Help me overcome sleep inertia
September 22, 2013 5:48 PM   Subscribe

If I don't have to be somewhere by a certain time, I turn my alarm forward in increments between ten minutes and an hour and a half until mid-afternoon, never waking up enough that I don't feel like I couldn't and don't want to fall immediately back to sleep. On days when I do have something to do, I set my alarm an hour early, reset it to the real time when it goes off the first time, and wake up immediately after that.

Left to my own devices I usually fall asleep between 2 and 6 AM and will sleep until 1-4 PM. In periods of my life when I have somewhere to be in the mornings during the week, I get by with 6-8 hours of sleep instead of 10-13, napping if possible in the early afternoon or "catching up" (ie sleeping all day again) on open days.

Depression and loneliness are factors. I feel better and sleep more regularly, and am actually glad to wake up when I have an external reason to be awake in the morning. But what are some ways that I can reliably wake myself up on days when I don't have anything in particular to do or anyone to see in the morning/afternoon?
posted by wrabbit to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Depression did this to me too, and even after the first bout had dissipated I was still in the habit of sleeping in 10 minute increments all morning.

Honestly, I recruited my long-distance partner (though a parent or a friend would do) and asked them to ring me up in the morning, and keep talking to me as I got out of bed, rinsed my face and put the kettle on.

After 2 weeks of this I had enough willpower to try my alarm clock. There was some backtracking here and there but it was definitely the phonecalls that prompted a change in habit.
posted by dumdidumdum at 6:03 PM on September 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Could you move your alarm so that you need to actually get out of the bed to turn it off? I was going through exactly what you describe for a while when I was out of work, and when I got sick of it, I set my alarm up out in the hallway outside my room so that I wasn't able to just roll over to turn it off.

Just having my feet hit the floor was helpful in changing my habits, and eventually I moved it back into my room (though I still don't keep it next to my bed - it's just far enough away that I need to get out from under the covers.)
posted by deliciae at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am also a person dealing with depression. I downloaded an app for my iphone called Sleep Cycle. It uses the accelerometer in the phone to figure out when is the best time to wake you up so that, if possible, you're not jarred out of a deep sleep. I chose a 30 minute window. I also got an app called Bed Time that lets me plug in what time I want to wake up and it tells me what time to get in bed. Or, it tells me what time I should get up if I go to sleep right now.

Getting out of bed in the morning has been easier. (Which is kind of funny because I am a super chipper morning person. I just would rather be chipper in bed.)

Can you schedule morning phone calls with a reliable friend who will call you to chat? Barring that, can you keep a breakfast treat in the house that you only get if you're up in a certain window? Like nutella for your toast instead of peanut butter?
posted by bilabial at 6:29 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have a delayed (owly) circadian clock. You might Google DSPS to learn more about that. That said, being very dys-synchronized with solar time is correlated with depression (with arguments made both that depressed people get more owly/sleepy and that owls are more prone to depression).

The best things I know for this, in order, are:
1) using a light box, the kind they use for seasonal affective disorder, in the mornings. not only does this wake you up, it is also a gold standard therapy for advancing your circadian clock (i.e. making you more of a morning person), up to and including helping you get tired earlier.
2) getting a seven-days-a-week sleep schedule that you follow religiously can really help. ie, if you get up for work at eight five days a week, do that on the weekend too.
3) avoid bright light on the late afternoon and evening. don't use screens at night, and if you do, install a program like flux or twilight that will limit your exposure to blue light after sundown.
posted by feets at 6:58 PM on September 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you can get an Android device there's a great app called Gentle Alarm which has a "pre-alarm" to rouse you gently half an hour (or whatever period works for you) before the "real" alarm. The pre-alarm can be quite soft, fading in from silent to too quiet to actually wake you up, but it lets your body subconsciously prep for the real wake-up. The real wake-up can be as abrupt as you want, or can fade in over a long time, with optional snooze limits and other clever stuff.

Honestly, it's brilliant. The sound I use for the pre-alarm is birdsong and a row-boat, and when it's time to really wake up I'm fresh and ready.
posted by anadem at 8:11 PM on September 22, 2013

Maybe get one of those coffee makers that you can set a future brew time for? Then you both have something to look forward to (delicious-smelling coffee) as well as a reason to get up in the morning (if you don't, the coffee will be cold). Plus, caffeine is an antidepressant.

Or you could get a couple of cats. They won't let you sleep in past breakfast time and you'll be less lonely.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:59 PM on September 22, 2013

Can you get a dog?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:54 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find something you've been meaning to do, and make an appointment to go and do it in the morning. Preferably, arrange to do it with someone else who can provide a good level of guilt trip if you flake out.
posted by emilyw at 1:09 AM on September 23, 2013

Best answer: Oh man, I have this problem, and for me, the worst of it is that when I finally manage to dislodge myself, I still have to do all my morning preparing-to-leave-the-house stuff, and then I'm late. So maybe get up and take a shower and brush your teeth, telling yourself that if you feel like it, you can just go straight back to bed afterwards. If you feel more awake afterwards, then great, and if you really do end up going back to bed, then as soon as you finally feel like getting up, you can just throw on some clothes and go.

The only thing that really works, though, is having something scheduled for the morning. It doesn't necessarily have to be a person -- in a pinch, "this really nice cafe stops serving brunch at 2, and it takes me half an hour to get there . . ." will do fine.

Also, these things (not my blog) have gone a long way in making weekend mornings more fun for me. Now that is worth getting up to turn on the oven. And then, even though they take seriously no thought and are thus doable in a bleary-eyed state, you have to stay reasonably awake because your oven is on.
posted by ostro at 9:24 AM on September 23, 2013

I do this and recently found out it is related to a morning dip in blood sugar, making it really hard for me to wake up. Shot in the dark, but try having a high protein snack right before going to sleep and see if that makes a difference. I try to have a hard boiled egg or a bowl of tuna at midnight, and it seems to help.
posted by whalebreath at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2013

I just remembered something else from that period in my life: I started volunteering at the local public radio station, which was about an hour trip via public transport from my home. I worked for the education department, working with the groups of school kids that came to tour the station and do radio shows in our practice studio. It was a hoot, plus if I did not show up, I knew there was no one else available to help the station staff kid-wrangle. The kids were always hilarious, their energy was great, and scheduling myself to be there at 8AM meant I was out the door by 7 or I was late, so I never got out of bed late on those days.
posted by deliciae at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2013

i keep a crazy sleep schedule too and am in the process of switching it around. i have this lightbox which helps. you may want to get a part-time job in the afternoons so you have to get up and out of the house. or, take a class then. years ago i read a sleep book and it said to change your schedule to get up 5 minutes earlier each day. that way it isn't too hard on you physically to adjust your sleep cycle. i know that seems really slow but you could speed it up to 15 minutes earlier each day like i am currently doing. those sleep cycle apps sound good as long as you don't have a pet/another person that sleep on your bed as that will throw it all off.
posted by wildflower at 1:18 AM on September 24, 2013

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