Readers reply: why am I always tired on the sofa, but wide awake once I go to bed?

Notes and queries

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical concepts

Sun 25 Jul 2021 14.00 BST

But I doubt you sit down in the sofa and immediately feel sleepy? More likely, you sit down, watch telly, read, etc for an hour or so and THEN you feel sleepy. It takes time to wind down. Just getting into bed doesn’t make you sleepy, especially if you’ve just brushed your teeth, tidied away the kitchen, etc. You probably need to spend a little time getting yourself into sleep mode first. I find reading for 15 mins or simple meditation/breathing exercises help. blibbka

Read Why We Sleep by the scientist Matthew Walker and learn how to develop a system of sleep preparation and sleep maintenance. Dozing on the sofa (bad) is in the book. John Davies

The concept of sleeping all the way through the night is quite a recent one. Back before electric light there would be a first sleep once dark, a period a wakefulness where you would get up and do something productive, then a second sleep before dawn. We have become so divorced from our body rhythms that we try to fit into the modern society view of when we should sleep and when we should be awake. DarkForest

I think this is only evidenced from a fairly brief period in history, it wasn’t necessarily a universal thing. And I always wonder what, exactly, were people doing in the middle of the night before cheap lighting was available? No sniggering at the back there! MattB13

This is just wild speculation, but I’m guessing that your soporific sofa is stuffed with settle down, and your mattress has one of those colourful striped covers? If that should happen to be the case, I believe I have the answer. You’re being kept wide awake in bed by a loud ticking. ThereisnoOwl

Association. You associate relaxation and snoozing with the sofa, and awaked-ness with the bedroom. Lord_Snooty

I find the same thing. I’ve always assumed it is just because you have to make the effort to get up, take the empty wine bottles to the kitchen, stairs, teeth, get into bed in a cooler room than you were in. And if you had also dozed off on the sofa, you’ve already had a brief refresher. But the bigger question is, why do I fall asleep then wake around 4am and remain awake until just before I should get up? seedysolipsist

I think the empty wine bottles might have something to do with the 4am awakening. I stopped that and now sleep until 7.30am. RadiumRob226

I find that the refreshing taste of toothpaste, combined with the glaring bathroom light and the pressure to get a good night’s sleep means that I’m more awake than ever. Wuffinch

Easy remedy. Move the sofa into the bedroom and put the bed where the sofa normally lives. If anyone asks, just say that the bed is actually a sofa. The whole sofa/bed thing is just a social construct. Marshallofcharlton

I used to get this often after a snooze on my comfy sofa. Now I put on a rain or ocean sounds playlist through my speaker on my bedside table. Yeah, I occasionally usually wet the bed, and have a weird desire to fly to Seattle and murder someone called Hank, but a good sleep is never a problem. CupboardOfVests

I used to have this problem, and found it immensely frustrating. I think it is – in part – because we are told that we must sleep at certain times and in certain ways and cannot sleep at other times. Well, that suits the capitalist 9-5 working structure, but not the human body! The result is the body feeling tired/awake at strange times. Palantiri

In rural communities around the globe, people sleep differently. A couple of hours at midday or in the afternoon is perfectly normal. farabundovive

I was talking to a friend about this problem. He was kind enough to buy me I Can Make You Sleep by Paul McKenna. I am a longtime cynic but this actually helped me get to sleep. alb1154

As counterbalance, that same book didn’t help me at all. lexicon_mistress

I have started to listen to a familiar programme or book on Audible/BBC Sounds. If it’s very familiar, I don’t have to concentrate, but it’s something I enjoy so I’m happy to half pay attention. It distracts my mind and I find that I can drift off. IMW2017

And if it’s something you really, really want to listen to, rest assured you’ll fall asleep within five minutes. AgeingGeek

Mrs Worship has the same issue. She takes edible marijuana and it seems to work. Obviously, obtaining it legally in the UK is an issue at this point, but that will change before too long. It’s extremely lucrative on this side of the pond. devilworship

Yesterday in Parliament, followed up if necessary by Sailing By and the Shipping Forecast, are pretty much guaranteed to induce sleep. Just watch out for Big Ben at midnight and the national anthem at 1am. NotTheProfessor

I think it is genetic. My dad loved to fall asleep while watching TV and would rather sleep there than in bed. We never understood. Twenty years later, it is me sleeping in the sofa and the rest of the family puzzled. I like the company of the characters on the TV keeping me safe while I sleep. Waterllili

Of equal concern to me is: should you wake someone else up (your partner) who is fast asleep on the sofa when you go to bed? I have been married twice and had diametrically opposing views from each wife. If you wake them up they are grumpy and annoyed. If you leave them then they wake up disoriented at about 2.30am and play hell with you for not waking them up when you went to bed. Colinowl

I feel for you. I was a nurse for 36 years doing shifts. My sleep was jet-lagged. I’m afraid I resorted to Zopiclone and it transformed me. I still feel guilty about taking sleeping pills but in my retirement I can live normally. Dogmeup

My wife is hypersensitive to any noise I make during the night which prevents her getting off to sleep or wakes her up. This includes the sound of me breathing, turning over in bed, the audible drumming made by the pulse behind my ear, and the loud swooshing noise my blood makes as it flows around my body. I am also personally responsible for any seagulls landing on the roof then taking off again. But in the morning, two alarm clocks blaring simultaneously by her head at full volume doesn’t so much as invade her dreams, let alone rouse her sweet head from her pillow. TheGoodThief

Your conscious brain is simply focusing on the unexpected in both situations. You are not tired on the sofa, you are just more tired than you expect to be; equally, you are not wide awake in bed, you’re just more awake than you expect to be. InkhornMate

Funnily enough, I’m reading this after getting up in the middle of the night with all the worries of my present situation overwhelming me. Very good comments here have given me hope; also half a bottle of leftover wine. catalinataragudo

Some people with sleep problems have sleep anxiety, a kind of performance anxiety around getting to sleep. If your heart pounds and you feel anxious when going to bed, it’s possible this is the cause. The advice is to not do anything to encourage sleep (avoid supplements, pillow sprays etc), just go to bed and get up at the same time (and don’t get up in the night). It’s interesting that this is very different to the advice given to people with other sleep problems. asdflljhg

No one here has suggested Sleep Hygiene. Part of the NHS Live Well – advice, tips and tools to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing. RichLinux

Had the same problem and problem of getting to sleep. Someone suggested a sleep meditation app and I scoffed at first before giving them a go. It took quite a few attempts to find one with the right voice, right length, right tone etc. However, I found one that has a meditation that is that is 10 minutes long and I almost always drop off before the end. Some nights I play it and lie there thinking it won’t work tonight, I’m wide awake – then a few minutes later I’m off. It has been a revelation. Essentially it is based around conscious breathing and thinking about something other than falling asleep. Ray_Hatton

I would advise anybody who is experiencing sleep problems, certainly over an extended period, to make an appointment at the best sleep clinic you can find. You may have to push and fight for this, but at the end of this process you will get the answers. Not many people realise but you can make an appointment anywhere in the UK.

There is no point speculating as there are any number of conditions that affect sleep. A lot of the comments here are just that, speculation. You need to take steps to sort this out as leaving it can lead to life debilitating problems. In my case, clinical depression.

This yawning and falling asleep followed by insomnia, is something I experienced for several years. Eventually, I was diagnosed hypothyroid. And almost immediately I started levothyroxine, my sleep improved. Nowadays, I almost always fall asleep easily and rarely wake up before the morning. I feel refreshed and stay awake all day. MyOtherNameIsReal

Melatonin. Would not have coped in lockdown without it. LeylaFrancophone88

Doing the “going to bed” routine an hour or more before actually going to bed usually works for me – brushing teeth, turning down the bed, opening or closing the window, dressing for bed, etc. The stage is set to sleep when you do drag your tired self to bed and there’s nothing you need to do that requires being alert or active, so you slip into sleep more quickly. V6Gcandyg515

Try lavender pillow spray on your bed pillows just before you get your head down. Used to work well for me Garimpeiro

I’ve found that sometimes the darkness, stillness and quiet can feel quite daunting in bed, so I use a Lumie clock that has a light that slowly goes off over half an hour, and even some white noise can just offer enough distraction to allow me to relax. DebBee87

The television slows our brainwaves down and lulls us into a soothing state of mild hypnosis leaving us very docile and receptive. This is why advertisers pay so much for your time and attention. kikibudd

They aren’t called television “programmes” for nothing, that’s for sure. OhNoAO













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