Fixing a wonky sleep schedule

Have you ever gotten your sleep schedule so out of whack that you have to put considerable effort into making it reasonable again? That’s me at the moment. It’s 1:42am, and I’ve been going to bed at this time at the earliest for awhile. This is not a good thing. I have a reasonably flexible schedule, but maintaining some routine in my life is important because it keeps me a creature of the day. Most of the people I talk to regularly are around during the day and evening, and my messed-up sleep schedule, tame though it may seem to some, can keep me from getting the work done that I need to do so I can have fun for the rest of the day.

So how does one fix a messed up sleep schedule? Or better yet, how does one fix the problem of needing about ten hours of sleep a night? That seems to be the big problem when I go to bed early. If I can solve that I’ll be golden.

4 replies on “Fixing a wonky sleep schedule”

Dr. Zorba Paster (NPR’s On Your Health) has this come up on a lot on his show and he always says some variation of this:
1. Stay up as late as you can
2. Get up whenever you wake up, even if this is before your alarm
3. Don’t take any naps

I’ve been afraid to do this when it is necessary, for fear of being too tired to do the work I have to be awake for. And I’m not disciplined enough to do it when I don’t need to. But that is what he says.

Darwin is pretty close, but given your timings I would actually suggest pushing it a little further. It’s the same trick I use to get over jet lag. The basic idea is pull an all nighter, and go to bed at a “reasonable” hour the next day. You’ll be a bit of a zombie for a day, but you’ll be sorted out until you screw it up again. Also, when you finally do go to bed the next day, don’t oversleep. Wake up at the hour you want to be up.

I can’t find the study at the moment but a couple years back I read an article about how high schoolers often have a sleep schedule entirely incompatible with their school schedule and how to fix that. Basically it was based on the fact that you couldn’t turn the circadian clock back easily, instead you would slowly turn it forward. You were meant to go to bed a couple hours later every night and wake up the same number later in the morning until you hit the ideal bedtime/waking time. This was meant to be done during a vacation week because it means you’ll be keeping some really strange hours for a couple days!

A good dose of natural sunlight will help reset your body clock, “signaling” that it’s time to be awake. When you wake up, I’d recommend going outside, perhaps for a walk, or at least working near a window and opening up the curtains.

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