Split/biphasic sleep pattern. Help me adjust it!
August 14, 2016 12:41 PM   Subscribe

This isn't the usual sleep question and I've had a hard time finding answers. Basically I will sleep for a few hours, then wake up for anywhere from 30 min to a hour. Then I go back to sleep. The problem is when this happens later in the morning, so that second "sleepy time" hits at 9 or 10 am. How can I keep that from happening?

First of all, I work the 3-11 shift, so I go to bed late (anywhere from midnight to 2am). What usually happens is I will go to sleep and wake up sometime around 4am or 6am for maybe 30 minutes (use the bathroom, etc.). Then I go back to sleep. That's generally not a problem.

The problem is when I wake up at 8am or later. Usually I'm sleepy again within the hour and have to lay down to nap. And by lay down to nap, I mean I'm SO SLEEPY I cannot function. Constant yawning, eyes closing, grumpy type of sleepy. That nap usually turns into 1.5 or 2 hours of deep, restful sleep. While I don't have to go to work until the afternoon, I have lots of other stuff to do in life and sleeping all morning is not helping. If I get up before that nap, I usually have to take a power nap before I go to work. Overall it's stressing me out, making me feel lazy and useless, and it frustrates me.

So, how can I adjust this pattern? I'm naturally a night owl (except when I'm at the beach on vacation...then I'm in bed by 10pm and naturally waking up between 6 and 7am...what's up with that?). I'm hoping to get a daytime job soon, but for right now I have to be up and driving somewhere at 9am two days a week, so this sleep thing needs to get fixed!

1. What's up with this pattern anyways?
2. How can I wake up ONCE in the morning at a decent hour and not need that nap?
3. If this is not really fixable without changing my work schedule, how can I take advantage of this weird sleep pattern and be more productive?

I already have good sleep hygiene (dark, cool room; just got a new king bed; partner doesn't bother me; noises don't bother me). I do use Advocare Sleepworks when I am wide awake and cannot sleep after work (Puts me to sleep in 30 min, I sleep for a solid 6 hours and don't have a "hangover" the next day...best thing I found to help me sleep). I think this is something biological instead of something waking me up at night.
posted by MultiFaceted to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's pretty common to wake up in the middle of the night and go back to sleep. I've read that this was more common before electric lights and for early humans (I don't remember if that was debunked or not. Anyway..)

What would happen if you set an alarm for 4 am? If your sleep pattern works for you when you wake up at 4 am and have enough time for sleep #2, it might make sense to force yourself to do that instead of leaving it up to chance.
posted by bleep at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

While pregnant and forced to wake to pee, I rigged the system by drinking loads of water right before bed. This meant I consistently got up to pee relatively early on in the night, when it was still fairly easy for me to nod off. Not...fun, but maybe worth trying to prevent the too-late wakings...?
posted by kmennie at 1:29 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did a split-sleep schedule while I was doing nights and 18-hour shifts that ran from 6p-noon. That is when I finally caved and bought a premium version of an alarm app which has a motion sensor that tries to figure out when you're already lightly sleeping and wakes you then. I think I gave it something like a 45 minute period to find 'the good spot' to wake me up in, which was customizable. Various sleep apps have features like this, including vibration-as-alarm as well. (I use Sleep for Android.)
posted by cobaltnine at 1:48 PM on August 14, 2016

Biphasic sleep, as mentioned above, used to be considered the norm.

With that in mind, it seems to me like your best bet would either be to set something to rouse you after one completed sleep cycle (IE if you go to bed at midnight, set a little alarm to get you up at four), or just go to sleep early enough that you can get both segments of your sleep finished in time to wake when you want.
posted by hungrytiger at 3:01 PM on August 14, 2016

I've found that Sleep Cycle (for iPhone) has really helped me wake up and feel refreshed. It also tells me when my sleep quality is poor, and has helped me find patterns. I sleep better when I eat later in the evening, and also on Sunday nights. I wouldn't have guessed that before Sleep Cycle. That information at least makes me feel better; it may not address how to change your particular situation, but it's a start.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:06 PM on August 14, 2016

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