Work week insomnia :(
January 3, 2012 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I have developed work week insomnia. I know YANMD, but what have you found effective for managing this.

I am generally a poor sleeper anyways and I occasionally go through insomnia phases of a few weeks with months of great sleeping. I generally take 1mg of melatonin 30 mins before bed and it works great. I can sleep find on vacation.

Recently, I have developed insomnia on Sunday night which sets off a chain reaction of obsession and several more days of insomia until Thursday or Friday when I'm so tired it doesnt matter.

I have good sleep hygiene and use the bed only for sleeping. There is no tv in the bedroom. I do often use the computer up until the minute I go to bed, but I try to limit my computer screen time after 10pm. I also get up at the same time everyday.

Any suggestions?
posted by burlsube to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't already, you might consider adding a blue-light blocking app to your computer, such as F.lux. I like to think that it helps me.
posted by ceiba at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

What helped me with a similar bout of evil insomnia (and I sound like a broken record, I think) was valerian capsules and magnesium supplements. The valerian was recommended by my doctor, the magnesium recommended here.

My doctor also warned me that it may take the valerian a week or so to "kick in," but if you keep with it it absolutely worked.

Also, maybe playing with the light level in your room while you're asleep may help. My sleep cycle was getting all KINDS of messed up becuase the LCD on my alarm clock turned out to be too bright.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2012

I often have this problem, too. I think the computer screen can be a big part of it. I've noticed that I have less trouble sleeping, even after being on the computer until right before I go to bed, since I installed F.lux.
posted by asnider at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2012


Valerian Tea.
More Melatonin (if you handle it well) unless it's clearly not working in which case I switch it out for Unisom.

Unisom tends to make me feel crappy in the mornings though. It definitely carries the "drugged" side effect.
posted by royalsong at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2012

Are you finding you have insomnia on Sundays because you're thinking about work or about your week-day responsibilities? The same cascade failure can happen to me if I let myself get stressed out too much about work. Similarly, the sleeplessness can come and go, depending on the stress levels I'm experiencing.

If this is your problem, then the solution is to get organized as much as possible on Sunday, so that you can sleep that night and give yourself a fighting chance. Make a list of the items you have to remember to do the following day. Get as many of those done on Sunday night as you can; pack your lunch, lay out your clothes, make sure the car is gassed up, whatever.

And the most important thing: Promise yourself that once you've done your prep, you won't worry about it until the morning. You've done all you can do for now. Sweet dreams!
posted by LN at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I take calcium & magnesium. The calcium helps you fall asleep in the first place, so don't take your supplement more than an hour before you want to be asleep. If you wake up in the night, take a calcium supplement. The magnesium keeps you asleep through the night.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:59 AM on January 3, 2012

My thoughts are similar to LN's. In addition to getting all the prep work out of the way, have a notepad and writing implement next to your bed. If you need to remember something to do at work the next day, write it down. Bring your night worksheet to work the next morning. It's a simple way of clearing your head just that much more.
posted by kellyblah at 12:00 PM on January 3, 2012

Exercise is very important and for me is most effective if done vigorously about 4 hours before going to bed. Also, getting stressed about insomnia tends to worsen insomnia. I tend to allow myself 15-30 minutes of obsessive work-stress/thinking when I get in bed, because this resolves some of the issues I'm worried about, and tends to inhibit sleep less than several hours of "OH GOD I'M OBSESSING ABOUT STUFF WHEN I SHOULD BE SLEEPING".

Also, other stuff you've probably heard: alcohol turns out to be very bad for sleeping. 1 mg of melatonin is not very much. I am a small person for whom most medicinal stuff is effective at low doses; when I take melatonin at a time when it would otherwise be difficult to sleep, I tend to take 5mg.
posted by kengraham at 12:02 PM on January 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips. How much calcium and magnesium do people generally take?

I've tried unisom, tylenol pm, motrin pm, etc. but they dont always work. It is mostly that the insomnia fuels the next days obsession that I might not sleep:::rinse and repeat:::
posted by burlsube at 12:25 PM on January 3, 2012

I could have written this post, as I suffer from insomnia in pretty much the same way you do. I've recently been pretty vocal about it, and I've gotten a lot of advice from friends. The best is, alas, the most open-ened, because the reasons for insomnia differ wildly from person-to-person and even for one person during the course of his life. Your problem might be due to diet, exercise, stress, routines, vitamin deficiencies, etc. -- and most likely it's due to some complex mixture of some of the aforementioned factors.

Take just the factor of caffein. I am profoundly affected by it. If I have any past 1pm, I will get no sleep at all that night. But can I have some at 11am? 9am? 7am? Should I avoid it completely? And what if my problem is a mixture of caffein and not-enough-exercise. Or caffein and something in my diet that I haven't even considered?

Which is why the best advice I've received is (a) it you can afford it (or if insurance will pay for it) go to a sleep clinic and (b) read this book: "No More Sleepless Nights," co-written by the former director of the Insomnia Program at the Mayo Clinic.
posted by grumblebee at 12:28 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just followed the regular usage instructions. It won't work like a sleeping pill -- it's more of a longer-term solution.

But try it anyway -- you may be just getting stuck in a mental feedback loop of worrying about not getting sleep, and that is keeping you from falling asleep, and then that's making you more tired and stressed out and then that keeps you from falling asleep and...

What I found the magnesium did for me was: however much sleep I DID get, it was good quality sleep. That's what started to short-circuit the feedback loop; I still only got 6 hours, but at least it was a more restful 6 hours. That made me a bit less stressed the next night, so I was a bit more likely to stay asleep and fall asleep faster, and...

The valerian, in capsules, was what worked to PUT me to sleep. It took a week of taking them regularly for it to finally work, but work it did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on January 3, 2012

FYI- the "PM" part of Tylenol/Motrin is just diphenhydramine (brand names: Benedryl, Nytol). If you don't actually need the pain relief part, do your liver a favor and just take diphenhydramine.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:33 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I take a calcium/magnesium/zinc pill and a separate magnesium supplement.
I don't like the Nature Made vitamin brand, but I will buy the grocery store generic/store brand. I've been buying them for years and I don't remember the actual dosage, but the grocery store only offers me one dosage of each type. That's the one I buy. It works for me, taken before bed every night.
posted by aabbbiee at 12:51 PM on January 3, 2012

Same issue here. For me, its definitely "using the computer up until bedtime" that does it. Even if I'm doing silly games or something there is a corner of my screen that has twitter, or news, or asia trading or something going on that creates background stress. If you really want to sleep I'd suggest a strict "no screens an hour before bed" routine.
posted by H. Roark at 1:01 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me, it turned out to be almost entirely mental. I was stressed about work without really realizing how stressed I was. Once someone helped me identify that, I went about trying to
1. eliminate the stressors I could
2. learn to better handle the stress (active management instead of it managing me)
3. set up my Monday mornings to be "work but fun-work time" where for the first few hours I did stuff I really enjoyed (in this case, new technology research because I love learning new things). I'd end up going to bed Sunday night looking forward to Monday morning.
posted by introp at 1:24 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've had the same issues of not sleeping during the week and then sleeping fine on the weekends/vacation. I don't know if you've tried any "meditation" before, but this has really worked for me:

When I'm trying to fall asleep, I focus all my thoughts on how tired I am. I try to find the actual sensation of sleepiness in my body. Maybe in my stomach, maybe in my head. And then I just focus on it. If my mind starts to drift, I pull it back to just thinking about how tired THAT PARTICULAR SPOT is. Honestly, it doesn't seem like it should work but it does. Every time.

Other things that help:


Routine. Just establishing a "habit" of sleep really helps me. Avoid screens as much as possible before bed.

rinse-and-repeat - give yourself an hour or so of lights-out to fall asleep. If it isn't working, get up, go to the bathroom, turn on some lights, basically start your going-to-bed routine again.
posted by ghostiger at 1:36 PM on January 3, 2012

I do this, because I am freaked out about having to wake up several hours before my body naturally wants to and thus I am afraid to sleep too soundly, wake up many times in the night to check the alarm, and frequently my body just gives up and gets up somewhere between 5 and 6:30 a.m. I don't pull this crap on weekends.

I have no clue how to solve this, mind you, but that could be a reason for the problem.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:49 PM on January 3, 2012

My insomnia has improved a ton since I started blocking the light from my digital clock. Also, taking an antacid before bed seems to help as well.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:50 PM on January 3, 2012

Practicing good sleep hygiene and using the computer right up to the minute where you go to bed are mutually exclusive. :)

You need to give yourself some wind down time. Set an alarm, or use leechblock or your favorite blocking add-on to kick you off the computer an hour before you go to bed. Develop whatever wind down ritual works for you - yoga, a cup of tea and a book, and so on.

(jenfullmoon - you need a sunrise clock!)
posted by canine epigram at 5:59 AM on January 4, 2012

I have dealt with this same problem for a number of years. What I do is the following -

- Go with the flow when it comes to work week sleeping. If I don't sleep well during the week, oh well. For instance, yesterday I woke up at 2:30 AM and couldn't get back to sleep so I just got up. I played around on the computer, drank my coffee, had my regular morning routine and went off to work. And it didn't particularly affect my ability to do the job that one day. And last night I slept great because I had been up since 2:30 that morning.

- The key change I made is that on the weekends I take a sleeping pill (one-half Unisom Friday night and the other half Saturday night.) Sat. and Sun. mornings I sleep in until 6:00 or 7:00 AM and it is glorious.

Making this change has made me less stressed about sleep loss during the week and makes me really look forward to "making up" for my sleep deficit on the weekends. I used to worry that it was bad to take sleeping pills every weekend but it is only half a pill each night and my general feeling of restfulness MORE than makes up for any nagging worries about the sleeping pills. And knowing I will be able to make up for any sleep loss from the work week by sleeping in on the weekends reverses the stress of not sleeping during the week. It's amazing what a difference it has made and I can't believe I didn't do this long ago.
posted by eleslie at 6:00 AM on January 4, 2012

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