Can you help me shift my sleep schedule by about an hour?
June 15, 2015 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I know what I need to do, but I can't seem to do it. Any suggestions or tips?

A) I really need 8 hours of sleep at night. If I get much less than that, I'm liable to get a migraine or feel otherwise less than great.

B) I'm happiest, and my day goes best, when I wake up early: 6 am is my ideal wake-up time. (Even earlier would be great, but I think it's unrealistic.)

C) So okay, do the math, right? I need to get to sleep by 10. But I'm finding this hard to do. I often just don't feel tired at 10. Do you have any tips for helping me shift my schedule so I can wake up happily at 6?
posted by gigondas to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sleeping later than 6 now? If so, you really just need to wake up at 6, deal with the consequences of getting less than 8 hours sleep for day, but start going to bed at 10 after that since you'll likely be tired if you're used to waking up later.

In the alternative, take Benadryl at 9:40.
posted by amro at 7:16 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

whether you feel tired or not, start your going to bed routines at 9:30. wake up every morning at 6 no matter what time you went to bed. do this for a week or so and you should start feeling tired at 10.
posted by nadawi at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

Have you been forcing yourself to get up at 6am regardless of how much sleep you got? If not, do that.

Try also looking at your caffeine intake and whatever it is, cut it back. I can hack one coffee in the morning and anything more or later than that keeps me awake in the evening.

This schedule works for me if I really force myself to be disciplined with the habit:

21:00: Start thinking about bed. Stop with TV/Internet. Get whatever needs to be ready for the next day ready (clothes, lunch, to do list). Do a little bedtime routine.

21:30: Physically get into bed. Turn the lights down low, read a book. (NB: No screens!!!) It doesn't really matter if you "feel tired" at this point. I think of this time as "like a lie-in on the other side". You get to just cosy up in your comfy bed and relax/chill out.

22:00: Lights out. Put on this podcast. Happy ZZZs!
posted by bimbam at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Melatonin supplements about 1/2 hour before bed can be helpful for this. Also, avoid screens and blue light. And do some strenuous exercise in the early afternoon if possible.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Agreed that toughing it out for a few days of getting up at 6 will help you reset to getting tired earlier.

Another thing that may help is melatonin - when I'm having a run of bad sleep, I take melatonin for a few weeks. I find about 30 minutes before bedtime is the sweet spot for me. I'd try that first sometime when you can afford to be sleepy the next day, though, in case you turn out to be one of the people who have vivid and exhausting melatonin dreams. My partner is one of those, and the dreams exhaust him so he doesn't take it.

You might want to do a search for "sleep hygiene" - that's the key term to find lots of good advice on resetting and maintaining good sleep.
posted by Stacey at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2015

Can you shift your whole evening routine back an hour? Like, dinner is an hour earlier, whatever else you do during the evening is shifted an hour earlier. Obviously this may be difficult if you're already having dinner right when you get home from work or you have kids whose bedtime you can't shift or something like that.

Definitely turn your lights and screens off as early as possible, and some amount of toughing it out will probably be necessary. Also wake up at the same time every day of the week.
posted by mskyle at 7:28 AM on June 15, 2015

No screens an hour before bed. Have a routine for getting into bed that starts around 9: pack your lunch, put out your clothes, sing at your cat about what you're doing (not required, but recommended if you have a cat), take a shower or a bath to wind down, brush and floss your teeth, put on face lotion, read a bit, and get your body in bed by 9:45. I like using the Sleep Cycle app on my phone with the white noise feature (my preference is "Autumn Leaves") as I wind down. I also light a candle in my room around 9:30 to make the room smell nice, and use that instead of the overhead light as I bloop around after my shower or bath but before I get into bed. The lower light helps me relax, too. I can read by candle light but MAKE SURE that you blow the candle out WELL before you feel sleepy.

Your routine doesn't have to be mine, but having some kind of "closing ritual" for your day might really help you shift from "awake mode" into "sleep mode." Also, don't beat yourself up when you don't do it - just keep making yourself get up at six. I am not as successful as I'd like to be with the whole sleep thing, but when I'm working at it and I do the above I feel a lot better and get better sleep.
posted by sockermom at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2015

I agree with the "no screens", but just to clarify... for me, at least, an e-ink book reader like the kindle doesn't count as a "screen". I like to get in bed and read for at least a half hour before going to sleep, and I also got rid of all the led lights in the bedroom, like clocks, cable boxes, etc. If you need a clock, I recommend one that has a dim setting. Some of the iHome clocks have one that gets so dim it's actually hard to see. Sleep Cycle is great, too.
posted by Huck500 at 8:09 AM on June 15, 2015

I also recommend Sleep Cycle. Personally, I'm usually in a lighter phase of sleep at 5:00, and a deeper sleep phase at 6, from which it is torturous to wake up. So, counterintiutively, it's easier for me to get up at 5 AM than 6 AM.

I also need a good eight hours of sleep, and yeah, it sucks being tired and going to bed at 9 pm. But c'est la vive.

I also agree with the posters above that you have to gut it out and get up early every single day (including weekends) until you're used to it. Otherwise you won't be tired at bedtime and you'll never get into the rhythm.

Naps early in the day can help if you get up tired and need an energy boost. Check out Power Nap, the sister app to Sleep Cycle.
posted by BrashTech at 8:39 AM on June 15, 2015

Make a routine out of getting ready for bed, and stick to it, even if you're just lying there at 10. Maybe take a nice hot shower or bath at 9:00, then listen to some soothing music at 9:30 while lying in bed, and then shut it off (or have an automatic shutoff) at 10. Eventually, your body will catch up to your habits.
posted by xingcat at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2015

Besides the 'no screens' - I also use f.lux on my computer (and night setting + colour choices for my ebook reading that mimics it) and that helps a lot.

f.lux kicks me into 'oh, right, I should be thinking about sleep' as it hits the most shifted set of colours, even on weekends when I might try and stay up longer. An otherwise entirely dark room is also helpful, and if I'm having trouble sleeping, a hot bath about 30 minutes before I want to be asleep helps a lot. (The temperature drop mimics a natural drop that comes when you fall asleep, and it can sometimes trick your body into being ready to sleep now.)

Also, yes, on the Sleep Cycle app being really helpful in finding a time when I can reliably wake up and not feel miserable.
posted by modernhypatia at 9:12 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are in most parts of the northern hemisphere, the sun is coming up at yuck o'clock right now. Only cover your windows as much as you have to for privacy, and make it so you get unavoidable sunlight as soon as it becomes available. There are some fairly subtle and poorly-understood mechanisms related to sunlight-reaching-eyeballs and your pituitary gland (this is one of the things that affects jet lag, both for better and for worse) and your body's understanding of what "day" is.

If you have crappy sunlight exposure in your bedroom, drag yourself up at 6:00 and go stick your face in the sun, whether that's a different window in your residence or outside in a parking lot or whatever. And when the sun goes down, lower your room lighting to soft indirect light so your body doesn't get mixed messages about what "night" is.

It really doesn't take much more than a week, if you can just be firmly consistent for that week.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:14 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

50-100mg of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and a glass of wine about an hour before I need to be unconscious has been working pretty well for me lately despite having a non-24-hour sleep-wake cycle and having developed a tolerance to most prescription sleeping pills.

You'll likely feel a bit woozy when you first wake up, though, so have a big glass of water and a breakfast bar ready right next to your bed to down first thing.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:10 AM on June 15, 2015

Get a cat. Those relentless buggers will never let you sleep in.
posted by srboisvert at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

If melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime does not do it, try doing co-q-10 in the morning, either instead of melatonin at night or in addition to it. Co-q-10 is the co enzyme of melatonin and chemically wakes the brain up. It is manufactured in the body in a complex process, thus people tend to become deficient in it as they age and anyone can be deficient if something has gone wrong at any of the steps in the complex process. Taking melatonin does not cause the body to produce more co-q-10. But taking co-q-10 does cause the body to produce more melatonin, about 12 to 14 hours later. Thus it is possible to gently correct your sleep cycle over time by consistently taking co-q-10 in the morning. I took massive doses for several years (up to 400 units/mg/whatever the measure on the bottle is) to fix the waking and sleep cycle of my brain after massive doses of prescription meds fried my brain and utterly destroyed my ability to sleep well. I no longer take any supplements and sleep issues are fairly uncommon in my life.
posted by Michele in California at 11:02 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Awesome, everyone, thank you. From your comments, it sounds like if I can just be consistent, this will be a pretty quick fix, which is great. I'll put all of these ideas to good use.
posted by gigondas at 11:21 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

An alternative to melatonin or benadryl at bedtime might be a CoQ-10 supplement. Taken around 11 am, it does this magical thing to increase your natural melatonin production when the sun goes down. Worked for me (when I remembered to take it)!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 6:48 PM on June 15, 2015

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