no longer an option, I've taken to skipping sleeping all together a few times a week. Amazingly, I feel much better when the time comes to start my day. I have energy and am ready to go. But of course I am very sleepy the next day, And find myself not doing lots of the things I need to do that day because I am groggy and can't concentrate, and end up going to bed right after dinner.

A night of sleep deprivation has been studied as a way to lift depression, I wonder if it's related to why I am in such a great mood when the morning rolls around after a no sleep night.

Honestly, even though I become less productive the next day, part of me thinks it would be worth it to skip sleep one night, then go to bed really early the next day, in a two day cycle. Or if that was too extreme just throw a normal sleeping night in between cycles. I'd much rather feel groggy than have a waking up feeling. I also end up having great, and really long lasting dreams the next night when I do sleep which is cool too.

But I have lots of anxiety issues, which for the most part under control. I'm starting to think skipping sleep might screw me up, and I'd kick myself if I fell into depression or a bad place with anxiety because of something I could have prevented by just sleeping.

What do you guys think? Is there another way to get the wonderful feeling of being awake in the morning without having slept the night before without causing undue stress on my system? Does anyone else experience the same thing? Is there a way to time sleep so you are only waking up during light sleep (I think this might be part of the problem)?

Or even better have any of you had luck skipping sleep often? Is there a way to boost your energy just a little the next day so you can make it through to a regular bed time and be productive? Maybe something you can eat, or exercising at a certain time in the day? I am pretty open minded about sleep, I think the standard 8 hours a night advice is not always the best thing for everyone's body so I'm very open to your experiences and opinions.

Oh one other thing that might be relevant. Lately I have realized I clench my jaw in my sleep, I have noticed I'll even start doing it if I'm awake and lying down, maybe this is a hint, or relevant?
posted by chocolatemilkshakes to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I switched to this light-based alarm a few months ago, and waking up (whether I've gotten a full 7-8 hours of sleep or not) has become a lot easier and far less unpleasant than it used to be. It felt a little pricey at first to spend the money, but it's absolutely been worth it for me.
posted by scody at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you would benefit from a sleep study. A doctor who is an expert in these things could analyze your sleep patterns and help you figure out what's going on.

If clenching your jaw is the problem, there are night guards and other solutions. If you need to wake up during light sleep, you might benefit from a Sleeptracker Wake Up Monitor or similar device. But the only way to know what's really going on is to do the study and be observed and consult with a professional.
posted by decathecting at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Are you well hydrated? I find if I don't drink enough water or if overheat in bed at night, I wake up feeling hungover (and sometimes with a migraine, but that's me).
posted by zomg at 4:22 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with decathecting, but I also noticed this:

I've surprised myself that I am actually able to wake up at 5:30 on a consistent basis, I actually was not sure it was possible for me.

I tried being really strict with myself and forcing myself to go to bed by 11:30 every night, figuring this would have to make the mornings easier. Honestly, it didn't do much for me. It seems like no matter how early I go to bed, my body still won't be happy about waking up early.

Is 11:30 the earliest you've tried going to bed? If so, I think your problem might be that you're not getting enough sleep. Six hours just doesn't cut it for most people. If you have to wake up by 5:30 consistently, you should probably be to bed by 10 consistently.

Missing sleep can really screw with your cognitive function, alertness levels, and physical heath. It also makes you a dangerous driver.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:23 PM on September 22, 2011 [17 favorites]

Aside from everything else, going to bed at 11:30 in advance of a 5:30 wake up doesn't actually seem early enough to make any difference (that gives you only 6 hours of sleep). When you sleep in till 11am, how many hours of sleep are you getting? Is there any way you can come close to getting that same amount of sleep now - by, say, going to bed around 9pm? (I know that seems crazy early, but purposely making yourself sleep deprived sounds a bit nuts too!)
posted by Kololo at 4:23 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

How is your physical health? In general, of the people I know, the ones who are in terrible physical shape (eat poorly, never exercise, are overweight, have other health problems) are the ones who have a terrible time waking up in the morning. And in general, of the people I know, the ones who are healthy (eat well, get plenty of exercise (whatever their weight), etc) tend to just pop out of bed. This may not be the case for you (have I put enough disclaimer italics in here yet?), but it's something to think about. Personally, I know that if I eat a bunch of junk food the night before, I wake up feeling like crap.

Something you can try is changing up your daily habits and seeing how that affects your sleep/wake experience. Make sure that you're well-hydrated, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, lay off the salty and spicy stuff right before bed time, go for a brisk walk (or jog or whatever, if you're into that) after dinner. That sort of thing. Don't use the computer within a half hour of going to bed. Go to bed when you feel tired. Try to wake up at the same time every morning. And so on.

If improving your daily routine for a week or so doesn't help you any, then I agree with decathecting--get thee to a doctor for a sleep study.
posted by phunniemee at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm agreeing that for a 5:30 natural wakeup, the absolute latest you should be going to bed is 9:30 or 10, and probably earlier... and you should be doing it every single day, whether you have to get up early the next day or not, because otherwise you will mess up your schedule every weekend. How long do you sleep for if you just let yourself sleep? Because that's how many hours before 5:30 you should be going to bed.
posted by brainmouse at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2011

Oh, and following up on phunniemee, if you have trouble going to bed early, try adding some intense physical exercise to your daily routine. I've found that exercise really helps me regulate my sleep.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2011

Assuming you're getting the right amount of sleep (neither too little nor too much), I'm gonna ask if you've recently gotten new carpeting/mattress/curtains/sheets and/or blankets, recently gotten any of those items cleaned, repainted walls or refinished some furniture, especially in your bedroom? 'Cause some of your symptoms, like the headaches and hurting eyes, make me think of an ALLERGIC REACTION. Could you try sleeping on a couch or something for a few nights, just to test if it IS something specific in your bedroom that's affecting you?
posted by easily confused at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2011

Seconding that you should try drinking more water in the evenings. Waking up dehydrated is the absolute worst.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:29 PM on September 22, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to add that although I can't remember the details as well as I can my most recent routine, but there have been times when I have tried to wake up at 7 or 8, and went to bed to give myself at least 8 hours of sleep, yet I still felt my natural wake up time was around 10am. Also, say if I stayed up until 4 am and then woke up around 10 (still only 6 hours like I have been getting lately) I still would feel better (if not the greatest), just because it is later in the morning. I will try out and see what happens if I try going to bed even earlier, but these factors make me wonder if it is only a lack of sleep causing me to feel bad waking up.
posted by chocolatemilkshakes at 4:34 PM on September 22, 2011

The way you describe feeling after waking up makes it sound like you are getting truly awful sleep and you're just not waking up feeling well-rested. I agree with the others who say that you should go to bed A LOT earlier in order to be up at 5:30. This should absolutely be your first step towards getting better sleep.

Next up, what do you do before going to bed? You need a getting-ready routine that begins an hour or so before bed to help you wind down. You should avoid anything that might overstimulate your brain further and make it difficult for you to fall asleep quickly and deeply. For me that means no caffeine, no TV or stressful work, no heavy meals or snacks at least an hour before bed. Spend the hour before bed doing relaxing things like taking a bath, going for a walk, reading a funny book (one that you're able to put down in an appropriate amount of time), listening to some music, or meditating. Or, you know, sex.

I also wonder if there's anything environmental that may be disrupting your sleep. Allergens in the room? Old, crappy mattress? Noise or light coming from outside? Try to address those things as well.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:39 PM on September 22, 2011

Changing your sleep schedule is not something that you can do, well, overnight. You have to stick to it for at least two weeks for it to start to become natural. At least. Go to bed at 9:30 every night for 2 weeks, and see if waking up at 5:30 starts to feel more natural.
posted by brainmouse at 4:41 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You may have sleep apnoea and/or Restless Legs Syndrome - both of those would cause you to wake up feeling tired and deeply crappy.

Ask your Dr to refer you to a Sleep Laboratory for testing.
posted by Year of meteors at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2011

Do you maybe have sleep apnea? My husband has it and recently got a cpap machine. He told me he doesn't feel like killing anyone (or himself) when he wakes up anymore.
posted by sutel at 4:46 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have similar sleeping habits. Often whatever moods or irritations I have going to bed are exaggerated by morning. Echoing others, sleep environment is radically important! Do you have allergies to dust, animals? (I felt hungover for months before I realized I was allergic to my new down comforter.) Is your bed uncomfortable? Do you sleep best by yourself or with others, in a hot room or cold? Control as many variables as you can.

For me, skipping a night of sleep often results in a very creative, exuberant day... followed by an cranky, pain-in-the-ass week. My happiness and my creativity hang slightly lower but are MUCH more consistent with regular sleep.

#1: Wake up next to an east-facing window (or light simulator, if you have none). The dawn light needs to hit your face!
#2: Strong tea and meditation/yoga/music. Any centering ritual will do.
#3: Brisk jog around neighborhood.
#4: Vitamin D pill with breakfast, 1000-5000 IU.

Also, don't lie in bed for more than fifteen minutes. Get up and do something calm and repetitive. While you're drifting off, imagine yourself waking up early and think about something in the coming day worth getting up for! I strongly recommend practicing going to bed and getting up. IE, set a fake alarm and jump (I mean JUMP) out of bed. 40x at least. Then practice laying down, calming your mind, and relaxing your body from the toes up. Habituate your body to fight the wanderings of your mind!
posted by fritillary at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Years ago, I went through multiple periods of deliberately depriving myself of sleep, which I understood only much later to be (subconscious) attempts to self-medicate for depression and anxiety.

It was not a winning strategy for me.

It sounds possible that you may be doing the same thing. Do with that what you will, but I'd swear on a copy of "On The Origin of Species" that getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night is the single best thing that has ever happened in my life. I was able to get a jumpstart on it with an Ambien prescription from my GP, to whom I will be forever grateful.
posted by argonauta at 4:54 PM on September 22, 2011

IANAD. You should talk to a doctor about sleep disorders and other possible causes of your bad mornings. This part:

It seems when I can wake up naturally, without having to force myself, things are alot better. This leads to me sleeping in anytime I possibly can. Over the summer, this lead me to sleeping in almost every day (think 11am or noon most mornings. 9am or 10am would be a good day).

. . . made me think of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome but again, IANAD and I may be picking up on these details selectively.
posted by Orinda at 5:05 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

I took a few months to change from a late-riser (after 11am most days) to an extremely early riser (around 4:30am or 5am every day). For a long time, I went to bed at 9pm very strictly, which worked out, but I sometimes would feel the same morning hangover you describe.

I never used to nap, but lately, I've been taking a semi-long (an hour or 90 minute) nap in the afternoons directly after work, and I stay up a bit later at night. This has helped me to wake up feeling much more refreshed.
posted by xingcat at 5:07 PM on September 22, 2011

It seems when I can wake up naturally, without having to force myself, things are alot better. This leads to me sleeping in anytime I possibly can. Over the summer, this lead me to sleeping in almost every day (think 11am or noon most mornings. 9am or 10am would be a good day).

. . . made me think of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome but again, IANAD and I may be picking up on these details selectively.

Came in to suggest this. I suspect I have DSPS, though undiagnosed. I'm not functional early in the morning, and no matter what people tell me about needing to get used to it, it just never happens for me. Rather than seeking treatment, I've just sought out jobs that let me sleep in. It works for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Information about sleep apnea including symptoms. Morning headaches and impaired physical, mental and emotional functioning are but two of them. Another article linking morning headaches and sleep apnea.

You do not have to be an overweight, middle-aged man to have apnea. You can be female or young or thin or fit or all of the above.

If it's Delayed Sleep Phase then there are ways of managing it (it may be ideal to get a job where you can sleep in, but it's not always possible) with melatonin, light therapy and sleep hygiene. Again, a doctor can help you.

See a doctor and get a sleep test done. Sleep apnea is very serious business - untreated apnea causes heart attacks, strokes, and major motor vehicle accidents from falling asleep at the wheel.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've just had one of those moments where people who have had a thing for a long find out that their thing has a name. DSPS describes absolutely perfectly how my life has worked for the last thirty years. Thank you orinda.

I personally find that if I'm actually forced to get up early for weeks at a time, I just end up sick and tired and feeling sleep-deprived, which, of course, I am.... and I have loathed and despised Daylight Saving Time since it was first introduced to this country. Razzafrazzin crabblfranchin morning people fascist bastards.

The only time I ever sleep naturally on anything even approaching a "normal" schedule is if I've been camping for at least a week and don't make an evening campfile. So for me at least it's probably an evening-light sensitivity thing. If it's the same for you, chocolatemilkshakes, is there any way you could commit to a week of just not turning on your electric lights and fitting the end of your day in before sunset?

And now it's time I got ready to head off to work. I love my employers.
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

s/for a long/for a long time/
posted by flabdablet at 5:38 PM on September 22, 2011

Honestly, it might be DSPS, but you also sound like a night owl. I can't get sleepy and tired at 9 p.m. even if I was up at 5:30 a.m. (Which I was involuntarily thanks to my fucking noisy, wall-shaking neighbor.) Not unless I'm sick or feeling really fucked up, anyway. Going to bed early doesn't solve this problem for me for shit because I'll just lie there wide awake for hours until my natural tired time of between 11-12. I know the feeling of which you speak. There's something about waking up after 6-7 hours of sleep that makes you feel like absolute dogshit, which doesn't happen if you actually get 8 hours or less than six. Occasionally I will get THAT tired enough to be able to go to bed early if I've been getting 6-7 hours every night, but...well, not that often enough to be reliable. After two nights I'll be back at my usual level of "wide awake at 11"-ness.

I haven't really found a solution to the problem either. Your idea of a 2 night sleeping schedule SOUNDS good, but some people can get really really super fucked up from lack of sleep (I'm thinking of that guy's "I took a whopping amount of LSD, didn't sleep for two weeks and then was insane for months" story on the blue recently). It's probably better that you bite the bullet and just feel rummy and shitty with 6 hours of sleep all the time (assuming that like me, you're just not going to get tired THAT early no matter what) rather than do what you want to do here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:38 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whenever someone has serious complaints about their sleep quality, or how they feel in the morning, I always recommend a referral to a sleep specialist.

Apnea, RLS, GERD, UARS, DSPS, Bruxism, Snore arousals, sleep hygiene, lots of possible problems that may be easily corrected.

I have seen life changing results (seriously). Occasionally I see people that say they feel like they are 18 again.

/sleep laboratory employee

/Canadian Ontario OHIP covers cost
posted by skinnydipp at 8:14 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you ever had blood work done? I'm 30 and just found out that I'm hypoglycemic which is the root of many things wrong in my life including sleeping problems. Depression, anxiety, body aches, extreme lethargy, and headaches are all symptoms of your blood sugar levels being low. Does your "hangover" go away after you eat? Not saying that this is what you have, but it couldn't help to find out. Night sweats and nightmares are also signs. I always found that the longer I slept, the harder it was for me to get up which I now know is due to my blood sugar levels getting dangerously low the longer I went without food.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:19 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: MaryDellamorte: I have suspected hypoglycemia before for other reasons, never thought of it in relation to sleep issues though.... very interesting. I had alot of issues with fainting and being light headed when I was younger, which is when someone suggested hypoglycemia. But I know one of the times I fainted they drew my blood, and I would have guessed they would have checked for that? All I know is my doctor said they didn't find anything wierd... (I was a kid so not paying that much attention).

Can I ask what things you do to help with hypoglycemia. When I have tried to search for info on the internet before about it, I have been really confused with what I found. Lots of stuff about the glycemic index and losing weight... I don't care about losing weight, I just want to fix whatever the blood sugar imbalance issue is. Thanks!
posted by chocolatemilkshakes at 9:28 PM on September 22, 2011

Well, it involves completely changing your diet which keeps your blood sugar stable instead of the drastic ups followed by the dangerous lows. I'm still in the early stages of managing mine (I literally just found out last week) but I'll quickly list off the Foods To Avoid from the sheet my doctor gave me: fatty meats, cold cuts, sausage, desserts, anything with sugar (this doesn't include naturally occurring sugar found in fruits), whole or 2% milk, cream, any processed cheese, alcohol, caffeine [sad face], anything fried, hydrogenated oils, coconut oil, butter, high fat sauces. The doctor also stressed to me that I need to eat several small meals throughout the day instead of two or three big meals, NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST, and always eat protein with every meal. If you suspect that you have it, please get checked out because it can be dangerous if left untreated.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:45 PM on September 22, 2011

Oh and chocolate milkshakes would definitely fall under the Foods To Avoid category.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:58 PM on September 22, 2011

If you're interested in monitoring your own blood glucose levels, you can buy little hand held glucometers designed for diabetics. These come with a "clicker" designed to make a tiny hole in the side of your fingertip out of which will well a small droplet of blood; it hurts less than flicking your finger with your finger. A test strip that you plug into the glucometer wicks up the droplet and you get a blood glucose number in about five seconds. You can easily test before and after eating to see exactly how what and when you eat affects your glucose level. Beats the hell out of visiting Nurse Dracula.
posted by flabdablet at 11:49 PM on September 22, 2011

There are so many things that could be the cause of your sleeping/waking problems and there's really no way to guess what the real problem is. You need to get a sleep study done and find out what's really interfering with your ability to get adequate rest from the hours you sleep. When you find out what the problem is and get that specific problem treated, you'll sleep and wake as you should, but until you do you're going to be suffering the kind of confusion and poor judgement you're already describing (skipping sleep entirely, for instance). That type of dysfunctional thinking isn't because there's anything wrong with you - it's because you're getting inadequate sleep.

Don't sign any contracts or make any life-changing decisions until you get a sleep study done. Seriously.

Good luck to you - I hope you get this ironed out quickly.
posted by aryma at 12:03 AM on September 23, 2011

Honestly, it might be DSPS, but you also sound like a night owl

I'm beginning to suspect that "night owl" is in fact the vernacular for "person exhibiting DSPS". I've certainly been a night own, by preference, since puberty.

Coincidentally, I'm off to the quack next week to see about a referral for a sleep study. I will be very interested to see whether my overnight core temperature follows a pattern consistent with DSPS.
posted by flabdablet at 12:07 AM on September 23, 2011

I had a roommate that I suspect had DSPS, and she was pretty much nocturnal. If it had to get done during the day, forget it, she couldn't handle it. It's a drastically delayed sleep phase, more than just "I don't get tired until 11:30." Not tired until 11:30 is still within the normal range of "night owl."

And changing which one you are is difficult to nigh impossible, anyway.

(also found at Slate: can sleep deprivation kill you.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:45 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agree with phunniemee. You should reveal more about your general health here. What's your caffeine intake? You get any exercise? Tobacco, alcohol; how else are you punishing your 'falling-apart body' because "basically you just hate your life"? And what are you doing all night instead of sleeping?

Does anyone else experience the same thing?

I don't, never have, love sleeping, and always wake up refreshed. And the one sure cure for my own frequent headaches is some good, deep Phase IV REM sleep.
posted by Rash at 8:23 AM on September 23, 2011

Mornings are awful for me, but mostly for me it has been dealing with clenching my jaw (and other general TMJ issues,) allergies and hypoglycemia. I recently underwent treatment for TMJ that was pretty life changing for me but before that I would sometimes stress through the night about waking up in the morning, which of course just make me clench my jaw all the more and feel even worse in the morning. I still feel generally crappy in the morning but much better now that I have eliminated one of my issues.
posted by trishthedish at 8:51 AM on September 23, 2011

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