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Summary:

My ideal workday usually starts at 3:00 am and ends three hours later – which means that I have the rest of the morning to do chores and run errands. Now, because I’ve spent the entire weekend reading until late in the afternoons, I wake up at 4:00 pm, which means that most establishments close an hour later, and the sun will set soon – leaving me unable to go out and perform errands. Plus, by the time 3:00am comes, I am already too tired to work. Not an unusual predicament for web workers. Especially since we own our time. Although we don’t necessarily have a boss who prefers that we start at 9:00 am, waking up late in the afternoons isn’t ideal either.

I confess: my body clock is broken. My ideal workday usually starts at 3:00 am and ends three hours later – which means that I have the rest of the morning to do chores and run errands. Now, because I’ve spent the entire weekend reading until late in the afternoons, I wake up at 4:00 pm, which means that most establishments close an hour later, and the sun will set soon – leaving me unable to go out and perform errands. Plus, by the time 3:00am comes, I am already too tired to work.

Not an unusual predicament for web workers. Especially since we own our time. Although we don’t necessarily have a boss who prefers that we start at 9:00 am, waking up late in the afternoons isn’t ideal either.

So how can we fix a broken body clock?

Wake up at your regular time anyway. Easier said than done, especially if you turn in later that usual – but it works. Waking up at the same time everyday can help avoid the a difference between your body clock and your schedule. This should also be followed by sleeping at your usual time.

It may take a couple of days for you to be 100% back to normal if you just use this technique, so if you need immediate change you can try the other tips below.

Get as much light as possible. When you wake up at the right time, you should get as much bright light as you can. This tells your body that it’s time to wake up. A sensor in your eye tells your brain that it’s already daylight, and this resets your biological clock.

If the sun is already up, you can take a short walk outside or look through the window after you wake up. If you’re like me and you prefer to get up before the sun rises, staying in a well-lit room or working near a bright lamp can also do the trick.

Let caffeine and naps work hand in hand. If you’ve messed up your body clock and feel sleepy in the middle of your workday, drinking coffee and taking a nap may help. According to Dr. Mark Rosekind of Alertness Solutions, drinking a cup of coffee before a short nap (less than 45 minutes) can help you wake up much faster and won’t make you feel groggy.

Check with your doctor. There are many factors that cause changes in the body clock, including medication, travel, heredity, and even daylight saving time. If you can’t pinpoint the reasons behind your strange sleep patters and the above tips don’t work for you, consulting a doctor might get you the answers that you need.

Sleeping and waking up at any time may sound like a dream life for cubicle-dwellers, but we web workers know that having unpredictable sleep patterns can be impractical and unproductive. Hopefully, by applying these tips, I won’t find myself waking up at 4:30 pm tomorrow.

What’s your ideal schedule like? Do you wake up at the same time every morning? How does web work affect your body clock?

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  1. I’ve had the issue a revolving sleep schedule where my body seems to think that a day lasts 25 hours and every day I go to sleep later and later. I’ve tried for a while to fix it but still have trouble with it, these tips sound good though and I’ll have to try them.

  2. There was an interesting article I found via Reddit about using food to deal with jet-lag. The same principle should apply… Apparently we have a secondary food clock that can override our primary (daylight-based) clock. To trigger this, plan on having breakfast at the regular time in your new (or existing, in this case?) timezone and then don’t eat for 16 hours before that breakfast. It worked for me on a recent trip!

  3. Emily Williams Thursday, July 3, 2008

    @Mark is right, when traveling it really helps to plan ahead and try to start living in the new time zone as soon as you get on the plane.

    I’m going to add another recommendation of how to get your body clock regular: get a puppy! Now that I get up at 7:30 every morning for the dog, by 8:30 on weekends I’m waking up without an alarm clock. And if I decide to sleep in, someone else comes running into the bedroom to lick my face – if that doesn’t wake you up on time I don’t know what will!

  4. Look into melatonin supplements. It helps reset your internal clock.

  5. Marcin Grodzicki Thursday, July 3, 2008

    Also check out http://www.powerfulsleep.com for other sleep performance techniques. But do use mailinator or other service for signup, as their web design screams ‘spam’.

  6. I’ve been suffering from a similar condition called Non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome, which basically meant I was going to sleep each day a couple of hours later then the day before, causing my days to shift wildly between being up at 4am one weeks and then at 4pm the next one.

    What Celine is describing in this article is more like Delayed sleep phase syndrome, a similar but different condition.

    I was lucky to be diagnosed by Dr. Yaron Dagan (the same Dr. Dagan who wrote half the articles referenced on the DSPS page on Wikipedia), and prescribed Melatonin which I now take daily and has really saved me from a life of bad sleep, and constant jetlag like tiredness.

    If you are suffering from something like this for more than a few months, and can’t fix it… It may be more than a symptom of your web working life style… Get it checked by a good sleep doctor (there’s very little awareness of these syndromes in the general MD community).

    If anyone has any questions, I’d love to help. This thing was ruining my life, and a simple treatment did miracles to me.

  7. I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, but didn’t know it was a medical condition until recently. I’ve spent years trying to work “normally” with a body that’s on a 4PM-8AM schedule. Although I kept beating myself up for not being able to reset my sleep schedule, I eventually became a freelancer working from home, one of the most common ways of accommodating DSPS.

    You can’t imagine the relief I felt when I learned that it was a medical issue, not my fault, and that it has a name. Though there is medication that can help, I accept and embrace my DSPS and have found that it works perfectly to live 4PM-8AM; I sleep when others work, and work when others sleep, and the evening is free for social activities and the like.

    My advice is, if you’ve been struggling with a sleep schedule that doesn’t match your time zone for months or years, and nothing you try (including sedatives) helps you reset it, see your doctor and ask about a sleep disorder. They’re not the best publicized of conditions, so you may want to do a little research and take it with you. The peace of mind that comes from learning you’re not alone and it isn’t the result of personal weakness is indescribably liberating.

  8. I take medication that makes me soooooooooo sleepy! So, I have (under my doctor’s supervision) tinkered with the times I take my medicine to ensure that I can now get sleep during normal times (i.e. night time) rather than all day!

  9. links for 2008-07-04 at Ip’s. Friday, July 4, 2008

    [...] Web Worker Daily » Archive How to Reset Your Body Clock « “So how can we fix a broken body clock?: (tags: health sleep) [...]

  10. No clock tips. But I’d like to know what your reading? :o)

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