Night turns into day..
December 2, 2017 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on this weird habit, getting out of hand. A good sleeper, I have the tendency to stay up all night whenever I have free days or vacation at home.

At the moment I have 3 weeks off from work to study for a second masters and after 2 weeks it's now at it's worst: I went to bed 10.30am this morning. Result is that I miss the day(light), of course, and I have to study through the night now because I do have my deadline, and lastly, I don't sleep my 7-8 hours. Turning it around by getting up early makes me have even shorter nights for a while and my brain doesn't function well enough to write the two complex papers I have to finish in a week. What to do? (And, on the less practical side, I wonder, where does it end? If I would let it go, would the cycle turn so far as to have me in the right rhythm again?).

More info: I stay up late after finishing studying, and do all sorts of things, of which a lot are online. And I do have a bit of a late-night-before sleeping phone addiction, reading news, watching youtubes etc. I live alone, so nobody's bothered, and it painfully reverses when I have to go to work again. I'm a good sleeper otherwise, in that I never lay awake long, and whenever there's stress I am not one who's awake in bed overthinking etc. I like the studies, do get stressed a bit sometimes, but overall really enjoying and looking forward to hopefully a nice change of career when I graduate august next year hopefully, a bit much to combine with work but it's doable, my grades are good.

I've been noticing this tendency to stay up late for years now. It used to happen when I went out, I'd stay at parties and get-to-gethers until everybody had gone home. But now, F in early 40's, this is really not how I want to live anymore, I'm not a student anymore (although I am). An uncle of mine used to live at night, he was an inventor. He'd join his wife for breakfast, then she went to work and he went off to sleep. Interesting life, but not what I want for myself at all.

Today I slept until 4.45pm, so I lack sleep and am just making the lay-out of the paper as my executive thinking is not properly working. These days I took off now are most of my free days this year and I want to use them well, help!

So my question is, how to reverse this day-and-night-reversal, and how to function enough to work hard deadlines for my studies while doing that, this week. Hopefully it's not too impossible!
posted by Litehouse to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The online bit may have a lot to do with this. what happens if you do without screens, including television?
posted by kellyblah at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I stay up late after finishing studying, and do all sorts of things, of which a lot are online. And I do have a bit of a late-night-before sleeping phone addiction, reading news, watching youtubes etc. I live alone, so nobody's bothered,

what time would you like to be going to bed?
One hour before that time, shut everything down, maybe read a book (but not via Kindle or whatever). I think there's even science to back this up.
posted by philip-random at 11:52 AM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have been there. I myself am 40 and have been thinking it's a bit late in the day (heh) for these habits. The only thing that has worked for me long-term is a LOT of external pressure to change my ways (I am in med school). I wish I could say that I found some kind of self-motivation or trick. (At least I'm prepared for the night shifts on obstetrics!)

Realistically, in the short term, can you do a reasonable compromise like 4 a.m. to 12 noon?

If you ever do manage to stay up all day, I find that hard exercise during the day makes it impossible to stay up late. It has to be genuinely hard exercise, though, real exertion. Do you perhaps have access to an exercise bike? Better yet, a pool?
posted by 8603 at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I too have this problem.

One option might be not putting yourself in this situation in the first place, perhaps by scheduling something important in the morning of your otherwise free days.

In order to get back on a good schedule, I suspect that going all the way around (going to bed later and later until you reach evening bedtimes) would work best.

To train your circadian rhythm, use light and food. That is, once you approach the sleep schedule you want, make sure you eat breakfast when you wake up (see also the jet lag fasting technique), and expose yourself to lots of light in the morning and not much light in the evening.
posted by actionstations at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is no easy answer to this one. There's a simple and obvious answer: Turn the damn screens off. When it's getting close to time to go to bed, shut down the computer, and put the phone out of reach.

This kind of stimulation will keep your mind awake. Your brain has learned that each time you open a new page, each time you start to watch a new video, you'll get a small hit of feel-good hormones. It's too easy to say "just one more." In the moment, ur rational, planning mind ("gosh I should go to sleep, I'll regret this tomorrow") is too easily overwhelmed by our irrational mind ("puppies? on a boat???").

The fact that you're even asking this question shows that you're not being rational and you need to remove the temptation. The answer is there, right in front of you--turn the damn screens off--but you're looking for something else, either because that's not the answer you want or you can't figure out how to do it. But you know that you need to turn the damn screens off, or you wouldn't have said:
I stay up late after finishing studying, and do all sorts of things, of which a lot are online. And I do have a bit of a late-night-before sleeping phone addiction, reading news, watching youtubes etc.
Turn the damn screens off.

You might have additional problems, like a sleep-wake cycle that is out of sync with the rest of the world. You might also need external motivation to help you get up on time, as other people have brought up. The thing is, you will never know for sure--and never make progress on it--until you have good sleep hygiene. And you won't have good sleep hygiene until you turn the damn screens off.

This might sound harsh, but I've written this as if I'm addressing myself.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2017 [10 favorites]

Have you tried melatonin? I use it for jet lag and find that 3mgs a couple of hours before I want to go to sleep knocks me right out, and lets me sleep for a solid 7-8 hours, especially when combined with turning off screens after I take it. Doing this for three nights usually resets my body clock.
posted by rpfields at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

In addition to turning the screens off, have the screens red-shift at night. Windows 10 now allows you to do this, as does the app f.lux and the app twilight. Blue lighting wakes you up. Also dimmer lighting in general. If I turn on the bright light in my bedroom at night I don't get tired. If I turn on the dimmer light I do.
posted by GregorWill at 2:45 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Melatonin is the jet-lagged re-sync thing. I'm like late 40's and have totally given up on that idea of going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. Long experiments pin my day-night cycle at 26/27 hours and no amount of good sleep habits or routine actually fixes that, it works for a while but builds up and I'm miserable and then I crash and burn.

If you can fall asleep pretty easily, try polyphasic sleep. Split your 7/8 hours of sleep into two parts, conk out at 8pm, wake up at midnight, work until 8am, conk out until noon, wake up and work until 8pm.

The trick is to only sleep through complete sleep cycles which are roughly 90 minutes and get a bit shorter. So you want to sleep 1+1/2 hour or a bit less than 3 hours or a fraction more than 4 hours.

If you have 3 weeks, say "screw it" and sleep for a few hours and wake up and work and go back to sleep and wake up and work and look at the clock that says "3:14" and not know if it's AM or PM and you really don't care either way.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:45 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

It was sort of a revelation to me, in adulthood, that you have to put yourself to bed. When and how to do that is much more clear-cut when you have work or some other kind of deadline, but it doesn't mean that you are mindfully going to bed, and without that you're adrift when you don't have a deadline.

Start mindfully going to bed. Set a reminder for 9pm that you have 30 minutes to fuck around before your bed routine starts, so you can get your ya-yas out. At the 9:30 reminder, start your wind-down routine: lock up the house and turn off lights, do any clothes/food/coffee prep you need to do for morning, wash face or shower (I know some people have to shower in the morning so this may not be a useful trigger for you, but make the face-washing the trigger if a full shower isn't practical), brush teeth, put on jammies if you wear them, straighten out the bed if you don't make it in the morning, get in, read or listen to a podcast/music for the remainder of your pre-sleep time, turn out the light and lay down and go to sleep.

It's important to make a routine, and then follow it at roughly the same time every night regardless of whether you have to be somewhere in the morning. It's important to embed triggers into the routine so that your body learns to do the ramping down without your conscious intervention. That step of doing a swing around the house locking up and putting things to rights before bed comes from my mom doing that when I was a kid - even now I get sleepy when she turns out all the lights except the one over the sink. Flylady has you wash all your dishes and clean the sink before bed, to give you one final little tick of completed to-do item. Your bedtime reading should be something light, and preferably actual paper or e-ink rather than a screen, so that the sensation of being in bed sitting up holding the thing reading is part of your deceleration toward sleep.

But ultimately, the key is this: put yourself to bed, every night, on a schedule. That's how you go to bed on a schedule, is by having one. Configure it to your liking, just do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:29 PM on December 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

It sounds like you might have a bit of a misaligned circadian rhythm (“delayed sleep phase”). The best studied way to control that is by using a bright light box (in the morning in your case). Tiny doses of melatonin — a lot smaller than 3 mg — help too. The best popular book about this is Reset Your Inner Clock by Columbia’s Michael Terman, who is sort of a pioneer in this area. As a person who knows where you are coming from with this question, Terman’s advice is the closest thing I’ve personally found to a “fix”.
posted by hungrytiger at 6:36 PM on December 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

p.s. In my case, I actually can stay up later and later until I’m suddenly on a morning schedule. If I were in your shoes that is probably what I’d do, and then start using the bright light in the morning once I was getting up at 5 am instead of 5 pm. That is definitely not medical advice though, and in one case in a medical journal someone tried it under the care of a doctor and it went really poorly (they developed “non-24” sleeping, which makes delayed phase seem convenient). So consider with caution.
posted by hungrytiger at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've replied to other people about this before on the green (check my previous responses), but you may have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. I was diagnosed about 15 years ago and have been given a variety of tactics and medications to help me adjust my schedule, as appropriate.

It's worth seeing a doctor about this, as the effective medication (i.e. *not* melatonin) isn't available without a prescription.

Also, if this is indeed what you have, you'll always have one superpower: You'll never be jet-lagged in the way that normal people are jet-lagged, largely because your normal waking state is pretty much like jet lag, so if you travel 12 hours across time zones, it isn't too different from how you normally feel.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:38 PM on December 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks you so much for thinking with my fried brain here! I know, I feel silly for asking, sleep hygiene is so well known, the struggle's irrational. But I am motivated to change. Last night bed at 4am, an hour before hardly any screens (low lights etc), was asleep in 30-45mins I think (long for my usual but I blame rhythm at this point), alarm at 11. Never heard it or remember putting it off. Uninterupted sleep until 2pm (Noooooooo! The loss of studytime! Yesterday I also slept through the alarm, not usual for me at all, 9 hours. Hope I don't really need 9 hours...)

Your advice:
- no screens before sleep
- what time would I like to go to bed? (11 or 12 pm), no screens 1 hour before
- work back clock incrementally + hard exercise + some forgiveness
- use external pressure by early morning appointments
- breakfast right after waking (because jet lag fasting etc)
- go all the way around the clock + once there, use morning light to reset
- turn the damn screens off! You're not rational, remove temptation
- mindfully going to bed with routine + screens off, lights low + prep for night and morning
- melatonin for 3 days to reset + bright light box (Michael Terman method)
- delayed sleep phase disorder, see doctor

No screens, so true, I feel like an oppositional child when staying up, also I may have really gotten myself behaviorally addicted to the phone before bedtime (never thought that would be me). Delayed sleep phase disorder: I don't just stop at a certain (weird) time, it goes all the way around, disorganized. There seems to be a loss of (any) rhythm for me.

Tonight I'm aiming for 2am bedtime, 1am screens off, try a little routine, two alarms far away from bed at 9.30am (I have soo much studying to do aaah).
posted by Litehouse at 7:04 AM on December 3, 2017

+ some forgiveness

and don't just put this nugget aside and forget about it. I've almost never accomplished change in my habits etc (big or otherwise) without a pile of self-forgiving. You didn't just stumble into this situation in the last two weeks -- why should you remedy it in two weeks? In fact, as I've heard it put, the longer it takes to change a habit, the more likely you'll actually stick to the change, because you've effectively created a new habit.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I fought and I fought with something like this. I have a natural tendency to go to sleep when the sun is coming up if I try to get all my sleep at once. When I do that, I have a 26 hour(ish) circadian day. It sucks because I feel tired for like a week at a time.

However, in the last 6 months I've taken to falling asleep between 11 and 2, sleeping until 5-7 and then taking 45 minutes to 1:30 in the early afternoon for a siesta whenever possible and it works out so much better so long as I stick with the program. Even on the rare day I can't siesta I feel far better than in the off weeks I otherwise get from the extra couple of hours a day on my body clock. Somehow the extra sleep period is enough to hold my body clock more closely to the wall clock.

Apparently the Spaniards were/are geniuses at effective sleep.
posted by wierdo at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have an iPhone consider the app Kiwake, which makes you play a little game and then snap a photo of something far from your bed in order to turn it off. Won’t get you to bed earlier but can keep you from disabling the alarm and then passing out.
posted by sockkitude at 2:40 AM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also got one of these dawn-simulating alarm clocks from Philips. It cost a ton of money, but it really is easier to wake up. I think that on those days when I wake with the alarm anyway, not the light, I've already been partially roused by the light. Put it right next to your face on the nightstand!
posted by 8603 at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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