The Overstimulated Sleeper
Her challenge: Lauren Razzore, 31, a single professor of animation and Web design and freelance designer from Queens, New York, often stays up until midnight or 2 a.m., reading or catching up on work. When she realizes how late it is, she jumps into bed but then is too wound up to fall asleep for another hour or so. This tendency is now exacerbated by an erratic schedule. Lauren usually teaches four classes a week. On two days, it’s an early-morning class that requires her to rise at 6 a.m. The other days she has afternoon classes, which allows her to sleep as late as she wants. When she does sleep, it’s not always very restorative. She has vivid dreams that she is teaching, and sometimes she wakes up talking aloud. “I’m exhausted in the morning because I feel like I’ve been working all night,” she says.
Expert advice: “We can’t always design a sleep schedule that fits with our work schedule, and that can especially be a problem for someone with genetic night-owl tendencies,” says physician and sleep researcher Gary Richardson. He suggests that Lauren might benefit from careful napping to help balance out her sleep schedule, especially on days when she has to get up to teach an early class. He recommends lying down and relaxing and getting up after one hour, regardless of whether she actually dozes. “Napping can interfere with nighttime rest if you sleep too much,” he cautions. And rather than racing to bed in a panic when she realizes how late it is, Lauren needs to set a regular bedtime and develop a relaxing evening ritual, which, ideally, she should begin at least half an hour before getting into bed. This could include things like a warm bath and some reading, with the lights as low as possible.