how I can go to sleep 6 hours earlier than my current routine?
August 7, 2008 11:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I go about making a radical sleep shift, from going to bed at 6am to going to bed at 12 midnight? I have bipolar disorder which has kept me from working for 3 years, but I have made progress. At my last appointment my shrink said most of my depression and fatigue symptoms were probably due to being out of work and also my bad sleep habits (staying up to 6am watching tv or on the Internet and then sleeping during the day). I now have extra motivation to change since I have discovered I can work up to 16 hours a week for a small but helpful wage (£88.50). How do I go from my nocturnal habits to joining the rest of the world? I have tried going to bed 30 mins earlier but just don't get to sleep any sooner, so the habits are quite ingrained. Any tips for how to change, or advice from people like shift workers who have managed to do this in the past? Thanks.
posted by AuroraSky to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this by forcing myself to stay awake later and later each day until I cycle back around to a more normal time. So if you're used to going to bed at 6am, force yourself to stay up until 9am, then noon, then 3pm and keep going until you get to midnight.
posted by Nickel at 12:03 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have also been a depressed, nocturnal bat. What works for me is staying up for a great length of time, then taking some kava pills (or equivalent harmless sleep aid), then passing out at something resembling a normal hour. You'll wake up in 11 hours or so, and while you'll probably be somewhat groggy, don't give up. Open the windows, letting the sun truly shine on you. Immediately do some sit-ups and push-ups. Then slap yourself silly. Now take a shower.

Coffee's OK in the morning, but try only having half-caf. Better yet, stick to a piping hot cup of Irish tea, so thick you can trot a wee mouse across it. Too much caffeine will drain you out and make falling asleep later more difficult.

Also, don't watch TV or use the Internet before you go to sleep. Read a book.

Keep this up until you're used to it. The plaintive mewing of the nocturnal urge is a tempting siren song, but take it from someone who's been down a similar path - you'll be happier when you join the waking world. I know for myself that I turned nocturnal to avoid dealing with people; this was the equivalent of drinking to avoid thinking about how sad one is. It only exacerbates the problem.

I wish you the best of luck. Now if you'll excuse me, I must return to being on the Internet at 3am.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:10 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've done both of these methods, and simply forcing yourself through one day is the best way to do it. Slowly works, yes, but it's so very easy to slip. Just stay up--find something to do--until close to what your new bedtime needs to be. Then zonk. You'll recalibrate PDQ.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:37 AM on August 8, 2008

My personal variation on what everyone else is saying is to immediately dive right into your goal schedule. You want to go to bed at midnight, and wake up at 8AM? Then "tonight" at 6AM, you don't go to sleep. You stay awake. Going outside in the daytime will actually make this a lot easier. You don't go to bed until (hopefully) midnight. You might go a little early, like 11 or so, but aim for 12. Before you go to bed, set an alarm, or two, or however many you need, for 8AM, and wake up then. You will be tired. You will be groggy. That day might be partly haze, and mostly useless. But by midnight, you will be tired, and you won't have trouble sleeping.

Avoiding/limiting caffeine, exercise, proper diet, avoiding using the bed as a place to hang out, hydration, and lots of other things can contribute to a healthier, more normalized sleep schedule, over all. But for making a dramatic shift, in my experience, it's the Band-Aid approach.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:49 AM on August 8, 2008

Do everything else mentioned here, but also take some melatonin half an hour before you want go to bed. It works wonders for me when my sleep cycle has gotten out of whack. (It's not exactly a soporific— it tweaks your sleep cycle.)

Everyone I know who's used it gets the most useful effect at well under one pill's worth (1/2 milligram is what works for me). If you have weird intense dreams, try reducing the amount you take. Just take it for a few days until you start feeling naturally sleepy at the right time.

[ianad, etc.]
posted by hattifattener at 1:04 AM on August 8, 2008

my old job used to rotate us from day shift to night shift every couple months. i would always just plow through the first day/night, staying awake for 24 hrs and then crashing, as the last couple posters have suggested. always worked for me.
posted by bilgepump at 1:10 AM on August 8, 2008

Nthing the stay up for 24+ hours and then crashing idea. It definitely works - make sure you spend the sleepless day out doing stuff so you're not tempted to go to sleep sometime in the afternoon, though.
posted by Xany at 1:14 AM on August 8, 2008

Staying up for 24 hours doesn't work for me. Maybe when I was in college, yeah, but not when I got older. I can't stay awake that long any more.

Instead, stay up 2-3 hours later each day until you are where you want to be. Be warned; it messes with you a bit. You will probably feel groggy, and your body temperature will go out of whack for a while. Once you get to the desired schedule, get up with an alarm clock every day, or you are likely to slip backwards.
posted by litlnemo at 1:35 AM on August 8, 2008

I change my sleep schedule weekly. I just force myself to stay up later. I can usually correct it in a day or two, a day if I try really hard.
posted by Nattie at 1:57 AM on August 8, 2008

Try this link. Don't be put off by the title - How to become an early riser. It's not just about the productivity benefits of getting up early, but contains some useful discussion on the relationship between early rising and overcoming insomnia.
posted by the-happy-manager at 2:54 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a similar problem, and I found it was the time I got up that mattered, not the time I went to sleep. My working hours changed from 1PM starts, which meant I could stay up late, to 8AM starts, which meant getting up at 6AM. The first morning, when I had to get up at 6 after finally dropping off to sleep 4 hours earlier, was hellish.

After doing this for a week, my sleep cycle rolled back quite nicely. Getting up at that time was gruelling, but it had the effect of making me more tired at night. Red Bull in the morning was my very best friend that week. Now, I find it much easier to make myself sleep earlier.
posted by Solomon at 3:05 AM on August 8, 2008

Naps. Follow your normal pattern (go to bed at 6 AM), but get up after sleeping only 4 hours. 6 hours after you wake from that (4 PM), you can have a 1.5 hour nap. Then stay awake until your new bedtime (12 AM). You should be able to sleep almost a full night then.
posted by hjo3 at 3:47 AM on August 8, 2008

Sleep disorders and bipolar disorder often go together as there's common genetic factors involved. (I'm bipolar and have a sleep disorder). Assuming all other things are equal there's no reason why anyone should prefer a sleep time of 6am, which suggests this might be an innate preference. Have you always preferred sleeping and getting up later than normal? If so, you might have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. ie. You might just be a night owl, in which case it'll be difficult to adjust. One of the features of DSPS is an inability to advance the sleep phase by going to sleep earlier, which you seem to be experiencing.

Sleep can also be a trigger for depressive and manic episodes for bipolar people. Depending on how well your symptoms are controlled it may be a really bad idea to radically mess with the amount of sleep you get even for a few days. That said, one of the ways of adjusting is to get up at the time you're aiming to get up, regardless of how little sleep you've had, and try to sleep at the time you should sleep, regardless of how awake you feel. If you can't sleep, get up and read a book for a while - don't watch TV or use your computer and try again after a while. (This completely failed for me, but I don't have DSPS).

One way of reinforcing this would be a short-term course of a benzodiazepine of some kind (temazepam being a likely candidate). These can be taken to make it easier to establish the new sleep patter, then discontinued after a couple of weeks. It might be something to ask your GP about, although in my experience, GP's are unwilling to prescribe this kind of thing and are generally very unhelpful when it comes to sleep disorders. It doesn't hurt to ask, though. Presumably you have a psychiatrist as well - they might be slightly more helpful.

Good luck with it anyway and hey, maybe you don't have a sleep disorder.
posted by xchmp at 3:52 AM on August 8, 2008

talk to your doctor about getting a sleep aid. xchmp is right that sleep can affect your moods, and if you have severe bipolar, you will want to make sure you get enough as you make your transition.

start taking melatonin a couple of hours before you want to go to bed. take the sleep aid about an hour before you want to go to bed. stick to your wake-up time no matter what. you'll eventually re-set your clock.

also, be sure to get lots of daylight during the day, and if you can exercise vigorously about 4-6 hours before bedtime, that will help, too.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:36 AM on August 8, 2008

For me the best way to break that kind of cycle is to force a 36+hour day. You feel awake as the sun comes up and then when the sun sets for the second time you'll feel some wrecked you need to sleep.

If the PC and TV are a problem, how about putting them on a timer switch so they die at 11.30? If it takes an active step to switch them back on, then it might help you go to bed at the 'right' time.

Failing that (and I know it doesn't answer your question), how about starting out with a night shift job? It'll be something like shelf stacking, but maybe it will give you some extra encouragement.
posted by twine42 at 4:49 AM on August 8, 2008

Read this guide to surviving night shifts, for NHS workers. Almost all the advice is also applicable to you, trying to adjust to a day shift.
posted by roofus at 5:00 AM on August 8, 2008

Force yourself to wake at the same time, everyday, no matter what.

Start waking up at 7AM everyday, even if you go to bed at 6AM. Don't snooze or cheat. It even helps (as lame as it sounds) to practice waking to the alarm. During the day - set the alarm for 5 minutes in the future, Lay down, and get right out of bed when the alarm goes off.

You'll be fixed rather quickly doing this. Good luck!
posted by mincus at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2008

I've recently read that if you don't eat anything for more than 16 hours, when you do eat a full meal, your body will try to adjust itself to wake up at around the same time that you ate the meal the next day. The suggestion (supposing you wanted to wake up at 8am) is to stop eating at 4pm one day, do your best to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, set your alarm at 8am, get up, eat a big breakfast, and try to muddle through the day. If it works, then it'll be easier to fall asleep at a reasonable hour that night and wake up at the same time. I haven't tried it yet, so I can't vouch for it's effectiveness, but it's something to try. If you do try it, let us know whether it worked. I'm very curious.
posted by ErWenn at 10:36 AM on August 8, 2008

I have been in the exact same position, and was eventually diagnosed with delayed sleep phase syndrome. I used Nickel's method to get to a more regular schedule. Once I was there, though, I tended to automatically drift back to my old schedule, as I suspect happens to you. Two things really helped for me:

-First, have a reason to get up. I started a job where I had to be in at 7 AM every day, and I simply had to get up at 6 every day in order to keep my job. If you don't have a regular job, set your alarm at the same time every day anyways, and get up immediately.

-Provigil. This was/is a lifesaver, and might help you adjust your schedule as well. Set your alarm at 7, immediately take your provigil, and you'll feel awake and alert. It is like taking high-dose caffeine without the side effects of caffeine. It is pricey and I'm not sure how insurance works in your country, but it is worth any price, IMO.
posted by btkuhn at 12:10 AM on August 9, 2008

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