Why does it take so long for me to go to sleep?
December 14, 2005 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Why does it take me over an hour to go to sleep at night?

For as long as I can remember, it has always taken me over an hour to go to sleep. There are some nights it takes 2-3 hours and usually there's one night every 8-10 months that I just can't sleep at all.

Even more frustrating is that my wife can fall asleep it literally 10 minutes...if not faster.
posted by JPigford to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
-Exercising during the day will help.
-Not lying around trying to fall asleep will also help. If it doesn't seem imminent, try cleaning/reading/etc.. for half an hour.
-Coffee after dinner? After lunch?
-Flog the bishop?
-Make a list of shit that bothers you, and make another list of how each problem could at least be incrementally improved in ways that you can act on immediately in the morning if you so chose.
posted by jon_kill at 7:17 AM on December 14, 2005

If none of the above helps:
Are you actually tired when you go to bed or do you just go to bed because it's "bedtime"? Not all people have the same biorythm, and if you go to bed and get up at the same time as your wife, that might be good for her, but not necessarily for you.
If you are not tired in the mornings, you could try going to bed 30 minutes later and see how you do on a little less sleep.
posted by easternblot at 7:20 AM on December 14, 2005

A similar question may offer some help..
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2005

Something that's helped me is having NO TELEVISION in the bedroom. I read somewhere a long time ago that your bedroom should be where you do bedroom things, not where you watch TV or whatever, and that your body can "learn" that "this is where we sleep" so to speak. This has made a difference for me. I also consciously regulate my breathing as a relaxation tool. I purposefully breathe in and out for the same count (whatever is natural, for my breathing and counting I get about six in and six out) and I don't allow my mind to wander from concentrating on the breathing. I also require routine. It takes me about ten minutes to relax enough to concentrate on sleeping, so to speak, so when I feel "ready" to sleep, I flip over into the "start sleep" position. For me this is my stomach, but it's generally whatever position is most comfortable for you. I end up on my back or side eventually but this is where my sleep begins, and I can fall asleep in about fifteen minutes if I've not been distracted by rogue cats or whatever.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:23 AM on December 14, 2005

@easternblog - I'm usually not that tired when I go to bed but routine sort of necessitates it. I get up at 6:30 every morning because that's what I need to be up to start work on time. As for going to be later...that doesn't necessarily help. It doesn't matter what time I go to bed...even if it's like 1AM...it still usually takes a solid hour to get to sleep.
posted by JPigford at 7:24 AM on December 14, 2005

Been there, done that, stayed awake thinking about it.

Do you stay asleep once you've fallen asleep?

I was the same way and eventually went to see a sleep doctor. He helped me figure out what I was doing wrong and gave me ways to deal with it.

What time do you go to bed at night? What time do you get up? In my case I was going to bed at 10:30 and getting up at 8:00. 9.5 hours in bed. I'd get into bed at 10:30, lie awake, get frustrated, my mind would go into turbo mode, and so I'd be awake until 1:00 or 2:00 AM until my body finally just shut down and I fell asleep.

After a couple of weeks of keeping a sleep diary, he suggested I start going to bed at 11:30 and getting up at 6:30. As soon as I get out of bed, he'd have me sit by a window or, better yet, go for a brisk walk or jog. The key was bright sunlight hitting my body as soon as possible. It was really hard at first, since I'm not a morning person.

After a week or two of this it was talking me ten minutes to fall asleep.

By the time 11:30 came, I was dead tired. I'd tell him this and he said "that's the idea! You want to go to bed tired, not when you think you're supposed to."

Basically, I was spending to much time in bed, the first few hours of it were unproductive. He had me spending less time in bed, but more quality time, since more of it was spent sleeping.

If I was still awake after a half hour, he'd have me get out of bed and do something dull. Read, play solitaire, organize the silverware drawer, etc. No TV, no computer, as these things simulate your body and mind with light. I'd stay up for half an hour and try again. The idea behind this is that after lying awake for half an hour you get into a cycle of worrying about sleeping, which makes it harder to get to sleep, etc. He wanted me to stop worrying about sleeping. Stop "trying" to sleep. If I didn't sleep, no problem. Get up and do something, then try again.

After a month or two of keeping a diary and visiting him regularly I was having little or no trouble falling asleep. I've since fallen out of those good habits, and I go through cycles on not sleeping, but now I know what I need to do to get back into a good cycle, and it works. No drugs, no major life or diet changes, nothing.

Also, watch your caffeine intake. No soda or coffee in the afternoon. This wasn't much of a problem for me since I don't drink much soda, but a lot of people live off the stuff and have no idea what it's doing to them.

Good luck, sweet dreams.
posted by bondcliff at 7:27 AM on December 14, 2005

Ah, great advice bondcliff...I'll certainly try some of that.

I do usually stay asleep after I've fallen asleep and I usually go to bed around 10:30-11 and get up at 6:30 every morning.

I think one of my major problems is I'll usually be on the computer right before I go to bed...literallly. I get up from my desk and go get in the bed...maybe I shouldn't do that anymore :)
posted by JPigford at 7:30 AM on December 14, 2005

I mention this every time I see a sleep-related question: Drink milk. Milk has Tryptophan in it.
posted by Gator at 7:35 AM on December 14, 2005

If you're staying asleep once you get there then that rules out a lot of physical problems like apnea. This is good.

Yes, stay away from the computer at that time. Reserve an hour before bed for down time. Dim the lights, read, chat with your wife, etc.

Stay up an hour later every night. You're not sleeping anyway. See if things improve after a few weeks.

Everybody is different when it comes to sleep. One person's miracle cure or technique will not work for everybody. It wouldn't hurt to find a doctor. I was skeptical ("he's just going to tell me to not stay up watching SNL") but it was nothing like I expected and it was really educational.

Also, don't expect immediate results. You want to change habits and that will take some time. Don't give up and don't let yourself get frustrated.

I'm so jealous of people who can sleep with no trouble. I always thought 2 - 3 hours of lying awake was normal until one time in my early twenties I was playing Trivial Pursuit and the question was "How long does it take the average person to fall asleep?"

When I said "I dunno, two hours?" everyone looked at me funny. The answer was twenty minutes. I suddenly felt like I should sue somebody.
posted by bondcliff at 7:50 AM on December 14, 2005

I know that the usual advice is to avoid television and light before bedtime. However, I found that the opposite worked for me. I'd get into bed and not be able to sleep and either be thinking constantly about other things which would rile me up or worrying about how I wasn't going to sleep and I'd better hurry up and get to sleep or I would be really tired the next day. Now I've started watching tv while I fall asleep. Nothing super interesting that'll make really want to stay awake to watch it, but just something that essentially distracts me from thinking and just lets me drift off. Televisions with sleep timers are especially nice for this.
posted by undertone at 8:28 AM on December 14, 2005

Conversely, what worked for me was reserving the Bed for Bed Things - i.e. sleep and sex. I used to read in bed (a lot) do school work in bed, crosswords, etc. I still do, but not to the same degree. I don't lay around in bed on Sunday mornings - I move to a couch. I think it's really helped with my insomnia problems. Of course, this may not be your problem.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on December 14, 2005

Light meditation techniques are great for those times when you can't get to sleep. Especially when I was younger I had real problems getting to sleep mostly related to the fact that my brain would continue on overdrive - ideas, thoughts, whole conversations would pop in my head.

I was lucky to have also been a bit of an athlete, and when I was quite young my ski coaches taught me some super-easy meditation exercises that were useful to help visualization exercises but also to get to sleep.

It was super-easy and I'm sure "real" meditation is more complex, but it basically amounted to two things - concentrating on breathing, and concentrating on the muscles in your body, one by one. Just tensing and releasing each in turn does wonders. Doing this systematically forces you to concentrate on your body, not on anything else, and you'll actually feel heavy and comfortable after doing it.

And fall asleep.
posted by mikel at 8:39 AM on December 14, 2005

Besides all the good advice so far, have you made a point of being aware of what you're doing while waiting for that sleepy feeling? It took me a long to realize that sometimes when I couldn't fall asleep I'd be clenching my jaw or basically be forming a fist. It is usually the case that when I find myself doing either of these and stop it (really relaxing as many muscles as possible), sleep comes pretty quickly.
posted by kimota at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2005

I used to have problems with insomnia- if I wasn't sleep-deprived, I couldn't fall asleep. Gradually, my schedule just started getting more regular and I've had much less trouble since.

Even at my worst, reading scientifc papers or textbooks always put me out like a light. Sometimes, it was for the obvious reason: boredom.

Other times, I found that interesting articles gave me a lot to think about, and I generally need to sleep after thanking hard. (maybe that's just me?) I suppose it's almost a type of directed meditation; eliminate the noise and chatter from your brain with intent focus.
posted by JMOZ at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2005

Sometimes if I have problems thinking too much before going to bed and that is keeping me awake I try a crossword puzzle instead of watching tv. Like, uindertone, it distracts me from those pesky thoughts that it is too late to bother with anyway...
posted by TheLibrarian at 10:09 AM on December 14, 2005

I have this problem, and I used to solve it by smoking tons of pot. It worked for me.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:20 PM on December 14, 2005

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