Does waking up at the same time every day actually work?
September 24, 2019 6:14 AM   Subscribe

I wake up earlier than I want on weekdays, and am in a perpetual cycle of sleeping in on the weekends, then having Sunday night insomnia. I hear a lot of general advice that you should wake up at the same time every morning. I'm curious to hear from people who have taken this advice on the impact it had and whether they would recommend it to others.
posted by neematoad to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In many cases as one ages their sleep patterns become more settled. Personally once I reached about 45 I couldn’t sleep in on a weekend even if I wanted to. I don’t need to even set an alarm.

However, it may also be true that my love of dogs has influenced my sleep patterns. Dogs need routine and they need someone to let them out for a walk. My internal clock now usually means I am up before my animal companion.

TL;DR: your body and mind likely will appreciate a sleep routine that is consistent.
posted by terrapin at 6:20 AM on September 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, it definitely works for me. It doesn't have to be exactly the same time, but within a couple hours should do it. I am up at 5:30 on weekdays, and am usually up by 7 on weekends. Also, I go to bed on the same schedule too - in bed by 10 on the weeknights, and by 11:30ish on the weekends. I don't always manage this, of course, but my chronic sleeplessness improves greatly when I do.

The other huge factor is a bedtime routine. 45 to 30 minutes before you go to bed, you do the same thing every night. For me, I head toward bed, lay out my clothes for tomorrow, brush teeth, etc. By the time I lay down, my body is ready for sleep. I never skip it.
posted by backwards compatible at 6:21 AM on September 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I find it very helpful. I don't even get up early on weekends -- I just turn my regular alarm off and go back to sleep (sometimes I get up and pee first) but the simple fact of waking up at the same time every morning means that on the mornings when I have to actually get up at that time, I find it much easier to be actually awake and out of bed. My body just wants to be awake at that time after years of being awake at that time.

It would probably be better/healthier for my sleep if I both woke up and got up at the same time on weekends as I do during the week, but that's a bridge too far for someone who loves sleeping in as much as I do.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2019

It works for me, but I don't get up at exactly the same time every day - more within a 2-hr window (5:30-7:30 am). Having kids put me on that route. :) On weekends now that my kids are older I read in bed for about an hour which gives me a sense of luxury without messing up my body clock too much.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:33 AM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Not all people need the same amount of sleep. I find that people who don't get as much sleep as they need during the work week (like my gf) make it up on the weekend, sometimes sleeping hours later than they do during the work week, while people (like me) who do get the sleep they need during the week tend to keep approximately the same schedule on the weekend, as long as they're also going to bed at the same time. It sounds like you build up a deficit during the week, and then crash on the weekends. Maybe going to bed a bit earlier during the week will let you get the sleep you need so you don't have to make it up at the end of the week?
posted by ubiquity at 6:42 AM on September 24, 2019 [9 favorites]

It definitely works for me. At first, when I started working an earlier shift (by choice...I tend to fade, work-productivity-wise, around 4pm, so I try to end my work days before then by starting earlier), I felt a little bit let down by the idea of going to bed earlier on weekends as well as weekdays, but it definitely helps with the falling asleep part for me.

I do find that as I get older, staying asleep in the early morning can be a chore, but I think that's a somewhat-related problem to going to bed early, not the regular timing of it all.
posted by xingcat at 6:50 AM on September 24, 2019

It only works if you are getting enough sleep. And you may need more sleep than you think if you are not sleeping well. The media reports that you don't need more than 8 hours of sleep, but the media fails to mention, "unless you are someone who doesn't sleep deeply enough, or are someone who is sick or someone who needs extra neurological down time, such as a migraineur or someone with sensory issues..."

For a certain number of people who do this, they compensate by sometimes crashing the moment they get home and going to bed at 6 PM to get an average of 7.5 hours of sleep over a two week period. And some people can only trigger daytime sleep by getting sick.

So the first thing I would do is record how much sleep you are getting until you have a week where you fell well rested alert and relaxed, and then figure out how many hours of sleep your require to be in that state. You may discover that the bar to waking up every morning at 8:30 AM is needing to go to bed by 9:45 PM and still managing to fall asleep and stay asleep. That's the key. Can you manage to actually be asleep on time every day of the week?
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:02 AM on September 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don't find that it needs to be exact--within a couple of hours, as others have said--but it does require that you get enough sleep. I get up at 4:05 on weekdays, and rarely sleep much beyond 6.30 or 7 on the weekends, but I also stay up later on weekend nights (~10ish) than on weekday nights (~8ish). I do, however, find that it's easier to get up at 4 am every weekday than, say, 4 am MWF and 5.30 TTh, so I think making your segments of consistent wakeup times as long as you can also helps.
posted by leafblade at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2019

It works for me. On weekends I'll wake up naturally even without an alarm before my partner but like to read or faff on my phone for an hour or 2 until my they wake up, then it feels like I got a weekend treat too but my body clock stays right.
posted by wwax at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I definitely don't adhere to an exact clock time, but yeah. We are in bed around 10:15-10:30 on weeknights, which we might push all the way to 11 on the weekends if we're watching a movie or something, but also I might fall asleep on the couch if we do. I'm generally up between 6:30 and 7:30 on weekdays, and I wake with no alarm on weekends between 6 and 8:30.

My husband does work a fluctuating schedule that is sometimes 10a-7p and sometimes 7a-4p, and if he does more than 1-2 early shifts he will go to bed early a couple of nights and/or might sleep until 9:30-10 on Saturday.

I am not a great sleeper, but I'm best when the routine is the routine. I'm also old enough now that I do not experience any sort of FOMO about going to bed at a reasonable hour; I'm much more likely to feel it if I "waste" the day sleeping too late.

I'm also excruciatingly circadian - time changes give me jet lag, and there's even a thing that doesn't seem technically possible but is happening right now: it sure *feels like* the sun has abruptly switched from Summer to Fall morning schedule, so that just two weeks ago there was light around the edges of the curtains at 5 am and now it's past 6. (I actually think it might just be the angle of sunrise is different enough to make it seem like it's extra abrupt.) Whatever, it's messing me up. It's a gut punch when it's not really up until 7ish. I require the rhythm of days to feel my best, apparently.

I'm not sure I've ever seen even casual science that suggests a wildly fluctuating bedtime is good for people. We know that working night shifts is not great for the brain, but flipping day and night schedules are even worse. We know that extremely early school start times are not very good for developing bodies. Every treatment I've ever had suggested for my sleep problems has started with "a regular wake-sleep schedule and routine" with no suggestions that the body knows what a weekend or a day off is, and regular means "every night". The closest I've ever seen to advocation of an irregular sleep schedule has been in the case of kids and teenagers, in the face of parental frustration that they can sleep until noon on weekends, and that is often because they need so much more sleep than modern school schedules allow that they need to bridge some of the deficit on weekends, even though sleep deficits aren't good for you.

I think it's worth trying for a couple of months to see what it does for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2019

I consider sleep during the work week unpaid labour so I try to minimize how much unpaid labour I do while still being able to function. I supplement with a 20 minute nap during lunch hour. I sometimes sleep in weekends, usually because I didn't set alarm or just dismiss it. I try to keep my bedtime consistent 3-4am since I have work at 930 and wake up 830-915 depending on if I want to do morning stuff or just put on clothes and go to work. 6 hours is to me is a full tank, 4 hours is fine, anything less is risky and anything more feels excessive. I went to bed suuuper early last night, 12, woke up at 930, and I feel less rested than if I had kept my schedule.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:41 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

It works for me, too. I wake up at 6 am on weekdays and turn off the alarm for Saturdays. I still wake up at 6 or 6:30. I am pretty careful to get to bed by 9:30 pm and try to keep late night exceptions to once a month.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:43 AM on September 24, 2019

This felt impossible to me until I read a book that suggested only doing this after a two week "reset" where you attempt to sleep at least 10 hours a night to get to a point where you are fully rested. This was a miraculous fix for me, and suddenly it became possible to wake up at the same time every day (provided I was sensible about bedtimes) and it was actually better than having a sleep schedule that was all over the place. Nowadays I am not quite as militant but it's still much better for me to do it this way.
posted by kadia_a at 11:15 AM on September 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd recommend it if you can manage it. I still sleep in a little on weekends, but by that I mean I might get up at 7:30 instead of 6:30. That feels close enough that it's not a horrible shock to get up for work on Monday. But it helps that I am basically naturally awake by that time nowadays anyway, and my cat doesn't allow me to stay in bed for long.

I was never, ever a morning person and am still not, but I'm pretty much used to this at this point. What I like most about getting up early on weekends is not feeling like I've slept most of the day away. It's nice to be able to run errands in the morning, before places get really crowded. And I get tired at my usual weeknight bed time, so I don't have that issue of not being able to get to sleep at a decent time on Sunday night.
posted by bananana at 11:26 AM on September 24, 2019

It definitely works for me. I always wake up between say 6:30 and 7ish (sometimes a little later on weekends, but almost never past 7:30), and I always go to sleep between 9:30 and 10:30. Sometimes in the morning I'm a little tired but then I just get up and it goes away. I generally sleep really well and rarely feel tired all day.

I also stop all screens at about 8pm, which I think helps.
posted by thereader at 11:59 AM on September 24, 2019

This works for me, but I will admit that the reason it works for me is that: a) my bedtime routine is unchanged whether it's a weeknight or a weekend, b) I go to sleep sometime between 10pm and 11pm on weeknights then wake up around 6:00 to 6:30 am on weekdays, and then shower and faff about in my bathrobe until like 8:00 am and c) I go to sleep around midnight on weekends and when I wake up around 6:00 to 6:30, it's just to pee and close the blinds, then I go back to bed until 8:00-8:30 am. My overall routine isn't especially disturbed by the extra couple hours of light sleep.
posted by yasaman at 12:34 PM on September 24, 2019

Sometimes? I seem to wake up naturally around sunrise when I'm in a place with no electricity. In the city? Nope. I can't stick to a schedule at all unless I force myself, which has mixed results wrt good sleep through the night, insomnia, etc.

As I've gotten older (I'm 40 now) I'm less likely to sleep til noon, but I'm also rarely out til 5am at a party either.
posted by ananci at 1:38 PM on September 24, 2019

I'm a freak. I have also been at liberty to test my freak. I will only sleep 6 hours, any more and I'm grumpy and tired. I'll also stay up 4 hours later each night. When tired sleep, when awake get out of bed. It's seriously freaky going to bed at 12 and just knowing you'll wake up at 3 and then go back to sleep and then wake up at 6 and have it almost impossible to go back to sleep. (And if you do you have *CRAZY* weird-assed dreams).

Going to bed at the same time or waking up at the same time is doable for a week or so... then I just go nuts.

You may or may not want to try, but I always think that if you can, go to sleep when you're tired and will sleep, wake up when you wake up, keep doing that until you figure out how much sleep you need.

A sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes, and each one gets a little bit shorter over the night. This is where the "a bit less than 6 hours" comes in. Wake up when you're awake, not by an alarm. Maybe you can figure out and time your "when to go to sleep" and match it up with your "when to wake up". Trying to put a 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 hours is total BS. It's a certain number of sleep cycles. Plus or minus the time you spend going to sleep or trying to remember your dreams or just laying in bed because it's so damn cozy.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:18 PM on September 24, 2019

I agree with those who recommended going to bed at a set time. Especially if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, the chances of you deciding in the moment to enjoy one more day of hitting the snooze button are about 98%. (Facetious estimate.) Whereas you can plan to go to bed and arrange your schedule accordingly. You might not be able to make yourself go to sleep, but a little melatonin or Benadryl can provide an assist for a few days while you adjust.

While you’re doing this, log your sleep time and get a sense for how X hours of sleep makes you feel. For me, I can power through with 5 hours because it feels like a really long nap. 6-7 hours makes me feel sleep-deprived, especially more than one day of it in a row. I’m okay at 7.5 hours. I’m great between 8-9 hours.

So for me, if I want to wake up at 6 without feeling like hell, I need to be asleep by 10 (so, uh, 8 minutes ago, oops). But once you get a handle on how many hours you need, it’ll be a snap to figure out your ideal bedtime and get a routine, and waking up at a consistent hour should follow suit.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2019

Getting up at the same time every day only works if you're actually going to bed when you get tired. That means in a restful state, feeling how you're feeling, not trying to squeeze out "one more" of anything and not in the middle of anything that requires mental effort to stop.
posted by Lady Li at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2019

for me, it definitely helps. and i have to make sure that i don't nap during the day.
posted by megan_magnolia at 2:08 AM on September 29, 2019

« Older Singers with minimalist guitar accompaniment   |   Planners and journals for a 12-year-old Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments