When should I sleep?
May 1, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

And how does a terrible, light sleeper maximize rest?

This question is kind of two-fold.

I just accepted and began training for a part time job that has third shift hours, sort of. My schedule will alternate each week and look something like this:

Week 1: Monday, Tuesday 3am – 9am; Saturday, Sunday 3am – 10am
Week 2: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 3am – 9am

I may occasionally have more than 3 consecutive days of this shift.

I trained this Wednesday and Thursday, and I tried a 2-nap approach that worked okay. I got 3-5 horizontal hours before the shift and then another 3-4 hours after. I won't say I got that many hours of sleep because honestly trying to go to bed that early didn't work out the first day, but worked much better the second when I had accumulated sleep debt.

I would like to maximize daylight hours, which is why I was trying the 2 naps instead of trying to get 8 hours in somewhere (I doubt it's going to be possible for me to go to bed late afternoon to get 8 consecutive hours; I tend to be more awake going into the evening), but I'd also like to maximize rest and I'm not sure if I'll still be high functioning on the 3rd or 4th or nth consecutive work day on this sleep schedule. I would still like to have something of a life, shop during the day as needed, run with the dog regularly, etc. I have a few scheduled things like a Saturday morning dog training class and a Thursday early evening running group.

I'm going to try to do the following to have consistency:

- always go to bed at 9-10pm working and not working days, and always get up around 6-7am on off days
- I have blackout curtains so daytime sleeping shouldn't be disturbed with light
- kick cat out because he is a constant snuggler
- only have 1 cup of coffee at 2:30 am on work days (I am ultra caffeine sensitive and usually have none)

Do you think this is doable or intelligent long term? I work from home so there's no commute or appearance prep.

Also, for any sleep in general, how can I improve quality? I am the lightest sleeper ever and I just seem to need more than other people (probably because it's never a solid 7-8 hours, it's always a toss and turn, cat interrupted, noise interrupted, etc. 9-10. I can limit some of the distractions, not drink any caffeine or have sugar, stay away from screens before bed, and do some obvious things, but ugh I'm still pretty tired all the time. Naps usually make me feel groggy and give me a slight headache. Any suggestions? Are there any OTC medications that will only knock you out for like 3 or 4 hours at a time? Sometimes I take melatonin, but it lasts too long for a work shift.
posted by rawralphadawg to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever had a sleep test? If your sleep is consistently poor-quality - you wake up feeling unrefreshed and like you can't fill your "sleep tank" - there might be something physical going on. I was the world's lightest sleeper, and my sleep was unrefreshing; I finally begged my doctor for a sleep test. Lo and behold, I actually had severe sleep apnea. I sleep with a CPAP and the quality of my sleep has improved 1000%. I can leap out of bed and take on the day.

You don't have to be overweight and/or male to have sleep apnea, and you don't even have to snore.

As far as stuff you can do immediately: I get much better sleep if I keep the cats out of my bedroom at night. Sorry, kitties! They have plenty of other cozy places to sleep in the rest of the house.

If you want to consider sleep medication, Sonata is very short-acting and stays in your system for only about four to five hours.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:12 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I take Trazadone for sleep. It's Rx. Benydryl is also good.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2014

I have major insomnia and here are (non-drug) things that help in addition to what you mentioned:

- take a long hot shower or bath before bed
- no tv or backlit screens 30-60 mins before bed (e.g. Computer, iPad)
- warm cup of decaf tea (I like mint or chamomile)
- read in bed for 15 mins with lights a little too dim
- a white noise machine is my savior when my neighbors are watching a LOUD MOVIE. I'm a really light sleeper and this helps tremendously. (And FWIW, I let my Kitty snuggle with me because I find him calming and his purring helps me sleep but it hasn't always been this way, so YMMV). Noise from a fan can achieve this too.
- try melatonin (it doesn't do jack shit for me but for some it's helpful, as is L-thiamine).
- make sure you are not too hot or too cold, I actually prefer to be a little on the cooler side in bed
- earplugs for big noise/a snoring bed partner
- no food at least 2 hours before bed
- exercise when you are awake - get that cardio in to help burn off some energy!

Personally I do all of these things on a regular basis and sometimes they help, but again, have major insomnia so oftentimes they do not so I pop an Ambien. I prefer not to, but sometimes it's all there is left to do to not be a zombie the next day. :/
posted by floweredfish at 2:36 PM on May 1, 2014

Block out all light (tin foil, black foam-board panels, folded over tape around doors cracks). Block out all sound (sound machine, waves, thick comforter around your ears, earplugs). Use Flu.x or some sort of redshift thingy on your computer at night. Use candles after sunset.

Do high intensity interval training (sprints) (on an elliptical if your knees can't do impact) once per week. Consider buteyko breathing. (These are to bring up your CO2 tolerance to make you less shifty and less a light sleeper.)

Stand as much as possible during the day.

Protein and carbs 3-5 hours before bed.

See a doctor about sleep issues. See a doctor about digestive issues.
posted by zeek321 at 4:03 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great advice above. I also have major insomnia, but try not to take Rx meds unless it's the last resort. Lately, Now brand L-Theanine has been very helpful in my case. I pop two of those about 30 minutes before I want to sleep and then relax with a soft light either meditating or reading a book. That usually helps me get nice and drowsy.

Another thing you might want to pay attention to is temperature, both your body and the room. I like to have the room temp fairly cool (because it helps me breathe better, stupid allergies), but not cold; yet my feet have to be warm -- even in the summertime. Cold feet will wake me straight up and keep me awake for hours. If you have this problem too, invest in some good, comfy socks that don't cause your feet to sweat.

TV and computers are not allowed in my bedroom. They're just too stimulating no matter how much I lower the brightness. Instead, I sometimes play a playlist of certain songs that make me sleepy. I never play these songs during any other time because I want to keep them associated with sleepytime.

Try to develop an evening ritual like having a cup of tea and a piece of toast an hour or two before bed. If I'm on a really bad streak, I'll drink a glass of orange juice or have something else that will give me a guaranteed sugar rush because the sugar crash that comes after is often enough to make me take a nap.

Third shift hours just plain suck though. You're going to just make things worse for yourself in the long run if you keep trying to maintain "regular people hours" when you have to work third shift. Your best bet is to try to shift your body's circadian clock so that you get used to sleeping in the day and being alert at night. Your dog will get used to it too; he has to. If you don't get quality sleep, everything else in your life will suffer, so try to adjust to your new normal and nip that insomnia in the bud as soon as possible.

Good luck!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:10 PM on May 1, 2014

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