- sleep when they don’t want to and
- can’t sleep when they do.
It is easy for this to happen. We sleep and wake in patterns. Most people prefer to sleep at night and stay awake during the day. Sometimes we start to sleep during the day – maybe because we are ill, or tired. If we sleep during the day, when we go to bed we don’t feel very tired. So, we don’t fall asleep for a long time. Then we either wake up late the next day – so when we go to bed we don’t feel tired again. Or we get out of bed at the normal time, but feel tired in the afternoon because we didn’t get enough sleep. You can see in the diagram that it means a circular pattern starts to happen. This doesn’t always happen. If you have a job, for example, then you have to get up in the morning and you can’t nap in the afternoon – so the cycle is broken and sleep returns to normal.
So how do I sort it out?
Before you do anything you need to decide when your ideal getting-up time is, and when your ideal going-to-bed time is.
The best way:
Don’t sleep in the day. This can be hard, but the worst that can happen is that you feel very sleepy. You may need to wake yourself up early, or stop napping in the day. Or both. The first day is difficult, but the next day is much easier. If you can stay awake all day (between your getting-up and going-to-bed times) you will be worn out at bedtime and you will fall asleep more quickly. When you wake up next morning you will have had a full night’s sleep and you won’t feel tired during the day. It will be easier to stay awake that day and your sleep pattern will return to normal very quickly.
The next best way:
1) I sleep late in the morning. To sort this out you need to get up earlier. If it is hard to just do that straight away – do it in easier steps. Notice what time you usually get out of bed. Then the next day get out of bed one hour earlier. The next day get out of bed another hour earlier. Do this every day until you are getting out of bed at your planned getting-up time. If it is hard, get up at the same time for a few days until you are ready to save another hour. Or you could do it in half-hour steps. The important thing is to keep slowly getting up earlier until you are getting up at your planned getting-up time.
2) I take naps in the day. Get up at your planned getting-up time, and go to bed at your planned going-to-bed time. Also, make a note of how long your naps are, on average. On day one set an alarm to wake yourself up when you have had your usual amount of rest. On day two set the alarm with fifteen minutes less time. On day three set the alarm with another fifteen minutes less. Keep doing this until your naps are so short you don’t bother with them.
3) I sleep late in the morning and I take naps in the day. You need to do number 1 and number 2, but it will be hard to do both at the same time. Measure your nap time and make a note of what time you usually have it. Then concentrate on doing step 1 first so that you get out of bed nearer and nearer to your planned getting-up time. Throughout step 1 keep your nap time and the length of your nap the same. Then when step 1 is finished, do step 2.
Whatever way you do it:
- Never be tempted to go to bed early.
- Never be tempted to get up late, unless it is part of the plan.
- Never be tempted to have a nap, unless it is part of the plan.
But I can’t stay awake!
The biggest thing to stop you achieving a healthy sleep pattern is having nothing to do. It is very hard to stay awake when you feel tired if you have nothing to do. If you can organise things to do for these days it will be much easier to achieve your aim of a healthy sleep pattern.