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How Not to Oversleep

Updated on April 10, 2016
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After 25 years of shift work in the hospitality industry, Camlo knows how to always be in the right place at the right time day and night.

How to stop oversleeping so you can arrive at work punctually feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

Persistent oversleeping is usually the result of sleep deprivation, which can have many causes that may not necessarily be your fault—at least, not entirely. Nevertheless, there’s no excuse for it as far as bosses and coworkers are concerned. They want to work with people who behave in a professional manner, which you are not if you are always late in the morning.

But to stop oversleeping you need to understand why you allow yourself to oversleep. There could be a little more to it than laziness and a lack of self-discipline.

Fear of Oversleeping

Ironically, one cause of sleep deprivation is fear of oversleeping.

If you're always late for work and it's come to the point where the boss is threatening dismissal, you no doubt lie awake fretting that you’ll oversleep yet again. When you do eventually drift off, it's almost time to get up and you end up sleeping through the alarm.

You could, however, eliminate this fear with a waking system that makes oversleeping impossible.

A Reliable Waking System

Set an alarm clock with a "sleep" function for about half an hour before you have to get up. This should rouse you even if it doesn't fully wake you.

Additionally, plug a powerful radio into a timer socket at the other side of your room. Set it for the exact time you need to get out of bed with the volume so loud it will wake the neighbors if you don't get up and turn it off immediately.

Getting back into bed is fatal once you've turned the radio off—you'll definitely oversleep—so stay up no matter how tired you are.

But this solves only half the problem.

The Danger of Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Although a reliable waking system can prevent oversleeping, it won't stop you feeling tired if you haven't slept enough. Furthermore, persistently burning the candle at both ends, for whatever reason, can lead to disorders such as depression, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

If you want to get up on time feeling refreshed and able to cope with your day, it goes without saying that you must go to bed sufficiently early in order to get sufficient sleep.

There are, of course, reasons this might not always be possible, like the occasional social event you're obliged to attend, or a second job that helps make ends meet, but habitually going to bed much later that you should without good reason is down to a lack of self-discipline.

This, however, might not be entirely your fault.

Plug a powerful radio into a timer socket at the other side of your room.
Plug a powerful radio into a timer socket at the other side of your room.

A Lack of Self-Discipline May Not be Your Fault

Is Lack of Motivation the Cause of Oversleeping?

If you dislike your job, you may be compensating for it by spending as much of your free time as possible doing things you enjoy—whether it's a rewarding hobby or time spent with the family—even if it means robbing yourself of valuable sleep. This makes life seem worthwhile in spite of work. Getting up in the morning is difficult not only because you're tired, but because you can't bear the prospect of yet another day at a miserable job. So, it's not only a lack of self-discipline that's causing you to oversleep, but also a lack of motivation.

Did You Have a Strict Upbringing?

Another reason could be the way you were raised. If you had parents who sent you to bed as a form of punishment or forced you to turn in each night much earlier than your peers (even after you reached your teens), it's quite likely that you fester a lifelong resentment toward early nights or going to bed at all.

Are You a Night Owl?

Or maybe you're naturally nocturnal; a so-called "night owl". This is often genetic, so consider whether others in your family are prone to nocturnal sleeping habits.

Decide Between a Change of Job or a Change in Attitude

Should any of the above apply to you, perhaps you ought to think about changing your work hours if your job permits, which would mean working into the evening or night. If not, consider a career change—you certainly won't find success in your present job if you've gained a reputation for being always late and/or always tired. On the other hand, simply recognizing where the problem lies could help you solve it; a slight adjustment of attitude may be all it takes.

Do You Need More Sleep than the Average Person?

A further possible cause of oversleeping is a need for more sleep than the average person's six to nine hours—this is often true of young adults. If so, try cutting down on social engagements and time spent in front of the TV and computer in order that you can get to bed earlier.

Are You Trying to Get Too Much Sleep?

But bear in mind that trying to get more sleep than you need is counterproductive. If you go to bed before you start to feel tired, the frustration of not being able to drift off immediately will have you tossing and turning beyond what would have been a later but more sensible bedtime.

Shift Work

Oversleeping during a shift change can happen to even the most disciplined; especially if it's from late to early shift.

Unfortunately, the only way of solving this problem is with a reliable waking system.

If you get a day off before your new shift begins, which you definitely should after working nights, get up early or don't sleep at all during the day in order to force your body into the new sleep pattern. Although this isn't the most enjoyable way to spend a day off, you at least won't feel exhausted when you're back at work, which is especially important if you drive and/or operate machinery.

You don't want to be tired at work if you drive and/or operate machinery.
You don't want to be tired at work if you drive and/or operate machinery.

Sleep Hygiene

If none of the above are causing you to sleep through the alarm, you may need to examine and improve your sleep hygiene.


If you toss and turn each night, the problem could be your mattress and/or pillow. If either is flat and worn out, you’ll have difficulty getting comfortable, which will prevent you from falling asleep.

Or is your bedroom too warm or too cool? Your room should ideally be 18 – 21 C (65 – 70 F) and well ventilated. Immoderate temperatures and stale air will keep you awake.


If your mattress and pillow are in good condition and ergonomically correct, and room temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, then perhaps you’re just not tired enough to sleep when you go to bed or, as previously mentioned, you're trying to get more sleep than you really need.

In this case, get out of bed and make yourself a mug of hot chocolate or warm milk. Reading awhile may also help. It's not, however, a good idea to read from a backlit device like a tablet or eReader. The light from the screen can suppress the production of a hormone called melatonin which helps induce sleep. The same applies to watching television in bed.


Instead of trying to fall asleep to the TV, play gentle music to create a restful atmosphere. Ambiance music without climaxes is ideal. White sounds also help.

Or try aromatherapy. Studies have shown that essential oil of lavender can relieve sleep disorders more effectively than sleeping pills and other medications. Sprinkle a dew drops on your pillow, or massage into the soles of your feet. Relaxing in a lavender fragranced tub is also effective.


If you sleep in on your day off work, it’s likely that you won’t be tired enough to sleep at your regular bedtime. As a result, getting out of bed in the morning is hard or you oversleep—hence the Monday morning blues. For this reason, you should get up at the same time everyday, even if you're not going anywhere. This obviously isn't possible if you do shift work.

Are you lying comfortably?
Are you lying comfortably?

Food and Beverages Before Bed

Eating Before Bed

A full stomach or an empty stomach can also keep you awake.

If you eat a heavy meal in the evening, make sure you give it at least three hours to digest before going to bed.

If you feel hungry before bed or are awoken by a rumbling stomach, fix yourself a turkey or tuna sandwich, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal; these foods contain tryptophan which stimulates melatonin production.

Avoid Stimulants

Restrict coffee consumption to the morning if you suspect that it’s keeping you awake at night. The same goes for other stimulants like black tea and soda. Drink water and herbal teas from lunchtime onwards.

Avoid alcohol and nicotine before going to bed. They might seem relaxing, but they actually impair sleep quality. This means that you won't sleep as deeply as you should until their effects have worn off (when it's almost time to get up), which could cause you to oversleep.

Physical Disorders

Consult a medical practitioner if you believe that sleep deprivation and subsequent oversleeping are the result of a physical disorder like sleep apnea, a weak bladder or acid reflux.

Images used in this article

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Fourth image: with kind permission

© 2016 Camlo De Ville


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