If you know me, read this blog, or follow me on twitter you know that I’m a night owl and have some serious issues with insomnia. Normally I don’t care..especially since I work on my own hours and it hasn’t really hurt me. In fact, in many regards it’s made me more productive. I don’t need much sleep and it allows me to get a lot more done than many of my counterparts. It essentially gives me a 2nd work day. I’m not like many Americans who delude themselves about how much sleep they need. I DO get enough 90% of the time. It just so happens that for me enough is not very much. You see, normally I try to go to bed around 3 and 4am. I could stay awake longer with no problem but that’s around the time I’m first able to fall asleep. I then wake up around 9 or 9:30 without an alarm, wakeup call, or nudge to the side. The fact that I wake up fresh, without an alarm, and don’t feel tired throughout the day is what assures me I’m getting enough sleep. I generally don’t take caffeine after mid-day and when I do it doesn’t change anything anyhow. It likewise doesn’t change my sleep patterns at all if I don’t have ANY caffeine for the day. I exercise, eat well, and do all the other things that should promote good sleep habits. It just so happens that I’m a night owl. My dad is and so is my sister so there’s clearly some genetic component to it. As I said, I actually kinda like it. In fact, around 10:30 pm is when I become MOST productive. My brain kicks in to overdrive and I can write, think and code better during my ‘2nd work day’ than I ever can during ‘normal business hours.’

The only time my insomnia becomes a problem is when I’m forced to wake up early or when I can’t fall asleep at all. The latter problem became an issue late last week. I had several consecutive days where I couldn’t fall asleep before 5-6am. Obviously this can become a problem if you want to function with the rest of society. I knew I needed to get back to my ‘normal’ 3:30 am bed time before things started getting worse. I had tried most of the usual recommendations and none worked so I turned to my last resort…melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. I’ve used it in the past with mixed results. It helps me get to sleep earlier but it forces me to sleep more than I otherwise would and when I wake up I don’t feel nearly as fresh as I would if I hadn’t taken it at all. So I end up sleeping more but feeling less fresh. Kinda strange. On top of that I tend to get weird dreams. Freaky dreams. I never dream without melatonin (more accurately, I never remember my dreams when I don’t take melatonin). For these reasons, I really don’t like to take melatonin unless there are some special circumstances.

Given the problems I was having last week though, I decided I’d try a couple consecutive nights on melatonin to help ‘reboot’ the time I’d go to sleep. I wanted to see if I could get my bed time to 2am or at least back to my ‘normal’ 3:30 am. Initially it worked. on nights 1 & 2 I hit the sack at 3am. Problem is, I slept longer than normal (waking up at 10) but still felt groggy when I woke up. It felt like my head was in a fog. Oddly, I also felt tired during the day and had to take 2 naps over those days…something I’d never normally do. Unsatisfied with the effects, I figured I’d try a half dose so I cut my pill in half for night 3. Outcome…even worse. The following day I took an unintentional 90 minute nap during the day and then at night I accidentally fell asleep at 10pm. I can actually do this almost every night but I know better. Whenever I do, I end up waking up a couple hours later and can’t get back to sleep at all. It ends up screwing me up even worse. Last night was no different. I woke up at 1:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until 5:40 or so. I then proceeded to sleep until almost noon. So basically I had just wasted 3 days in a melatonin-induced mental fog during the day only to return to a bed time that was actually WORSE than if I had taken melatonin in the first place.

Take home lesson…be careful screwing with your physiology even if it’s kinda screwy to begin with.