Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm a nightowl by nature, always have been. I've read Steve Pavlina's strategies on changing this, I follow Lifehacker, and all sorts of things.

However, here's how my day goes (from midnight)

  • Finally realise I'm feeling tired, or force myself to bed even if not tired, around 12:30-1.30 depending how distracted I am
  • 1-2am fall asleep, if I'm lucky
  • 7.15-7.30 depending on day, wake to alarm. Feel like death.
  • struggle around house, getting ready and eating some food (a recent development)
  • 8-8.15, head to work
  • 9am-1pm - can barely keep eyes open
  • afternoon - meh
  • 5ish, start to notice I'm pretty wide awake. Feeling good. Coincidentally, it's hometime.
  • 5-6pm, head off at some point
  • 6-7pm arrive home, depending on evening.
  • by 10pm, as wide awake as I've ever been today.
  • repeat cycle.

Now, how on earth do I reverse that? Work is rough, I can barely focus with the lack of sleep. I've tried going to sleep earlier, but I usually end up stressing about not sleeping and over-wake, or occasionally I get what I call 'a broken off switch' and can't stop my mind going a mile a minute about a range of topics.

share|improve this question
I recommend reading this article that I found really interesting about sleep (thanks to the one who posted it somewhere in a SO comment). Maybe you are somebody with a long circadian rythm ? – Jonathan Merlet May 16 '12 at 9:56
Why not take a few days break from work? On the break, get your sleep pattern under control and then resume work. – eminemence May 17 '12 at 6:50
Well I only started this job 9 days ago.... ;) – Mark Mayo May 17 '12 at 7:04
But this has happened in previous roles too. I did take a month off between roles, and 8 months before the previous role (was travelling - see but it's the same whether I'm at work or not - it's just easier to sleep in when I'm not at work, obviously, but I'd rather fix it. – Mark Mayo May 17 '12 at 7:05
@JonathanMerlet - it took a while but I read the article, some conflicting stuff about melatonin and so on, but the long circadian rhythm is something I'd wondered about in the past. I've commented to friends before that I feel like if the day was 28 hours, I'd be great. – Mark Mayo May 17 '12 at 7:07

I've had a similar problem for years, and lately I've been doing much better with getting up and going to bed at the right times. A lot of what has been working for me is similar to what is suggested by this blog article about becoming and early riser. I don't know if it will all work for you, but it has helped me, so here are some bullet points of my marginal success:

  • Don't use the snooze button, or set the duration so short that there isn't much point. Long (~10+ minute) snoozes give you a chance to slip back into something approximating real sleep, which is a big factor in making that drowsy morning feeling much much worse. I have an alarm with a 1 minute snooze, which usually prevents me from even bothering to use it.
  • Set your alarm clock somewhere you have to get out of bed to reach. Combined with the first point, this makes for a pretty effective "Well, I guess I'm up now" type of setup. If you don't have snooze to fall back on and you're already out of bed, you're just going to get started.
  • Use a two-stage alarm. This is something I do that's not related to the article at all, but has helped me enormously. I currently use my Android tablet as my alarm clock, and I have two alarms set for weekday mornings: The usual suspect buzzer alarm, but 20 minutes before that goes off, I have an alarm which actually launches Pandora, playing music and doing a gradual volume crescendo. The gradual nature of the slowly increasing sound pulls me out of sleep much more gently, so that I'm already in the realm of consciousness when the buzzer kicks in.
  • Try to get up at the same time every day, but don't try to sleep if you're not tired. This is one of the key things I learned from the article, and I've found that it works for me. It might burn you once or twice if you're just starting to work on this habit, but over time it'll start to work in your favor.

I'm still much more tired when I first get up than I am when I go to bed, but I've found that my head clears faster, I'm really properly awake by the time I get to work, and I don't have low points during the day nearly as often.

Finally, I don't really have the expertise to talk about details, but it's a commonly understood idea that diet, exercise, and chemical (especially caffeine) intake make a big impact. Any chance there are issues you could address on that front?

share|improve this answer
I used tips 2 and 4 to straighten out my sleep schedule several years ago and still rely on tip 4 to maintain it. – Belisama May 18 '12 at 21:53
I'm fine setting an alarm and getting up - I've weaned myself off the snooze button a while back. However, as per my question - it's more the fact that I'm like death in the morning, all morning, and slowly seem to wake up as the day continues, to the point I'm wide awake at night, just when I'm supposed to be getting tired. That's what I'm trying to fix, not the 'getting up' problem. – Mark Mayo May 18 '12 at 22:54
On Wednesday I was almost nauseous in the afternoon, and then a couple of hours later - totally fine. – Mark Mayo May 18 '12 at 22:54
As I also said, I've already read Steve Pavlina's articles. I've been exercising more the last month, and dramatically cut my caffeine - I don't have more than one coffee a day now, and caffeine-free tea at night. Yet the last week and a half I've been working (new job) I have this 'reverse-tiredness' I described above. – Mark Mayo May 18 '12 at 22:56
@LuckyMurari - link added to main post, thanks for reminding me to do that. – asfallows May 21 '12 at 13:23

Have you considered to try some yoga exercises to get you to sleep earlier. A friend of mine was a professional athlete and the night before a competition he could barely sleep. As a result of having learned several yoga techniques he can now fall asleep whenever he wants within seconds.

share|improve this answer

I have had this problem for a long time (years) and think I'm on my way out of it.

What I did was to have some days off for fixing this problem. Maybe you'll want to try this in a weekend.

I have spent one night without sleeping, and the next day, I've tried to stay awake as late as possible in the afternoon (I was nauseously sleepy).

I fell asleep at about 9 P.M., and woke up at about 4 A.M. the next day. Again, I tried to stay awake for as long as possible during the afternoon, even if I was very, very sleepy.

The next day I was able to stay awake the whole day and feel rested even if I woke up at about 4-5 A.M. I didn't wake up this early because of the alarm, I just woke up and couldn't fall asleep anymore.

There are two weeks since I'm very sleepy in the evenings and energetic in the mornings. I think I will have to try to fix my awaking hour to make things more regular (I think I've heard/read that the regularity of your sleep counts as much as the number of hours you sleep).

This was not the first time I've tried this method, but this is the time it worked. The "stay awake" part after a night of not sleeping was the most difficult, and even the second day I've had trouble to stay awake during the day, because my body was used to be sleepy during those hours. I found that exercising, going out, showering helped. Also, eating an apple (the less sweet, the better) helps, and some other sour foods might help too (pickles, fruit that isn't very sweet, so on) - but caffeine messes even more with your sleep cycle, so I don't recommend it. I only succeeded this method being caffeine free for many days before.

This has been a long battle, but there's hope. Good luck!

P.S. Someone else's solution might not be suited for you, so if this worked for me it can be useless to you. But if you think of your problem as a huge jet lag, you'll realize people recover from jet lags, and you can find useful tips about this.

P.P.S. I don't know how could I forget about this, I remembered a friend had these CD's and I felt great when trying them so I planned buying them, but then forgot about them in the same frustrating manner I forget about other useful things.

If you check out Steve Pavlina's blog you'll see that even he found these products useful.

I'd use 10 minutes supercharger in the morning and, if possible, whenever needed during the day, and the deep relaxation in the evening when trying to fall asleep. Thanks for helping me remember about these things, by the way.

I have found some interesting information here in the mean time, I hope it will be useful:

"Serotonin and the Carbohydrate to Protein Ratio [...]This concept was brought up months ago by JT and others. That idea was simply to eat more protein early in the day and less at night. This makes even more sense when you scrutinize our circadian rhythms (next post will be on resetting those rhythms), and how those with metabolic issues and obesity almost ALWAYS have the circadian rhythms backwards – waking up feeling tired and not hungry (low cortisol, high serotonin), and going to bed hungry (craving calorie-dense sugary foods, white flour products, and alcohol specifically) and not tired (high cortisol, low serotonin). This can mostly be attributed to, I believe, the delicate balance between serotonin and cortisol – which is impacted most heavily by the carbohydrate to protein ratio of the last meal you ate, as well as calorie intake. Of course, the whole concept behind Kathleen DesMaisons’s program for overcoming addiction as discussed in Potatoes Not Prozac is eating starch, WITHOUT accompanying protein (a few bites of a baked potato) before bedtime to assist in getting tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier where it is converted to serotonin, then melatonin – helping you fall asleep, have incredible dreams (you wouldn’t believe what Tom Skerritt was wearing last night!), and overcome addiction. I think this practice goes way beyond just addressing addiction though. "

share|improve this answer
I now realize that if you've had this problem across many time zones, it could be trickier. Do you like your job? Could sleeping be a way your unconscious is running from what you do? I have had a friend who would almost fall asleep when having unpleasant conversations filled with negative feedback for him. Drowsiness was his defense. – 0ana Jan 28 '13 at 6:35

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.