Don't wake me I plan on sleeping in...
November 10, 2005 7:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I break a 12+ year old habit of staying up too late? Is there such a thing as being addicted to staying up late? Or would it be addiction to sleep deprivation?

Back when I was in high school (12+ years ago now?) I was quite the insomniac. I so hated lying awake in bed trying to fall asleep that eventually, I gave up. Instead, I would just stay up really late until my eyes were so heavy I knew I could finally pass out without tossing and turning for 2 hours.

Over time, even as falling asleep has become easier (yet still no picnic - I'm tremendously jealous of people who can fall asleep in 15 minutes), I have been unable to force myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I procrastinate going to bed, EVEN when I'm tired! I'll find things to do to stay up (chat with friends over IM, browse the web, watch TV, read a book) and I won't get to bed until 1:30 or 2am when I work at 9am the next morning. It's as if I'm hopelessly addicted to staying up late.

The obvious response is "just go to bed earlier dumbass!" Yeah, I know. I even read a book called The Promise of Sleep, and after hearing about how bad sleep deprivation is to us, you'd think it would motivate me to get my ass in bed. I just can't do it. Does anyone have similar experience? Has anyone overcome this?

I should add that during this time - I have been in a variety of physical states as far as sedentary versus active throughout the years. Even during times where I was getting regular exercise, this has still been a problem.

Lastly, as far as "how does this affect your life adversely?":
- It makes waking up on time a challenge
- Being tired all day makes me lose focus/motivation at work
- It's easier to become irritable (luckily I'm not perpetually grumpy though)
- Surely this can't be good for my health.
posted by twiggy to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this problem all my life (24) until about 3 months ago when I moved into my new place. The reason: It's a 10 by 12 manhattan aprtment with one wall that's all windows and no curtains. Now the sunlight wakes my up promptly at 830 every morning. I don't even rely on my multiple alarms anymore. Also, now I'm going to bed earlier because I'm tired. I used to stay up past 2 and now I'm often hitting the sack right after letterman. give it a shot.
posted by slapshot57 at 7:52 AM on November 10, 2005

also......nice title
posted by slapshot57 at 7:52 AM on November 10, 2005

Data point: Being tired is a very pleasant sensation to me. I could buy "addiction to sleep deprivation".

I suggest sticking to a routine - set an alarm for 11PM, and when the alarm goes off kill the power on the PC (don't even bother with shutting it down, you'll find an excuse to hang around a few more minutes), and go to bed. It will be hard at first, but do it for a couple of weeks without deviation, and it should get easier.
posted by Leon at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2005

I have the exact same problem :( Lately my eyes have become constantly bloodshot, it's rather irritating (er, pun not intended?).

One big thing people always mention, dunno if that book did, is to limit caffeine intake. It's kind of a catch-22--we imbibe caffeinated products because we're tired, then it messes with our ability to go to sleep, so we're tired the next day and take more.

I know this applies to me somewhat--every other day or so I have a Red Bull with lunch, and I have these caffeinated Penguin mints I pop fairly regularly while at work--but I always stop at least 5-6 hours before (what should be) my bedtime, so I'm not sure it's that big a factor for me. May not apply to you either, but I figured I'd mention it.

Eagerly awaiting any other (more helpful) responses =)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: Well, one trick is to set an alarm for going to bed... presumably, you set an alarm and get up in the morning, so you can, if you wish, treat going to bed with the same discipline. Even if you can't sleep, you go to bed, and lie there in the dark, and don't go anywhere else. If you do that long enough, the body will adjust.

Light is often a big deal... if you stay off the computer at night, it will help. The computer screen is very bright, and it can fool the brain into staying in daytime mode. And if you can get a good, big, full spectrum light over your bed, and have it turn on a particular time in the morning, that will also help adjust your clock.

One way I've found to work is to go camping for a week or so... I've noticed that I get tired when it gets dark, and I wake up at the crack o'dawn, without any effort at all. Without artificial lighting, sleep becomes very easy.

And, of course, there's always melatonin. I find it works extremely well for me. I've found that less is more, with melatonin... a 1.5mg dose is much more effective than 3mg, for whatever reason. (I break 3mg pills in half now, and that works very well.) I'd suggest starting with very low doses and adding more if you need it.
posted by Malor at 7:59 AM on November 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

Oh, you silly live preview, insulating us from concurrent replies!

Leon's suggestion is a good one, one I would of course try out if I had the self-control to implement it.

slapshot57: do you mean your problem has been solved because you wake up earlier and are thus even more tired at the end of the day? It's not clear if the two parts of your reply are connected or not--I initally thought you were saying "I used to have problems oversleeping but now I don't".
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:01 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: I view sleep as a waste of time (I know, I know). So I suppose I'm in the same boat as you, though my body functions wondefully on 6 hours and I never have trouble falling asleep at night. (Okay, so not really the same boat, but at least the same ocean.) But, as others have said, I'd keep away from the TV and computer after a certain time each night - they have a way of prolonging insomnia. Reading every night (under low - but not too low - light) is a habit I've just recently gotten back into, and it works very well for relaxing and "coming down" at bedtime for me.

Do you have time for afternoon naps?
posted by mike9322 at 8:13 AM on November 10, 2005

I have that problem completely and totally. However, I realized it was only a problem if I insisted on having a job that required me up and out of bed at a reasonable hour. I decided to not work at jobs where I had to come in early and it solved my problem. I'm not saying it works for everyone, but for me my sleep cycles seemed harder to change that my work hours.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2005

Yep, I have a bad habit of staying up until 2am and beyond during the work week. My biggest problem is that I use my weekends to catch up on sleep. It's not unusual for me to sleep in until 1pm both Saturday and Sunday.

I don't have a solution, but I do know that it sucks to waste half my weekend like that...
posted by LordSludge at 8:36 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: Drink milk. Not at "bedtime," but in the evening after work, while you're doing the stuff you do that keeps you up, surfing, watching TV, etc. Milk has tryptophan in it, and is very helpful for a lot of people who have trouble sleeping. A few glasses of milk over the course of the evening (it doesn't have to be warm) combined with limiting your caffeine intake during the day (as cyrusgodstar suggested) could help you out.
posted by Gator at 8:45 AM on November 10, 2005

For me, staying up late is a sign of anxiety. I have to "let down my guard" to go to sleep. So if something's bothering me and I'm trying not to think about it, I'll stay up really late. Basically, by staying up I'm putting off the vulnerable moment when the nasty thought can creep up on me.

YM, of course, MV.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:54 AM on November 10, 2005

For some reason this reminded my of John Milton's poems "A'llegro" and "Il Pensoroso" written about 350 years ago. The former is smiley chap who loves to get up with the lark and the latter the melancholy, nortural thinker. It doesn't solve your problem but perhaps highlights the fact that its an old one, and that neither is necessarily right.
posted by rongorongo at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: If you want to move your sleep cycle, I have a few tips, mostly learned from trying to get my kids to have a sleep cycle, as opposed to waking randomly around the clock. That and business trips, where my biological clock seems to get erased every time.

One, set a time, but don't try to change it too fast. Start going to sleep at the same time everyday. For you, it might be 2 AM. But if you want to move it, do it a little at a time. Like 15 minutes every 2 or 3 days. But try to always go to bed at the same time.

Two, don't watch TV. At home, I normally go to bed at 10:30. On business trips, I'd watch TV until 2 or 3 AM without feeling tired at all. TV screws up my brain somehow. So try not to watch TV after a certain time. Just give yourself half an hour (or more) before your set bedtime to do nothing - fold laundry or something, but don't do anything interesting. Doing something boring will get you sleepy pretty fast.

As an aside, I think this is a single vs married-with-kids kind of thing. My son used to get up at 6 AM, so I had to be ready for it, like it or not. Kids have pretty rigid schedules and as a parent, you have to get with the program. Like I said, when I go on business trips, especially long ones, my sleep schedule goes into the shitter. When I was single, I was much like yourself. Not that I think you should get married and have kids to fix this problem though.
posted by GuyZero at 8:56 AM on November 10, 2005


yeah, the whole waking up earlier naturally by sunlight eventually just shifted my sleeping schedule. It's great, and it's the reason I refuse to get curtains or blinds for my room.
posted by slapshot57 at 8:57 AM on November 10, 2005

I would think that making your bed and bedroom as attractive, comfortable and uncluttered as possible would make going to bed seem more appealing, and would probably help you to get to sleep faster as well. At the very least you need to have a mattress you like and decent clean sheets.

Also, I'll agree with what other posters have said about caffeine and add that getting any worries you have out of your head and onto paper helps as well.
posted by teleskiving at 9:22 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: I have that problem sometimes.. I am forced to sleep during the day because I work midnight to 8am, bedtime is 2pm. (Hadn't read any responses before posting this)

I can't drink any sodas/tea/energy/caffiene drinks after about 5am (comparable to an 11pm bedtime would be about 2pm).

There may also be some activity that you engage prior to bed, such as being on the computer or game console, that gets your mind running and keeps you up. Consider ceasing that activity 2 hours or so before hitting the sack, and see if you'd unwound by then.

Consider a "RAM dump" as it were, before laying down. Clearing out all active-memory thoughts. Might even help to do some exercises prior to, but only the Tai-Chi kind, not pushups. Also when in bed lying down and under the covers, incrementally hard-flex every muscle from toe to forehead. You'd be surprised how relaxing it is afterward.

Think of things that are incredibly boring (but not to the point of stress) and discipline yourself to not deviate into thinking about something it reminds you of, and stick to the boring idea. For instance, television static.

I can fairly quickly fall asleep, but mostly because it feels like I can just set my mind in sleep mode by thinking of certain things like being hideously bored, or, especially, imagining the alarm clock ringing in the morning and me not wanting to get up -- that usually puts me out the fastest.
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:48 AM on November 10, 2005

The only time I have trouble sleeping is when I haven't exercised for a few days. I sleep like a champ now that I'm training daily for a sprint triathlon.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the correlation between exertion and sleep thusfar. Get an hour of aerobic exercise. Get the endorphins. Sleep at a decent hour later in the day will surely follow.
posted by u2604ab at 10:08 AM on November 10, 2005

On review: I missed your statement that exercise doesn't help you sleep.
posted by u2604ab at 10:09 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: Here's a related metafilter thread that's got a lot of commiseration from night people. Prognosis: cussin' at the sun. I wound up doing what jessamyn did.
posted by furiousthought at 10:12 AM on November 10, 2005

I've had some luck with setting a timer on a big lamp in my room to turn on right before my alarm goes off. When the alarm rings, my room is already lit.
posted by qslack at 10:26 AM on November 10, 2005

Best answer: Here are two very popular links on that address your problem (I've found the first link to be really helpful, never tried the second):

How to Become an Early Riser

Alarm Clocks are Bad. How to Wake Up and Feel Better.

posted by Boydrop at 10:29 AM on November 10, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you very much for all of your responses.

The key thing I'm taking from this is to cut myself off of TV and the computer at a certain time, which sounds like it will help immensely. It never occurred to me that bright glowy things would sort of stick my brain in a wake-state like that.

Caffeine intake isn't really a problem for me. I occasionally have a cup of coffee in the morning, but it's not a regular thing. My main caffeine intake would have to be 1 coke with lunch (not because I feel I need the caffeine, but because it is my beverage of choice).

Setting an alarm to get myself to go to bed, while a good idea in principle, will probably not work for me. The beep won't really help my willpower, and I'll shut it off and do a bunch of crap to procrastinate getting in bed :-) I may try it anyway, since every little bit that can push my willpower is a help...

Anyway.. thanks very much, everyone.. I appreciate it.
posted by twiggy at 10:34 AM on November 10, 2005

I have a similar sleep pattern. I can stay up all night long and not feel tired, and used to routinely stay up way too late. The only thing that worked for me was to get up at the exact same time everyday, thanks to my live in girlfriend. She has to get up at 5:30am every morning, and so I started getting up with her.

The first few days sucked hard because I was so tired in the morning and the rest of the day. Then by evening time, I wasn't tired any more. So I would stay up until I was tired.

The key is to get up at the same time every day, and then go to bed when you're tired. No matter what time you go to bed the night before, tell yourself that you have to get up at a certain time, and then do it (this is where the GF helped a lot, I don't know if I could have done it myself). After a week or so, you will just be sleepy at night when its bedtime, and you'll be awake and ready to get up in the morning. The hard part is getting up for the first week or so until your body adjusts.
posted by gus at 10:47 AM on November 10, 2005

definitely avoid things with monitors within a couple of hours leading up to when you want to be asleep. television especially - it works on the principle of "constant state of startle" to keep your attention.

exercise in the morning. even if this means a 15 min walk to the coffee shop - though obviously you should watch your caffeine intake too. i generally won't drink coffee after noon.

and are you wasting time during the day? are you happy with how most of your days get spent? is anxiety or depression a problem? i used to have this problem and found it was partially because i was genuinely unsatisfied with the way many of my days were being spent, so i stayed up in a bid to squeeze more out of them. best solution may be to live well and actively, and avoid all the distractions modern society is furnishing you to keep you "happy" and "productive".

the idea of a "ram dump" is interesting, too - i usually do this in the morning by writing stream of consciousness style, but it may be valuable at nite too...

and if you're worrying about not getting enough sleep, you won't. go to bed earlier than is totally reasonable for a while, if you can, to give you enought ime, and to get your mind used to the idea of being supine for a number of hours.
posted by poweredbybeard at 10:47 AM on November 10, 2005

1. Make the sleeping area as dark as possible.
2. Avoid stimulants for 2 hours before bedtime.
3. Avoid television and computers for 1 hour before bedtime.
4. Avoid bright light 1 hour before bedtime.
5. Only try to sleep for 30 minute periods. After 30 minutes, get up, and read in a sitting position for 15-20 minutes in low light. Then try again.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Set the alarm to get up, and when it goes off, get up. Don't lay in bed. Get up immediately.
8. Don't take naps.

The good news is that your body will learn to sleep again. Then, you don't have to follow the rules so closely and you'll still be able to fall asleep.
posted by ewkpates at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2005

great tips.
I have similar issues and I'm pretty sure alot of it is related to staring at the computer until minutes before I finally try to sleep. I have tried cutting out the computer and that helps sometimes.

One thing I have not seen addressed and am wondering if any others have this problem is that no matter when I try to sleep I am wide awake at 3:00 - 3:20 A.M. Sometimes I try to alter my schedule by getting up real early and am really tired by 11pm or so. I will go to sleep and get some good sleep in but 3 am rolls around and I'm wide awake again. Then I end up getting up and staying up.

So now I just stay up past 3:30 am every night.
posted by darkpony at 11:43 AM on November 10, 2005

The nap avoidance suggestions are probably spot on. Sadly, I sometimes find that I'm so utterly wiped at the end of the day (by dint of staying up far too lat the night before) that I collapse as soon as I get home.

Which, of course, means I'm up and wide awake by 9:30 or 10 pm and not in bed again until 3 or 4 am. This rarely results in a pleasant experience the following workday.

I'm of the mind that I'd benefit from a 2 hour siesta in the middle of the day. Sadly, this is all but impossible. If it were, however, I think I'd be a lot more productive . . .
posted by aladfar at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2005

I had read somewhere, a book, a scientific study? that this should be handled exactly like ewkpates wrote, with strong emphasis on NO NAPS. The key was to get up at the same time, weekends included, no naps no matter how tired you were. You could not go to bed until 8 hours before wake-up time - this is the important part.

It worked for me! I had the exact same sleep issues as you have, from teenagehood onwards, even after I had children (I'd take a nap with them during the day). As time went on and the children got older being dead tired just wasn't working.

For the 1st week it was hell - I wanted to sleep/nap so badly! Sometimes I would hit a 'peak' at around 9-10p - wide awake in spite of being exhausted, and there I'd be, up till 2a again - and only 3-4 hours of sleep in the past 2 days.

It was conquered with sheer will power. No naps, up at the same time, in bed no more than 8 hours before wake up time. By the end of week one I was greatly anticipating hitting the sack at 10p.

I am so much happier now - it's surprising how I accepted feeling tired as normal. Life is now a lot easier.

Good luck!
posted by LadyBonita at 1:58 PM on November 10, 2005

I really have to suggest melatonin as well. I regularly fall asleep after 4am (last night, it was 7:00am when I crawled into bed). I have a large comforter over my window and, as I type this at 3:00 pm, notice it's almost pitch black in my room, if not for my computer screens.

Regardless, melatonin is what works for me if I need to go to bed at a more "normal" time. You should be prepared to sleep for at least seven hours on it, but a low dosage has reportedly few side effects, little addiction problems, and very little other issues associated with even long-term use, so some research shows.

It's cheap and if you take it and crawl into bed 15 minutes later, (about 3 mg does the trick for me), then you'll generally find yourself quite sleepy quite soon.

I used this to sleep on my trip to Taiwan, and to "fix" my jetlag the next day. It worked brilliantly.
posted by disillusioned at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2005

If you must use the computer before bed, turn down the brightness on your monitor, and you'll get sleepy. This is a two-button keystroke on my laptop, and probably not much more difficult on a desktop monitor.

If you set an alarm for when you should turn down the brightness, you're well on your way.
posted by Geektronica at 7:30 PM on November 10, 2005

Is it possible that you just don't have enough time to fit in everything you want to do ub a dayt? I go to bed too late all the time, but it's because there's still so much I want to do. Like, come home from band practice, and I know I should go to bed but I also want to call up a friend and watch a film and have a drink and...

So, are the things you do instead of going to bed things that you really want to do, or are they purely to avoid going to bed?

If they're the former, consider working out a way to spend less time doing stuff you're not really that excited about, thus leaving more time for the stuff that is stopping you going to bed.
posted by pollystark at 2:32 AM on November 11, 2005

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