I’ve now got enough data in my sleep tracking that I’m starting to see a pattern;
On one hand – It’s slightly chaos, I don’t sleep anywhere near enough, and if I nap during the day I don’t sleep well at night (Wait, being honest – If I don’t sleep well at night, I nap during the day. that’s the direction of causality, not the other way around).
Now, this is also the most stable time of year for my sleep pattern. In winter, the nights are too long, so I often end up completely nocturnal as I fall out of synch with everyone else and don’t have regular enough daylight cues to pull me back into phase with everyone else, and in summer we never get beyond maritime twilight, so I end up in a biphasic sleep cycle, taking a short nap just after sunrise then another short nap just after noon, missing the hottest part of the day.
Now, the above chart looks like chaos, until I re-divide the days so that instead of going from midnight-to-midnight, they run from falling-asleep-to-falling-asleep.
Pretty much a clear 25-hour cycle, other than on days where I’m notably sleep-deprived. Which suggests something like failing to “reset” whilst I sleep (Managed by most people by external cues, light levels, temperature etc, which make the body produce/regulate melatonin and cortisol and all that appropriately).
At this point, I expect to hear screams of “BAD SLEEP HYGIENE! HAVE HOT MILKY DRINK YES MILKYHOT MAKE YOU SLEEP GOOD NAUGHTY ZEBRA NOT NO SLEEP HYGIENE MILK HAVE HOT YES NOW”.
So here’s my “going to sleep” and “waking up” rituals.
I wake up when I wake up, usually to one of a series of alarms set between 8-9am and immediately have my morning medication. From that point, I have a two-hour window to have all the caffeine I want for the day, never more than 200mg, usually pills or an energy drink, along with a cup of tea. If I can’t physically get out of bed and go downstairs, I at least reconfigure the room into “daytime” settings – Put my desk on the bed, open the curtains and window, switch on the radio. I don’t “lie in”. I have my last cup of tea two hours after I wake up, to ensure that there’s no caffeine in my system by the time I want to go to bed.
Within an hour of sunset I do an hour of light therapy, then after that I go for a swim. After my swim I don’t switch on any screens (unless I really feel that I need company, in which case I use a yellow screen-mask and talk to a few people on Twitter), and generally avoid artificial light other than a low night-light so that I can read. At this point I might have a hot oat milk, some valerian or hops, or sometimes a small glass of port. An hour before I think I need to go to sleep, I absolutely turn off all screens, set my night light to “sunset”, then read something familiar and non-exciting until it’s too dark. I then try to sleep.
Right – It’s not perfect. I have a glass of port once every few weeks, I rely on either diphenydramine or valerian/hops to get me to sleep if I want to go to bed at a “normal” hour, and likewise need caffeine to wake up, I don’t always leave my room first thing in the morning (Because my mobility isn’t fantastic) and sometimes I need to use Skype or Twitter to keep me company if I’m in pain or anxious, which does mean having a screen switched on. But I think I have the best “sleep hygiene” that someone can possibly have in the real world, without completely structuring their whole life around it.
And my inability to sleep at normal times has made a bit of a mess of my life – I’ve lost most jobs, eventually, due to not being able to arrive in time for the morning shift (This is why I gravitated to nightclub work) and if I wake up earlier than I naturally want to I’m groggy for the rest of the day – regardless of how much sleep I’ve had. If it’s before sunrise, even if I wake up naturally, I feel sick for the whole day and can’t keep food down (Great in winter, obviously, when it’s incredibly difficult to wake up after sunrise.) I’m difficult to share a bed with, since I often come to bed really late, or get up early, or just don’t sleep properly overnight at all. I basically can’t plan to go to things which start before noon, and often I can’t plan to go to things in the evenings either, in case I’m in one of the weird (thankfully rare) phases where I go to bed in the middle of the afternoon and get up jut after midnight.
I think once I’ve got about two weeks’ more data, I’ll take it to my GP and ask them to do something about it.