Sleep and Your Body Clock - Topic Overview


Early bird

People who fall asleep very early and wake up before dawn may try the following to try to stay up later at night and sleep later in the morning.

  • Light therapy. In this case, light therapy means exposing yourself to bright light in the evening. Use a bright (10,000 lux) light box for 30 to 45 minutes each day.
  • Antidepressant medicine. A doctor may prescribe antidepressants along with having you try to stay up 15 minutes later every few days. This treatment is usually for people who are depressed in addition to having sleep problems.
  • Chronotherapy. For early birds, this method involves creating a 21-hour day. During each sleep-wake cycle, you go to bed 3 hours earlier until the time to go to sleep has cycled back around to the time you actually want to go to sleep. This method can be hard to do because of the way it can disrupt your daily schedule and because you have to keep to a rigid schedule. Here is a sample schedule:
    • Day 1: If you normally go to bed at 8 p.m., you would go to bed at 5 p.m.
    • Day 2 and beyond: Go to bed at 2 p.m., and then keep going to sleep 3 hours earlier each day until you are going to bed at the time you desire. This will probably take about a week. Then you would keep going to bed at that desired time.


After you get treatment for the illness or health problem that is causing your sleep problem, you will need to practice good sleep habits. This includes getting regular exercise (but not within 3 or 4 hours of your bedtime), going to bed at the same time each day, and using the bed only for sleep and sex.

For more tips on improving sleep habits, see:

Insomnia: Improving Your Sleep.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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