Things you can do to Avoid Oversleeping

Some advice I got asked today reminded me that it’d be a good idea to list some of the tricks I know for avoiding oversleeping, so avast! Here they be.

Just a quick reminder first though: It’s NORMAL to want to oversleep during the first week; polyphasic sleep can be a bear to adjust to and you WILL be exhausted at first. Don’t freak out, but also don’t assume that you’re such a superman that you won’t need any of these measures. Nobody’s that tough, yo. Sleep dep is quite an exquisitely sucky experience in large quantities — you can read more about it over here, if you like (we’re old friends ;).

It’s always better safe than sorry when it comes to oversleeping — you don’t want to go through all that trouble and then have to start over!

These tips run from the Simple to the Nigh Ridiculous — the trick is, what works for you? So be smart: Think about what wakes you up the fastest and take advantage of it. As an example, last time I did this, I programmed my computer to reboot when I had to wake up — it wasn’t loud, but it launched me out of bed like tightly packed marshmallow from a potato cannon. Be creative.

Click “Read More” for the list.

  1. Do this with a buddy if you can! My first tour with Uberman I did with a friend, and without her it would have been so much harder and more miserable.
  2. Have plans. A Huge Effing List Of Things To Do is essential in my experience, and the more of them are either physical or picky work, the better. Cleaning and organizing are fantastic, especially if you’re lucky enough to be able to have music to do it to. Space out your sedentary activities and try to keep the long boring things for periods of time that you usually aren’t tired. During your tired times, you want to be scrubbing the silverware, out rollerblading, grocery shopping, cleaning the floors, polishing all your shoes, etc etc etc. Also, any regular activity you can engage in during a time when you’d normally be asleep is a huge boon. (Sadly, most after-hours activities are clubs, which aren’t much fun sober, and naps and alcohol don’t really mix! …I would still kill for a late-night roleplaying group in my area, heh.)
  3. Try not to eat within the hour before you take a nap. It’s harder to wake up on a full stomach, seriously.
  4. Two alarms are better than one. Four are even better than two. For a real punch, set some to loud radio, some to annoying static, and stagger them one minute apart.
  5. If you’re like me and you can shut off an alarm and be back in bed before you ever wake up, do the above, but make each one that goes off farther away than the last one.
  6. Don’t sleep on your bed; beds are too cozy. You’ll be tired enough to fall asleep darn near anywhere, but you don’t want to get too comfortable. Good alternate places are the floor, an easy chair, your car, or outside on the lawn if you can get away with that.
  7. Don’t sleep in total darkness. For the first week, leave the lights on all night, or at least one light. It’s lots easier to wake up when the room isn’t dark.
  8. Leave something to do right where you can see it when you crack your eyes. Start something interesting right before you go to bed, or make yourself some food, or whatever, and leave it right where you’ll see it as soon as your alarm goes off — this’ll help get you back into doing-stuff mode.
  9. Set up a music player of some sort right next to you when you lay down, queued up with a good “wake-up song”. As soon as you crack your eyes, hit “play”. (This worked great for me — I used Placebo’s “Pure Morning”, which is prosaic as hell, I know, but hey, it worked.)
  10. Does the phone wake you up? See if you can get someone to call you at precisely your wake-up time. (The Internet is a great networking place for this, since you probably know someone for whom your 2:20 a.m. is right in the middle of their day.)
  11. If you’re really lucky and can get a Live Human to help you out, almost nothing works better than a knock on the door, shake on the shoulder, and a few minutes of conversation (or something to do with said human). There might be an opportunity here, too, for nearby Ubermen who may be willing to drive to your house at 2 a.m. for five bucks! ;)
  12. Plan something PHYSICAL for the first half-hour after you wake. Walk, exercise, clean, organize, fix your bike, whatever. Don’t get up at 2 a.m. and go sit on the couch with a book — you’re doomed if you do! (In fact, Steve Pavlina and I both discovered that this is true even after the first week…it’s always a bit tougher to get your body going in the middle of the night. I found that I had no tiredness and no trouble at all, as long as I planned to get up and get my blood moving, first thing. After that, I could sit around all night with no problems.)
  13. This is a weird one, but I’ve seen it work: If you really can’t wake up, try this. Before you go to bed, prepare a bowl or wide-bottomed glass half-full of cold water (add an ice cube to keep it cold). Balance it on or next to your body, where you won’t knock it over just by breathing or twitching, but where it’s nonetheless guaranteed to soak you if it does tip. Now tie a string to it, and tie that string to your wrist — preferably the wrist of the hand that you’re going to move to turn off the alarm. You get the idea, right? ;)

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the fourth wall).
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9 Responses to Things you can do to Avoid Oversleeping

  1. JD says:

    Good article. A few days ago, I failed miserably at my first attempt at Uberman; after going for a day, I turned my alarm off before even waking up and slept for 15 hours solid. I knew waking up from my naps was going to be the hardest part for me, so I'm excited to have these tips. I've rested for a few days, and I'm starting again tonight. Thanks again for the tips, and I've got my fingers crossed hoping this time will go better!
    JD

  2. JFargo says:

    Well it looks like I'm a few years late to the party but I finally decided to give the Uberman a second try.  I'm on my second night and doing quite well.  I don't mean to jinx it but I feel so much better than I did last time that I'm really psyched.

    I'm also rather excited that I'm already having mini-dreams within my 20 minute naps.  I wasn't expecting them for about a week!

    Thanks for the tips!  I'll definitely be setting up a second alarm on my computer, across the room.  At night this will really motivate me to get up when my first alarm goes off because my wife sleeps on the other side of the wall and is definitely not doing polyphasic sleep.

    • puredoxyk says:

      Woot, JFargo! I have my fingers crossed for you! It’s either a good sign, feeling so well on Day 2, or a sign that you’re going to hit the hard part a little later than usual. (Hopefully it was the former!)

      I, too, have used the Slumbering Spouse trick to help me get up — it works! Nothing motivates people like the potential for catching shit from your significant other. ;)

      Best of luck, and hit me up if I can be any help!
      PD

  3. Linda Rethwish says:

    This site is awesome! I am going to put these tips to use. I definitely need help with oversleeping, and I do not wake up by any alarm clock, haven’t for as long as I can remember.

    Linda

  4. Trevor says:

    I haven’t tried polyphasic sleeping yet, but I still have problems waking up. I have two alarms; I set them for the same time then I lock the cell-phone in a drawer and throw the keys far away from my bed. The requirements of finding the key and unlocking the drawer is long enough for me to wake up.

  5. mark says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have a terrible time with the 3:30 to 8 am time period. I’ll try your do something physical for 30 minutes tip and see if I can get to the point of being able to read.

    I definitely second the idea of leaving a light on. I keep the room fully bright and wear a sleep mask. Taking it off gives you a nice jolt.

    Also agree with jeremy about avoiding a blanket. I just hug a pillow for a blanket. It falls away as soon as you move.

  6. Jeremy says:

    Love your water idea… I’m gonna have to give that one a shot for sure :-) Maybe I can eliminate these weekly oversleeps I still suffer from!

    Another suggestion that’s not mentioned directly: Don’t cover up with a blanket. Even if you’re sleeping on the couch if you cover up you’ll get too cozy and you’re doomed.

  7. Pooka says:

    Wow… the water-glass thing is really clever. Despite two alarms set at different intervals, I’m terrible– I’ll get up to turn them off and going back to sleep. I’ll definately have to try this when I start my USS experiment in August.

    Brilliant blog, I’m quite eager to hear how it turns out this time round!

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