It's 4:00am, I'm awake (again) now what?
August 20, 2007 6:12 AM   Subscribe

What do I do when insomnia pays a call? I know how to avoid insomnia but when I don't succeed, what the hell do I do? I mean, aside from TV and books, is it an insane time to start a project? Do my taxes? How does the hive mind cope with the hours between 3:30 and 6:00 when not asleep?
posted by From Bklyn to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you feel more like sleeping than finding something to chip away the time at, try this: tell yourself that you are just going to take a brief nap, then lay down to do so. If you can fool yourself into going to sleep this way, you will probably stay asleep all night.

If you must stay up, you could try building a boat.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2007

Just get up. Shower, dress, start your day. Try to structure things so that you won't be driving or performing neurosurgery around 3 p.m.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:47 AM on August 20, 2007

I second Pecinpah. When I can't sleep I fall back on my old trust boat building skillz.
posted by crewshell at 7:06 AM on August 20, 2007

This (and the early afternoon) is traditionally the time that I read Metafilter.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 7:08 AM on August 20, 2007

If there's no one sleeping who would be disturbed by kitchen noises, it's a perfectly reasonable time to start a loaf of bread. I also like to lie on the couch and listen to a podcast (or three) - preferrably someone with a slow, monotonous voice - and even if I can't get to sleep I at least feel a bit rested. Sometimes this will even lull me to sleep. If you're going to start doing things, go ahead and shower and get dressed and be deliberate about starting your day early. It's not an insane time to start a project as long as you're not doing something that requires complete alertness (do not operate heavy machinery). Or, stay in your PJ's, make a cup of tea, and read Metafilter.
posted by waterlily at 7:08 AM on August 20, 2007

After 4, my solution is like stupid sexy Flanders said to perversely just get up and make breakfast. If you're self-employed you can work. Before 4 am I try to read something in bed, something engaging but not fascinating, in the hopes that it will put me to sleep. Something between detective novels (they'll keep you awake indefinitely) and philosophy (you're too tired). Unless you're resigned to being awake indefinitely, in which case you should work your way through Raymond Chandler's oeuvre.
posted by creasy boy at 7:12 AM on August 20, 2007

I find it a good time to do tedious, obscure, finicky tasks that you always think 'Mmm must do that one day' about from time to time.

For me it's generally some form of cleaning. Cluttered house - cluttered mind and all that is certainly true for me but for whatever reason it helps. (The more likely it has been undisturbed or stacking for some time the better).

And it's productive, but yeah if it happens often (and I suspect this may be the case if you're bored with the tried and true solutions) then take this into consideration and stay safe.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 7:23 AM on August 20, 2007

I usually get up and browse the internet--nothing too stimulating--from the comfiest chair in the house. After an hour or so I'm almost always sleepy enough to go back to bed.
posted by magicbus at 7:39 AM on August 20, 2007

I just reread your question and had to start over. You say you know how to avoid insomnia, so I'll leave out my list of strategies, and lecture on how important sleep is. It sounds like you may have suffered from insomnia worse than you do now, and learned how to get it down to more controllable levels. But if you still can't get to sleep occasionally by doing whatever it is you do to get to sleep, it's probably okay to use meds on those rare occasions. It probably depends on you. For me, if I miss one night of my sleep schedule, it throws me off for several more, so I wouldn't hesitate to use meds. Maybe you're better able to cope with it, and really would gain more benefit from taking care of tedious tasks. Also, you can always try new sleep strategies. You've obviously found some that work pretty well, but maybe there's something out there that's even better for you.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:48 AM on August 20, 2007

I usually start with lying in bed, in the dark, listening to NPR at low volume. If this doesn't work in an hour or so (or whenever I lose patience), I get up. Lying down with eyes closed is almost as good as sleeping.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2007

Lately, doing crosswords on my laptop is the only thing that'll get me to fall asleep during a bout of insomnia. Reading, puttering, etc. are all too stimulating, usually, though I have been known to pay bills, tidy the kitchen, etc. in the middle of the night.
posted by bassjump at 8:14 AM on August 20, 2007

If I'm up early, and know I'm just plain up for the morning, working on an existing project (or starting in a new one) is usually exactly what I do. I try to avoid doing any work that I'd want to remember every little step of, in case I make foggy mistakes (e.g. I keep bleary-eyed Perl hacking to a minimum), but broad-brush stuff, brainstorming, outlining, content-wrangling, anything that is literally hands-on is usually a good use of the time.

But that presumes you're going the route of accepting wakefulness rather than trying to fight it off. I've found that if I'm tossing and turning in bed but really want to have a go at getting back to sleep, I can sometimes settle in on the couch, upright on pillows with a blanket, and just nod off there like you wouldn't believe.
posted by cortex at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2007

Moving to the couch often works for me too, although I'll lie down there instead of propping myself up. Being tired-but-awake in bed feels weird and wrong and keeps reminding me that I'll be lying there until morning, sleep or no sleep. Being tired-but-awake on the couch feels perfectly normal and temporary, and that makes it easier to relax.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:01 AM on August 20, 2007

Just rule out alcohol as a factor. If you routinely drink to GET to sleep, you may need to wake up around that time. If this is the case drink a glass of milk or take something that releases sugars quickly, glass of coke, banana etc.,.
otherwise, try the above!
posted by Wilder at 10:52 AM on August 20, 2007

Play Civilization IV.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2007

I usually don't read MeFi during the 3-6 AM block, because there are usually only about five new questions.

I've been using that time to do laundry and digitize my cd collection lately, but I have been known to watch cruddy 90s films on Encore, dust, make granola, etc. Those hours are particularly helpful for cleaning my apartment.
posted by santojulieta at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2007

Thanks for the really sound suggestions. I do like the idea of building a boat (having started one before), but at 4am I'm sometimes a little manic and woodworking tools are no good in that state. I would also have to work in my kitchen, which might lead to conflicts with my beloved.

But I will try a few of the other suggestions next time I find myself staring at the ceiling. She's gonna love that I've cleaned up the hall closet...
posted by From Bklyn at 12:12 AM on August 21, 2007

I second the "Just get up and get ready for work and do whatever you'd normally do", especially if it's around 5 a.m. and god knows you probably won't fall back asleep enough for it to be worth your while within the next two hours.

Earlier than that, I'll probably just read something if/until I get tired enough to fall back to sleep.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:38 AM on August 21, 2007

DO NOT PLAY ANY FORM OF CIVILIZATION!!!!!!!!! That is a reason not to ever go to sleep EVER.
posted by 4Lnqvv at 11:55 PM on August 21, 2007

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