[not a morning person-filter] how do you force yourself to go to bed when you're not tired and how do you get up when you are?
October 2, 2007 1:04 PM   Subscribe

[not a morning person-filter] how do you force yourself to go to bed when you're not tired and how do you get up when you are?

I am nocturnal and it's beginning to hurt me.

you know there is a problem when people at work smile and say you're just not a morning person. especially when they're right. I find it tough to fall asleep when I'm not really tired and nearly impossible to rise when I still am. the problem is that if I get tired tonight at midnight, it'll be three am tomorrow, perhaps five am the next night and to top it all off, I'm the kind of guy who can sleep twelve hours without waking up once. I need to force myself into a rhythm better suited for a professional life. even if I get a lot of work done at night (when the phones stop ringing), I need to make sure people see me as dependable for early morning meetings.

thus a threefold question:

(1) how do you get yourself to sleep when you have to but aren't tired? if you can recommend over-the-counter drugs for the occasional really important day, both to fall asleep and wake up, please let me know.

(2) how do you get yourself back onto a rise-and-shine-at-nine clock when you've been up to five in the morning that whole week? how do you get it done fast? forcing myself to rise when I am not awake seems to result in me going through the day on auto-pilot. I don't have many ideas in that state and that's a problem.

(3) what are your tricks for not oversleeping, forcing yourself out of bed when it's really hard?

caveat: I do not drink coffee and red bull, while effective, is tough on my stomach.
posted by krautland to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
This is what Benadryl was invented for (okay, not really, plus, I am not a doctor blah blah).

Take it on an emptyish stomach half an hour before you want to go to sleep, leaving yourself 8 hours to sleep with an alarm set.
posted by mckenney at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2007

if you can recommend over-the-counter drugs for the occasional really important day...to fall asleep

Alcohol FTW. In terms of actual OTC pills, there are only, like, two basic varieties (valerian and benadryl) on the market, so it shouldn't take you that long to exhaust (ha ha) the possibilities of what might work for you.

Alternatively, (not OTC) you can get a sample pack of Ambien or something like that from a doctor and just only use it occasionally.
posted by phoenixy at 1:15 PM on October 2, 2007

The only real advice is to set a schedule and stick to it. Go to bed at a certain time and get up at a certain time. After a week or so it'll become habit and your body will adjust. Get up early on the weekends too - it'll make them feel longer.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 1:16 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I need to force myself into a rhythm better suited for a professional life

You answered your own question, as far as modifiers are concerned;

1-2) Exercise

3) Alarm clock

You can cold brew low acid coffee at home, but remember caffeine (like most stimulants) is most effective when applied in a low dosage at intervals over the required shift. As far as I am concerned nobody is naturally nocturnal, and nobody actually likes getting up in the morning - these are habitual behaviors and nothing more. With a little discipline and some time you will begin to notice positive changes in regards to your bodies reactions to your daily schedule, as it stands now the two are at odds with each other.
posted by prostyle at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2007

I used to be like you (well, the 12-hour-straight-sleeping-almost-in-a-comatose-state-bit at least).

Some reflections on your questions:

1) - Don't use any myself, but friends swear by some herb-stuff they buy. They've even given it to their dog when it's been fireworks in the neighborhood. Apparently potent stuff. Sorry, haven't got any name for it.

2) - Perhaps you should start in the other end: By getting in bed before 5am? Yes, it can be tough to get to sleep when you're not tired. When I was throught that patch I used to do a simple relaxation-sequence. Close my fists for five counts. Release. Curl my toes (to fists) for five counts. Releas. Tense my whole backside for five counts. Release. Just lie and experience the weight of my body against the mattress. And slip of to sleep.

Note: it took a couple of nights, and some discipline. But it worked for me.

3) - Expremely loud alarm-clock in the other end of the room. So I'm forced to get out of bed to turn it off. it's cruel, but it get's me out of bed. Mission accomplished.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2007

Here's how I did it: Got up at 6 AM every day, even on weekends, and even if I hadn't fallen asleep until well after midnight. The first week or two were rough, but after that I found myself getting tired earlier and falling asleep easily. After about a month I even started waking up on my own 5 minutes before the alarm went off :)
posted by waxboy at 1:21 PM on October 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Holy cow this could be me in a nutshell. But there's hope. I now work a 6am-3pm shift and have been doing it for the past 2 weeks so it's certainly possible. My suggestions:

1. Make sure you're not drinking any caffeine, working out, or doing heavy mental work at least a few hours before you'd like to be asleep. That kind of stuff lasts awhile and I find if I've just got done writing a paper, working on a project, anything mind-intensive I will continue to think about it lying awake in bed.

2. You've got to get a schedule going. If I had to wake up at 6am just one day a week it would suck a whole lot more than doing it monday through friday. Stop waiting until you're tired to go to bed. Set a time and do it, even if you don't fall asleep immediately. Be consistent about it. You mention not drinking coffee, how about tea or soda? I don't take any caffeine pills but any of the liquid kind would probably do wonders.

3. Alarm clock set on LOUD at the other end of the room. Another great trick is hooking your lights into a timer so the room lights up the same time your alarm goes off. It's harder to stay asleep when the room is bright. There's an alarm clock that will slowly brighten the room if you're afraid fo the shock factor of all your lights turning on at once. Me, I call it motivation.

But seriously, I can't stress the consistency factor enough. Even when I'm not tired I'm in bed because that's my bedtime now and the more you do it the more it becomes habit and eventually you will find that you become tired at 9pm or whenever because your body says "I'm supposed to be in bed asleep".
posted by genial at 1:21 PM on October 2, 2007

Note that I have a friend/ex-roommate who seems to work best on a 26 hour schedule so I can empathize. I'm still remarkably poor at rolling out of bed in the morning and I am not sure I cope well with a straight 24 hour schedule, but here's what helped me:

- Eat at regular times. No late night snacks or caffeine past dinner, if at all possible. Cut caffeine out completely if you're willing to try the caffeine-free lifestyle.
- Exercise. Not close to bedtime, but get enough that you feel physically tired.
- Wake up before it's time to go to work. Don't do it with just enough time to just roll out of bed, shower, and go. Wake up early enough that you can eat breakfast, read the paper, and get ready. If nothing else you're pushing your wake-up hour earlier and making yourself more alert before you get to work.
- Find a wind-down activity. Some people can become tired by watching tv, but that never worked for me. I can lay in bed and read a novel or listen to music on headphones in the dark and find myself drifting off. Anything that will clear mental static.

I wish you luck, getting a good sleep schedule set up is difficult.
posted by mikeh at 1:22 PM on October 2, 2007

Benadryl, benadryl, benadryl. I took it last night, in fact.

The inventor of it just died. I salute him.
posted by agregoli at 1:22 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am not a morning person. In fact I seem to be on a 25-27 hour cycle so that the time I sleep seems to rotate a bit if I am left to my own devices. I have a life set up so that this isn't a huge problem, but here are the things I do.

- benadryl for sleeping helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. It's not a knock out drop but it makes you a little muzzyheaded. My doc said I could keep taking it as long as I needed to. I take it mostly in winter. I also sometimes use melatonin [esp when jetlagged] and a warm bath. I try to avoid alcohol just because the sleep I get isn't restful
- other things to do during the day include exercise, no caffeine after X o'clock [4 pm for me usually] and getting the room nice and dark and comfy before bed. So, less late tv and internet and more reading and relaxing.
- morningtime! I try to have an incredibly bright light that I turn on right when my alarm goes off and then I just lie in bed hating life under the pseudosun for 5-10 minutes until I get up. A slightly cool shower is helpful as is dressing nicer than I normally dress to keep me sort of feeling like "hey idiot, make an effort!" Cold water on the insides of your wrists is a good jolt, as is a good face scrub. Eat and apple on the way to work, it will help you feel more awake (or it does for me, no idea why) I also try to keep moving not just sit and check email or whatever because that helps me stay awake
- I can usually get up one morning with no ill effect and then I get home and am in bed by 10 pm and this sort of self-regulates somewhat.

Best of luck, I found that I was much happier in life if I just gave up trying to sleep right and instead tried to bend my life to my slightly weird sleep schedule but I realize this is not for everyone. Good luck!
posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

1) I use something with diphenhydramine hydrochloride or doxylamine succinate like Benadryl or Nytol, but I try to limit my usage, because they are not good for long-term use.

2) I can't help except to suggest staying up til 5AM is also not good for long-term use if you've got a day job.

3) Don't put the alarm clock where you can reach it from the bed. Don't use a wind-up alarm clock.

I am constitutionally a night person but most of my life, the folks who pay me want me awake in the morning. Somewhere along the line I decided the paycheck was more important.
posted by MtDewd at 1:25 PM on October 2, 2007

I suspect that this problem will plague me my entire life, or until flexible hours are the norm.

I tried the typical "consistent sleep even on weekends" thing. I was exhausted and insomniac, even after keeping it up for a month.

I'm accustomed to getting about six hours of sleep during the week. I roll out of bed, hit the shower, get dressed, and get on the bus to work on fast autopilot. I force myself out of bed in the morning because it's time to go to work, and I am pleasant in the morning because it's not anyone else's fault that my clock doesn't jibe with theirs. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but people who grump and blame it on not being a morning person drive me nuts.

I plot out my day so that I do relatively easy-on-the-mind stuff early, like organizational tasks and routine paperwork, and I save the stuff requiring the higher-quality brain cells for the afternoon. If it needs to be really creative , I save it for even later. I frequently work until 6 or 7, and chalk up the first couple of hours of my day to warm-up time. I don't schedule meetings for early, but if I have one, I just push through it.

I drink one cup of good coffee at about 9:30, and that's my only caffeine for the day. Personally, I can not use Benedryl unless I do not plan to work the next day...even if I take the stuff at 9 pm, it seems to echo in a sleepy half-life for half the next day.

Sorry if this sounds grim...it isn't really. I know that there are plenty of people who feel that conforming to a slightly uncomfortable schedule is giving in to the man, but hey, I know plenty of people who would just perish if they went to sleep at 2 am and worked from 11-7. Not going to sleep early allows me the time to do stuff that I love, be it relaxing at home or going out to a 9:30 pm movie -- I may not like waking up in the morning, but I like my life.

More of an example of an attitude than tips and tricks, but hopefully helpful anyway.
posted by desuetude at 1:31 PM on October 2, 2007

Aw, geez. Alcohol will not help you to sleep -- it'll actually disturb your sleep and make it harder for you to get up and get going. See the BBC's sleep advice for more on this.

It sounds like you're chronically sleep-deprived -- I know when I sleep 12 hours at a stretch, it's because I've been 1 or 2 hours short of sleep every night for the past week.

I think the easiest way to get into a new sleep pattern is to let your exhaustion do the work. One of these days when you've gotten only 3-4 hours of sleep, go to bed early. Real early -- like, 7pm. You'll be exhausted, so it should be easy to fall asleep. Set your alarm for the time you'd like to get up every day. The fact that you've gotten plenty of sleep should make it relatively easy to get up when your alarm rings.

Once you've done the first day, it becomes a maintenance game. Make sure you're waking up at the same time every day -- even weekends. Set yourself a bedtime that's 8 hours before your wake-up time (and don't resist going to bed earlier if you're tired!). After a few weeks of this, you should be pretty well into the rhythm -- you may even find yourself waking up naturally a few minutes before your alarm clock rings.

You may find that you need a little more or a little less than 8 hours of sleep. You may also be able to relax your bedtime after a few weeks -- though if you stay up until 3am one night, you may throw off your sleep schedule for the next week.

You can try drinking tea for the caffeine, but don't consume any caffeine after noon (it stays in your system for many hours, and it'll screw up your natural sleep instincts).

For more info, check out the BBC's sleep page. And I hate to throw Steve Pavlina in here (I disagree with about half of the things he says), but his posts on how to become an early riser do have some useful advice.
posted by ourobouros at 1:33 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Some good tips here.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:34 PM on October 2, 2007

Oh, and I can watch movies before bed and get sleepy, but woe to me if I surf the internet when I should be sleeping -- it'll keep me up for hours.
posted by desuetude at 1:34 PM on October 2, 2007

I'm like you, so I can't really help you. However, I highly recommend that if you try benadryl, you try it on a non-crucial night. Whenever I take it it makes it harder for me to wake up the next morning, and I am in even more of a daze than usual.
posted by advil at 1:34 PM on October 2, 2007

how do you get yourself to sleep when you have to but aren't tired? if you can recommend over-the-counter drugs for the occasional really important day, both to fall asleep and wake up, please let me know.

Benadryl (usually cheaper to buy when sold as an OTC sleep aid, btw) works wonderfully over the short term. As far as supplements and other things that are of questionable efficacy, I've found taking melatonin 15-30 minutes before bed to work pretty well for me for longer term sleep adjustment. I would stay away from alcohol for this purpose. There are better drugs if you really have serious problems sleeping, but those are likely dispensed by your doctor, who you should be taking to right now instead of asking for what is essentially medical advice on the internet. He or she can likely work through this with you better than we can...

You should also try exercising during the day. Go running for an hour every morning -- if, this means waking up even earlier, sorry, life is a bummer -- and you will probably find it easier to fall asleep at night.

Also, if you nap in the afternoon, stop.

how do you get yourself back onto a rise-and-shine-at-nine clock when you've been up to five in the morning that whole week? how do you get it done fast? forcing myself to rise when I am not awake seems to result in me going through the day on auto-pilot. I don't have many ideas in that state and that's a problem.

Routine. Stop staying up until five in the morning, regardless of your interest in doing one last thing all through the night. Then start waking up at 9am or whatever and do it every day (weekends included) until you start waking up on your own. You can't have it both ways, sorry.

what are your tricks for not oversleeping, forcing yourself out of bed when it's really hard?

Get to bed earlier. When you don't and its really hard, you just do it anyway. Again, routine will help. I used to find that a coffee maker on set on a timer helped me. But really you just need to get up and going, and making that easy means going to bed earlier. For that first couple days of shifting your sleep, drink plenty of strong coffee. Try not to rely on coffee for too long, unless you just happen to like coffee.
posted by jacobbarssbailey at 1:39 PM on October 2, 2007

I tried the typical "consistent sleep even on weekends" thing. I was exhausted and insomniac, even after keeping it up for a month.

It took me the better part of a year to get this to work. I found that adding a workout first thing in the morning finally helped.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2007

Do you smoke? I used to, and was much less of a morning person then. If you smoke, try quitting (ha!)... seriously, though, it made a huge difference for me, in terms of becoming more morningish. And as has been said above, a regular cycle will really help.

To your #1: I have a tendency to stay up too late, wanting to continue reading or surfing or otherwise feeding my head. Is not wanting the day to end part of your problem? Recently I have taken to playing podcasts on my laptop while I fall asleep. Just pick something interesting, spokenword, and preferably not monolithic (lots of little stories makes it easier) that you'd listen to anyway, click play and turn out the light. My brain enjoys being fed the data, but it's late and dark and comfy in bed, so I drift off within ten or fifteen minutes, usually. This way, a single hour-long MeFi, Naked Scientists, Radio Lab, etc. episode can serve as your soporific for an entire work week. Depending on what you listen to, it can influence your dreams strangely as well.
posted by mumkin at 1:42 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Think about it the opposite way. Don't try to go to sleep when you're not tired; make yourself tired first by getting up early. Tomorrow morning, JUST DO IT. Think of all us mefites who have spent our time giving you suggestions. Get up butt-early tomorrow morning. You'll drag all day long, but then you'll be tired at night and fall asleep at a reasonable hour. The following morning, repeat. But you'll find you're not dragging as much during the day, since you got a proper night's sleep the night before.

This won't all be fixed in one day. But that's the way you start it, and you just have to stick to the schedule. You'll lapse from time to time (I'm an 8-hour-a-night sleeper, though I've done little but sleep over the past 4 days; am recuperating from an active couple of weeks) but then on Monday morning, kick yourself back into it.

This is one of those "how do I make myself become the person I want to be?" questions. The answer is to just do it. If you want it badly enough, you'll do it. These are the things you'll think about when your new alarm goes off in the morning. And you'll either be that person that day, or you won't. After some time you'll either realize that you don't really care about it that much after all, or you'll see how much better life is when you do adhere to your new set of rules.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:57 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Melatonin helps set your biorhythms - take it 20 minutes before bedtime.

I find getting up on time in the morning helps make me tired enough to go to sleep at night. The problem is I don't go to bed when I'm tired. One excellent suggestion was to set an alarm clock for bedtime - when the alarm goes off, you need to stop what you are doing and start your bedtime routine.
posted by metahawk at 2:02 PM on October 2, 2007

Lots of people here suggest Benadryl, but melatonin works way better for me...it puts me to sleep, but doesn't leave me groggy the next day.
posted by medusa at 2:15 PM on October 2, 2007

OP, you have asked the question that I did not know that I needed an answer to.

I am in the same boat! Your question has inspired me. Tonight I am going to be in bed by 9pm with the hope of sleeping by 10pm. Tomorrow I will try and awake at 5:30AM instead of 7:30AM like I have been. I will exercise in the morning. I will put my alarm clock across the room.

Let's see if this helps me.
posted by remthewanderer at 2:19 PM on October 2, 2007

The best advice in this thread is to exercise during the day (or right after work), avoid caffeine in the evening (alcohol doesn't help you get a restful sleep, either, but it won't keep you up), and force yourself to wake up early for a few weeks, no matter how hard it is.

The worst advice is to drink alcohol - as some have said, it's counterproductive, and not exactly healthy - and to take benadryl. You need a long-term lifestyle solution, and drugs should not be part of that. Benadryl or other sleep aids might be useful if you're wired with nervousness and need to get to sleep before a big event the next day, but they're not for regular use.
posted by Dasein at 2:35 PM on October 2, 2007

I pretty much could have written this question verbatim.

A lot of people are suggesting benadryl, I've found that a) I built up a tolerance after a while. b) It'll make me drowsy, but if I fight it, as in "i'll just stay up for 5 more minutes" I miss my window of opportunity.

The best advice I got on the subject was not to worry about when you go to bed, worry about when you wake up. Set your alams(s) for a certain time, and focus your efforts on staying up when they go off.

Also I second mumkin's advice. audiobooks and podcasts seem to put me out even when I thought I wasn't tired. However, I'm pretty sure that one of these nights I'm going to strangle myself in my sleep with my headphone cords.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:50 PM on October 2, 2007

You're trying to do this bass-ackwards. You don't go to sleep earlier. You really can't do that, short of drugging yourself and throwing your sleep cycles out of whack.

You drag your ass out of bed every morning at the same time. When the (loud-ass) alarm goes off, you get up. Just get up. You'll be tired and irritable that morning; tell everybody who comments that you're fixing your circadians so that you'll be more of a morning person in the future. You'll be tired that night. Instead of staying up watching Conan or whatever, just go to bed. Continue this until you've adjusted. Buy a Tivo and save your partying for weekends.

Note that you have to continue this getting up on weekends too. If, after the first few days, you feel mad tired and sleep until noon on Saturday. Well, you won't fall asleep in time that night, and you won't again on Sunday night, and now you've undone all your work. At the most, you should give yourself another hour or so. After a while, you'll actually find it pretty difficult to sleep in. This is excellent. Saturday morning is just about the next best thing to Friday night.

Or, drink a bunch of water before going to bed. You'll really want to get up in the morning.
posted by Netzapper at 3:22 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


And, just getting your lazy butt out of bed for the first week really should do the trick.
posted by TomMelee at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Think of all us mefites who have spent our time giving you suggestions. Get up butt-early tomorrow morning. You'll drag all day long, but then you'll be tired at night and fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

This is not necessarily true. I have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, and it doesn't matter when I get up in the morning or when I go to bed at night. I can't sleep until well after midnight and I'm always tired if I wake up when most workaday folk do.

There are treatments, but no cure. I eschew medications, so I'm not doing the Benadryl or melatonin treatments.

I need two loud alarms, one set later than the first one and both alarms set up such that I must get out of bed to shut them off. Even so, it typically takes me 45 minutes to get going -- I set the first alarm for 6 and the second for 6:20. First alarm goes off, I get up, walk across the room and hit the snooze button. I repeat at 6:09 and 6:18. At 6:20 the second alarm goes off. I get up to hit the snooze buttons at 6:27 and 6:29, and often again at 6:36 and 6:38.

I have to leave the house, clean and dressed, by 7:05 or else I'm late for work. Setting my alarms later does not help. Setting them earlier, I have actually slept through turning them off and then gotten phone calls asking why I haven't come in.

I am very logy in the mornings, nearly every morning. I get a second wind after lunch. By the evening, I'm energetic. This was great when I worked shifts (my sleep disorder is not linked to that shift work; I have suffered from it for 20-odd years). And I have to force myself to go to bed at 12:30.

I am often irritable. I am not, however, depressive.

So I guess my suggestion for you is this: see a doctor and see if you can get into a sleep clinic. Self-medicate with Benadryl if you like. Use multiple alarm clocks if necessary. But this really sounds like the kind of medical issue that you should see a doctor about, because that's been my experience.

Oh: and avoid caffeine after about 2 p.m.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2007

Light has a very strong influence on my sleep patterns. Try avoiding bright lights (including TV or the computer) for an hour before you sleep. Add a lamp on a timer in your bedroom to turn on when you want to get up. These can make a big difference.
posted by chairface at 3:48 PM on October 2, 2007

Wow, I have this problem too! The weird thing is, if I force myself to wake up early, I'll usually be really tired until around 6-7PM, then get alert and awake again (and have problems sleeping). This is consistent over several days of not getting enough sleep, until I hit the weekend when I sleep for 12+ hours.

I used to try the loud alarm across the room technique too, but noticed I would naturally wake up about 30 min - 1 hour before the alarm going off because I hate being jolted out of my sleep. I would inevitably turn it off and tell myself I would just doze and not fall to sleep...of course, you can guess what happened most of the time.
posted by pravit at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2007

When I drink alcohol before bed, that's a guarantee I'll have to wake up at 3am to pee, will then stay awake for three hours, and want to fall back asleep just as the alarm is ringing. It's too bad, because a couple glasses of wine really does make it easier for me to fall asleep.

What worked for me, more than anything else, was finding a morning routine that I really enjoy. Instead of hating the alarm, and hating the early morning, I really look forward to that half hour that is my selfish morning ritual. It's sort of like how some people talk about taking a vacation or going to the spa -- "recharging," "time to reflect," and so on. Alarm/shower/eat/run out the door is really miserable, and not worth going to bed for. Drinking tea made exactly the way you like it, sitting in your chair, reading the paper or writing your novel or going for a walk -- that's worth getting up for. When I'm traveling, or when my work schedule changes, and I miss my little half-hour morning routine, my whole day feels off-kilter.

The specifics of that routine change depending on where I am living and what I am doing. Right now it is just reading the paper and drinking tea and enjoying the view out the window. A couple of years ago when I lived in a big city, it was walking down the street and eating a really nice breakfast at the same cafe almost every morning. The key point is that it is really selfish time -- me doing what I want, for myself only -- that is my reward for getting up.

So I think that the people who are saying "wake up at the same time every day" are right; I'm suggesting that you build in a really good reward to your mornings.
posted by Forktine at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Melatonin has definitely had the best results for me, although I'm an insomniac more than anything. 3-5 mg taken 1/2 hr before I want to sleep works wonders. I read in bed, and eventually I'm too tired to even finish reading a sentence.

Sometimes it gives me really crazy dreams, but I'd rather deal with those than with not sleeping well.
posted by Orrorin at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2007

I've always liked this article.
posted by adustum at 4:22 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I found that creating a schedule really helped. Up by 9:30AM, whether I got 9 or 4 hours sleep the previous night. Your body soon adjusts.

Lying in bed trying to go to sleep is a killer for me. All it does is make the situation worse. So I get up, surf the net for a bit, then go to bed when I'm tired. And then I'm up at 9:30 next morning*.

If I'm really struggling, I'll put on a hypnosis tape. I have some as mp3's, and I've cut out the bit at the end where the guy brings me out of the trance. Works like a charm.

*Requires willpower.
posted by Solomon at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2007

Ugh, mornings are so horrible. (for the record, it's 2AM here.)

One of the things that has helped me a lot natural light. My new room has a skylight and no curtain on it. I was horrified at first at the prospect, but I actually sleep deep enough that sunrise doesn't wake me up. Once I do wake up, though, it's much easier to get awake and not to fall back asleep. YMMV obviously, but you should try it even if it makes your stomach churn.

As far as getting to sleep earlier, I can't believe how many votes benadryl's getting, adand yet nobody's mentioned sleepytime extra. It's tea, and it tastes pretty good. I don't know if it's herbal or just full of chemicals. There's also plain old "sleepytime," which I have never tried. AFAIK the "extra" is more of ingredient X to make you drowsy.

Reading boring, monotonous, or slow-paced things can take me from wide-awake to unconscious pretty quickly. It helps if it's something that's at least useful or enriching in some way. See also: almanacs, books to help you learn a foreign language, William Faulkner.

I second prostyle's cold brew suggestion. If you've not tried it before, it's nothing like actual coffee. Super delicious, and much gentler on the stomach. Add enough milk and sugar, and you have one of those bottled Starbucks "frappucino" things, except not totally disgusting.
posted by Muffpub at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2007

ingredient X

posted by redfoxtail at 5:48 PM on October 2, 2007

I feel your pain, *know* your pain. The honest truth is I drink a lot. And I read nonfiction, which I really enjoy, but not rivetingly, so it bores me quite a bit. And yes, I'm still tired every day. There was a time, when I was younger, when all my coworkers had decided together that it was best not to speak to me at all before 9am.

A doctor friend of mine said to me emphatically one day that when I cannot sleep I should try Benadryl. I have a coworker who will sleep 20 hours straight after one pill of the stuff. It doesn't seem to do a whole lot for me, though. I think it does depend.

I have tried OTC sleeping pills and melatonin, but neither has made much difference. Also have done the "wake and sleep at the same time every day" deal, but it also didn't change my rythms.

The thing I'd like to interject here is that people without the problem really can be cruel and non-understanding to people *with* the problem. Mine seems to be biological, and I share it with my father and brother, and his mother, too (I used to stay up till 2am with my 70 year old grandmother). Before my brother's first baby was born, his wife told me she was going to impose "good sleeping habits" on the baby, so he didn't turn out like the rest of us. Later she said no matter what she did, he wanted to rise and sleep at inappropriate times.

Truly, for some people, this isn't a behavioural problem. I believe it's a biological issue. We can be the subject of shame and ridicule for it. It can *really* hurt our professional lives (though it may be more appropriate to say we're not really well cut out for professional life).

The good news is, if you're anything like me... This whole thing will get easier as you get older. I used to oversleep for work by *hours* ... I had the alarm clock on the other side of my room, and i'd still sleep through the process. I would say, that as a 30 year old, I'm much better at dragging my butt out of bed than I was when I'm 20. Same goes for going to sleep at night. If you happen to be young... It's terribly rough. Intolerably rough. But it may somehow get better as you get older. I still *want* to sleep and rise at the same times, but somehow I've gotten better at dealing with not having what I want.
posted by FortyT-wo at 6:03 PM on October 2, 2007

Response by poster: Alcohol FTW.
alcohol doesn't make me sleepy. I'm a happy drunk and I crash for three or four hours and am good to go again. but I already have enough problems ;-)

(1-2) Exercise
covered already. I run around 5 miles every evening. no, not right before sleep but after work.

Do you smoke?
I don't smoke and I do not drink coffee. ever.

I will try benadrin now. this sounds promising.
posted by krautland at 6:08 PM on October 2, 2007

Get a referral to a sleep specialist, and get yourself tested for apnoea (if you snore, this is very likely), narcolepsy, and idiopathic hypersomnolence. If it's an actual medical problem, address it medically and then make lifestyle changes. If it's apnoea, a breathing mask will help a lot. If it's one of the other two, modafinil is the way to go; it's damn expensive but works wonders if you can get a prescription for it.

Also, cut down on caffeine in general. What a lot of people mistake for "not being a morning person" is actually withdrawal from going seven to nine hours without a cup of coffee.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:13 PM on October 2, 2007

I don't smoke and I do not drink coffee. ever.
Oops, missed that. (Logged out for an hour before coming back to answer.) Sorry :)

Your use or non-use of caffeine is actually very important in terms of sleep disorders - do mention it to the doctor if you get it checked out, and mention why you don't use it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:20 PM on October 2, 2007

Second the article adustum linked to.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:50 PM on October 2, 2007

I echo the 'set a schedule' ideas.

I've been an insomniac since I was about six (yes, I should go see a sleep-doctor, it's on my List of Things I Should Really Do). I have difficulty falling asleep, difficulty waking up, and difficulty staying asleep for more than 30min at a time.

What has worked for me is the following:
- no caffiene post-4pm
- exercise twice or more a week
- less stress in my life in general (tough to pull off)
- set bedtime and waketime
- bed itself reserved for sleeping and sex only (no reading, except if it's to help get to sleep, for example).

It has taken about 6 months; but now I find I can get to sleep in about half an hour most of the time. The staying-asleep thing I manage by being very good at fallng back asleep immediately, although I don't get any deep sleep.

I take ambien when it gets really bad, but that's rare.
posted by ysabet at 8:01 PM on October 2, 2007

Best answer: I know what to do. I have this solved, licked, factored, for mostly 99% of the time. By the way, for a year, I worked 2nd shift (perfect!), and likely I'm running on a 25-26 hour clock. Yeah, don't let cool new research justify your behavior.

First, I set an alarm (for me it's at 12:30 AM) - about 30-60 minutes before I need to go to bed.

Second, you're up late because of TV, Computers, videogames, etc. Essentially you're staying up because you're shining a bright flashlight into your eyes and your brain thinks it's daylight. When that alarm goes off? Go get into bed and read. Stop looking at the bright shiny light. Human biology is built around the sun (and very adaptable because of it.)

Third, you're probably sleeping in the wrong increments. Likely you're forcing yourself awake when your still deep asleep. I own a Sleeptracker watch, and the damn thing works well.

When I f**k up (which still happens - it's self destructive and a method of self sabotage), I know I'll be tired the next day.

Extra hydration (water), zero caffeine (if I'm desperate, perhaps at the 2-3pm drift). If I decide to take a nap, it's based on my rem cycles (20-30 min...or about 90 min...but nothing in between).
posted by filmgeek at 8:22 PM on October 2, 2007 [4 favorites]

At some point, you just have to get out of bed early even though every fibre of your being will contrive to make you stay in bed. Willpower. Just willpower.

Also: get a cat and start feeding him in the morning. You won't hit the snooze more than once, I guarantee it.

Over the last few months I've managed to shift my wake up time from 8:15 to 5:30 am so I could exercise in the morning (for me that's like having an entire personality transplant). Part of that was that I realized that it was the only way I was going to get it done but also I realized that I liked it. So it would probably also help if you were getting up to do something you liked - or give yourself some treat you can only have if you get up with enough time in the morning to do it.

Its a longshot but if you're really desperate to get this jumpstarted you could try taking a trip that'll mess up your sleep schedule so you end up waking up when you want anyway.
posted by marylynn at 9:16 PM on October 2, 2007

It's after midnight. Why am I still reading this (fascinating) stuff??!
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:19 PM on October 2, 2007

I've found approaches similar to those suggested by Hypnotist Paul Mckenna to be useful, especially the first article about resetting your sleep cycle.
Times snippet 1
Times snippet 2
Times snippet 3
posted by Ness at 2:21 AM on October 3, 2007

Whoops sorry, messed up the last link.
posted by Ness at 2:30 AM on October 3, 2007

People are very good at ignoring the cues their body gives them to go to bed. In fact, most of us do it so often that it becomes completely reflexive, leading us to conclude that we're "just not tired" at night. When you yawn, it's not a sign that you should go to bed in a little bit (after this show is over, just ten more minutes, which becomes five hours sitting in front of the TV) but that you should go to bed right now, while you're tired. For best results combine with crawling out of bed in spite of the pain when the alarm goes off and exposing yourself to direct sunlight for 15 minutes or so directly after waking.

*Generally even a very bright light bulb is so many orders of magnitude less bright than the actual sun that it's not enough to set your sleep cycle.
posted by anaelith at 10:06 AM on October 3, 2007

For the getting to sleep keep away from a computer screen or other bright light sources for an hour before you plan to go to bed - read, draw, work on a project, just do something else relaxing away from really bright light. This will help your body produce melatonin which makes you sleepy and helps you get a good night's sleep.

For the waking up, I feel your pain as I'm *so* not a morning person. The only thing I've found that has worked for me (and it works a charm) is this:

- I've tied a piece of string to somewhere away from my bed (in my case my dresser handle). The string has a large safety pin tied to the end of it.

- Each night I set my mobile phone to loud and set my alarm clock for 30 minutes before I want to be up and about. I clip it to the safety pin and tell myself that it simply can't be undone, end of story (bit of mental trickery).

- In the morning my alarm goes off at 6am. I get out of bed, hit snooze, go back to bed. 10 minutes later it goes off again, repeat until by 6:30am I'm awake enough from my trips to and from the mobile phone to actually stay out of bed.

Good luck. I hope that helps :)
posted by katala at 7:57 PM on October 5, 2007

Best answer: First off, know that this struggle is going to be with you for, well, ever.

Second, the best advice is to see a qualified sleep specialist. Mine's a neurologist, but other doctors have other backgrounds. You can start with your GP (and you may have to, depending on what health insurance you have), but the important thing is to start talking to a doctor about this soon. One positive effect of seeing a doctor is that you can tell people at the office that you're seeing a specialist, which will buy you time and (possibly) sympathy. I put it off for a long time, but a two week stretch where I got little more than an hour of sleep daily and started to have panic attacks started the ball rolling and I've been much better off since then.

A doctor can tailor a program to your needs, and some of the best tools are available by prescription only. If you have a sleep phase problem a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic (brand names are Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata) will help you get to sleep and maintain sleep (to varying degrees), and there's also a class of drugs that promotes wakefulness without jitters (I forget what they're called in general, but Provigil is one brand name). Ambien helped get me back reasonably on track, and I stopped taking it regularly after a couple months (I'll say that the really freaky dreams I started having contributed a lot to that decision).

If you are unable to see a specialist for any reason, there are things you can do without prescription medication:

As has been pointed out, the most important thing is to enforce a waking time. Your body has a coping mechanism that's supposed to reset your circadian rhythm with the sunrise. You're supposed to wake with the sun, causing the clock in your head to start its daily countdown. Several people have linked to Steve Pavlina's blog. His method works for him (and more power to him) but even reading about it makes me cranky and I personally just want to slug the guy. I have to admit he makes some good points, though. To stabilize your waking time, several things will help:

Pavlina's right that you should get up the first time the alarm goes off. The snooze button allows you to condition yourself not to get up. I quit using my alarm clock entirely for a couple years, so I'm pretty good about getting up when it goes off now. That said, I don't set it most of the time.

Exercise right after you get up, before breakfast. I still can't make myself do this one, but it's a nice idea.

You say you don't drink coffee, but many specialists agree that a morning cup actually helps, because the caffeine addiction works as a regulator (you wake up for your fix). Do you drink tea? Caffeinated soft drinks other than Red Bull? You don't have to do this (and you might not want to, if your lack of coffee habit is related to heartburn) but it will help.

If you feel like investing some money, get a dawn simulator. Mine cost $150, has 72 LEDs and puts out 10,000 lumens, and has a built in clock. You set a wake time and how long it should take to get there, and it gradually increases brightness until reaching full output at your specified time. I'm not going to name the model 'cause I'm still not convinced of its manufacturing quality, but I bought it on Amazon so some searching will find one for you quick. Put it next to your bed, aim it at your face, and wake up to that. I'm no less cranky in the mornings than I used to be, but I'm more awake.

My doctor recommended 20 minutes of light therapy in the morning. One thing he mentioned was putting it in front of a treadmill or bike and combining the light therapy with the vigorous exercise I can't bring myself to do. The doctor was also impressed by my $150 find, as a hospital grade light box costs much more than that.

During the day, you should cut off caffeine by 4pm, if not earlier. 4pm is no longer Time For Dr. Pepper, sadly.

Once you've conditioned yourself to wake up in the morning and cut off afternoon caffeine, the idea is that your body will signal you to go to bed (yawning, inability to concentrate, etc). Sleep phase disorders inhibit that effect, so it helps to aid the process:

Melatonin supplements will help, but they're not a magic bullet. I was told to take one about 8pm every day. I take it later than that, but I maintain sleep better with it than I used to without it.

Take everything non-sleep-related out of the bedroom. No TV, no laptop, no nothing. This is all about conditioning. You want to create the reflex that the bed is for sleep, and all those stimulants interfere.

Wind down before bed. One big problem for me is that brushing my teeth, starting the dishwasher, scooping the litter, and all the other random stuff that piled up and needs to be done wakes me up. I now try to get all that done and return to the couch for a half hour of mindless something-or-other if I've had a bad sleep week, and I can usually get to sleep pretty quickly after that.

Don't toss and turn. Make a note of what time you get in bed. If you're still awake 20 minutes later, get up. Read a book or do some other quiet activity in another room, and return to bed after 20 or 30 minutes. Tossing and turning will negate any positive conditioning you've established by removing the TV, etc.

As a last resort, try an OTC sleep aid as has been mentioned above. Benadryl has never made me drowsy, so YMMV. I get much more mileage out of Ambien. I don't take it regularly now, but if I'm having a bad sleep week I'll take one a half hour before bedtime, set my dawn simulator, and do a pretty decent job of resetting my body clock.

(Staying up until nearly 2am writing a post about sleep: ironic? You decide.)
posted by fedward at 10:48 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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