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Reconfiguring your biological clock

  1. Sep 6, 2007 #1

    Defennder

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    I posted this on Academic and Career Guidance, but got 0 replies. So I'll repost it here and see if anyone can offer any help:

    I'm an engineering student in my first year. I find that I am most productive and and best able to concentrate at night. And not just at any time of night, but like around 11pm to 2am. While I suppose plenty of people here probably have the same preference, I find that this is actually counterproductive to my learning and studying habits.

    I am usually very sleepy in the morning, when most lectures are held, and only improve slightly in the afternoon, when both lectures and tutorials for me are conducted. I would like to maximise my learning and absorbency during these daytime hours, but this runs counter to my biological clock. I wonder if any of you have had any experience and success in rewiring your biological clock from night to day or vice versa? How could such possibly be done?

    And more importantly, how long does it take for your newly oriented biological clock to stabilise?
     
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  3. Sep 6, 2007 #2

    Astronuc

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    Try moving it forward by 3 hours, i.e. study from 9 pm to midnight (or 8 - 11 pm) and sleep from midnight to 8 am, or 11 pm to 7 am.

    It takes about 3-5 days, perhaps a week, and one can do it gradually 1 hr/night.

    Also try some excercise like walking or running or cycling during the day/afternoon, and eat (particularly breakfast) on some sort of schedule.
     
  4. Sep 6, 2007 #3

    Moonbear

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    A short term solution, especially if changing your sleep/wake schedule doesn't really help you with changing the time of day when you're able to focus best on studying (those late night hours when everything is quiet and everyone else has finally gone to sleep really is a nice time to think), is to take afternoon naps. That's how I got through college and grad school. I'd get up for my morning classes, by lunchtime, I'd be ready to crash, so would grab a light lunch and either head back to the dorm, or find a couch in the student center if I was on one of the campuses too far from the dorm to run back for a nap, and take a 20-30 min nap, then I was up and ready to go for the rest of the day and night.

    The only reason I don't still do that is the evil lunch meetings people all want to hold (free lunch...but it always means a working lunch too). Everyone seems to have this idea that we're all free during the lunch hour, so they schedule meetings then, which means I'm almost never free over the lunch hour, because that's when all my meetings are scheduled. :grumpy:
     
  5. Sep 6, 2007 #4
    I have the exact same problem. Which is why I picked up the book "The Promise of Sleep" by William C. Dement, who was a pioneer in the field of sleep research. I haven't had the time to read it yet, but there is a sizable portion of the book devoted to exactly this- shifting your biological clock, which can be tinkered with to suit the individual. If you're serious about this, I suggest you get the book.
     
  6. Sep 8, 2007 #5

    Defennder

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    Thanks for all your replies. I'll be trying out Astronuc's idea and hope I'm not already too deeply ingrained in my late night habits. In the meantime I hope others would contribute their experiences as well if possible.
     
  7. Sep 8, 2007 #6

    turbo

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    I found out that the way to get sharp for morning classes was to get up early, run for 15-20 minutes (I was a distance runner all through HS) shower, and have a light breakfast with black coffee or tea. Eating fatty/sweet foods in the morning is definitely out - get some protein and starch (maybe a boiled or poached egg or two and a bagel). Complex starches are OK, but use NO sugar - it contributes to roller-coaster metabolic swings that hurt your mental performance. After a few weeks of this, you will find that your attention and comprehension during the day will improve markedly, and you will not have to study quite as hard at night to make up the shortfall. Do not make the mistake of trying to fool your body into alertness with caffeine or nicotine - that is short-sighted and harmful. Good luck. BTW, I worked rotating shifts for 10 years in a pulp and paper mill, and diet and exercise are definitely your friends when you want to reset your body's clock.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2007
  8. Sep 8, 2007 #7

    Astronuc

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    I agree with turbo on the diet and exercise, and along those lines, one might wish to move one's mealtimes with the sleep cycle as well. Eat a good breakfast with protein (egg and perhaps lean meat) and carbohydrates (cereals and fruits), and eat a good lunch. Dinner should be light and not too late.

    Exercise could be light calisthenics - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calisthenics - i.e. just the primaries - Sit-ups/crunches, Push-ups, Pull-ups, Squats, Calf-raises, and I'd add jumping jacks and stretches, e.g. feet apart, bend over and touch toes (left and to right toes, and vice versa), or touching palms to ground. Then there is jumping rope, or walking for about 10 to 20 minutes. Any light exercise can be followed by a nice warm shower and then breakfast.
     
  9. Sep 8, 2007 #8

    Hurkyl

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    If you're willing to try more drastic measures, and have a period of time in which you can try it... I've had good success with just staying up as late as I can every day, and thus shifting my cycle in the opposite direction... eventually, I get to the point where I wake up a few hours after midnight every day, and fall asleep early evening.

    I feel wonderful when I get settled on this schedule. Alas, I can never seem to make it stick; if I'm up late one night, that tends to ruin the whole thing. :frown:
     
  10. Sep 8, 2007 #9

    Moonbear

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    The only thing that ever works for me is to just stay up an entire night and then I'm so exhausted by the following evening that I fall asleep early and start into a normal sleep pattern again. But, yeah, I have the same problem, that all it takes is one late night to revert right back to my nocturnal habits.

    I have a hunch that a lot of people with sleep disorders are attracted to academia because the lifestyle and work schedule is very tolerant of our unusual sleep/wake patterns. Unless you're stuck teaching the 8 AM classes, you can wander in at noon and work until midnight and everyone's perfectly happy with this.
     
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