Advice on balancing late night social life with sleep problems?
August 15, 2007 2:40 AM   Subscribe

How to balance sleep problems with a collegiate lifestyle?

Everything I've read with regards to treating insomnia and related problems advises to keep a regular sleep schedule throughout the week, waking up at roughly the same time every day, including the weekends. The problem arises when I have really late weekend nights and then spend the whole day sleeping to make up for it, which throws off my regular schedule for the week. However, I'm in college and stay out late on the weekends, and it doesn't seem reasonable to me to wake up at 7 am on Sunday morning if I didn't get in until 3 (or later) the night before. What is the best practice in this situation? Sleep for eight hours (which usually ends up being more, in my case--once I get to sleep, I sleep like the dead), or wake up at the normal waking time? My insomnia is bad enough that it disrupts my life to a major degree and I'd like to do as much as I can to have a "normal" sleep life.

Further information: yes, I've talked to my doctor about my sleep problems (I take Rozarem, but generally not on the weekends); no, I don't want to give up my social life; and I'm not really interested in any other healthy sleeping habit tips (trust me, I've read them all).
posted by cosmic osmo to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have to get up early during the week? Because I think you could just make it your regular schedule that you get up at 10 am. If you're out late until 3 on the week-end, then you get 7 hours sleep, not so bad. During the week you stay up studying until 2 and sleep till 10. In other words, why does your regular schedule have to mean waking up at 7 am?
posted by creasy boy at 2:53 AM on August 15, 2007

And as an additional point to creasy boy's, going to bed a little earlier than 3am wouldn't necessarily mean you "give up" your social life. Obviously this may not be true for you, but in my past experience of late-night partying you do not miss much if you miss the final hour or two of a long night of revelry. That way you could use creasy's idea but still be up at 9 or 8.30.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:54 AM on August 15, 2007

get up at 7 anyway. yes, it'll hurt at first, but it'll become natural. take a nap in the afternoon, but get in the habit of getting up and getting some daylight on your face for a couple of hours at least at 7am before going back to sleep. you have to accept that you're going to be tired the next day if you stay out late.

it'll get a lot easier as time goes on. i have terrible insomnia and now i wake up at 6 every day without an alarm, even if i was out late.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:46 AM on August 15, 2007

The books say get up at the same time no matter what. Go to bed whenever you feel ready to sleep. Assuming you're out on Fri and Sat night, you'll sleep well Sunday night for your Monday morning classes. Don't nap.
posted by DarkForest at 5:06 AM on August 15, 2007

I second the "be late every day" strategy - for most of college, I woke up no earlier than 10am every day; with 2am as a weekday bedtime, 3 or at most 4am for the weekends was easy, and I could keep 10am as a wakeup without cutting my sleep-time down very much.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:16 AM on August 15, 2007

Depending on your willpower of waking up at a normal time, naps can be your friend in college. I was in pretty much the same position as you, except my weekday bedtime was also around 2-3am. I ended up napping m/w/f at the student center for an hour or less which completely refreshed me and kept me sane. The key with naps is not to take too long of ones or you feel even more tired. I'm not sure if napping is the healthiest way of surviving. Regardless, it worked for two years.
posted by jmd82 at 6:07 AM on August 15, 2007

There are several factors that go into regulating your sleep. Out of all of them, the only one you can definitely control is when you wake up. Always get up at the same time every day. It's OK to take naps, but keep them around a half hour.
posted by sanka at 6:18 AM on August 15, 2007

Nth-ing getting up at the same time every day. I fought that advice for ten years because it seemed so irrational (more sleep is better, right? why get up if I don't need to?), but everything really does take care of itself if you stick with it.
posted by backupjesus at 7:03 AM on August 15, 2007

However, I'm in college and stay out late on the weekends, and it doesn't seem reasonable to me to wake up at 7 am on Sunday morning if I didn't get in until 3 (or later) the night before. What is the best practice in this situation?

Don't stay out until 3 in the morning. There is no compelling reason to stay out so late, frankly, and plenty of college students lead social lives at least as satisfying as yours while going to bed at a reasonable hour. There are plenty of things I would do differently if I were transported back in time to go to college again, but staying up later isn't one of them. If you start going to bed earlier on the weekends, you will never regret it.
posted by The World Famous at 9:32 AM on August 15, 2007

Also insomniac my whole life, and I've tried everything.

You should get up at the same time every day, but I think if you push this to 8:30 after a late night, instead of 7, you are not throwing your body off that much. But nthing the 3 a.m. thing. Just tell your friends you have bad insomnia and you have to go to bed. Only a jerk would hassle you about it and you don't want to hang with jerks anyway.

When your alarm goes off, GET UP. Don't steal an extra 10 (um 20, um 60) minutes.

If you take naps, make it a true siesta. Don't just lie down on the couch and sleep til you wake up. Put on whatever passes for pjs, get in bed, and set the alarm for 20 minutes. I like this because it eliminates that bedtime anxiety when you feel like you're so tired but you know you're not going to be able to sleep, which just keeps you awake. You will fall asleep because the alarm eliminates the anxiety that you won't wake up. You won't disrupt your evening sleep because it's such a short nap.
posted by nax at 1:10 PM on August 15, 2007

In addition to getting up at the same time, I find the most important thing is to get some amount of direct sunlight (maybe 15+ minutes) as soon as possible after you wake up. (Indoor light is not bright enough, unless you have one of those specially-designed lightboxes.) Bright light seems to have the biggest effect on regulating your circadian rhythm.
posted by dixie flatline at 6:41 PM on August 15, 2007

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