Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Fighting sleep deprivation

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    Hi guys I am having a tough time fighting what I think is chronic sleep deprivation. It is 2:39am as I write this, and I cannot fall myself to sleep, and yet when I am in school, or reading on the weekend afternoons, I will have hell trying to keep myself awake. My eating pattern is unusual, I exercise but irregularly, and I do not drink any coffee, alcohol, or consume any drugs. I take no medication of any sort. Except for this sleeping habit, I am perfectly healthy, at least physiologically so to speak.

    I am finishing my last year of high school and during the month of May when exams were going, I had pulled off many all nighters and my sleep cycle shifted to 5pm-8pm evning nap and 4am-10am morning slumber. I miss the first two periods of school everyday due to oversleeping. My current workload is negligible though so my teachers don't seem to mind my absence. Right now I am focussed on fighting this wayward sleep cycle. It is possible that I am photophobic and unlike others I may become sleepy in the presence rather than in the absence of light, but this is not a human trait so I cannot accept it easily.

    If you add up the hours that I sleep, it is 9hours each day which is sufficient for most people. However, even with this much sleep I have trouble staying awake at daytime. Especially in school I will have the utmost difficulty staying awake. My school runs from 8 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. 12-2pm is when I will have the most severe difficulty staying awake. Surprisingly it happens during computer science class, which is also my favorite class of the day. So I don't think it comes out of lack of motivation.

    There have been times when I will come back from school and spend the entire afternoon, evening, and even the night sleeping, waking up just for dinner. That is almost 15 hours of straight sleep. This happened a few times over the past few years, but even if I go on these "sleepathons", I will feel sleepy in school the next day.

    Also, when I do sleep, sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night realizing that I have not been breathing. I found that this happens to almost everyone, and that it is only a problem if it lasts for 10seconds or more, in which case it is known as sleep apnea, however I have no way of knowing exactly how long this happens to me, since it happens as I sleep and suddenly wake.

    I have had an alarm clock for a few years. It works fine but I started to completely ignore it this past month since May, since the exams. When it goes off, I will stubbornly turn it off and sleep to my fulfillment. This causes me to miss the first couple hours of school. I am too stubborn to control myself to wake up in the morning. It is just impossible...

    On the other hand, when I try to sleep at 2am in the night, it doesn't work out. I drink a glass of milk, having read somewhere that milk contains melatonin, but it doesn't help me. I wonder if the amount of milk plays a role.

    So to you all you have xperienced this problem, how can I stop it without resorting to coffee, doctors, hypnosis or any medication? I want to follow a natural strategy of timing my sleep correctly.

    How can I calculate my overall sleep deprivation and how should I pay off my sleep debt? I have heard that the body can record sleep debt for up to 2 weeks. I don't know if it's true though.

    And finally, how can I see if I have sleep apnea? What about narcolepsy and other possibly sleep disorders? And how about seasonal affective disorder? I prefer not to see a doctor unless it is absolutely necessary. Also, do sleep disorders have any causal relationship with personality disorders?

    Thanks. Advice of any kind would also be appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2
    I had problems with my sleep schedule in high school, and probably spent a large portion of those years being somewhat sleep deprived. But what you're describing sounds serious enough to see a professional about. So, I think you should do that.
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree with ThomasT that talking to your doctor would be a wise thing, you probably need to break a pattern and some specialist advise is needed there.

    That being said I think there are some smartphone applications that could help in your sleep hygiene. One of them is Sleep Cycle, which records your night time activity. It could give you some insight in whether you reach a deep sleep phase or not.

    Then there are the meditation applications that help in relaxing and falling asleep, try this: http://www.withandrewjohnson.com/recording/deep-sleep/ [Broken] Don't focus on falling asleep, focus on relaxing your body and breathing deeply. It could be a step in the right direction.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jun 5, 2012 #4
    Thanks for your advice guys. Monique, it is funny you mention Sleep Cycle. Apparently Sleep Cycle was designed by a guy from the university I am attending next fall!

  6. Jun 5, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, then you should definitely try it :wink: But seriously, I know some researchers who have used Sleep Cycle for their studies on night sleep. If calibrated properly it can give you night-time activity information. This is an alternative to Actiwatches that cost over a thousand Euros, which would be a considerable investment for a pilot study. A doctor might be interested to have a look at the profiles that you record, it's not a diagnostic tool but could help in understanding what's going on.
  7. Jun 5, 2012 #6
    First of all, get off the computer. Get into a routine. Go to bed at 11:00 sharp, and lay there until 7:00, even if you can't sleep. Sit there and think about the meaning of life or something.

    You'll be tired all day long because you couldn't sleep. Do the same exact thing the next night, get in bed at 11:00, and don't get up until 7:00. That means don't start playing xbox, or reading, or getting on the computer, just sit in bed.

    Repeat this and you'll soon be sleeping well.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook