He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

May 27, 2010

Altering My Natural Sleep Cycle (Without Losing Sleep Over It)

Alarm Clock 3In my fantasy, I'm a morning person. I want to be the sort of person who gets up early and has super-productive mornings, freeing up the afternoons to work on whatever personal or home-related project I feel like working on and the evenings to just relax and chill with Matt, my day broken up into nice, orderly sections.

In reality, I sleep in late because I stay up late. It usually takes at least two cups of coffee and an hour poking around the internet before my brain can handle anything more strenuous than skimming Twitter and clicking links, and my work gets spread all throughout the day and evening, with occasional breaks to take care of other things that need my attention, or just recharge my batteries before diving back in, until I'm too worn out to keep going. There's nothing orderly about it.

This week, I've been making myself get up at nine AM. That sounds luxuriously late if you usually have to be at the office by eight, I know. But if you make your own schedule and have no particular reason to wake up by any certain time, trust me, it's early. Nine seems like a good compromise between my night-owlishness and my desire to give myself enough time to get things done earlier in the day and leave myself some chillaxin' time at the end of it.

Timely and relevant to this, yesterday Lifehacker ran an article on How to Reboot Your Sleep Cycle and Get the Rest You Deserve. It was full of good advice, albeit nothing really new to a sometimes-chronic insomniac who's already read all the advice there is about getting yourself to sleep.

Part of the advice was to experiment with earlier and earlier bed times until you start waking up before your alarm. Well, that's the problem, isn't it? I've always had problems with set bed times. As much as I love and need sleep, I hate going to bed early as much now as I did when I was a little kid. It's partly because going to bed before I'm truly sleepy tends to trigger my insomnia.

But a while back I read somewhere -- I'm pretty sure it was on Rules for Anchorites, but I can't find the post -- a discussion similar to this where someone suggested that night owls simply have a hard time relinquishing the day, and... yes. This. It's so hard to let go, to admit that I'm done with a day, that I've done all I can with it. It feels like defeat.

Even so, last night I thought I'd try Lifehacker's advice and make myself go to bed earlier. I've been averaging about seven hours of sleep all week, so I felt tired enough that I knew I could use the extra hour. But then I started reading a new book, and by the time I forced myself to put it down and go to bed it was already after one AM and I was facing another less-than-eight-hour night.

Then, this morning, I woke up before my alarm anyway. I lay there for a minute, not sure if I was truly awake and trying to will myself to get up, thinking how victorious it would feel to get up before my alarm went off. But I was still just on the cusp of wakefulness, and in the midst of my self-pep-talk I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew my phone was vibrating (I use my phone's alarm on the silent setting, tucked into my pillow, so as not to wake Matt) and I was waking back up from a dream about a particularly odd episode of Castle involving an escaped killer baboon and a tornado (it was too much tornado and not enough Nathan Fillion for my liking; there was, however, just enough baboon to keep it weird).

So much for that.

But I refuse to give up just yet. Maybe if I keep forcing myself awake at nine, eventually the not-quite-enough sleep I've been getting will catch up with me, and my body will want to go to bed earlier. That's the theory, anyway. Of course, I can't recall any other time in my 37 years that it's ever worked out that way, but that's probably because after a week I'd usually give up and stop setting the alarm; or, when that wasn't an option, I'd always use the weekends to catch up on sleep and then have to start all over again on Mondays. This time, I'm going to do my best to stick with it. After all, I figure it's getting to be now or never, and I'm not ready to let go of that productive-morning-person fantasy just yet.


coffeecolouredworld said...

I've found that if I just slowly work on going to be a little earlier and a little earlier after a while I'm tired before midnight. The end result is usually I'm up earlier, like before 9am. Unless it's cold outside, then it takes dynamite to get me out of bed.

Also I stopped having coffee after say . . . 10pm. That helped a lot

sunbrae said...

I know I need to get on a better sleep schedule. My doctor said consistent bed and wake times will help regulate my moods. I love to stay up reading or watching Craig Ferguson to much, though. I'm going to try to adjust this summer, however, so when the school year starts, I'll be on a reasonable schedule.

Jean Bauhaus said...

@coffeecolouredworld - Yes. For some reason, when it's cold outside I usually want to go to bed early (and get up never). It's mainly in the warmer months that I struggle with insomnia.

@sunbrae - Late night is often my only chance to read or catch up on my shows, too. I'm really reluctant to let that go.

Thank you both for commenting!

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