Messed up sleeping pattern
January 15, 2006 10:03 PM   Subscribe

How can I sort out my sleeping pattern?

My sleeping pattern is currently severely messed up. I'm a first year uni student with exams over the next two weeks, so I don't have lectures until after that. Consequently, I've been getting up late, as I also had been all holiday, and going to bed very late.

For several years now I've been in the habit of taking naps in the afternoon, but because of the getting up late thing they've now shifted back so that I'll have an uncontrollable urge to sleep at 7 or 8pm, which is obviously a bad idea. However I frequently succumb to those urges (because at the moment it doesn't *really* matter), and then cannot sleep at bedtime.

Whilst this isn't currently a problem as such, it will be more so once I have exams, and even more when I have morning lectures in two weeks time. Also, it's driving me crazy. It's 6am and I haven't been to sleep yet. I've read, I've lain (laid?) still, I've tried to empty my mind.. nothing.

Whilst I know that the solution to this is to go to bed now and stay there, doing nothing until I fall asleep and then get up at 10 or 11, force myself to stay awake all day and then go to bed at 10 or something tomorrow night, I know this will be very difficult for me.

Basically I'd like advice on the following things, though anything else helpful will also be appreciated:

- how to force myself to get up before noon tomorrow and not sleep until 3 in the afternoon

- would having a short nap tomorrow afternoon sometime be a total disaster? how long should it be?

- general advice for keeping myself awake and fighting the urge to sleep (sleeping being something that I've always done a lot of and kind of view as a recreational activity to some extent)

posted by Lotto to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
(I am going to bed now).
posted by Lotto at 10:04 PM on January 15, 2006

No advice, but it's now 6.21am and I too have been up all night. I will be watching this thread!
posted by speranza at 10:22 PM on January 15, 2006 posted a link a few months ago about a guy who tried all kinds of sleep methods to sort of out schedule. His best result was to awaken at the same time everyday, but only sleep when he felt tired.
posted by GilloD at 10:24 PM on January 15, 2006

The guy to whom GilloD refers is Steve Pavlina, who has written a couple articles about his method. I can't say I've tried it, due to a goofy schedule, but it looks reasonable.
posted by pmann at 10:44 PM on January 15, 2006

If you feel tired at 8pm, can you just go to bed and stay there and then stay awake all the next day until the evening and repeat until you gradually get to the point where you are going to bed at 11pm or so?
posted by fshgrl at 10:54 PM on January 15, 2006

Melatonin has helped me with regulating sleep patterns. At least, it's helped me feel sleepy when I want to. It's levels naturally rise in your body, from what I understand, when you feel sleepy. You take it in pill form a bit before your desired bedtime. Supposedly, it takes a little bit to get used to it, but it should help in a week or so. I've always had a problem with being disciplined enough to go to sleep when I'm tired though - I usually just wait for my second wind (and third, and fourth).
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:11 PM on January 15, 2006

ahh - more specifically, you're looking for ways to stay awake. I find video games suck up an incredible amount of time and keep me up hours past my bedtime. No pills involved.
posted by Iamtherealme at 11:13 PM on January 15, 2006

Come up with and stick too a schedule. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same. Every single day. In the mean time, over-the-counter sleeping pills will help. Oh, and naps will kill your scheule unless you can take one every single day at the same time.

Your life can quickly turn to complete shit when your sleep schedule is fucked up. It should take a day or two of forcing yourelf to get up or stay up at a time that feels all but natural. This is the price you pay to get yourself back on track.
posted by JPowers at 11:35 PM on January 15, 2006

The secret to many challenges in life is that there is no secret. No short cuts. No magic bullet. Like JPowers said: come up with a schedule and stick to it.
posted by randomstriker at 11:54 PM on January 15, 2006

I second the melatonin. I work at home at my own schedule and have a night owl 2 year old, so my schedule often goes to crap. Melatonin is a good aid - if you also plan ahead with a schedule.
Usually, when I know I have an early app't, a couple days hence, I'll stay up way to late - like 24 hours, to knock me back into a regular schedule. It's easier to regulate what time you go to bed, than what time you wake up. Especially when you have no willpower.

(3 am - time to watch that tivo'd Battlestar Galactica)
posted by muddylemon at 1:15 AM on January 16, 2006

I am extremely prone to having my sleep schedule get totally out of whack. I'm a uni student as well and every time a vacation, or nowadays even a 3 day weekend rolls around, I find myself going to bed at about 7 AM or thereabouts.

Going to bed and staying there never works for me - I get bored and get up to go read or do something more entertaining.

I have to say that in my experience there are a couple of shortcuts - one of which is no fun, the other one is, and neither are good for you.

Option#1: If, tomorrow, you find yourself about to go to sleep at 6 AM or so, don't. Stay up. Find some friends, go outside, have fun. Basically what you need to do is just stay awake for the entire day - if you're worth your stuff as a uni student, all-nighters are nothing new to you. Once it gets to about 9 or so, hit the sack. You'll fall asleep immediately (because you'll be tired), and you should wake up at a sensible hour, say, maybe 9 or so. That should give you a push in the right direction.

Option #2: Drink. A lot. (Again, do this with friends as it's a lot more fun. Surely you can find a party somewhere?) And pass out by 10 or so. When I do this I generally wake up at maybe 6 or 7 or so, and go to bed about 9ish the next day.

Like I said, neither one of these are good for you. But they work like a charm for me, especially when I have a couple of days to kill before I really need to be non-nocturnal.
posted by dihutenosa at 1:19 AM on January 16, 2006

Why not skip the nap, wait till you get tired in the evening (even if it's as early as early as 8pm) and get a full night's sleep then? Sure, you might wake up at 4am, but heck, being an early riser would be good, no? Eventually you could roll it round to a more sensible hour.
posted by wackybrit at 4:26 AM on January 16, 2006

how to force myself to get up before noon tomorrow and not sleep until 3 in the afternoon

Set your alarm clock to mega-super-loud, and put it all the way across the room from your bed. You'll have to get up and move around just to shut it off. Once up, stay up.

If you have concerns about taking melatonin or otc sleep aids to help you get to sleep at a reasonable hour, you can always stock up on milk. Milk has tryptophan in it, and many people (like me) find it very helpful to have a few glasses at night to help them sleep. It doesn't even have to be warm.
posted by Gator at 4:43 AM on January 16, 2006

I second wackybrit's suggestion to get a full night's sleep at 8pm or whenever, and get up early. My entire life I've always been awake at night; somehow I manage to switch between schedules as things necessitate. This is exactly how I do it.

Also, I got a $30 CD-alarm clock (i'm sure there are cheaper)... like Gator said, max volume across the room. At one point I uses an audio program to slowly fade the calm piano first track from nearly inaudible to loud loud; if that doesn't wake me up, then track 2 MERZBOW will (and the neighbors!)
posted by adzm at 6:05 AM on January 16, 2006

I'd just like to caution that Melatonin usage has its risks. If used regularly for a long period of time, it can "trick" the brain into thinking it's producing more than enough, at which time you stop producing it on your own, and would become dependent on the drug to feel sleepy ever again.

Periodic/occasional use, however, just to get yourself back on track, is probably safe.
posted by twiggy at 8:04 AM on January 16, 2006

From someone with much experience with sleep issues:

* A big glass of cool water the instant you wake up does more to keep you up and alert than coffee does.

* Jogging in place for 1 minute will wake you up and keep you up when that urge to sleep hits you.

* Avoid large, high-fat meals. Fats stay in the stomach longer, diverting blood away from your brain, muscles and other tissues, which can make you feel sluggish for up to six hours.

* Protein primes the brain to produce dopamine, a chemical that keeps you alert. Carbs, on the other hand, cause the body to release serotonin, a calming brain chemical.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 8:49 AM on January 16, 2006

Melatonin would be good, but unfortunately it isn't available OTC in UK AFAIK
posted by hardcode at 8:52 AM on January 16, 2006

I too get the 7pm crash and almost always sleep one off. If I don't let it go on longer than an hour or so I wake up feeling much better and can sleep at a reasonable time at night, around 12 or 1.
posted by ed\26h at 10:00 AM on January 16, 2006

An update:

I set my alarm (on the other side of the room) for 10 this morning, and eventually managed to get up properly at about 11.40. The problem was that although I was perfectly capable of physically getting out of bed at 10, my head felt like shit and my whole body was screaming "Go back to bed!". It didn't seem like I was going to get anything productive done until I felt less tired, so I did.

It's now 20 to 8, and I'm feeling a bit sleepy. I'm going to have dinner soon, and then re-assess the situation. I think 9.30 is the earliest I'm willing to go to bed so if I still feel this tired then, I will. I'll comment again with another update at some point. Thanks for the help.
posted by Lotto at 11:37 AM on January 16, 2006

Tryptophan while it is a natural sedative, will have no effect on you if consumed with milk (or turkey.) At most, there's a placebo effect. (Which I've now ruined) (oy.)
posted by muddylemon at 3:35 AM on January 17, 2006

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