I need to stop napping
February 3, 2015 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Every weekday I take a midmorning nap. I want to stop. Help.

Most nights I get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, sometimes interrupted by small children, ending when said children wake up between 4:30 and 6 AM. Then I get an additional 30 to 45 minute nap in the early morning. Then I take my kids to school and I go home and instead of getting to work in my home office, I go upstairs and lie down and fall asleep for another 2 to 3 hours. This puts my total amount of daily sleep at 'ridiculous' and it is impacting my productivity and mood.

On weekends, when I don't have a quiet house and I have responsibilities to attend to, I stay awake through the morning. Most weekend days I end up pretty tired by the afternoon if I don't nap, but I can manage with a shorter nap, or my medication makes it impossible for me to sleep even when I lie down and try.

I am seeing a sleep doctor and I have had a sleep study. I have been diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia. I do not have narcolepsey. I do not have sleep apnea to any appreciable degree. I cannot successfully use a CPAP machine (TRUST ME). I am taking 400 milligrams of Nuvigil which is more than the recommended daily dose, and I take my medication and drink 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning before this nap. Somehow when I get back to my empty house the lure of my quiet bedroom is still impossible to resist.

My iron levels and thyroid levels are under control. I get plenty of vigorous exercise and I don't get sleepy when driving. My BMI is on the line between overweight and obese and has been drifting slowly downward for a couple of years as I've improved my lifestyle.

Please assume that it's not possible for me to re-arrange my night schedule to get more sleep and that the small children involved are being intensively coached and encouraged to sleep better and longer.

I don't eat a lot of junk food, my breakfast is usually fairly sensible, and I have tried eating eggs in the morning instead of carbs with no effect.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO? What helps you banish the morning tireds? I am open to different combinations of medications, different types of coffee, or any other strategy that I have not yet tried under the supervision of the multiple medical professionals who are involved in my life.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How about trying a brisk walk or a trip to the gym after you've dropped the kids off at school? Get your blood pumping and get energized. Once you get home, you're ready to get to work.

Another option is to clean something. Every day of the week section out different chores to be done. So Monday, a bathroom, Tuesday dusting and sweeping, Wednesday, mopping floors. This means that your house will stay clean and again, you're working and getting things done.

I think the napping thing happens when you're bored and having trouble shifting gears. So shake yourself up, change it up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:47 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I realize that it feels ridiculous, but there really is a bell curve in terms of sleep needs.There's a ton of variance. Most people are good at the 7-9 hour range, but there are a lot of outliers. Some people feel bright and refreshed on 4 hours a day, and some people just need 10-11 hours a day of sleep in order to feel normal. Unfortunately, that's just the way bodies work. It's possible that you're just on the high end of sleep needs.

That said, can you take your sleep study to a different specialist and ask for a second opinion? Maybe they'll see something your first doctor didn't.
posted by decathecting at 5:48 AM on February 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think this is a tough question to answer because of your medical history.

When you get home can you open all of the blinds in your house, let the sun shine in, and go directly to your office? Drink a glass of iced water. Take a quick walk around the block with some invigorating music or pump up some jams in the house while you are opening curtains? I think you just have to force yourself to walk directly to your office instead of the bedroom.

Here are two things that I do on my days off during the morning or afternoon slumps that I do to stay "productive" and instead of napping or wasting time:

1. Bring your laptop into your kitchen. Put it on the counter. Stand up in your kitchen (don't sit down) and do stuff while watching YouTube in the background or listening to a podcast or music. Clean, prep food for dinner, set the table for dinner, etc.

2. Walk in my neighborhood with a podcast or music.
posted by Fairchild at 5:50 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe the naps per se aren't the problem but rather that you're not napping efficiently. I have read (and it is my personal experience) that a short nap where you wake up just before you hit REM lets you get up from your nap rested and not tired and wanting to continue the nap.

At the risk of sounding all pepsi blue, I use this app on my iPhone. Note: you can just put your phone beside you; you don't actually need to put it in a pocket like they show. I'm sure there are other apps out there that will do the same thing, that is, use the accelerometer to figure out when you're just about to go into REM and wake you up.

Works for me, but of course YMMV.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:57 AM on February 3, 2015

It sounds like you don't need the nap. You can power through. So, in part it's a psychological thing, and you need to make yourself busy or otherwise just not give yourself that option.

In addition, though -- and this is going to sound weird -- I wonder if you should cut out the 1-2 cups of coffee earlier in the morning. I have the most energy when I'm able to cut out (or cut way down on) coffee.

Even if you don't want to eliminate coffee, you might try shifting it in time. From what I understand, people will naturally have lulls in mid-morning and mid-afternoon. So if you want to drink coffee in the morning, drink it at 10, not 7. One, you won't be crashing from the coffee at 10. Two, if you're tired, you can get the pick-me-up then.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:06 AM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't go home to work in the mornings. Bring a laptop with you to drop the kids off, and then go directly to work in a cafe, coffee shop or public library.

Home can be a danger zone for productivity even for really productive people. (Even my neighborhood Macarthur Fellow is always doing his writing in the local cafe.... )
posted by third rail at 6:21 AM on February 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

Given what you've described, I think the best solution would be to not be around your bed at all. Go elsewhere in the mornings.
posted by OmieWise at 6:43 AM on February 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

When you go upstairs and sleep for another 2-3 hours, your body clock probably is too confused by the on/off/on/off to know when to wake you up. If you're not setting an alarm, you should do that, and try setting it pretty short (an hour or less) to see if you feel at least somewhat refreshed. Consider a Coffee Nap.
posted by aimedwander at 6:44 AM on February 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Not sure if you saw my post on the blue or if you're aware that they exist, but, there are online support groups and a forum available for those that are suffering from idiopathic hypersomnia. You might be able to get better suggestions from those that share your symptoms.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe you need more like 8-10 hours of uninterrupted night sleep - can you go to bed earlier so that those hours are in by the time the kids are up? Also, you could experiment with different times of day for exercise, light exposure, and meals - all those can act as chronobiotics. Try each change on its own for like a week (arbitrary timeframe, ask your doc) and keep a log so you can exclude things as you go.

Also - is anyone else in your family also tired? Could be something environmental.

Also - any chance you're depressed?
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:00 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you tried compromising on the nap after drop-off and trying to power through the first nap? You/the kids and all their needs and then getting them to school might be draining too much of your energy too soon.
posted by bleep at 7:01 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you had allergy testing? Some of my food allergies (especially dairy) make me overwhelmingly sleepy.

Does this sleepiness coincide with a bowel movement? If you have issues with your vagus nerve, a bowel movement can make you feel sleepy.

In relation to these two possibilities, I would keep track of your specific, exact activities every day, and try eliminating things one by one to see if it makes a difference.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2015

I have an idiopathic hypersomnia diagnosis too. I take one Nuvigil (200 mg?) in the morning and another half if I feel groggy in the afternoon. Maybe split your pills up? Also, when I want a nap, sometimes I'll try to find something mindless that needs to be done so I can check out mentally while still doing something, like folding laundry. Drinking water also helps me because then at least, I have to use the bathroom more frequently. Pomodoro method can help - do something productive, then zone out for a little while. Instead of taking a nap, can you call a friend or a family member? Write a card to someone you care about?

I also have the most success when I try not to fight my natural lulls in energy. I'm not a morning person so in the morning, I try to do the small things I have to do (return email to that person, check in with someone about a project), then focus the afternoon on more big picture work like writing or research. If I try to do research when I'm sleepy, it's hopeless. Also, FlyLady talks about how if you make your bed and put on shoes, you are more likely to stay up and about.

Don't beat yourself up about this stuff - that's not productive. Maybe write down your routine for a week, then try something different for the next week, and compare notes. Good luck - I know this is frustrating.
posted by kat518 at 7:22 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding AimedWander and Cotton Dress Sock that your body clock might be distorted from the napping, and that you might be addicted to the naps, so to speak. Try going to bed as early as you can manage so you can get a longer block of uninterrupted sleep at night. You don't mention if you're a single parent - if you're not, can your spouse take over kid-wrangling duty for a few days so you can get some rest? If you are, do you have someone who can step in just until you've caught up on your night-time sleep?

Is your sleep refreshing? If it is, you might just be on the far end of the bell curve with regards to sleep need. Seven to nine hours of sleep is the average; you might need nine instead of seven or eight. A few people are long sleepers who need ten to twelve hours a night. Long sleepers have refreshing sleep, but they need a lot of it.

If your sleep is not refreshing, and spending some time catching up and refilling your sleep tank doesn't work and you're still sleepy, then powering through the need for a nap, as other posters have described, might be your best bet.

Regarding your diet: I have insulin resistance (in addition to sleep apnea), which means that if I eat a carby breakfast, it's like a sleeping pill. So I emphasize protein and healthy fats not just for my breakfasts but for all my meals - and it's been like night and day (pun intended). It did take some time for low-carb to work, and it has to be at all meals, not just breakfast. So you might want to go low-carb again - but not just for breakfast, and you want to be patient while your body adapts.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Then I get an additional 30 to 45 minute nap in the early morning. Then I take my kids to school and I go home and instead of getting to work in my home office, I go upstairs and lie down and fall asleep for another 2 to 3 hours.

I think you need to give up all of these sleeps. That 30-45 minutes is, in the grand scheme of things, not terribly productive sleep and may be making things worse.

And you're going to have to give any change you make some time to see if it's working. Making a change today and being sleepy again tomorrow does not mean give up because nothing works. You may have some exceptional circumstances, but mostly what you have is a bad habit/terrible sleep training.

I sleep poorly but not in any pathological way, and there are very few circumstances in which actually giving in and taking the nap is a better choice. Most of the time when I get that sleepy, it's because I'm not breathing properly (usually because of anxiety) and I'm literally not getting enough oxygen. A walk will help with that, if you are suffering from a lot of congestion you might need to get some medical help with that, or wear a Breathe-Right strip while you take the kids to school to start with and see if you have a better morning.

If you need to stop going home in the mornings, at least for a month or two until your body stops expecting the post-school nap, do that. That's probably the single most effective change you can make.

If you do less sleeping during the day, you will sleep better at night, children notwithstanding, in most cases.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:42 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I realize you have a medical diagnosis, but what is your evening routine like? I found when I cut out all internet in the evening, I apparently started getting enough truly restful sleep at night so that I didn't get drowsy during the day. Also improving my diet by getting off the sugar/caffeine roller coaster keeps my energy levels more even during the day. If I do get drowsy during the day, I've found even the tiniest bit of physical activity like walking around for 1-2 minutes helps. Although it's often a struggle between my emotional reasoning (sleep!) and knowing what's best for me (get up and move!).

Good luck.
posted by auntie maim at 7:42 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Along with these other suggestions, what is your natural body clock? Are you naturally a morning person, or a night person?

I am SURE I would end up with similar problems to you, even if I could convince myself to fall asleep at 9pm. I am NOT a morning person, and getting up that early would kill me, even if it followed 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting up at 7 is "early" for me, and this is my body clock, not laziness or sloth or lack of motivation to be a proper adult or even dependent on how early I went to bed; it is just plain -- my body clock. When I do have to get up that early for some reason, I sometimes do nap mid-morning, even though I am not a napper on my own. In your place I would (have already) take drastic measures to make sure I am not woken up at 4:30 -or- 6, because that sounds so awful to me.

If this sounds familiar, consider honoring your body clock, whatever it is. Not necessarily more sleep, but sleep and waking at the right times for your body.
posted by Dashy at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2015

If you're trying medication to improve your sleep quality, you should (really, genuinely) stop consuming caffeine. Get decaf coffee if you want to preserve the ritual. I worked in a psychiatric clinic and was constantly amazed at the frequency that people sought pharmaceutical sleep regulation without being aware that they were casually ingesting another substance with the opposite effect.

I mean, this was a standard, first visit question--do you drink coffees or sodas? And eliminating it from your life while you're experiencing these issues--especially in concert with a pharmaceutical--will very likely help you out whatever other strategies you agree to with your doctor.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2015

You mentioned you had your iron & thyroid checked, but have you had your Vitamin D levels checked? I was diagnosed as deficient and take a daily Vitamin D supplement now and it's helped dramatically.
posted by macadamiaranch at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is a situation where you need to relocate until the habit is changed, I think. Can you work at the library, a coffee shop or some other place where a nap would be socially unacceptable? If I REALLY have to get work done (or even a pleasant task like writing letters to friends) and I'm tired and at home, I will totally bail into my bed. Removing myself to a different location helps a lot.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coffee really messes with my sleep, especially when I'm in a state of chronic fatigue, which it sounds like you are if you are sleeping this much. It kind of masks tiredness and borrows energy from the future. It also makes me strung out and I suspect makes it harder to recharge. I would seriously consider cutting way back, or off completely for a while (try a bit of tea to avoid caffeine withdrawal) and see how it affects your patterns.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:21 AM on February 3, 2015

I was going to suggest what aimedwander already did; Coffee nap for the win. Those things are magical.

Get yourself an obnoxious, loud, borderline insane alarm and place it far enough away from the bed that you need to walk a few feet to reach it. My bedroom is so small that I end up placing the alarm in the hallway, because other wise I'll just snooze that asshole alarm and go back to sleep. If I have to get up, I'm already up, so its much easier to get out of bed.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:14 AM on February 3, 2015

I am someone who needs about 10 hours of sleep to feel rested, and can easily sleep more than that every night. Like you I also fall back asleep very easily in the mornings if given the opportunity. I recommend just not going home after you drop the kids off. Make appointments, join an afternoon social group like a knitting circle, get a volunteer job. Volunteering is the best because I'm doing something, there are people to chat with, and I have to be there. I can function on less sleep during the week as long as I'm busy during that critical mid-morning through mid-afternoon slot. I'm very likely to crawl back into bed if I'm alone and unoccupied during those hours. It sounds like you are also fine on days when you are not alone and you have things to do.
posted by wrabbit at 11:21 AM on February 3, 2015

Changing sleep habits is really hard. I rarely nap but when I do it's really hard not to take one the next day! You can get entrained fast!

I think you should enlist help - get a friend (realistically, probably several people will be needed since most people can't take all week off ) to be with you all morning for a week so you can't nap. Then try to do it without help. If you feel exhausted after a week of this, maybe you actually need all the sleep...
posted by Cygnet at 11:42 AM on February 3, 2015

I want to echo the suggestion about trying different times for exercise. Circumstances have forced me into getting up at what at first seemed like an inhuman hour to work out, but I've found that I've never been so energetic and alert. I think it helps that my exercise is outdoors. (Even in my northern city, where it was 7 degrees this morning!)
posted by lakeroon at 12:05 PM on February 3, 2015

Are you taking any meds besides Nuvigil? If so, do you know if they could be contributing?

I spent a couple years taking MedA, MedB, and Provigil. I knew that MedA made me need extra sleep, and the Provigil more-or-less counteracted that. When I went off both MedA and the Provigil, my need for sleep significantly decreased, and I thought I was at a normal level. Then, later, I went off of MedB and was very surprised to find that I needed noticeably less sleep. When I first started MedB, I hadn't noticed extra tiredness, so I would never have suspected it.

Also, when I was really struggling to stay awake for a while, a doctor recommended caffeine gum - it's absorbed differently than caffeine in beverages - it works faster and is less likely to upset your stomach. You can buy it on Amazon, and it really helped me for a while.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:36 PM on February 3, 2015

Sleeping in multiple blocks is so inefficient for me. If I sleep peacefully with no interruptions the amount of sleep I need to feel good is 8.5 hours. Every interruption (baby, now toddler) adds more than an hour to this time, so if I am interrupted three times it stretches to at almost 12 hours. (This is not even counting the time I spend out of bed dealing with the baby, this is just the time spent in bed). I know I am not sleeping for 12 hours because I am "bored" or something like that, because a lot of the time my toddler sleeps perfectly and I magically wake up feeling amazing after 8.5 hours, but then teething happens and I'm suddenly in bed for half the day again.

So I think there is a good chance that this could just be how much sleep you need when you get your sleep in three or more separate blocks. Even though you tough it out on the weekends you mention being tired, and I am guessing if you try to skip your naps on weekdays you will end up EVEN MORE tired because you won't have any days where you are getting enough sleep.

I would recommend looking really hard at your current schedule to see if there's any possible way for you to get a longer block of continuous sleep at night. If you can increase your nighttime sleep by even one hour there's a chance you will be able to ditch all of your naps without missing them because you will be sleeping more efficiently.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 1:39 PM on February 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am the exact same as insoluble uncertainty. I go to bed earlier and wake later because of my small children waking me up at night. When I'm woken in the middle of a deep sleep it especially throws me off. Now that they are sleeping a bit better so am I. Maybe try to go to bed earlier and just spend ten hours in bed even if that seems too much. I had to do that and pre kids I slept a solid seven
posted by biggreenplant at 6:18 PM on February 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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