The Slow Riser
Her challenge: Elizabeth Marks, 29, a married graduate student from Chicago, struggles with an innate tendency is to stay up till midnight, then hit snooze so many times in the morning. "The clock has been known to give up," she says. Even when she feels exhausted all day, she becomes more alert at night. When she does get into bed, it takes her up to an hour to fall asleep. Elizabeth has tried going to bed earlier so she'll have less trouble getting up in the morning, but then she just lies awake. She doesn't drink caffeine, and she reads when she gets into bed, does yoga three times a week, and uses an aromatherapy-oil diffuser in her bedroom.
Expert advice: While avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and the evening is a wise move, physician and sleep researcher Gary Richardson says that having some first thing in the morning can be helpful for people like Elizabeth, who have trouble waking up.
- Modulating her exposure to light could reset her internal clock gradually, according to Richardson. "Too much light at night will push her clock even later," he says, so the key is to keep the lights dim the closer she gets to bedtime. Elizabeth should also maximize her light exposure first thing in the morning. If she can go outside in bright sunlight for some exercise, that would provide a double whammy of wakefulness.
- Taking a melatonin supplement (0.3 milligram before bed) might help Elizabeth if light manipulation isn't enough, Richardson suggests. It may help pull her internal clock to an earlier hour so she can get the sleep she needs.