HEALTHY LIVING

How To Never Oversleep Again

08/06/2013 06:25 pm ET | Updated Aug 07, 2013
AP

I do it. You do it. Even famous people do it.

We're talking about oversleeping, the cause of panicked wake-ups, harried mornings and angry bosses. So how can you stop the madness?

To avoid sleeping too late, there are "two things you're looking at: How can I make it so my body doesn't want to oversleep, and what can I put into place to prevent it from happening," says Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center.

Here's how to conquer both so you never oversleep again.

Use light to your advantage. A recent study showed that spending a week camping outside in nature can help to reset your body's circadian rhythm to natural sunrise and sunset. While we don't all have the luxury of an extended time away in the mountains, Winter tells HuffPost that regimented exposure to light can help us to feel both awake and tired when we need to be.

Shift-workers, for instance, who may need to wake up extremely early when it's still dark out, or go to bed when it's still bright outside, could benefit from light boxes or light visors (visors with a light attached so you can walk around a dark house while still maintaining light exposure) to fool the brain into thinking that it's the morning. On the flip side, if it's still light outside, drawing the curtains to create a dark environment could help to trick the body into thinking it's night-time (and therefore, sleep-time).

Even for non shift-workers, Winter says using light first thing in the morning can help cue anyone's brain to feel awake -- and repeatedly exposing yourself to light at the same time every day can help the body to know when it should be waking up.

Wean yourself off an alarm clock to begin with. One way to avoid sleeping through an alarm -- or getting screwed over by one that somehow never went off -- is to not need one in the first place. By keeping an extremely regimented schedule, you can get your wake and sleep patterns in a routine -- making it a lot more likely that you'll wake up at the same time each morning, without an alarm and without oversleeping. This includes making a routine out of everything, from what time you wake up (do so at the same time every day, even weekends!), to when you eat your meals. "It's all about scheduling as much as you can that involves food, light and exercise," Winter says.

And while everyone thinks about having a set time to wake up in the morning, determining a set time to go to bed could also help ensure proper ZZs for those who tend to watch one TV show too many in the evening. However, Winter encourages people not to obsess about set bedtimes, either. Feeling forced to fall asleep usually backfires, so head to bed when you naturally feel sleepy.

Think about your sleep in increments of 90 minutes (but don't worry too much about it). Sleep cycles are naturally 90 minutes long, so logically, making sure your sleep duration is some multiple of 90 could mean an easier time waking up. It's the same idea behind the 25-to-30-minute nap -- where you get the rest you need before entering the deep sleep stage, which leaves you waking up even more exhausted.

But while the sleep-in-90-increments theory may make sense in theory, Winter says it can be difficult to actually employ in practice, since most people don't fall asleep the minute their heads hit the pillow. However, he says that you could use this idea in tandem with sleep or fitness trackers -- such as the FitBit or the Jawbone -- to gather data on your sleep cycles and habits and determine if you're a regimented-enough sleeper where this method could work for you. He does warn, though, that it "would be an inexact science."

Get creative with your method of waking up. Winter says there's nothing inherently wrong with needing an alarm clock in the morning (so long as the reason you struggle to wake up isn't sleep deprivation, which carries its own set of health risks!). Tried-and-true alarm clock hacks include putting your alarm across the room so you have to get up to turn it off, or setting multiple alarms to go off (backup alarm, anyone?).

But, if all else fails, there are also more, shall we say, creative alarm clocks out there that really force you to wake up. The "Sonic Bomb," for one, takes a concept that we know works, but turns up the volume -- quite literally -- a few decibels. Then there's the alarm clock that actually forces you to stand up to turn it off, and the one that'll help you get your recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Also on HuffPost:

Tricks To Waking Up In The Morning
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