Sleeping and Waking, Tips and tools

Sleep. Getting enough, staying awake, staying asleep - one thing is sure, modern life isn’t designed to let us sleep at that right time, for the right duration, to wake at the right time. But we’re geeks, and fixers! (And tired.)

This is a place for discussion of the topic, but especially hints and tips, techniques that you’ve used to get that rest. And gadgets. Oh yes, the many gadgets. What works for you and what doesn’t.
All are welcome.


(No, but seriously, C’mon, spill - some of us are nearly comatose on our feet over here…)

This was born out of the discussion with @gadgetgirl over in “If this isn’t nice...” A space for happy moments (thread), where a side-discussion on ‘nice things’, turned into a discussion on positive vs negative motivation, and thence into ‘why are alarm clocks so damn loud, when the quiet, natural ones work much better?’…

And when it turned out that they had a ‘new-agey-sound waking app’, that I have a sleep monitor that synchronises with my watch (don’t judge me) and I have friends that swear by a Phillips ‘alarm’ that wakes you up over a period of minutes with a simulated dawn (daylight bulb) and ‘natural sounds’, we figured, “hey, maybe there’s something to talk about here”.

So here we are. Let’s see what happens.


My tip is simple, have your health crater randomly one day and then find out you have sleep apnea. Strap a machine to your face and then suddenly you feel better so long as your small child actually manages to stay asleep.


I don’t have apnea (surprisingly), but I have, or have had, lots of other health issues related to sleep deprivation.

Not to cast aspersions on anyone’s partners, but it turns out sleep deprivation is a common, rarely-discussed form of domestic abuse. My ex used to keep me up doing chores, or wake me up at 3am because he couldn’t find something (one time it was a book) and wanted help.

Nowadays I stick to a schedule (aim to be in bed for 10:30, which usually means 11). I’ve painted the walls of my bedroom pale blue. In the evening I only use the nightstand light to finish getting into bed, rather than the bright overhead light; in the morning the walls are like a first sky.

The rest are common things. No caffeine after 3pm. Take time to wind down. Make any food required before or during work beforehand (I make all my breakfasts and lunches for the week Sunday and have them sitting packed in containers in the fridge).

And yeah, gentleness. If there are any instances of treating yourself like a lab rat undergoing shock experiments, find another way.


One thing I found interesting (though I can’t find the source now, of course) is that in medieval (and earlier) times, not only did we tend to fall asleep when the sun set and/or the fire ran down, and wake on the dawn - but we also woke in the middle of the night for half an hour or so between complete sleep cycles, and it was considered a good time to maybe do something quiet, contemplate the world, talk to your partner, or indeed have intercourse. It was so assumed, taken for granted as a thing (so I understand) that it wasn’t stated explicitly very much, and it took a while for this to be pieced together from the remaining record.

Now, we compress our sleep, due to artificial light (and the working day), but naturally the body still wants to do that.

So (and this is the payoff) if you find yourself noticing you’re awake at 3am and (like me) tend to stew about getting enough sleep - the best thing is to remember that this is a natural thing, and that you’re wired to fall asleep again in a bit if you don’t make a big thing of it with worry.

Absolutely helpful.

(ETCorrect: artificial light. Not ‘arrival light’, whatever that is.)


This. People forget that caffeine stays in your system for ages (I think about 8 hours?)


Good noise-muffling blackout curtains are an amazing, quick change.

Experiment with blankets to determine what you prefer not only in warmth, but weight.

Get the TV out of the bedroom. Same with the computer. Use your phone’s “Do not Disturb” mode and make sure you turn the screen off. Especially if you use it as your alarm (otherwise, get it out, too).

Light and noise are some of the biggest potential disturbers of sleep. Control what you can.


So much this. I was once told that if some nights you have insomnia no matter what… just accept it for that night. Tomorrow’s another chance.


A sleep mask made a huge difference for me. I improvised with a necktie wrapped across my eyes and around my head since I didn’t have a mask. Blocking all light is key.

I’m still working on the screen time issue.


yeah, unless it’s a weekend, i try not to have any caffeine after 4pm.


Yoga had a remarkable effect on making my sleep more regular and less of a night owl schedule. Even when taking a break from yoga, the changes have persisted.


ooh, that’s a good point. i too have noticed that i have a much easier time sleeping since starting a regular yoga practice.


My mind tends to not stop. Assuming you aren’t dealing with apnea or allergies, look at the back of your eyelids. Focus a few feet ahead when you get used to it. When you get used to looking at the random dim lava and sparklies of blood flow, it’s easy to slip… and often wake right back up due to “Oh shit! I was asleep for a moment!” Keep doing it. It’s like falling off a log, and after waking with a start, not caring and getting right back to it.

The idea is to look at something concrete rather than the idiotic shitshow our brains play at in order to keep occupied.


I have to say, listening to a boring podcast works pretty well too. Something dry, full of details you don’t really care about even though part of you thinks you should. It’s a place to put your attention that won’t hold it too long. It’s not visual, so you can close your eyes and snuggle into whatever there is around to snuggle with.


Sometimes it was longer than half an hour – as long as a couple of hours. It was prime time for having sex, but also when people would visit neighbours or read.

The mother of a friend of mine took to this cycle (not sure she knew it was an historical thing). She worked as a school librarian, and had to get to work very early. She’d eat a light dinner as soon as she got home at 5, sleep until about 11pm, get up to watch TV, knit, or read for a few hours, then sleep/rest for a couple of hours before going back to work.


Someone was telling me about a podcast that is intentionally boring a monotone to help the listeners go to sleep.

I think it was this one:

But here are several more for variety.


I tried that first one, and it was boring, but not in a way that helped me fall asleep. I’ll have to try some from the MF article.

Edit: I don’t get the ASMR tingly thing, but maybe that kind of sound might be more relaxing.


I have sleep apnea too. I wouldn’t say using a machine has been life changing for me (I am still in a state of constant fatigue) but I definitely sleep better with it than without.


youtube has a channel called Snooze Tube, with videos intended to lull you to sleep, like watching a dryer or a boring lecture.


I was exhaggerating more than a little. My health cratered bad a few years ago (that was plainly written) and sleep apnea was the root cause. I’m a bit of a slave to my sleep schedule now because of it, and I have to be mindful of when and where I am sleeping and plan it out - but I’m definitely fatigued without falling asleep driving anymore.

I need to lose more weight and be more active than I am, but that’s a permanent state of adulthood for many.