sleeeeeeep, at rotating times
March 23, 2015 5:40 PM   Subscribe

How can I acclimate myself to a rotating sleep schedule without getting sad/breaking out/other less than ideal things?

My new job will require to leave the apartment at 5am on Saturday and Sunday, and 9:30am on Mondays and Tuesdays. It takes me at bare minimum 45min from bed to on my way, but I like having time to cook eggs and put on makeup and stuff (at least on mon/tues). So I'm thinking about waking up at 4am on sat/sun and 7:30 am the rest of the week. But how should I manage bed times? Do you have any general best practices to help make this work?

The problem is that I'm really sensitive to sleep deprivation and irregular sleep -- I can get by on hours maybe once a week, but I feel miserable and my health in general starts to spiral quickly (in college, I was fever-level sick at least 5-6 times a year, and I'm sure sleep was a huge part of that.) Plus I'm early on in hormone replacement therapy and want to give my body some reliable rhythms to work with.

In terms of going out and doing social things, I would like the flexibility of maybe doing one lateish weekend thing every other weekend -- and that would mean going to bed after midnight, but not like 2 or 3. If this is a terrible idea I can adjust too -- I expect to have these hours for at least 6 months, but not years and years. I'm also finding I really love structuring my time around pleasant introvert things rather than tiring social engagements, so I could push this further. I would like to still have that opportunity though, and have a plan so the next 3 days don't get away from me.

What do you think? Any ideas would be wonderful -- please help me not turn into a mess of sickly feels! Thank you.
posted by elephantsvanish to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If it's possible, it'd probably be best to get up by at least 5am every day in order to create the reliable rhythm you're going for. That should have the added bonus of making those 4am mornings less miserable because it'll just be normal. You'll have some free time in the mornings on Mondays and Tuesdays, just like you'll have some free time in the evenings Saturdays and Sundays.

To get started, though, I'd recommend planning a concrete activity for those early mornings before you "really" need to get up--a walk, an early-morning exercise class or meditation group, a cooking project, etc.
posted by cogitron at 5:54 PM on March 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

I was able to quickly alter my sleep schedule by taking melatonin about 30 minutes before the desired bedtime and taking co-q-10 in the morning. Co-q-10 is the co-enzyme for melatonin and it wakes the brain up. It also causes a spike in the production of melatonin about 12 hours later (for me, it seemed closer to 14 hours later). In contrast, taking melatonin will not increase the brain's production of co-q-10.

This allowed me to get up for a morning shift once in a blue moon when I was required to do that. I typically worked the evening shift. I was quite sick at the time and there is no way I could have coped with the occasional one-off morning shift without some kind of support.

I don't know if this will work effectively to adjust your sleep schedule twice a week though, which is basically what you are talking about doing.
posted by Michele in California at 5:55 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with Cogitron -- I'd aim for closer together waking times than 4 and 730.

If you do go with 4 and 730, I recommend leaving one alarm set for 4 even on days when you don't have to get up then. I've found my body eventually acclimatizes to the time I need to be awake so that when I do have to get up early, it doesn't hurt so much and when I don't have to get up early, I just roll over and go back to sleep until the next alarm.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:56 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to shake my head in disbelief at doctors who told me that getting a single bad night's sleep shouldn't make me feel all that bad the next day. Then I was diagnosed with and treated for obstructive sleep apnea. Now, not only do I feel better every day than I used to, but I also notice that what the doctors say is actually right -- even if I sleep very poorly for a single night, I don't usually actually feel all that terrible the next day.

My point is, perhaps you should ask your doctor about being screened for sleep apnea.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:18 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend Vitamin D.
posted by Neekee at 6:36 PM on March 23, 2015

My advice to you would be to get up at the same time every single day of the week, which means going to sleep at the same time every day of the week. It means that you'll have a schedule that seems unusual on days that getting up at 4 isn't necessary, but if you're like me, having a regular schedule is better.

(Source: used to work 8 pm til 4 am a few days a week, but slept 6 am to 2 pm even when I wasn't working)
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:49 PM on March 23, 2015

I think it's going to be best for your sleep and energy levels if you can get up at, like, 4:15 every day, unfortunately.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:53 PM on March 23, 2015

OK, so, I have a crazy job where a real sleep "schedule" isn't possible. What really helps me is eating well: enough veg and whole grains and all that stuff. Also, regular exercise of some sort has been helpful to me. Lastly, and this is difficult sometimes, give yourself permission to just sleep sometimes. Depending on what my schedule is like, sometimes I just sleep for 12-14 hours straight. It's doesn't totally compensate, but it helps. It's hard to not beat myself up re: wasting the day, but hey, sleep is super important.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:25 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I agree that you probably need to get up at like 5 at the latest on Monday and Tuesday (and the rest of the week). Maybe join a gym and make those your workout mornings, do all your cleaning those mornings, even catch up on TV in the mornings. Working different shifts on consecutive days is really hard.

I used to work 3PM to 11PM most days with 3 or 4 days a week where I needed to be somewhere at 9AM (class or second job). It sucked! Good luck!
posted by mskyle at 6:46 AM on March 24, 2015

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