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I've read on resetting one's biological clock and clearing my mind before bedtime (and I do most of the things there, using F.lux, being physically active mostly every day), taking melatonin (0.5-1mg), BUT...

I still don't want to go to bed at 2am, when I should. I feel I still have energy, and indeed get work done, and end up going to bed at 5am. Sleep is not interesting to me. Btu then I wake up at 11, can't fall asleep again (or if I do, it's after 90 minutes - a sleep cycle - then I sleep another 90 minutes and it's 2pm), so I only get 6 hours of sleep. Bad.

I don't drink caffeine or eat chocolate or sugar, and I follow largely a slow-carb diet. I've been tracking my sleep for more than two years, and I've never woken up refreshed, ready to jump out of bed; just "ok". I use earplugs and an eye mask, and my bedroom is pretty dark (though not pitch dark) and cool.

The problem seems to be one of discipline, less so of sleep hygiene. How do I just put myself to sleep at 2am, and get 8 hours of sleep and be productive (and in sync with the rest of the world in my time zone), when there's so much interesting stuff I could be doing after 2am, and while I probably have a non-24-hour sleep/wake pattern ?

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I never felt any effect from melatonin until I've used 10 mg. –  alex Dec 21 '13 at 20:31
    
If this habit is not interfering with your productivity, personal or professional life, then what is the problem? –  user221287 Dec 25 '13 at 17:12
    
My personal preference would be to just go to sleep when I can't stay awake any longer. But this ultimately means that I continually stay up later until I am actually going to sleep in the morning. And since I am not Howard Hughes living in my bedroom in a Vegas casino, I have to adapt my sleep to the world. But surprisingly, I read that most people would do this as well if, for example on a submarine without clocks. They would stay up more than 24 hours. Anyway, I think I have melatonin does have an affect on me with regard to sleeping. The other suggestion is to read a technical book. –  Scooter Jan 12 at 23:39
    
@alex excessive and/or overuse of melatonin can have adverse effects of its own, it is not recommended for long term use or large doses. –  user6505 Feb 2 at 17:11
    
@user6505 Just eat some sweet cherries, pineapple, bananas and oranges and you'll have more. –  alex Feb 2 at 18:15
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5 Answers

You have nailed it, discipline is not replaceable. Go to sleep before midnight. I am not sure how you got the idea that 2AM is the sleep onset time for you - it is just about time when most people's cortisol levels are starting to climb slowly, which means - the body is starting to get ready for the next day. Best go to sleep around 10 PM or other time before midnight. The fact is that the interesting stuff will still be there tomorrow and you will be better able to deal with it if you take good care of yourself. Don't watch anything with a flickering screen (not even a plasma TV or a computer monitor) when you are trying to go to bed. With your day's activities see that you get yourself tired during the day. If you cannot fall asleep, then read. The cognitive activity of reading is pretty intense on the brain, definitely more challenging than any flickering screen activities. Maybe do not read detective stories, if you find yourself excited and glued to the pages for long. Do read something which is still of value and interest to you, but is somewhat more challenging - a book on accounting or evolutionary psychology or whatever is educational and valuable enough for you. Once you change this habit that you have you will be able to go to sleep with whatever book. Of course, you will need to move your wake-up time correspondingly.

With respect to sleep hygiene that you mention - most people do a few things from it, but it is better and may be necessary to do all of them, if you are struggling with sleep. You could see for yourself - here are 2 good PDF files for you:

Both these are research based, but they are not research papers.

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If you, like me, dont like to waste you time with sleep, I think you should try Polyphasic sleep.

Polyphasic sleep involves taking multiple short sleep periods throughout the day instead of getting all your sleep in one long chunk. A popular form of polyphasic sleep, the Uberman sleep schedule, suggests that you sleep 20-30 minutes six times per day, with equally spaced naps every 4 hours around the clock. This means you’re only sleeping 2-3 hours per day.

Steve Pavlina has an interesting blog series about his exprerince on the matter. He did it successfully and was so happy with the results.

Hope it helps.

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Your case might be special - it's possible that you're one of the lucky few who can sleep very little without suffering from cognitive or emotional issues.

That aside, it seems that the difficulty you have in going to sleep at a regular time is related to an impulsive desire to stay up and get stuff done. A few things that would help counteract this impulsiveness:

  1. Make going to bed a routine - set an alarm for when you need to start doing your nightly routine and keep sticking to it so it becomes a habit
  2. Develop mindfulness skills to deal with your impulsive thoughts. You could do mindfulness/insight meditation as part of your nightly routine and kill two birds with one stone (gain the benefit of improving mindfulness while also clearing your mind to make that night's sleep easier).

I got most of these ideas from this chart based on "The Procrastination Equation". If my suggestions aren't helpful enough, take a look at the chart and try to apply some other techniques it suggests to this situation.

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In my personal case, go to bed at fixed time point everyday does not work for me at all. So I have developed another strategy that I thought worth sharing:

Instead of going to bed at fixed point (e.g 2am), I would wake up at fixed time point (e.g 6 am). By doing that I can easily adjust to my situation everyday. For example sometimes I had a really busy day and I am really tired, I would just go to sleep earlier that day (it's quite natural since I wake up at 6am everyday and I would instantly fall asleep). If I am not tired at all that day, I would just stay up late that night and have several hours less sleep (but I do get up at 6am the next day).

The important thing is that you have to stick to the plan long enough to set your bio-clock waking you up 6 am everyday morning. For the first week I adapted this, it is really painful. But I just forced myself to get out the bed immediately at 6am no matter how tired I was.

I have read about similar strategy in productivity Stackexchange somewhere but I can't find it anymore. Maybe someone who has read about it can link it.

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A better approach might be, rather than making yourself go to bed when you're not feeling tired, making yourself get out of bed, regardless of how refreshed or tired you feel.

This might be difficult at first, but shortly, your body will know to feel tired at the right time at night, and will do so.

However, this doesn't the address the 'winding down before I go to bed' issue - that is - you can't just go to bed as soon as you feel tired, you should be winding down before that.

For this, I suggest keeping at eye on the clock. You know that you're going to feeling tired at around 10:30, so at 9:30-10:00 start brushing your teeth, get your things ready for the morning, and hop in bed to read.

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