How can I 'reset' my biological clock to function during 2 late nights?
May 14, 2018 3:29 AM   Subscribe

Next week I will have to work until 6 in the morning for two nights (it's a shoot, the timings are non-negotiable). It's super important that I'm on the ball during these shoot days (nights?). I am an avowed morning person. HELP.

I'm travelling next week for work. I would imagine we'd have the morning/day of the shoot days (which are Wednesday/Thursday) off to catch up on sleep, but Saturday/Sunday/Monday/Tuesday will be pretty rammed with meetings and Things to Do. If left to my own devices, I go to sleep at 9 and wake up at 5, so this is basically a nightmare schedule for me.

My question is, is there any way to speed-reset my biological clock so I don't end up feeling deranged? I have to be careful with caffeine because it makes my anxiety a million times worse, so I'd prefer not to load up on coffee. I don't have a ton of time to reset my sleep schedule. I *do* have, like, five phenergan left over that I could use judiciously to knock myself out.

Help me, night owls of Metafilter.
posted by nerdfish to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Your "biological clock" is regulated by 3 factors. You need to be aware of them so as to try to trick your system:
1. Your circadian rhythm: your body temperature starts dropping at the time of day when it works out you should be sleeping - which helps you go to sleep. Higher body temperatures are associated with wakefulness during the day.
2. Your body starts to produce more melatonin as the sun goes down - the higher levels are a cue to go to sleep. Levels are lower during the day.
3. Your body produces progressively higher levels of adenosine as you are awake - and this produces "sleep pressure" that makes you feel tired. Sleep itself reduces the levels.

From this knowledge you can derive a plan of attack. Start by mapping out exactly when you plan to sleep over the week - making sure that you get 8 hours per day. Planning for the waking up part is easy: just set an alarm. To help with the go to sleep part - ensure that you are in an environment with lower light levels in the hours before you plan to sleep. Avoid bright lights and LCD screens as much as possible - redder light is better. Make sure you are in a quiet, dark environment when it is time to sleep - and arrange for it to be somewhat cool - splashing cool water on your face and hands before you go to bed can help. Set alarms to tell you it is time to sleep also.

Deal with the issue of sleep pressure by arranging shorter periods when you can have a siesta. Ideally these should allow for one 90 minute sleep cycle - so a 2 hour siesta time-block would be ideal. Ideally your siesta will be scheduled to start about 6 hours after you wake up end no more than 6 hours before you have your main sleep. Turn your phone off during this time.

Finally: the effects of caffeine can stay in your system for 7 hours. So avoid that completely if you are planning to sleep anywhere in that window.
posted by rongorongo at 3:54 AM on May 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have found provigil or nuvigil MUCH better than caffeine for helping me through similar situations. Could you talk to your doctor about a few days' prescription?
posted by spindrifter at 3:59 AM on May 14, 2018

I use this simple fasting technique for jet-lag and find it simple to do and works well for me.

The tl;dr is to fast for 16 hours before destination breakfast time (i.e., no food after 3pm destination time) and have a have a good, normal-for-you breakfast at destination breakfast time.

So even if the shoot doesn't involve cross-time-zone travel, think of it as though it does and treat its working hours as typical-for-you working hours and schedule accordingly. Repeat it for coming home or shifting back to your regular schedule. I sometimes have to "push through" a few destination afternoon hours but I'm generally fine as long as I don't nap or even sit down to read. I've made 10-1/2-hour time zone shifts this way with only very slight symptoms on arrival day and none thereafter. Good luck!
posted by TruncatedTiller at 5:27 AM on May 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

I used the jet lag technique cited by above by Trunca to when I was working rotating shifts. Simple, effective.
posted by klarck at 7:37 AM on May 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

An 8-hour schedule shift is not going to just happen. Doubly so since you can't start shifting your shcedule ahead of time. Since the swap is short, I would try to get sleep during the day of the first night, and just rely on adrenaline to get me through the first night. Then I would sleep in a dark place, with drugs if needed, for as close to 8 hours as I could get. I don't think I would bother with bright lights or melatonin because you don't want to stay on the new schedule. I haven't tried the fasting thing but a number of people have recommended it and there is some research backing it up.
posted by wnissen at 10:55 AM on May 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Keeping in mind rongorongo's advice, I go polyphasic sleep at times like these. Instead of 8 hours of sleep, do 2 roughly 4 hour chunks. It really works out to about 3 hours (2 90 minute sleep cycles) plus the going to sleep/waking up time so about 4 hours. If you're going straight napping that's like 4 1/2 - 5 hours and a 2 1/2 hour-ish nap.

Once you're alive/dead with the rough (sleep 4, wake 8)x2 routine to make your 24 hour period, moving the edges a bit is easier. Work/Live 9-5 am/pm and sleep/etc from 5-9 am/pm and just float the awake/sleep times a couple of hours each way.

Doing this sort of dedicated equal 'sleep' + 'nap' split makes it much easier to move any of the edges around a couple of hours at a time., you only ever have to shift 4 hours.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:32 PM on May 14, 2018

I think zengargoyle's explanation is helpful and would add some more specifics:
1. If you are going to actively try to schedule sleep on your trip - then a calendar tool like that in Outlook can be useful. Set your sleep time as "appointments" and track them in terms of both local and destination time zones. . You can optionally "invite" people not to disturb you during these times.
2. Schedule your main 4-6 hour batch of sleep to some time when locals are going to be sleeping. If you can then try to get outside into the local sunset; helps with melatonin.
3. Your nap/siesta time will then likely fall into a time when your local clock will be telling you it is night and your circadian rhythm will be making you especially tired. Take advantage of this.
4. There is fairly good evidence that our chronotype (lark/owl tendency) is genetically linked and not something easy to fight against. It is certainty not a predisposition you can switch at will while also tacking a tight work schedule and jet-lag. Instead - what can do it to give yourself sufficient overall sleep opportunities during each day of your visit.
posted by rongorongo at 5:07 AM on May 15, 2018

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