asking my assistant to return my change, I’m freezing at my desk, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How do I ask my assistant to return the change when she picks up lunch for me?

I’ve worked as an associate at a Big Law firm my entire career, and am at my third firm. It is typical for attorneys to share assistants, with six or so attorneys assigned to each assistant. I’ve always had good working relationships with my assistants, and at my current firm, have a much friendlier rapport with Elizabeth, my assistant, than with past assistants. My work can keep me trapped at my desk for days at a time, and when things are especially crazy, Elizabeth will go above and beyond by offering to run out for lunch, or bringing me coffee. We got into a bit of an arms race with the coffees; she would, unasked, grab my usual black coffee on her Starbucks run, so I would feel obliged to return the favor by bringing her one of her beloved seasonal mochas; repeat indefinitely. Left to my own devices, I would drink the free coffee in the kitchen, but did not really mind buying coffees for my thoughtful assistant.

Lately, however, she has stopped bringing me change when she offers to get lunch for me. I am not always available to have a conversation with her when she brings the food, and it may even sit on my desk for a couple of hours before I have time to take a bite, which I mention to clarify that logistically, I simply can’t check on the food or change at the moment she comes back. I’ve worked with her for two years, but her forgetfulness with the change has only been going on for the past three weeks or so. I estimate she’s pocketed at least $60. I’m reluctant to switch to handing her a credit card instead of a $20 bill when she offers to pick up lunch for me, since she hasn’t been handling the cash as I expected recently. I don’t know how to broach this with her, and would be grateful for your advice.

The next time she offers to get you lunch and you hand her money, say something like, “I might be in a meeting when you come back — if so, will you just leave the change on my desk? Thank you!”

That might be enough of a hint to take care of it. If not, it’s reasonable to say something like, “Hey, was there any change from earlier?” or — when she’s first heading out — “Will you bring me change? I appreciate it!”

All that said … is it possible that she thinks that it’s okay for her to get lunch for herself too with the money you’re giving her? Especially if other people’s assistants are doing that — and especially if the other attorneys she works with have done that with her — she might think you intend it. (And it could be that she just picked up on that recently, which would explain the change.) It might be worth checking with other attorneys and finding out if that’s happening … and if it turns out that’s a normal thing in your office culture and saying something would seem at odds with that practice, you might be better off not having her pick up your lunch.

2. I’m freezing at my desk

I’m a receptionist in the lobby of a large business complex. My desk is 12 feet from our front doors. Everyone goes in and out of these doors on a very regular basis, so in the cold months, I’m freezing. There is no issue with the heating because the remainder of the office is 73 degrees.

I can’t bring in a blanket for my lap or fingerless gloves or anything apparel because I’m consistently greeting very high level professionals – and those things would not be received well. I can’t have a space heater because our safety officer said it wouldn’t be fair for only me to have one and if everyone in the office wanted one, it would overload our electrical system. I can’t even get one of those heated seat covers – again a safety issue.

I don’t believe I’m being treated fairly in this at all. I’ve tried to come up with various options – all of which are shot down. Our safety officer literally sent me an email with a link to a dog pad saying I could get one of those since they aren’t power related. I may end up getting that, but really? A dog pad? This seems insane to me. It’s not like I was told about this in my interview or warned about this, and made the choice.

Try pointing out that your situation is different from everyone else’s. Say something like this: “I absolutely understand the concerns about space heaters. However, I’m in an unique situation. I’m the only one who sits right by our front doors and gets the blast of cold air whenever they open. And I’m also the only one who can’t use a blanket or fingerless gloves because of how public my desk is. Given that, I’d like to ask that an exception be made for me. I believe that if other people see my space heater and want one of their own, we’ll be able to explain that the front desk has its own unique circumstances.”

You could also try, “Right now, the cold at the front desk is severe enough that it’s impacting my ability to type, so I do need a solution to this.”

3. My manager gives me gift cards I can’t use

My boss (also the CEO; it’s a very small company) gives us gift cards to a restaurant as our holiday gift/annual bonus. She is aware I’m allergic to tomatoes, but she continues to give me a gift card to an Italian restaurant. This is also her favorite restaurant, and she gets the gift cards because she earns bonus cards that she uses herself. I literally cannot eat anything at the restaurant. Is there a way I can bring this up without sounding tacky? It hurts my feelings and annoys me every year.

“It’s so kind of you to give me these gift cards, but because I’m allergic to tomatoes, there’s not much I can eat there. Since I can’t eat there and I know you like it, would you like to keep this for yourself? I’d be happy to see you use it!”

It’s possible she has assumed you could eat tomato-free there, but if she keeps giving the gift cards to you after you say this, she’s officially ridiculous.

4. My interviews lasted a lot longer than planned — should I have tried to wrap things up?

I’m applying for a job where the first interview was scheduled for one hour, but went for two hours. The second interview was scheduled for 30 minutes, but went for one hour and 15 minutes. During this time, of course I felt that it was not my place to manage the length of the interview. We had gotten into a good flow combining traditional Q&A and conversation, and I assumed it would be up to the interviewer to cut it off if it was getting too long from their perspective. I wasn’t trying to delay or hold things up but I did ask questions throughout the interview where it made sense to do so, then another two to three quick questions at the end when invited to. In fact, for both interviews I was shocked when I saw the time upon leaving their office, as it hadn’t seemed that long.

Do you think this has hurt my chances of getting the job? Did it show that I was not concise or efficient enough in answering their questions, or asked too many of my own? Should I do more to help manage the timing of the interview in future?

If I am in a client meeting I would ordinarily say something like “I note it’s getting up to [meeting end time], I am happy to continue if you are but just wanted to check that was okay with you”. But for an interview I feel that’s not my place. But might they think I didn’t respect their time enough and might that count against me now?

Nah, sometimes interviews end up going much longer than planned. Generally that happens only when things are going well, since otherwise a skilled interviewer will wrap things up earlier. It’s not your responsibility to keep an eye on the time; it’s theirs.

That said, if you’re asking a lot of questions and you’re past the time originally set for the meeting, it’s polite to say something like, “How are we on time? I have more questions I’d like to ask, but I also want to be respectful of your time.” But if they said to go ahead, take them at their word and assume that it’s fine.

5. Sleeping issues are making me late to work

I struggle with being on time in general, but particularly when it comes to my first obligation of the day. I read through some of the advice your readers gave the other letter writer, and I realized my problem is not just poor time management but also sleep deprivation. I don’t give myself enough time in the morning to get ready and commute, but it’s difficult for me to get up earlier because I don’t sleep enough.

For context, I sleep five hours on an average night, sometimes three, and occasionally six. This has been the case for the past six years. I need at least seven and a half hours to function normally.

I’m writing to you because routine sleep deprivation, combined with an hour-long morning commute, makes me 30 minutes late to work every morning (for context, I’m salaried). I started my first job after college a couple of months ago, and at my second month review, I got positive feedback for everything except my punctuality. I was late to an important meeting this morning, and my manager was justifiably unhappy with me.

I understand that lateness is rude and wrong, and I want to be not just on time, but early. However, being on time feels impossible with my sleeping habits. I only fall asleep quickly if I’m at the point when I start involuntarily dozing off, and most nights I go to bed feeling anxious about waking up on time or not finishing all my to-dos for the day. This keeps me up even later. If I go to bed at a reasonable hour, I tend to wake up in the middle of the night (randomly or from nightmares) and it throws me off. I’m nervous about taking melatonin or sleeping pills because of the risk of sleeping through my alarms and being even later.

I was wondering if any of your readers have had a similar problem and what solutions they found worked for them. My daily extreme lateness leaves me stressed, paranoid, and angry with myself, and I’m worried I might be fired from a job I really like because of something that should be in my control, but feels like it isn’t.

If it’s making you late to important meetings, you’ve got to take action quickly so I’d recommend talking to your doctor right away and seeing what she suggests. I think that’s a better option than experimenting with random suggestions we might have (although people are welcome to offer suggestions in the comments). You should also give your manager a heads-up that you’re dealing with sleeping problems and are working to get it under control (that’s another advantage of seeing a doctor — it will allow you to say “I’m working with my doctor to get this under control”), and ask if she can give you some short-term leeway while you work on it. Good luck! Sleep problems are awful.

{ 828 comments… read them below }

  1. circus peanuts*

    We had problems with temperatures in our library. We got a thermometer and documented the temperature differences on a chart and then we were able to get space heaters. They had to 1500 watts max, electric only, tip over cut – off protection, and UL listed.

    1. Coldbrarian*

      Cold libraries are a plague! We came in one morning and it was 59 degrees! I keep a blanket in my office. If it’s too cold, I’ll walk around with it as a protest since our facilities manager doesn’t usually take staff’s complaints seriously. I’ve been known to wear heavy scarves and gloves too.

      1. Brandy*

        We were banned from wearing blankets and coats and such at work. You can have a heating pad or put something over your legs at your desk only. They told us, “you know its winter, dress appropriate” I get that but still, if its cold enough most people are wearing their heavy winter coat at their desk, turn the heat up. I found an Angel wrap and will wear it at my desk but I made sure the boss knew it wasn’t a blanket.

        1. aebhel*

          Ugh. There’s no kind of ‘appropriate’ indoor clothing that’s going to keep the average person comfortable when the temperature is in the 50’s.

        2. the gold digger*

          I discovered my personal brand at work is “That Lady Who Is Always Wearing Her Winter Coat Indoors.”

          Re fairness – it’s not fair for the LW to be cold when everyone else is not.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            A woman in my office was wearing a winter coat yesterday. Not a sweater, a legitimate winter coat.

            Meanwhile the guys in the offices are sweating.

            1. NorthernSoutherner*

              That sounds passive aggressive. I’ve always been one of the ‘hot’ ones — sweltering while my co-workers (women) were complaining about the cold. I’m a woman too, BTW. I can’t take off clothes, I’d say, so it’s up to those who are cold to wear more. One co-worker actually said, ‘But I don’t WANT to wear a sweater.’ This was down south, so that didn’t help — when you’re wearing lightweight clothing, the AC is going to feel that much colder. So yours truly ended up literally sweating in the office, because I was outnumbered.
              Now that I’m up north, I’m finding the same situation. My co-worker wants to keep the heat higher than my comfort zone. I don’t complain bc she’s also my boss. But I don’t wear anything heavy to work, that’s for sure. I take off my coat, wearing a regular shirt, and I’m OK.

        3. PersephoneUnderground*

          When it gets that bad, it might be worth documenting the temperature as suggested above, as well as checking OSHA temperature guidelines to see if they’re actually outside those.

        4. Alison Read*

          Along with your Angel Wrap you can wear a snow skirt! (I wish I was technologically adept enough to make “snow skirt” a hyperlink… sigh!) I’m from Alaska and snow skirts are awesome, they will zip apart at the side so they’re super easy to get on & off. If the long skirt is too much I saw Amazon had down mini skirts!!! Who knew?

          For the OP would this type of skirt pass since you’re behind a desk? Perhaps pair it with a flowing, wool cardigan or shawl? I can see how the fleece Angel Wrap may not be professional enough.

        5. Oxford Comma*

          I don’t care what people do in their offices. We have space heaters. Blankets, etc. I had a student worker who insisted on doing this in July, though. And I was fine with her using the space heater and an afghan although the thermostat in the section was at 72F. The student insisted on wearing a winter coat (again, this is July and we are not south of the equator) when she would go out to meet our users and balked when we told her she had to take it off for those encounters.

      2. Cube Ninja*

        59 is completely unacceptable for an indoor location IMO. If you need some extra ammo, you could always point out that OSHA’s recommendation is 68-76F. OSHA won’t really *do* anything about it if a complaint is filed since this falls more under personal comfort than a true safety issue, but it might scare your facilities folks into paying attention. :)

        1. KC*

          When someone files a complaint with OSHA, OSHA should then reach out to the company and request further information. The company then has so many days to provide that information to OSHA and is required to post the provided information for workers to see.
          *And since the temperature is a recommendation, there is the General Duty Clause. Which means employers have a responsibility to protect workers from recognized hazards.
          *Try googling OSHA Complaint Handling Process

        2. Chicken*

          Wow, that OSHA range seems oddly high on the warm end – I would be miserable in an office that was 76 degrees. I keep the a/c set to around 70-72 in the summer (and that’s warmer than I prefer, but I’m trying not to use too much energy) and I keep the heat set to 64ish in the winter. I realize that I am extreme in my prefererence for cold though.

          (And even I would be unhappy with 59 degrees inside)

    2. Freezing Librarian*

      Agreed – LW, you can get an indoor temperature monitor for only a few bucks that you can keep on your desk, to prove your point about it being much colder where you are.

      As far as other solutions, silk long underwear works well under professional clothes. You could also try a wool wrap-type sweater that you can wrap your hands in when you’re not typing to warm them up. But I hope you get your space heater.

      1. nonymous*

        I was coming to chime in on the virtues of long underwear – don’t forget turtlenecks! Also, I’m a fan of sweaters with extra long sleeves (it’s a decidedly modern cut, so may not work for ultra-conservative locales) that come down to knuckles, or a poncho-cut sweater. A luxe alternative would be a a cashmere wrap or shawl; even wool can look high-end with the right swag and weave (thin looks higher end than bulky options). Having a giant scarf around one’s neck is fashionable in all climates, although not the cutting edge like it used to be.

        1. Friday*

          Definitely cashmere… and amazingly enough, there are real cashmere scarves to be had online for ~ $20 each. I’ve bought a lot over the years.

      2. paul*

        Long johns are the bomb! And for this you probably don’t need to shell out a ton of money for high quality ones; some of the department store brand polyester or silk-poly blends are probably good enough.

        I’m rocking a pair right now actually…19 degrees this morning.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Are there any rules / law s in your country / state about working conditions? Here (UK) temperatures must be ‘reasonable’ and the guidance given is that normally means at least 16C (60F).
      Even if there isn’t a local law, you might be able to find guidelines to show your boss, together with a record of the actual temps. at your work station.

      Until then, can you get base layer clothing to try to keep warmer? The very thin silk or synthetic base layers sold in outdoors shops can go under office-appropriate clothes and may help. Also consider getting some of the reusable handwarmers you can use (this kind of thing ) .

      But I agree with Alison that the best thing to do is to speak again to your bosses, make clear that you are in a unique situation. Maybe even ask one of them to come and sit with you for half an hour to see for themselves?

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        My girlfriend works in the most freezing cold store of all time, and she started buying the disposable stick-on heat-packs you can get from shops like Daiso. Stuck them on under her clothes to stop her feet from falling off. The real solution would’ve been for the management to do something about the ridiculous temperatures though.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      The thermometer is a great idea–the safety officer might be absolutely charmed by a chart, graph, and bunch of numbers. Atop that foundation, Alison is right that you are in a unique position, and a space heater for the person sitting in the gales that sweep through the front door doesn’t mean everyone in the building gets one.

    5. TootsNYC*

      Temperatures don’t always help. I had a room with four people working in it, and the temp was 69 degrees. They were freezing—even people who just walked in could feel how uncomfortably cold it was. But that temp was right at the bottom edge of the acceptable standard.

      So the Facilities folks wouldn’t do anything or allow us to have a heater.

        1. Natalie*

          If there’s a constant draft, though, it will feel a lot colder to anyone sitting in the room (wind chill effect) but that won’t register to a thermostat.

          1. Former Temp*

            Very true–and also check to see if there’s a difference in particular locations so that it “averages out” to a normal temperature. We had a time at my office where some of my co-workers were freezing and others were sweltering … turned out that there places where the air blowing out was 50 degrees (!) and others where it was 80, and between all of them, the temperature would eventually average out to a normal 72, but that sure didn’t help worker sitting right under the 50 degree blast. Plant operations did something to fix that so that we weren’t relying on a “mix” to get to the right temperature in the overall room.

          2. Kraig*

            Infrared heaters can be useful in this situation. Particularly given space heaters are out and you’ve got large doors letting air in and out at entry

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Moving makes a big difference. I will be sitting at the computer, chilly, but the thermostat says it’s 69. If I come in from walking the dogs or working in the yard, or I’m doing my stretches, it feels much warmer, but that’s my blood flow rather than the air temperature.

      1. peachie*

        Facilities sounds like my (otherwise lovely) roommate who sets the thermostat on the ground floor to 68 and does not understand that just because it is 68 degrees in the most insulated part of the house where the thermostat is DOES NOT mean that is is 68 degrees in the hella drafty icebox basement where I live.

        1. Alienor*

          I feel you. I have the reverse problem in summer – the thermostat downstairs says 68 and you need a blanket to withstand the AC, but I’m still sweating in my bedroom on the third floor of the house.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Definitely document the temperature at your desk over a few days, OP, and show it to the pencil-pushing, petty bureaucrat that is your “safety officer”. At that time, suggest a rule, that anyone whose workspace temperature falls below 65, 60 (whatever is comfortably above your measured temps), for more than a few working days in a row, is supplied with a space heater meeting the safety guidelines specified by circus peanuts. (As a practical matter you may have to buy it yourself, but they really should be providing a work environment that meets certain standards, as others have pointed out.)

      1. JessaB*

        Also, I’d parse it as “heater for the reception desk” rather than heater for the receptionIST. The idea is that the heater goes with whoever is working in front of the door, not a specific person, is easier to argue when people inevitably complain (without ADA reasons to, I mean.)

    7. Nolan*

      Nthing this, we had to do this when my office was on the top floor of a 100 year old office building. It took an hour for the steam to reach our radiators, so the boiler would turn off just as we were starting to get heat. Since all the lower floors were being cooked alive, facilities wouldn’t turn the heat up unless we called with a number. We temporarily got space heaters before a supplemental heating system was added to our AC.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Our office building (where I once worked) is a converted lumber plant. I understand the building engineer has the Suicide Hotline on speed-dial, because that place has more micro-climates than Indonesia. We won’t even discuss the time the cold air return pipe ended up sucking in sewer smell…(and my sweet boss just opened her window, closed the door, and told the rest of us with no such alternative to stop complaining).

    8. MechanicalPencil*

      I use a heating pad that cuts off after a certain period of time. I’ve slipped a discreet little case over it, so generally no one knows what’s happening since it blends into my slacks.

    9. Beatrice*

      One thing I’ve seen in spaces with lobbies, is a freestanding electric fireplace – they don’t use real fire and don’t need smoke ventilation – they’re basically large, attractive space heaters. The ones I’ve seen look like a cast iron stove, and are around $200. They are very effective at heating small-medium closed spaces, and since they look more like a fixture of the space rather than an individual space heater, they shouldn’t invite requests for space heaters from people working in the 73 degree office space who want to be 75 degrees instead.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob let the receptionist have an electric oil-filled radiant heater under her desk. I have four of them at home and they work great–they’re quiet and don’t have any open elements. They look like an old-timey radiator with wheels on and are not very expensive. One at the front desk is not going to overdraw the electrical system. The OP would of course have to be vigilant about turning it off when she leaves, of course.

        1. JessaB*

          You can always put a timer on the extension cord that plugs it in, if people forget to turn it off. You can even buy cords with timers (especially in December, people get them for Christmas trees and outdoor decorations, so they’re on sale right now or in January after, they’re cheaper.)

        2. Julia the Survivor*

          Second this – I got one after a homeowner I knew said they’re the only safe space heaters. I paid $40 for mine in the early or mid-2000’s.
          One time I accidentally left it on all day while I was at work, and the only bad effect was a higher electric bill that month. :) So putting it on a timer would be a good backup.

    10. Lora*

      Oh wow. I keep my house pretty chilly, because I actually like it that way (also, I am cheap, and heating an old building in winter in New England is $$$$$, and I am Hot Flash Age), but also I can wear a down jacket, fingerless gloves and knitted headband in my house all I want.

      I cannot say enough nice things about Uniqlo Heattech though. They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, they just get all my money. Thin camis and t-shirts you can wear under a sweater, warm tights you can wear under a skirt or pants, normal looking business casual slacks – all warm as toast. And move around and sip a hot drink when you can. No cold drinks in winter. Hot tea, hot cider, hot chocolate, hot coffee.

      Part of my job is field work at greenfield and brownfield sites as well as in clean rooms which are always over-chilled to compensate for you sweating to death in 5 layers of plastic, so I had to learn to adapt to both extremes. Truly, I hate sitting in front of a computer at 68F/20C all day. Your blood doesn’t move around enough to keep you properly warm, I think – my feet always get cold even if the rest of me is warm.

      1. Anion*

        Thanks for the tip! I’m always colder than everyone else so wear a lot of thermal leggings etc. under clothes–I’m always looking for good brands, because some are definitely better than others.

      2. Harmonic Penguin*

        YES!! Uniqlo Heattech is fantastic. Their reasonably-priced tights, long johns, socks, camis and long sleeved under shirts with a variety of necklines are what keep me warm and toasty. I work in film and tv, and filming outside in winter it is amazing. Wash in cold water and don’t tumble dry. *Also not sponsored or paid by them – just very appreciative of their products*

        1. Karen D*

          Wow. Following this thread, I hit the website and it looks like several items in that range are 33 percent off.

          (buys some)

      3. Anon for this*

        I also heat a large, old New England house – I keep it at 55 overnight and Uniqlo Heattech is the BEST.

      4. JessaB*

        Thanks, never heard of them but I’m going to look into their gloves for Mr B because his hands always freeze.

      5. Julia the Survivor*

        Also drinking hot water is good. If you’re tired of coffee, tea, etc. just get some hot water and sip it. :)

    11. Anony*

      I was able to get a space heater after documenting the temperature at my desk. Literally the same temperature as the walk in refrigerator.

    12. As Close As Breakfast*

      A thermometer can really help prove a point. The first summer after my company moved into a new building, there was a temperature-related showdown. There were just two of us with offices on one side of the second floor. The offices are amazing with these HUGE windows. But, they are single pane windows that really heat up the room when the outside temp is often 110F or more. So, the two of us agreed to keep the air conditioner on our side of the floor kind of low to try and keep us from sweating up a storm in our offices, which made the hallway feel super cold. We explained why it was so low when anyone said anything, but obviously one of the owners didn’t really believe us because one day a giant outdoor type thermometer appeared in our office. We assumed that someone was trying to make a point that it wasn’t that hot in there… but joke was on them! Because although the air conditioner was set at like 66 degrees, ran most of the day, and the hallway was absolutely freezing… the stupid giant thermometer never got down below 75 degrees! So after about a week, the thermometer disappeared just as quietly as it had appeared and the peak summer air conditioner setting has never been questioned again. :D

  2. Elizabeth H.*

    I could be letter writer number 5 except I am even later than 30 minutes a lot of the time. My boss is very understanding and I do great work otherwise so I haven’t been fired. I don’t have insomnia, I just don’t go to bed on yi
    I think it’s easy to say that there should be a medical solution but I’m honestly not sure there is one. This sounds like garden variety non-medical insomnia/anxiety/some other psychological issue about going to bed or going to sleep rather than something you can find the right combination of medications for.

    1. Elizabeth H.*

      Hit submit by mistake, “yi” should be “time.”

      I also got an alarm that is made for deaf people in that it is stunningly loud and has a vibrating disc that violently shakes, you’re supposed to put it under your pillow but I am hearing so I often put it on my table because the rattling noise is so jarring. That worked really well for a while but I can’t use it as much or set as loud l as I would like because the next door neighbors complained multiple times. Now it’s winter and people keep windows closed I might try using it normally again.

      1. Michaela T*

        That sounds like my Sonic Alert alarm. I’m hearing impaired and it’s AWESOME. I turn the volume all the way down (I can’t hear it even when it’s all the way up so there’s no point) and just use the bed shaker disc, there’s no sleeping through that thing.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Yes mine is the Sonic Alert! I think the bed shaker disc works ok under my pillow also, but it’s easier for me to turn it off when I’m close enough to the clock to have the bed shaker disc under my pillow. To be honest my issue is more of waking up, turning the alarm off (while I am awake, but using bad long-term decision making skills, not like in my sleep unconsciously) and going back to sleep but the alarm really does help because I will wake up at least once with it.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Not sure if it’d help for you, but I wear my Fitbit in a silicone band at night, and set a vibrating alarm to wake me up. Though if you had more luck with the vibrating disc on a hard table instead of under your pillow, you may not have success with something vibrating on your wrist instead.

        1. Clever Name*

          My Fitbit was a huge help for me, for a while. It also helped that I couldn’t figure out how to make it stop without fully waking up.

          It is really hard to get into the routine, but if you can force yourself to work out for 45-60 minutes after work, OP, you might hit that super-sleepy state sooner. Even better if you can force yourself to get up early enough to work out before work. It is really hard for the first week, but you’ll be alert and ready to go when you get in the office (on time), and you’ll start to fall asleep earlier.

          The fitbit helped me get up early enough to work out before work and start getting in on time. Sadly, once winter hit (I walk to my gym), I stopped doing it, and am now in the same terrible boat. I need to get back on that.

      3. Chief Strategy Officer*

        Have you ever seen/tried those daylight alarms? I used to be the same way – up until all hours and then either would sleep through the alarm or hit snooze so many times I’d be beyond late. But this alarm has seriously changed my life and even *gasp* made me a morning person. It starts lighting up the room about 40 minutes or so before you’re supposed to wake up, so it’s a nice transition from sleep to awake and I find myself up before the alarm most days (unheard of!).

        1. Anonymous Pixie*

          I’m still suffering from the effects of shift work sleep disorder (I actually wrote in here, a few years ago!) and I have to say, the daylight alarm clock is AMAZING. I have mine set for birdsong and facing my bed– there’s no way to sleep through it, and it’s MUCH less jarring than buzzing or ringing. On “good” nights I find myself with my eyes mostly open before the birdsong goes off!

          1. Havarti*

            For those of you who have the daylight alarm clock, which brand do you have? I keep eyeing them but some are insanely expensive and most have middling to poor reviews. I really would like one though since I hate trying to wake up in the dark.

            1. namenamename*

              I have the Phillips Wake-Up Light with the full color spectrum/5 wake-up sounds and I am a believer, but I think you could get most of the benefits from even the much less expensive models. The light itself is the most important part, and that’s less specific to a brand?

            2. NPOQueen*

              I have totobay, which is about $28 on Amazon right now. It wakes me up, no doubt, and I move into wakefulness gradually as it lights up the room. But I have to be facing it (I have it on my nightstand), the snooze function is only five minutes, and I get angry at it every morning. I’m not at all a morning person, but it does ensure that I get about seven hours of sleep a day. I just hate getting out of bed so much.

            3. GriefBacon*

              I just got one a couple weeks ago, when I went from working 10am-6pm to a “flexible hours” job where all my coworkers work 6am-2pm (I usually hit around 8am-4pm, but even that’s a STRUGGLE). My bedroom doesn’t have a window, so waking up at a reasonable hour wasn’t working. I literally just got the cheapest one I could find off Amazon, and it works great! It doesn’t light up the whole room or anything, but if I keep it close to my bed, it’s more than enough to wake me up — and the alarm doesn’t feel so jarring since it’s been gradually lighting up for 30 min (I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed when it starts lighting up, but the alarm on it feels less offensive than other alarms, if that makes sense). So while I’m sure the Phillips version is worth every penny, my cheapo one does exactly what I need it to!

            4. Merp*

              My SO and I wake up at the same time but most wake up alarms are intended for only one person, we ended up replacing the light bulb in one of our bedroom lamp with a Phillips smart bulb. Works awesome,would recommend.

            5. Julia the Survivor*

              I also have a Philips, I forget the model, and it cost $90 in 2014.
              I bought it because my new apartment doesn’t face the street and it was almost impossible to get up at 6am without light! It helps a lot… I can sleep through almost anything, but the light with birds chirping and my loud clock radio get me up most days.

            6. Aerin*

              I got mine on either Woot or Groupon on sale, so you could try to keep an eye out for those discounts. We’ve also got Phillips Hue bulbs that can be set to timers. They’ve made a gigantic difference for me, because it’s basically impossible for me to pull myself out of bed in the dark.

              1. Aerin*

                I should add that I don’t use it by itself. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

                4:30 – Light starts turning on
                5:00 – Light adds an audible alarm
                5:30 – Phone alarm goes off
                5:50 – Finally stop snoozing the phone and drag myself out of bed

                If I’m well-rested I can usually cut the snoozes and be out of the house by about 6:15, otherwise it might push it closer to 6:30, which still gets me to work by 7:00 unless traffic is exceptionally bad. I still find myself to be most productive at night, but I haven’t overslept in years.

          2. KAZ2Y5*

            Do you work the night shift now? Or did you use this when you did work nights? I never thought about an alarm like this. Just sign me a curious night shift worker!

          3. EddieSherbert*

            Definitely looking this up – I’m intrigued! (and I have about 1.5 hours worth of alarms to get me up in the morning right now…)

          4. with a twist*

            I got one of these about 2 months ago and I love it! For context, I could have written that letter – up until the part about being a recent college grad at a new job, I was almost afraid someone from my office might think it was written by me. Or that maybe I’d written it in a haze of sleep deprivation and had forgotten! I used to get about 4-5 hours per sleep at night if I was lucky. That plus an hour-long commute makes my mornings very difficult. I think I’m just a natural night owl, and I have tried everything over the years to change, but my body is very resistant to mornings, apparently!

            The daylight clock isn’t a perfect solution, as I do still find it difficult to actually drag myself out of bed once my eyes are open. However, I almost always wake up before the sound alarm goes off (a lovely birdsong noise), and I’m actually pretty darn awake – none of that “hitting the snooze button without realizing it because you’re still half-asleep” stuff. It took a few days for it to work its magic on me, but it truly has made my wake-up routine easier and more consistent. It’s not that jolting awake feeling that I hate, nor do I still feel like I still have one foot in dreamland. I’m still tired, yes, but I’m awake!

            Other tips for the OP: I’ve found that reading before bed, especially something kind of boring, is a surefire way to fall asleep within minutes. I have a Kindle Fire so I just keep the brightness on lower side and read in bed in the dark. When I get drowsy, I just hit the off button and lay it down next to me, and I’m out like a light. I don’t make a ton of progress in my books, but that’s not my goal!

            I’ve also started listening to audiobooks to make my commute more bearable. I was getting very agitated dealing with traffic jams every single day, and really dreaded getting in the car. Now I actually kind of look forward to it! The books hold my attention so I don’t get bored just sitting in a jam, which always made me tempted me to peek at my phone while driving (a bad habit audiobooks have helped me break, thankfully). And I still have plenty of ability to focus on my surroundings. Plus, I’m getting through a lot more books, which I love, because I don’t have much time to read otherwise.

            Good luck, OP. I’ve been in your shoes for many years, and I know how difficult it is. I envy those people that can fall asleep early and wake up without issue as soon as their alarm goes off – I often think of how much easier my life would be if I was one of them! Hopefully some of these tips help a little.

            1. Sleepy Librarian*

              Same here, I struggle to make myself alert in the mornings and I was chronically late to work (by hours, sometimes) for years. Because of my husband’s schedule I’ve gotten to where I’m at work on time a lot, but I’m groggy and mostly useless until 10:00 or so. The daylight lamp helps a lot, I have philips and like other commenters said it’s a much less jarring way to wake up. I also do things like have blue light filters on all my devices, and try to do mellow things in the evening to create a naturally calm environment. I’m a stressful sleeper too, so I wake up with a jolt if I read something too upsetting or any other number of weird reasons. Good luck, OP! You’re definitely not alone. And if you’re able to see a doctor, do it, especially if you can see a sleep specialist. There are also books on good sleep hygiene (I find it weird that that’s what sleep habits are called, but whatever). You may even learn that you have a sleep disorder and the doctor can help!

            2. GriefBacon*

              One of the things I love about my daylight clock is that it also has the opposite feature for sunset. I find it incredibly difficult to get to sleep at a normal hour this time of year — my body’s ready to sleep at 6pm, because it’s been dark for awhile, and once I push dinnertime, I’m AWAKE. For good. But deciding on a bedtime earlier in the evening and setting the sunset clock for it means I can give myself 30 of gradually darkening room. Sunset clock + turning off the tv in favor of a book = much easier time getting myself to sleep.

              Also, guided sleep meditations work wonders for me when really struggling to sleep. I’ve used a couple different apps, youtube, Amazon, etc. It can be tricky for me to find a voice I like and get it at a volume that I can hear but isn’t too loud to keep me up…but once I work out the kinks, it works like a charm.

            3. Julia the Survivor*

              I also have anxiety and I’ve found two things helpful: deep breathing after I lay down, and an antihistamine with dinner.
              Deep breathing of 4 counts inhale, 4 counts exhale is amazing. I doze off in a minute.
              I have a lot of allergies so the antihistamine also makes me feel much better in the morning! If you don’t have allergies, my doctor suggested 3 mg of melatonin. It’s good to do research and/or consult a doctor about the best dose for you, but it’s not likely to hurt you.
              Another thing your doctor might try is an antidepressant. Try not to take Xanax though, all my providers think it’s addictive.

      4. LawPancake*

        Have you ever tried those alarms that monitor your sleep and go off at the time between a 20 minute period when you’re most awake? I use Sleep Cycle on my phone and it measures your movement and noise as well as gathering a ton of data about your sleep. For instance, my sleep quality is 2% better on nights with a full moon, who knew? I’ve been using it for a couple years and love it.

        1. myswtghst*

          I also use Sleep Cycle, and I really like it. In addition to making waking up go a little smoother, it also helped me really visualize how long it takes me to get to sleep, which reinforced the need to start my wind-down routine sooner and get in bed earlier. I think I always underestimated how long it actually takes me to go to sleep, even after I shut off the lights and put down my book/phone, and it made me realize that I often toss and turn for a bit before I actually fall asleep.

      5. Anion*

        Have you seen those alarm clocks that roll around? They’re really loud, and they move–you have to get out of bed to catch them and turn them off, basically.

        1. Not Yet Looking*

          I’m thinking, I don’t regularly clean under my bed, and I don’t want to chase one under there. :P

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      For #5:

      Have you looked into a sleep study, and/or a diagnosis of sleep apnea, and/or a CPAP machine?

      I’m not that different from you. Several of my friends who are similar (hard to get up, hard to fall asleep, night owls, struggle with mornings … and, notably, a few pounds overweight and big snorers. You didn’t mention that and I’m not assuming, but it’s a thing the group I’m mentioning often has in common) have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, and can’t recommend a CPAP highly enough.

      I haven’t been tested and don’t have a CPAP; instead I’ve organized my life so I don’t have to get up early. My earliest hard-stop work obligation in a given week is at 11 am. I can count on one hand the times in a year I need to be up before, say, 745 am.

      1. L.*

        Please also note – if you struggle with sleep issues, see a specialist! I literally meet none of the risk factors for sleep apnea – I’m young, a healthy weight and lower neck circumference, don’t snore at ALL, no family history – but I was diagnosed with mild obstructive sleep apnea three months ago or so after years of fatigue (although it really took a toll this year, when my anxiety was treated well enough that I stopped getting convenient doses of adrenaline throughout the day). It is SO worth seeing someone about sleep problems – even for “just” insomnia (which does include not being able to stay asleep!), there are scientifically proven therapies that can help. Living with that kind of fatigue is AWFUL.

        1. Mabel*

          Yes, it’s so true about living with fatigue. My dad has Parkinson’s, but before he was diagnosed, he was exhausted all the time, and it finally go so bad that he checked himself into the ER with mental health issues. He was so relieved to get help and medication from the psychiatrist. My dad is not someone who would easily go to a therapist, but he was at a breaking point with the fatigue. (NOTE: I’m NOT suggesting that the OP, or anyone, may have Parkinson’s because of fatigue.)

        2. kitryan*

          I actually meet nearly all of the sleep apnea criteria and when I complained of fatigue, everyone assumed that was going to be the reason – but I don’t have it! At least not more than a very mild case.
          I got sleep tested and got a diagnosis so now at least I’m trying to treat the actual problem instead of going off in the wrong direction. The diagnosis was basically that I get tired during the day even if I get a good night’s sleep, so stressing about getting to bed early and working even more on sleep hygiene isn’t necessarily going to do much – and knowing that has actually been a big help.
          Long story short, I agree, if you have sleep issues and it’s negatively affecting your life, see a specialist if you can swing it. The actual issue may be different from what’s expected and knowing what the problem is at minimum removes some of that stress and anxiety.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      A doctor might also be able to recommend a non-medication sleep therapy. I know a therapist who will recommend medication for lots of things, but for sleep, she refers people to a therapy involving a strict sleep schedule with specific coping mechanisms—no meds at all. It would absolutely work for people without physical reasons for their insomnia.

      Which makes me think: OP, in addition to talking to your regular doctor, it would probably be worth talking to a therapist, especially one who has experience with anxiety or sleep issues.

      1. blackcat*

        Yep, talking to the regular doc can also be the entry point for treating mental-health related insomnia. Insomnia is a medical condition (and has effects on the entire body) even if it’s cause is psychological.

      2. Headshrinker Extraordinaire*

        Yes! Look for a therapist that’s familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. It’s a brief treatment that focuses on sleep hygiene and retaining your brain to sleep better. Medications work, but only as long as you are taking them, changing your habits can work long-term.

        1. Buffy Summers*

          Sleep hygiene? What is that, besides brushing teeth,, etc? Or is it something entirely different?

          1. Sadie Doyle*

            “Sleep hygiene” means practices that promote good nighttime sleep. So things like sticking to a regular bedtime schedule, not taking long naps, not using bright screens past a certain hour, avoiding caffeine later in the day — basically anything that could contribute to trouble falling and staying asleep.

          2. NaoNao*

            It’s different. It refers to the protocol you follow to get your best sleep. Things like:

            Sleep in a room that’s 65 degrees or cooler
            Do not do anything in your bed other than sleep, have “moments” with your significant other, or read
            Establish a routine that starts about an hour beforehand: pajamas on, grooming, glass of water, sit in bed reading light stuff for 30 minutes
            If you’re awake for more than 30 minutes, get up and move around, and then try to go back to sleep. Don’t lay in bed awake because then it starts a connection in your mind “I lay in bed awake”
            Do progressive relaxation exercises (clench and release each individual muscle in your entire body, starting with toes, all the way to forehead)
            Do not have or use mobile devices in your room (super hard, I don’t follow this, but I don’t have insomnia)
            Try to wake up to natural light if possible
            Use an eye mask to fall asleep

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yep, all of this. I’ve had issues with insomnia most of my life, and sleep hygiene is the first thing a doctor will suggest–whether it’s your GP or a specialist. Even if there is a medical reason that needs treatment, they’ll still recommend improving your sleep hygiene also. I’m not great about no-devices-in-the-bedroom, but a fixed sleep schedule made a world of difference, as did no-caffeine-after-2pm and a few other lifestyle changes. I do have a medication for sleep, but the specialist who gave it to me impressed upon me that it was a supplement in addition to good sleep hygiene, not a replacement–in the same way that my husband’s cholesterol medication is a supplement to diet and exercise.

              The thing most people dislike about sleep hygiene is the fixed schedule, where you should go to bed and get up at basically the same time every day, even weekends. Giving up sleeping in sucked, but insomnia sucked worse, so I stick with it.

              One thing to consider, LW: since the first thing a doctor is likely to ask about is your sleep schedule/sleep hygiene, you can get a start on figuring out the problem by trying to improve your sleep hygiene yourself first, maybe even while you wait for an appointment. Starting with “yes, I’ve tried a good sleep schedule, reduced caffeine, no phone or tablet use late at night, etc.” will get you a good head start.

              1. JessaB*

                There are apps where you can track your sleep patterns and food/caffeine intake so you can see if there’s a specific thing you’re doing that kind of messes you up. I keep a notepad by my bed, so I’m not using my phone, which is in the nightstand drawer to avoid the “oy the light just turned on for reasons, and woke me up.” I can’t ditch it completely because I need to be contactable, but I don’t leave it right in front of me.

            2. Julia the Survivor*

              I also find it very helpful to not watch too much TV in the evening. Two hours before bed, turn off TV and put on relaxing music. It helps a lot!
              I only watch action shows on weekend afternoons. Only comedies in the evening. However, they can still be too stimulating. I’ve found the Dick Van Dyke show can keep me up if I’m not careful!

          3. Jessica*

            I know I sleep much more restfully, and am a lot more productive and energetic during the day, when I practice good sleep hygiene vs. when I don’t. Turn screens off at 8pm, use golden light (I have Philips Hue color smart light bulbs), and I like to read to send myself to sleep, so I use an e-ink e-reader (no backlit screen). It does make a huge difference.

            I’m gonna check out that Philips wake-up light. I’ve used a similar function with my Hue bulbs, but I’d like a more gradual light and my alarm clock is nearing the end of its lifespan anyway.

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              I’m light sensitive as well. Before I figured that out, I could’ve written the OP#5’s letter. I have orange safety goggles that I put on an hour before bed, and it really does help. They’re ~$10 on Amazon too, so it’s a cheap thing to try.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        As someone who has struggled with sleep deprivation in the past, I totally second this. In my case, a strict dedication to sleep hygiene has really helped: at 9 PM, I have an alarm on my phone that goes off (it says “Get off the internet and take a shower!”) I have to stop whatever I’m doing and begin getting ready for bed. I lay out my clothes, put my bag by the door, and take a bath. Then I listen to audiobooks to fall asleep (I don’t do well with trying to quiet my thoughts on my own, so I just listen to something to distract my brain). My phone is my morning alarm, and I keep it on a separate end of the room so I have to physically leave my bed to turn it off. I also have a series of alarms in the morning to keep me on track: by 7:00 I have to be up and beginning my routine, 7:30 is breakfast, and 7:55 is my five-minute warning–start grabbing my coat, etc. to leave the house. And if you are concerned about the effects of melatonin (which I do use for occasional sleeplessness), I would say try it first on a weekend, so you can see how intensely it affects you and you can adjust accordingly. Good luck!

        1. Trig*

          Yes yes yes on the audiobooks! I have a hard time shutting my brain down at night (I keep going over stupid things I said that day, which cycles back to stupid things I said years ago, or things I wish I’d done or ways I wish I’d acted and I can’t stop). I used to read to fall asleep, but if it wasn’t a sufficiently boring book, I’d just stay up all night reading. And my partner can’t fall asleep with the light on, so we’d both be tired and grumpy in the morning.

          We started listening to audiobooks, and it’s a perfect. At first we just got books on CD from the library and ripped them to an MP3 player that played through our bluetooth speaker. We’ve recently started using Audible, which has a ‘sleep timer’ that you can set so it will automatically play the next track, but it won’t just play all night. It’s so good. We’ve listenend to the same chapter every night this week, because we keep falling asleep so quickly! And it’s not a boring book! So far we’ve only done books we’ve already read, so it’s not like we’ll miss major plot points.

          There are also podcasts that could work, like the Sleep With Me podcast. (I found his voice somewhat irritating rather than soothing, but YMMV, I’ve heard people swear by it.)

          I also have a fairly inexpensive daylight alarm that gets brighter for 30 minutes before beeping, so I’m usually somewhat awake by the time the beep goes off. Doesn’t mean I bolt out of bed, ready to face the day, but it is a good way to wake up.

          1. EH*

            I’ll add a vote for Sleep With Me. I only like some episodes (I find some of his narrator voices annoying), but they are a HUGE help to dozing off. By listening every night, I’ve managed to mostly train my brain that hearing that dude talking means it’s sleep time.
            My partner snores, so I use Plugphones (basically earplugs with earbuds in them), and the combo is great.
            Also: I find physical exercise during the day at some point (at least 2-3 hrs before bed; closer than that makes it harder to sleep) is a big help, even if it’s just taking the long way to walk to and from the bathroom in the office. Good luck, LW5!

      4. Lydia*

        No risk no side effect supplements are worth trying, Vitamin K2 at night, B complex and D in morning and Magnesium morning and night work for me. Calcium through food options.
        There are “pressure points” and breathing techniques to use get to sleep or back to sleep after waking too early.
        NO ALCOHOL! It might help get you to sleep but causes middle of the night waking.
        Caffeine can cause the same thing of course. Possibly sugar or food allergies/sensitivities too.
        An eye mask and earplugs help me.

      5. FarmerSteph*

        I suffer from insomnia and middle of the night wakeups, and a teaspoon of magnesium supplement powder (Natural Calm is the one I use) before bed really helps. I still wake up, but I’m able to get back to sleep. It’s kind of amazing!

      6. Skippy*

        There are some pretty good medications for it, too—ones that don’t have amphetamine-like side effects. I try to practice good sleep hygiene as a first line, but for an 8-hour drive I go the medication route.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Yes that’s exactly what I meant – I definitely didn’t meant to imply that anxiety/insomnia/psychological or mental issues were nonmedical (that’s not what I believe!) – just that “sleep medication” or a specifically sleep-targeted treatment may not get at the issue.

      1. JessaB*

        Also disabilities that cause you to keep waking up to change positions because OMG OWWWWWWWW. I can’t sleep through if I tried without taking a level of pain medication that makes me A: dizzy like OMG someone please stop the bed from spinning like a top, B: nauseous like get me a bucket and C: too woozy to deal with A & B. We’re talking morphine like levels of cut the pain. And I cannot DO that and be a functional human being which is kinda my life goal you know? Being able to DO all the things.

        So yeh there are a metric tonne of things that are medical that can cause this.

    4. SRB*

      So I have some sleep tips from my therapist that he strongly recommends. (Not that I am in any way diligent enough to do them all!)

      1. Thing of your energy level from 1-10. 1 is asleep. 10 is the most awake – racing a motorcycle with ACDC blaring woah! You can NOT go from a 10 to a 1. No one can. You can’t stop your video game (10) and go straight to bed (1) or it will take hours to fall asleep. You want to be at 2-3 when you get into bed
      2. It usually takes *multiple* hours to go from a 10 to a 3. Not 15 minutes after you turn off the TV. Not even half an hour. And definitely not the five minutes it takes to brush teeth and change. Night time rituals (that don’t involve screens, blue lights, strenuous physical activity) are a great way to slowly wind your brain down and train/trick it to think “oh I am wiping down the counter now, time to get tired”.
      3. For any of this to work, your best bet is to be 100% consistent. Even on weekends. Go to bed at the exact same time every night and you train/trick your body into accepting it. Even if it doesn’t work at first.
      4. Remove things that obviously disrupt sleep. Streetlights? Get a mask or blackout curtains. Pets? Maybe kick them out. Street traffic? Earplugs. (This is super specific to me but: anxious thoughts? Make sure you wind down before bed, do meditation, talk to therapist regularly)
      5. All else fails get a Dr to refer you to a sleep study.

      All great advice from a Dr … now if only I could take it! Somehow it always seems so hard at 7, 8, 9 pm to wind down.

      1. Jesca*

        I do all of this as well. I also do relaxation guided meditation sometimes as well. This is also something I do with my son as well. He was under the idea if he continued to stimulate himself, it would help – not realizing he was going falling asleep at midnight! This running yourself down for the night idea really is the key. I suffered from insomnia for years and definitely was a night person. I will always be a night person (if I stay up past midnight, then I am wide awake and ready to go), but keeping a wind-down routine helped me be a morning person as well. Also, if it is hard for you to wake (my son again is very hard to wake too), then I would try what those above have mentioned in regards to alarms.

        Going to the doctor, though, is something I also highly recommend. Like mentioned above, I do not have any risk factors for sleep apnea, but was diagnosed with significant sleep apnea about two years ago. I have a very narrow throat and sinuses, so if my allergies are a little higher or if I even have a small cold, I can literally die. That would keep me up and also would cause me to get up early and routinely throughout the night. You never know!

          1. King Friday XIII*

            I play guided meditations to help my kid fall asleep, but half the time I doze off before she does.

      2. QueenCowan*

        This is a great summary. I speak with patient’s routinely about “sleep hygiene” before addressing anything that will introduce a chemical agent into the body’s system. Unfortunately, a number of folks with sleep issues are committed to their unproductive routines (“but I CAN’T fall asleep without the TV on!”) and expect changes to happen immediately and consider changes a failure when they don’t.

        I’d add to the list above keeping a bedside journal to help get any circling thoughts out of your head, and to have realistic expectations about timelines when making changes. Also, a sleep log will help your physician determine the best recommendation for you by getting a sense of if the problem is more with FALLING asleep or STAYING asleep.

        My husband had the reverse problem of wanting to get off of a sleeping pill he started when his Dad died unexpectedly. We planned any changes in sleep routines around long weekends and vacations so that there was not the added pressure of “I have to sleep because I HAVE to get up for work!”.

        Lastly – it is VERY unlikely that non-prescription sleep aides would cause the OP to sleep through an alarm. Even on a prescription like Ambien you still have the ability to wake to a stimulus. Unless you are on a serious dose of a sedative-hypnotic class medication, a loud alarm is going to wake you up just fine hours after you have taken something to help you sleep.

        1. Lora*

          Agree w/ all points 100% except the last. My doc gave me trazodone as a sort of “rescue” medication, if I haven’t slept in days despite all the usual sleep hygiene things, and it’s like, a small dose of 20-50 mg makes me calm but not tired, and 75 mg knocks me out completely for 14 hours. It’s a VERY safe medication in terms of becoming habit-forming or overdosing, so it’s a good solution in that sense, but my doc warned me, take it RIGHT before you go to bed because trust me, you will not be able to do anything at all once it kicks in.

          Also! If for whatever reason you must have a screen on after dark, there are two apps that you might find helpful: Twilight for Android and f.lux for PC. I don’t know if they do Mac versions, but what it does is remove blue light from the screen. Your screen will appear quite yellow/pink when it’s running, but it really does help. For years my house was too quiet in spring/summer (no furnace coming on to make background noise) and every little creak and thump kept me awake, so I would turn on a movie I had already seen for background noise and with f.lux controlling the blue light it REALLY helped.

          But yeah! See your doctor. There are a lot of treatments for sleep deprivation, including CBT someone mentioned above. I say this as someone who has had every kind of sleep disorder from earliest childhood, and I’m not a candidate for Ambien or any of the modern sleep medications because it makes all those parasomnias much worse.

          1. Karen D*

            Oh, I do love Trazodone. One of those very overlooked medications that is really beneficial. A very small dose will make me sleep like a baby.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Huh, that’s a useful data point on the “Sarah is not easily sedatable” list. I had assumed trazodone wasn’t a very strong sedative, but 100mg just makes me vaguely sleepy. At least it does *something*…at this point any other option would be serious controlled-substance level territory and I’d rather not go there yet.

        2. Karen D*

          Unfortunately, a number of folks with sleep issues are committed to their unproductive routines (“but I CAN’T fall asleep without the TV on!”) and expect changes to happen immediately and consider changes a failure when they don’t.

          Just a note from the patient’s perspective. This may all sound very easy and simple to do, but what many of them are probably hearing is “give up the very few hours you have to do the things you want to do, you stupid stupidhead.” One my doctors actually yelled at me because I told him straight-up; I have no intention of spending that precious time doing meditations or whatever the current thing is now.

          So I went to my primary, and she gave me Trazodone. Worked like a charm — first time, every time. I probably take it about once a week.

          I would also disagree about NON-prescription sleep aides and sleeping through alarms. With Traz or Ambien, I woke up just fine. But with diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in most OTC sleep aids, I sleep like a dead woman, often through alarms, and am groggy most of the next day.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes, you have to try different ones and not every one works for everybody Best to experiment on days you will not have to do something specific the next day til you find the right one.

            1. Karen D*

              VERY TRUE :)

              But grogginess/drowsiness/inability to wake up on a time is an extremely common side effect with diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl, Nytol, ZZZquil, etc.) and the other major OTC sleep aid, doxylamine succinate (Unisom), which is why I was surprised when the previous poster said ” it is VERY unlikely that non-prescription sleep aides would cause the OP to sleep through an alarm.” In my experience, and from most of the literature I’ve read about it, it is actually the opposite – they are MORE likely to make you sleep so deeply you miss an alarm, because you’re essentially sedated.

              Prescription meds like Ambien (and others in its class) along with Trazodone, on the other hand, do not have that persistent drowsy effect for most people. (My sister being the exception – Ambien made her adorably loopy for about a day.)

          2. Lora*

            Yeah….I recall a couple of back surgeons telling my then-husband he should quit his whole career because it was too hard on his back. Have had many similar experiences myself. A big part of it seems to be that the folks who go to medical school didn’t have to worry a whole lot about how they were going to pay for it, and have privilege-related blind spots as a result. Like, no I cannot just quit my job or just not have two jobs or just not do dangerous jobs that expose me to hazards or just not do (whatever). That said, gotta set expectations at a reasonable level. If doing the Thing precludes other important stuff, well, that’s that.

            1. Karen D*

              Right. I can’t just not put in the 60 hours a week it takes to do my job, or not take care of my mom … just as my brother can’t not put in the 60 hours a week it takes to do *his* job, or not take care of his adorable son and demented (but OK, still adorable) daughter.

              These days, if I get an entire hour to myself at night it’s a freaking miracle, and you better believe I’m firing up a video game, watching an interesting TV show or part of a movie. And if it gets me riled up, well, that’s what the Traz is for.

          3. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            I love this post sooooo much. Yeah, I could stand to work on my sleep hygiene. But I work a lot and I don’t WANT to go to bed early so that I can get up and do it all over again at the crack of dawn. The only thing I occasionally take is melatonin and I guess it helps, but fundamentally my insomnia issue is that I have umpteen things I would rather do than sleep at night. Now, sleeping at 7 am is another story…

            I’m fortunate that I don’t have a set time that I have to be at the office. If I had to punch a clock at 8am, I would be SO fired.

      3. Aiani*

        I just want to add onto this. Having a routine is so helpful because once your body/brain accepts the routine then going through your routine basically tells your brain, “time to sleep.”

        I would also say to find what works for you specifically because people are different. I used to get a lot of advice to read a book before bed because I guess that makes a lot of people sleepy. Books make me feel really awake though (unless it’s a terrible book) so I can’t use that advice.

        My particular routine, I start getting more and more wound down in the evening, no more video games or books after I eat dinner. One hour before my actual bed time I take care of last minute things, let my dog out for one last bathroom break, take one last trip to the restroom myself, don’t have anything else to drink at all at this point, and change into my PJ’s. Then I turn out all the lights, lay down on the couch with a blanket, and watch what I call one of my “sleepy time shows” on Netflix. This is any show that I have watched so many times that I can basically recite the episodes by heart but not comedy because laughing keeps me up. I’m so used to this routine that I usually fall asleep before the halfway mark of whatever show I’m watching. Usually the ending song wakes me a bit so I get up, turn off the TV and go to bed. Works like a charm.

        My point isn’t that you should exactly copy me because maybe this routine sounds awful to you, but find something that sounds soothing to you and make it a routine and stick to it religiously. But probably see a doctor too, just in case there is something medical going on.

        1. nonymous*

          >what I call one of my “sleepy time shows” on Netflix.

          yes! It’s law and order for me. predictable dialogue/story arc and I’m sure that I’ve seen every episode ever made (I’ve been a fan for multiple decades now). ten minutes in, I’m out. My computer will auto sleep after the episode, and TVs usually have a sleep timer function.

          1. JB*

            I’ve downloaded some episodes of documentary series that I like very much onto my ipad. This way I can listen to them but turn it over (screen down) on the nightstand so it doesn’t give off any light into the room. The narrator’s voice is soothing and since I’ve seen them a gazillion times I’m not really paying attention to what the person saying. I fall asleep quickly that way.

      4. Rebecca in Dallas*

        All good advice! The other thing I would add is that I made my bedroom a sleep-only zone. I don’t hang out in there during the day, no TV, no laptop. When I go into my bedroom, it’s because it’s bedtime. This made a *huge* difference for my sleep. I do read a book in bed, but that’s at bedtime only.

      5. Queen of Cans & Jars*

        This is excellent advice! I think it’s important to listen to cues your body might be giving you that you might be ignoring. I’ve had chronic insomnia for decades. I would start dozing off around 9, but then push myself to stay awake because, jeez, 9:00 was way too early to go to bed! Now I just go with it (although my husband makes fun of me for being such an old lady. :D), and when I wake up around 5 am, I get up and get going, as early as it is. I sleep way better now (not perfectly, but way better than I used to)!

        1. Not Yet Looking*

          That only helps if your body wants to be on an early schedule. When I listen to my body, I go to bed between 11:30p and 1:30a, and wake up between 8a and 10a. Neither is conducive to keeping a job.

          I’m also one of those folks who is barely woken up by the alarm enough to snooze it (even across the room barely helps), and sometimes sleep right through one to three of my four alarms. I once sent a screenshot to my boss of my phone showing four alarms missed… it took me a couple decades to find somewhere I was happy with, with a boss that wouldn’t fire me for running late. Now, of course, I’m even worse about being late, because I don’t get the panic jolt of adrenaline from realizing I’ve slept through my third alarm that used to come from being fired so often…

      6. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I have to say, I never thought that a sleep mask or earplugs would help me because I didn’t think that there were any specific noises or anything like that that were keeping me awake or were waking me up at night.

        But, they help me tons.

        I started with the earplugs because my SO snores a lot. But they must be blocking out other noises I didn’t know bothered me as well, because I sleep better with them even when he is not there.

        And the mask helps hugely – I got one from a little amenity kit from a plane and have been using it since then. I can fall asleep in a room with the lights completely on even without the mask, but I seem to sleep better and wake up less throughout the night with it on and I feel more refreshed when I wake up.

        I also think they help with signaling to my brain that it’s sleep time, now, for real. I never put them on unless I’m really just going to lay there and try to sleep (and I can’t really do much else with them on other than lay there and try to sleep) so it’s like the final bit of my nighttime routine.

        1. zora*

          Totally, the setting the routine thing is definitely part of it! I was having low-level headaches for a while, so I started using a lavender eye pillow on my eyes when going to bed, which really helped. And now, it’s become a physical signal that it’s time to go to sleep. I feel calmer as soon as I put it over my eyes. I definitely recommend a sleep mask or eye pillow, even if you don’t think light is the problem in your room.

      7. Elizabeth H.*

        My issue (I think) is basically entirely psychological in that I know about all of these things but I don’t do them. I have read like infinite books and articles about strategies to go to bed earlier. I don’t usually have insomnia in the sense of having gone to bed but unable to actually fall asleep, I just can’t (don’t) make myself get ready for bed and get in bed. I think it may be a bigger “how my life is structured” issue because I never had this problem before I started this job. I’ve definitely gone through phases of having a hard time getting myself to go to bed, but I wasn’t struggling with it *at all* the last time I had a full time 9-5 job (2012-2014). I did struggle with getting enough sleep in grad school but it didn’t prevent me from being able to wake up (sleeping through alarms or not being able to bring myself to get out of bed and fall back asleep) or make me late to things much less late to work every day. It’s just this job that I am pathologically staying up for and pathologically late to. I’m not saying I suspect this is the case for many people or for the OP, but I think there may be some of this behind sleep difficulties.

        1. Jenavira*

          I definitely struggle with this problem from time to time, and the recurring factor I’ve found is that when I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to do anything I actually want to do with my time, I resent going to bed, so I don’t do it, so I get progressively more exhausted, so I don’t have the energy to do anything I want to do, rinse & repeat. The only solution I’ve found is to slowly reintroduce Actually Enjoyable Activities in a way that doesn’t stress me out even further (which is, as they say, easier said than done).

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Are you me?

          I try to be in bed by 11 and get up at 6 when I’m working and keep this on the weekends. Not working has messed me up considerably. When left to my own devices, I will stay up until 12 or 1 and get up at 7 or 8. That’s not conducive to an 8-5 workday schedule, and I NEED to get back on track.

          Right now, the only day I have to get up early is Saturday since I need to be at meditation group before 9, to have time to pick a spot and get settled before we start. I think maybe I need to start doing it at that time at home, too. Get up early, coffee, eat, get everything out of the way and keep it like an appointment. I can move it to later in the day when I get a job.

        3. SRB*

          “ I know about all of these things but I don’t do them.”

          This is my life. This is why I can tell you so much about what my therapist recommends because he harps on it EVERY time, because EVERY time he is like “are you doing the things?” And I am like “……….. eeeeeeeeeehhhhhh” And then he shakes his head and is like “ok well try that AND THEN see if your sleep is still bad.”

          It’s funny how hearing all these things is “so easy” but sometimes I can be very very stubborn about implementing them.

        4. Natalie*

          A big thing with habit formation is motivation. Shame or simple intellectual knowledge that you “should” do the thing are rarely enough. Given that, what’s your motivation to change these habits? Is this actually a problem for your boss? Do you trust them to be reasonably honest with you? Could you have a conversation with them about their expectations for arrival time, and maybe formalize core hours or a flexible schedule?

          If your boss and you can come to an agreement, maybe you can just continue on with your life without worry about this. Or, what if you reframed the sleep hygiene stuff to focus on the quality of sleep you were getting, rather than trying to change your actual bed time?

          For actual habit development, there are lots of different techniques. Maybe gradual additions work best for you, so you pick one habit (say, no screens 1 hour before bed) and practice it until it is routine before you add a second habit. Maybe you could commit to 1 week of ALL THE SLEEP THINGS, as long as you give yourself permission to go back to normal after the week. Maybe it works best for you to replace one action with another action that’s better for sleep hygiene. Think a bit about how you have developed habits in the past and see if there are any patterns you can apply.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            I’ve thought about this too! :) My manager is extremely understanding and it is clearly not a dealbreaking issue because I have been doing this for months and remain in my job. (I am salaried and I almost always stay at least as late as I was in the morning; I am pretty sure I end up working slightly more hours than our standard schedule workweek ). She and I have discussed it several times, including in my performance review; I am always the one who brings it up. I haven’t pushed the possibility of having a formalized flexible schedule, but if I stay in this job significantly longer it’s something I will think about more seriously. The issue is actually temporarily mitigated because I’m on a working group that meets at a different company site and I don’t have a problem getting to this site more or less time (5-10 minutes late but I’m ok with that) every day which also suggests to me that it’s more about my job. The rest of my office runs on a 9-5 schedule pretty concretely and in terms of me and the rest of my life I would really prefer to make it work with the 9-5 at least while I’m in a role with this type of structure, but it’s worth looking at.

            I actually really love your suggestion of looking at sleep hygiene from the perspective of improving sleep quality without worrying (for the time being) about improving bedtime – that is a cool idea to take some of the pressure/guilt/self-resentment out of it.

            I think a lot about habits and have tried to think through every step of this and tried to figure out what my sticking points were and how I can reframe or work around or restructure my life to suit new habits. I did a week where I quit recreational internet and that helped a lot so that’s a great jumping off place for experimentation. I also like the idea of the “extreme week” (not sure if you read Gretchen Rubin but your suggestions are very similar to hers!)

      8. Science!*

        Regarding #3: in addition to being consistent with what time you go to bed, being consistent with waking up helps too. It’s really hard to maintain a good wake up time during the week if you then sleep in on the weekends. That was my biggest problem when I had trouble sleeping; I would be fine with having a sleep routine, but on weekends I always slept in until 9-10 am. Then I got a dog! Then kids! Now I have trouble sleeping past 8am at all and am usually up by 7:30am most weekends (awake by 6:30 but at least on weekends, even if I don’t sleep in I take a bit more time getting up and about).

    5. I Love Thrawn*

      This is me too, but in my case it’s because of the cats wanting to get fed around 3 am. I can’t free feed because it’s wet food so hard to leave out, and also the vet wants one of them to lose weight, so have to ration portions. Then I’m awake for awhile, finally fall back into deep sleep, and do not want to get up. Life with cats!!

      1. J.*

        I have a timed feeder that has a little compartment underneath for ice packs to keep wet food fresh. It’s not something I’d want to leave out for multiple days, but if you set it to 3am (or 2:45 before they start yowling) and put the food and ice packs in before you go to bed, it should be ok. Then you can put the reusable ice packs back in the freezer when you get up so they’re cold for the evening. It’s been a wonder. (Link is in the website in my profile, if you’re interested.)

        1. Hibiscus*

          I also have an early morning hunger cat, but the key is to have the wet food can out and ready to go, and never turn on the lights.

    6. TootsNYC*

      A weighted blanket might help too. The video for the Gravity Blanket shows people sleeping more soundly. (I’ve been looking into the idea bcs these blankets are used to help kids with anxiety and autism.)

      But I agree you should start with a doctor or a sleep clinic. Make sure you’re not fighting a medical issue.

      1. JulieBulie*

        I have a weighted blanket, and I LOVE IT. For lots of reasons.

        One of those reasons: when I’m feeling twitchy (something like Restless Legs but not exactly the same), a weighted blanket is a big help. It’s also helpful when I’m just generally restless. It discourages tossing and turning.

        It’s also warm, so not great in the summer.

    7. Natalie*

      For what it’s worth, it’s entirely possible you don’t have insomnia. There are people who simply have a later circadian rhythm – it’s called delayed sleep phase. You should certainly check in with a sleep doctor if you feel concerned, but if you don’t have any trouble falling asleep and staying asleep except what time that happens, delayed sleep phase is a likely culprit.

      From what I have read, various interventions that have been tried to change this don’t show much of an effect. That said, I believe melatonin works by actually triggering your brain’s normal sleepiness cycle so that could be worth a try.

      1. many bells down*

        We have a theory that my daughter’s natural body clock is somehow set to a 26-hour day. She’ll get her sleep schedule all sorted out, but then each night it takes her a little longer to fall asleep and a little longer to get up, and within a couple of weeks she’s up until 3am and sleeping until the afternoon. She has to “reset” herself every so often by staying up all night so she can fall asleep at 9pm or so the NEXT night.

        We’re all hoping she outgrows it.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          That’s probably literally exactly what is going on. Everyone’s sleep clock is slightly different lengths and she probably won’t outgrow it. If you are interested in this I can’t recommend enough the fantastic book “Internal Time” by Till Roenneberg. It covers this in great detail and explains the effects of having a shorter than 24 hours vs longer than 24 hours internal clock. Wondering if *scheduling* a stay up all night reset would work for more people . . .

        2. Someone else*

          There are a number of studies that suggest most humans’ natural circadian rhythms are closer to a 25.5 hr day in general.

      2. VermiciousKnit*

        +1 I struggle with mornings in the same way, but I do not have “insomnia” in that I can’t sleep. I sleep great if left to my own devices – it’s just that my body wants to do so between 1 am and 9 am. My biggest burst of natural energy starts around 7 pm in the evening and lasts until 11 or so, so it’s horrible if I try to go to bed before midnight.

        This is a bonus for me where my hobby-second-job is structured so I rarely get home for the last time before 9 or 10 pm, but horrible for compliance to the demands of morning people who see night owl late phase sleepers as “lazy” or “bad.”

        Your circadian rhythm doesn’t make you bad, people.

        1. with a twist*

          YES!!! I just naturally tend towards a late bedtime, late rise schedule. I sleep just fine otherwise, and I’ve found enough coping mechanisms to allow me to function in an early-bird world. However, if I abandon all of that and let my body rule itself, my sleep cycle would only take about 2 days to reset to a 2am-10am sleep pattern.

          I cannot tell you how many issues this caused in previous relationships where my partner was an early riser and truly thought I was lazy, not to mention how my parents felt about it when I was a teenager. And then I internalized that laziness label and spent years feeling awful about it. Except I’m not lazy at all, my body just operates on a different schedule. Once I accepted that (maybe only a year ago), I felt so much better about myself!

      3. Another Academic Librarian*

        I have delayed sleep phase syndrome, and there are absolutely treatments for it. For example, a usual treatment plan would be something like good sleep hygiene and a strict routine, combined with chronotherapy (adjusting the time you go to sleep forward, not backwards), melatonin or a prescription melatonin agonist at night, and using a light box in the morning.

    8. Kate*

      I struggled with insomnia for years (think only 2 or 3 hours a night for months). After a big upheaval in my life I finally talked openly about it with a doctor and a therapist. I started taking a medication for low level anxiety and I couldn’t believe how quickly my insomnia evaporated. My sleeping immediately improved despite going through a really tough time in my life. My brain felt different when I laid down in bed. Sleeping pills never worked.

      1. zora*

        +1: Me Too.
        Anti-anxiety meds have helped my sleep issues immensely. And my doctor recommends Benadryl if I’m ever having a hard time sleeping. It’s a once in a while thing when I’m stressed out, and it gets me back on track.

    9. Nanani*

      Do you have a pet? Would getting one be feasible?
      I wake up in the morning for cat-stomping-on-my-bladder and actually stay awake because unlike alarms, cats don’t have snooze buttons.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Our first cat associated the radio going off with people getting out of bed to feed him, and so he would paw at the dial.

        Our current kitten is as likely to be a) pinning you down by the knees so you can’t get up b) tackling your feet because they looked at her funny.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My dog learned to associate me putting my glasses on (they were old and semi-broken, so this made a sound) with getting fed. She would ignore me if I got up and didn’t put them on, because that meant I just needed to pee, but let that earpiece click and she was UP.

      2. EddieSherbert*

        …and on the other hand, my pets (a cat AND a dog!) are actually enablers. They hear the alarm and think it’s a sign to hop into bed with me to snuggle and sleep more.

        (I was totally preparing myself for early mornings when I got the dog. I was like, “I’m going to have to change my habits and take walks early and all that”… nope. Laziest puppy I’ve ever met. Hahaha)

        1. LBK*

          Almost like clockwork, my cat will hop up on the bed and immediately pass out on my legs just as I’m finally ready to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t know how she knows!

      3. the_scientist*

        One of our foster cats is waking me up at 5:30 every morning by chewing on my hair, so I support exploring this further. The other one will happily snuggle all day, so it really depends on the pet!

    10. Green*

      Let’s not discourage the person from trying to find the right combination of medications for, because there are lots of medications for anxiety and various sleep aids for a whole host of sleep-related problems.

    11. Chicken*

      There are actually a variety of medications that can help with the type of anxiety that leads to insomnia, both daily maintenance meds (ex SSRIs) and “if needed” type meds to help fall asleep (ex gabapentin, benzos, etc). Of course I don’t know that they’re the right choice for the OP, but since insomnia/anxiety is interfereing with OP’s life and ability to keep a job, OP should definitely discuss the issue with a doctor.

    12. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      Pretty much my whole life I’ve had trouble falling asleep earlier to get up early.
      Come to find out that basically I had a sleep phase disorder. Tried several treatments with a sleep doc (and confirmed no apnea!) and then talked to my boss. My schedule got shifted one hour later and it’s made alllllll the difference for me.

  3. Viki*

    Re: the last one, try melatonin on a Friday night to Saturday morning. And then the Saturday to Sunday. If you sleep through both of your alarms than the sleeping pills are not for you. But if you don’t, perhaps this is something you can think of.

    I’d also recommend screen time of any type (phone, tv, etc) to end at least an hour before you go to bed and don’t keep those electronics in your room. The blue light can harm sleep. Other than that see a doctor about the nightmares/anxiety or just general sleep habits if you can.

    1. JD*

      YES YES YES. I so recommend placing your phone in another room or at least face down, vibrate off. If you wake up, DO NOT LOOK AT IT. I recommend an eye mask to sleep. EVERY SINGLE person I have recommended this to has thanked me daily. The first time I slept with one changed my life, truly. White noise, no light. The one thing that can work for me when it gets bad, for those who are used to a tv on, is something I have seen a million times. Friends is my go to as I could recite every episode. If there is something on that I am interested in I cannot fall asleep. On those nights I really need some distraction of TV I put on an episode of Friends with a 30 min timer. Usually works.

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        In the same vein, I have an audiobook as my “go to”. It’s one I know inside and out, so my brain doesn’t try to stay awake to follow it, but it gives my brain something to focus on so it can unwind and relax and not listen to every little noise or replay and worry about stuff that happened during the day.

        1. Queen of the File*

          Second this. If what keeps you up at night are your own un-shut-uppable thoughts, an audiobook playing can really help. It totally quiets my inner monologue.

        2. Karen K*

          Me, too. In my case, I repeatedly cycle through the Harry Potter series. The complete familiarity with the story plus Jim Dale’s awesome voice have cured me of not being able to go to sleep initially, plus the waking up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. Every time I get up to go to the bathroom, I reset it back to approximately when I fell asleep last. My husband gives me crap about having the phone in bed (I tuck it under my pillow), but I don’t care. I’ve always had problems falling asleep, and then staying asleep. Now, if I could only go to bed a bit earlier at night, I’d probably be set!

          1. ballpitwitch*

            Hilarious to find someone else who does this – although I listen to the UK version! Literally puts me to sleep within 10 minutes – I’ve listened to them so many times it ‘s like a lullaby.

        3. MaureenS*

          Same here with the audiobooks. Otherwise I get stuck in an anxious cycle of listing to-do’s, why they aren’t done, etc. The audiobook gives my brain a focus so it can stop thinking. I’m usually asleep in 5-10 minutes – or at least asleep enough that I don’t remember the next part of the book the next day! If I do wake up in the night, I sometimes reset it to where I think I fell asleep. Other times I just let the story continue.

          Jim Dale’s Harry Potter series is excellent audio. Relaxing, well voiced, and a familiar story for most people.

          Audio books (on quietly) are also great for coping with migraines for me. I need a dark room, no light sources, and the book gives me something to focus on other than the pain.

        4. SarahKay*

          I like the multiplication tables for this. It’s rhythmic and uses just enough of my brain to stop it worrying, but not so much that I can’t fall asleep. At some point I will find myself thinking ‘four fours are sixteen, five fours are tiger, six tigers are book’ or other almost asleep nonsense and I’m just awake enough to know (and be pleased) that I’m falling asleep.
          Plus, added bonus – my mental arithmetic has improved significantly.

          1. JessaB*

            OMG I couldn’t do this because I don’t know my times tables (I had to cram memorise for tests at school, I have a processing disorder,) but I love five fours are tiger and six tigers are book. I could remember that if only maths were so much fun.

            Don’t get me wrong I love maths, it’s arithmetic without a calculator that kills me.

        5. Turtle Candle*

          For people who like the idea of audiobooks or podcasts to fall asleep to but who don’t want a phone or tablet in their room, you can get single-purpose mp3 players pretty darn cheap these days.

          1. JessaB*

            Heck Mr B still has an old cd player that can play cds with MP3s on them. We bought an extra because when it inevitably dies, we’ll not be able to replace it but it’s wonderful because he can make his own cds up and go from there. Also they play in my car (my car is just old enough not to have an audio in jack and those bluetooth to the car radio speakers things are still so iffy.)

      2. Your Weird Uncle*

        I listen to a podcast called Sleep With Me. It’s fantastic, and I just set it on the feed so it plays all night (I usually have no problem falling asleep these days, but I wake up in the middle of the night and stay up for at least an hour). It’s pretty soothing and gentle, and interesting enough that if I’m awake with nothing else to do it keeps my mind from wandering to things like my job, but boring enough that I don’t feel like I need to stay awake or I’ll miss something. It’s fantastic, and both my husband and I get a kick out of the various topics he covers. Can’t recommend it enough.

      3. LBK*

        Ha – I am exactly the same, I pretty much can’t fall asleep unless Friends is playing. I’ve actually started playing it on Netflix on my phone with the screen turned off, just listening to the audio when I go to bed so that the TV light doesn’t disturb me.

      4. As Close As Breakfast*

        I second the sleep mask! I’ve used one for years. I started using one because it seemed like my eyelids would sort of not stay closed and my eyes would be really dry. The eye mask keeps my eyes closed and totally blocks out all of the light. I am so used to it now I almost can’t sleep without one! I forgot my mask one time when I was went out of town and that first night (before I could run to the store and pick up another one) trying to fall asleep without it was hell. And it has become like a sleep trigger. As soon as I lay down and slip it on, it’s like a switch is flipped and my brain goes “mask on… time to sleep.”

        1. JD*

          My SO was in the hospital for about a month earlier this year. Trying time. The ONLY thing he asked me to bring was his sleep mask. I had given him one after I was converted and he now loves it too! I agree it really is this mental “mask on sleep time” switch. I never could recommend to at least try it enough.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Most of them press on my eyelashes and annoy me, but I found one at Target that has molded cups over the eyes (it’s soft material) and is very comfy. I don’t need to use it at home, but it’s come in very handy when staying with family who don’t have dark curtains and also on planes.

          1. JD*

            I have this exact one from Target and the domed cups are the way to go. Otherwise, like you said they press on your eyelashes.

    2. Fiennes*

      After the tenth year of insomnia, I began using Benadryl every night. I mean, every single night. It’s changed my life for the better. (And yes, my doctors are aware; it’s not harmful.) Sleep meds aren’t for everyone, but for those of us with enduring sleep problems (with anxiety on top, yay!) they can be a godsend. Don’t be afraid to check some stuff out on your weekends.

      1. L.*

        I travel internationally a lot for work, and Benadryl is absolutely the best, least harmful sleep aid that works immediately (unlike melatonin, which sometimes doesn’t kick in) and doesn’t leave you with a major hangover. I’m not taking it every night, but there are periods of the year where I heavily rely on it.

      2. Someone else*

        I can’t tell if you mean you’re using Benadryl because it makes you drowsy so it’s effectively a sleeping pill for you or if you mean that part of your sleep issues were really allergies (related to bedding?) and thus the Benadryl fixed the issue based on its normal usage?

    3. Bookworm*

      And be mindful of the dosage! When you hear of people taking melatonin and sleeping through alarms, a larger dose than necessary can sometimes be at fault. Get one with a small dosage and maybe even consider cutting that in half to start.

      1. ..Kat..*

        And take the melatonin 8 hours before you need to get up (as opposed to right before you go to bed). Assuming that you are already home at this time.

      2. Natalie*

        I’m not sure that’s true. Melatonin isn’t a “sleeping pill”, it’s a hormone that triggers your brain’s normal sleepiness cycle. I can’t see how taking too much would make you sleep through an alarm.

        1. Browser*

          It won’t. Melatonin only helps you fall asleep, and taking too much will have you waking frequently through the night. It doesn’t keep you asleep at all.

          1. Natalie*

            Ah, that plus the high dosage of most pills explains why I didn’t like it the only time I took it. I woke up a bunch and didn’t feel like I’d rested well at all.

            1. Artemesia*

              Melatonin helps me but the research I have read suggests that a very small dose is actually more effective and leave you more rested.

              I also use ambien but very sparingly. I use it the first couple of nights after an overnight flight to reset my cycle. And if I absolutely have to get a good night’s sleep and go do something the next day, I will use a small dose to get to sleep. I haven’t had any of the negative side effects but I don’t want to get reliant on it. Just knowing I have it if I need it also makes it easier for me to relax and get to sleep. Benadryl makes me anxious and crazy and unable to sleep at all; if I take one I will be jittery and sleep in very short bits if at all and end up exhausted the next day.

        2. Maureen*

          When I first tried Melatonin, I got the first container of pills I saw on the pharmacy shelf, which was, I believe, a 10mg dosage. I was a ZOMBIE the next day! When I tried it again, I got the liquid formulation, so I could experiment with different dosages. 1mg worked for a while, but now I’m up to 2ml. I don’t know about anyone else, but it *definitely* affected my sleepiness for more than 8 hours. Maybe I was so melatonin deprived that the melatonin dose locked into my brain and wouldn’t let go? I don’t know. I just know that what works best for me is just enough to induce me to fall asleep, but not so much that it will make me sleepy the next day.

          1. Natalie*

            It sounds like taking too much can have you waking up a lot during the night, which would cause daytime sleepiness. It can also happen from taking it at the wrong time, since it triggers the sleep/wake cycle. But I think that’s different from sedating you so much that you don’t hear an alarm clock.

      3. JD*

        For sure limited dosage. You can always take more. I take 2.5 (half of my 5mg) and then if I really need take the other half.

    4. Star*

      I find that melatonin helps me feel MORE wide-awake the next day (because I’ve gotten better-quality sleep?). I only take 2.5 mg (half of a 5 mg) someone below mentioned taking as low a dose as you can, which I agree with!

      Also: earplugs! They somehow help me fall asleep even if there’s NO ambient noise around me. I still wake up to my (loud) alarm.

      And socks! This sounds dumb but I didn’t realize until my 20s that I have trouble falling asleep if my feet are cold.

      1. Story Nurse*

        Temperature control is crucial for sleep. One of my partners sleeps with a/c on ten months of the year and the window open during the coldest part of winter. If it’s not icy cold in his room, he can’t sleep. I need to be warm to fall asleep and cool to wake up, so I turn the thermostat down just before I go to bed. Other people are the opposite. Definitely a thing to play around with when determining your optimal sleep environment.

        1. Artemesia*

          This would be us too. We always keep the bedroom cold and in our northern winters we still have the window open a little at night. I use one of those microwave bedwarmer things or you can just put beans in a sock and microwave it; having this warm warm thing to take the edge off in a cold room is perfect.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I second Star’s earplugs! I’ve been using them for the last two years and it’s made a difference to my sleep quality, particularly as I live in the city and am surrounded by neighbours who don’t seem to know the meaning of the word silence.

        I was concerned about sleeping through my alarm but I found that stuffing it beneath my pillow works a treat.

        1. JD*

          I love ear plugs however I have somewhat sensitive ears so days on end my ears end up hurting, like I am getting an infection. My upstairs neighbors stay up until about 3 a.m. and wake at 6. I truly am curious how they do it.

          1. Natalie*

            I wouldn’t call them ear plugs exactly, but there are ear covering things that are like a sweatband type thing around your head. That might be worth checking out if you haven’t already.

        2. Artemesia*

          Before we moved to the city and are near a major road which produces lovely white noise, I used a white noise machine with either rain or waterfall settings. That worked well in environments with variable noise. Earplugs which I do use traveling, tend to be uncomfortable if I wear them every day.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think earplugs can work like white noise machines – you hear the rushing noises of your own circulation (as well as helping to reduce external noise!)

      4. Bonky*

        I third the earplugs! I’m in my forties now, but started using them when I was about 20 and living on a busy street that had trucks going by every morning from about 4am. I also wear an eyemask, and electronics are banned from the bedroom. You can still hear an alarm through earplugs (I use the little wax ones by Quies) – and I can also hear my baby through them if she needs me – but they do stop the annoying little ambient noises that can sound so loud at night beautifully. And my husband’s snoring.

      5. Blue*

        I am chronically sleep-deprived, as well, and have a number of sleeping issues, but temperature is consistently the single most critical factor in determining the quality of my sleep. I find socks are the simplest mechanism for regulating temperature, so even though many people think it’s weird, I always (always!) sleep with socks on. Small things can make a big difference.

        1. blackcat*

          I have a variety of nighttime socks, ranging from fluffy and warm to thin and light.

          I often wake up without them, but I absolutely can’t fall asleep with bare feet unless it’s 80+ in the house.

        2. SarahKay*

          OP5, I’d definitely second (third? tenth?) the idea of experimenting with what temperature works better for you to sleep well.
          I have a hot water bottle, and use it most nights of the year, unless it’s warm enough that I’m discarding the summer duvet and just sleeping under a single sheet (which, in the UK, is not very common). I get cold feet, even when the rest of me is toasty warm.
          I also need a cold bedroom – I’ll sleep far better snuggled under a warm duvet in a cold room than with a thinner duvet in a warm room. I’m the one with the window open even in the middle of winter, and I last had the heating on in my bedroom about two years ago.
          My sister, however, needs a warm room and a warm duvet to get a good night’s sleep – she sleeps with the window shut even in a heat wave! We no longer share a room when visiting our parents.

        3. Maureen*

          I’m just the opposite! I like the room cool enough that I want a down comforter so my body is warm, but my feet need to stick out so they’re cool enough. Hot feet = no sleep. :-)

      6. RabbitRabbit*

        I think you can find as low as 1 mg tablets. I highly recommend starting at that level and titrating up slowly, if needed.

      7. Adlib*

        Seconding the socks! If my feet are extremely cold, I put on socks and I’m out like a light.

        I also like it to be cold in the room so I can cover up and get warm. I’ve read so many good suggestions here though, OP. I hope you find something that works for you soon!

    5. Justme*

      OP#5, be mindful that melatonin can have some awful side effects. I can’t take it because it gives me vivid, realistic nightmares. I think it’s worth a shot for you but be careful.

        1. Justme*

          So glad it’s not just me! But nightmares that I woke from sobbing is not a good thing. And since OP #5 talked about having nightmares already, it may not be a good idea to take something where a known side effect is nightmares.

          1. zora*

            Not just you, it’s totally a thing, a certain percentage of us have the same reaction to Melatonin.

            I second the suggestions above to start trying some sleep aids on the weekends first, to make sure you don’t have weird side effects, before risking them on a work morning.

      1. Nan*

        Yup. It can cause weird dreams, and does for me. Not nightmares, but trippy Alice In Wonderland type stuff. That does not make for a good snooze.

      2. Cheesecake 2.0*

        This was happening to me and I did some research and found out I was taking too much. I take 0.75 mg now (half a 1.5mg gummy) and don’t have those weird nightmares anymore.

      3. Girasol*

        Everyone is different. When I first tried melatonin it did nothing at all. Several years later I found I had changed and responded well to it. It gives me wonderful technicolor dreams that I wake from feeling cheerful and energetic. On the other hand Benedryl leaves me dozy all night and day. OP, can you try melatonin or Benadryl or whatever sleep aid sounds promising to you on a Friday night and see what Saturday brings, so you don’t have to worry about being groggy on a work day? It may take some experimentation to find what’s best for you.

    6. W. S. Gilbert*

      Melatonin has been very helpful for me, although I agree with Alison that the best approach to your situation is to speak with your doctor.

      A note of warning: the dosages of melatonin in most drug stores are generally way too high. A summary of the study explaining this is linked in my sig. The optimal dose is about 0.3 milligrams, which is about one tenth of the dosage you usually find in drug stores. I have found the 0.3 milligram doses on amazon.

      Using high doses may be initially effective, but it can have bad side effects, and will burn out your receptors so that eventually it becomes ineffective.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Seconding that the blue light from screens (TV, phone) is specifically a wake-up signal. It will counter anything you are doing to tell your body to go to sleep.

      With melatonin–one reason it’s a good jet lag drug is that it’s not an every night drug. Used every night, your body will get used to it. Used for the occasional sleeping issue, it gives you a “the light has gone away time to sleep” signal. It is not going to keep you unconscious the way that powerful prescription pills can–another reason melatonin is popular is that the effects ware off quickly. (So your nightmares might undo it.)

      1. Nanani*

        I use blue-light-removing apps on all my devices, with timers automatically synched to start removing blue light at sunset and put it back in at sunrise.

        I started doing it mainly for eye strain reasons but if you can’t entirely cut out screen time close to bedtime (like, you really do need to work late, can only skype with loved one late in the evening, whatever) a filter will probably help.

      2. Natalie*

        For what it’s worth, I did a brief bit of research and I can’t find any solid evidence that melatonin loses its effectiveness if you take it every day. The research is limited but seems to support daily use being fine. So this may be a myth.

    8. Ihmmy*

      I’ve also had good success with valerian when my insomnia kicks up – makes me drowsy for about two hours but wears off well before it’s actual wakeup time for me. I dislike prescribed sleeping pills because you usually need at least 8 hours for it to finish its effects and if my insomnia is flaring, I’m not getting 8 hours no matter what I do.

      I also have a hard time waking up in the winter in particular. The darkness makes it difficult to get up (I live fairly far north). I have a lamp set up with a timer to go off about five minutes before I want to get up so that I wake up in light.

      Others have talked about temperature and given the cold wintery north world I’m in, I have a programmable thermostat that kicks in shortly before I want to get up as well. My room is upstairs so it gets much too warm in the morning to stay in – the perfect prompt to finally roll out and go find some coffee.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, I actually sleep pretty well but my brain is super tied to daylight, so in the winter I have a hard time getting up before 8 am. In addition to the wake up light and the thermostat, we also have a programmable coffee maker set for my wake up time. This year we just added some of those Hue lights (husband bought himself a present) and those are programmed to turn on in our living room, etc at my wake up time, too, which is a very nice addition.

    9. a-no*

      Melatonin is a good one to try! I used to have extremely bad insomnia mixed with night terrors so I took a really low dosage and it helped me fall asleep fairly easily. The only issue I ran into was that I would still get night terrors but I couldn’t wake up from them so I was waking up more exhausted than when I went to sleep but there were no issues waking up as it only keeps you asleep about 4-5 hours tops.
      ZZZquill (it’s the Nyquill sleeping pills you can get at the pharmacy without a prescription) is another one that helps, I find if I take 1 pill I wake up no problem feeling rested, 2 pills (like it recommends on the box) and it’s the middle of the afternoon before I even know what planet I am on so I’d highly recommend experimenting with dosage on a weekend you don’t have much planned, as I discovered that on a Tuesday (thankfully my boss thought it was hilarious and didn’t let me live that one down).
      Personally, my issues were caused by trauma and anxiety so seeing a therapist was the only thing that fixed my sleeping issues.

      1. Chameleon*

        Be careful with Zzzquil. I believe it contains acetaminophen, which is the same stuff as Tylenol, and it can be severely toxic if you take too much.

    10. OldPowerlifter*

      Melatonin helps me as well. For me, though, the game changer was regular exercise. I gave up the cardio and opted for the weight room. Three years in, I have a coach, he does his job well and I go home exhaust, and sleep like a baby. I generally wake up just before my alarm goes off. I am actually writing this as I made to the downtown meeting this morning about 30 minutes early so I have some time to myself. I wish they’d made coffee though…

    11. Seespotbitejane*

      I also have apps installed on both my phone and my laptop that limit blue light and adjust the brightness of the screen to mimic what the sun is doing throughout the day. It makes everything much more red/yellow so if I’m messing around with photos I turn it off briefly but now I find that looking at my screen without it actively hurts my eyes.

      Also re: electronics with pointless constantly glowing leds, if you can’t move those or turn them completely off for whatever reason just put a few layers of painter’s tape over the glow.

    12. Rocky*

      One thing I haven’t seen mentioned: acupuncture. When I was in grad school I had bad insomnia that I can only assume was stress related. I didn’t want to take anything, and I had tried all the usual tips regarding sleep hygiene etc. Not for everyone, and I was super skeptical going in, but I was desperate, and there was a noticeable improvement.

  4. kas*

    1. “Hey, was there any change left after you purchased my lunch?” I would be specific in case she thinks it’s ok to use the change for her own lunch.

    2. That’s ridiculous. I’m always cold in my office and heaters are frowned upon but people still bring them in. However, if they denied my request but allowed the receptionist (who sits very close to the door) to have one, I would not complain or ask for an exception to be made for me as well. I’d bring it up again like Alison mentioned, an exception should definitely be made for you.

    1. I got a heater*


      I was in your exact position with the space heater. I also greeted clients by the front door. I layered just on the verge of looking ridiculous, but on the right side of being professional. Because I’m a woman, my HR wasn’t going to comment on my clothing (long sleeve shirt, camisole, cardigan, skirt, leggings, boots, and headscarf), but seeing me without my usual outfits prompted the guy in charge to ask why there was a change . I said “this is the only way I can stay warm” and he promptly provided a space heater. If anyone asks me about mine, I explain I’m a special circumstance and mine was approved from the top.
      My advice is to even branch into the ridiculous a bit. Fingerless gloves, 2 scarves, etc. if they comment on it “well when you said I couldn’t use the space heater, I had to do something! I could hardly move my fingers!/I had a runny nose greeting clients/I’m shaking so hard people are asking if I need medical attention.”

      You need a space heater! All is fair in the winter months.

      1. johanna*

        I love this answer!! I have the same problem every year,everybody tells me how cold it is at the reception even my boss but he won’t do anything. I’ll do what you did!

    2. Runner*

      No. 1 — Of course there’s change! OP is giving her a $20 bill for a coffee. I think the OP shouldn’t ask if there was change but say, Where’s the $16? Or stop.

    3. finderskeepers*

      LW1 , assuming every day for three weeks, thats $4 per day of “change”. If you don’t want to place a pickup order with your credit card over the phone , perhaps just give exact “change” rounded up to nearest dollar? For these reason, I always keep a $10, a $5, and 4 $1 on me if I expect to need cash.

      1. Letter writer #1*

        Definitely could have been clearer on the numbers: she is either bringing me a $6 value meal or a $10 salad from one of the restaurants on the ground floor of the building. So it’s been at least $9 each time, not a handful of change.

        When I’m busy enough for this to happen, she began offering this favor by sending me an email and then walking by to pick up cash from me. Now that it’s more of a thing she does, she will just gesture and I’ll hand her cash. I’m sitting at my desk, usually on video conferences, the entire time. Since we don’t ever have actual conversations about it, there’s no natural time to mention the change.

        If I’m slammed like this without anyone offering me food, I usually don’t have a moment to order food through an app until sometime in the evening. I really do appreciate the midday meal when she offers, but maybe I will have to start refusing if I’m not willing to pay her to do it.

        1. irritable vowel*

          You mentioned that sometimes when she brings you lunch it sits on your desk for a couple of hours because you’re so busy – do you mean by this that it’s unattended? And if so, is it possible that she’s also leaving the change but someone else is taking it? (Did, for example, someone new start around the time that the lunch change stopped getting to you?)

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          One idea, it sounds like you know about how much lunch always costs so you could just give her a $10 or closer to exact change instead of giving her a $20 every single time?

          Also, I disagree that there’s no natural way to mention the change even though you are on video conference. It sounds like she has emailed you “Hey, do you want me to pick up lunch?” So clearly even though this is a casual conversation, you have had it over email in the past. Can’t you email her later in the afternoon, “thanks for lunch! by the way could I get the change from my $20?” I think it’s probably better to do this now when it’s plausible that either of you could have been forgetting about it rather than after it goes on for more weeks and gets even more uncomfortable.

        3. zora*

          You can start the ‘casual conversation’ any time. I get that it feels awkward to bring it up, but practice in the mirror a few times.

          The next time you are off the phone (after she brings your lunch), or you walk past her or whatever, say “Thanks for lunch! Oh, and can I get the change back?” If you act like it’s casual, it will come across as casual. Just a “Oh right, i forgot” tone, which is giving her the benefit of the doubt that she just forgot, too.

          I really hope you try this before you give up on lunches entirely!! Eating is important and I hate to think of you missing lunches because of this!

        4. nonymous*

          why don’t you just plan for ordering lunch on the app daily? Like you could order at 7 or 8A (when you’re onboarding for the day) for a noon delivery and then if you’re not slammed, use the extra time to take a walk or return personal calls or something pleasant?

          Or if daylight hours are just that crazy, just pack a lunch the night before. I’ve been known to order dinner with the anticipation of having leftovers for work the next day – it doesn’t have to be homemade or fancy. Keeping a couple charcuterie trays on hand (my grocery store and Amazon Fresh have prepackaged ones) with some apples is a low-effort healthy nosh meal.

  5. LadyL*

    OP#5, are you me? Because I absolutely struggle with the exact same thing in the exact same way.

    FWIW, part of my problem is that I had ADHD (not discovered until I was an adult), and large parts of my inability to get to bed on time, or anyplace else on time, is directly related to my ADHD. And I never would have believed I had it until I got more educated on it, because I do not present the same kinds of symptoms that one stereotypically associates with ADHD (I can sit still pretty well, I got good grades, I can focus very well on certain kinds of tasks). ADHD often presents differently in women than in men, and once I realized that and learned more about that I realized that I had it (confirmed by medical professional, of course).

    So my biggest suggestion to you is to look up some info on adult ADHD, because if you think you might have it, that would explain why your other strategies aren’t working (they’re not addressing the underlying issue). I absolutely don’t want to armchair diagnose, I just thought I’d throw that out there just because your situation sounds so similar to mine, and understanding that I had ADHD was a huge part of how I got more successful at managing my lateness/inability to sleep at appropriate times.

    Honestly even if you know for sure you don’t have ADHD it might still be worth it to talk to a doctor about your trouble sleeping, just in case there is any other medical reasons.

    1. LadyL*

      Whoops, somehow I missed that Allison already said see a doctor.

      Also, I do have specific tips of things I do that significantly improved my ability to be on time and go to bed on time, but Allison said she didn’t think people should be giving you random suggestions, so I didn’t include them. But if there’s anyone out there who would like some let me know and I care share.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, go ahead and offer them if you want! I just meant that I think this is serious enough that the OP is past the point where she should casually experiment with things that may or may not work and get herself to the doctor quickly. But there’s value in having additional suggestions, as long as she’s moving with real urgency. (And I’ll edit my answer to make that clearer.)

        1. Sherm*

          I’ve recently started working again on confronting my anxieties (using tips I learned when I was seeing a therapist) , and I already see a positive impact on my sleep. Anxiety can be a real sleep-killer.

      2. Miles*

        The ADHD advice is still good, as less than 1 in 15 doctors have received any training regarding ADHD (at least in the US) If OP doesn’t get super lucky on that dice roll and does have ADHD the doctor won’t know how to recognize the symptoms and is pretty likely to just assume that OP doesn’t actually have it because their symptoms are different than the set you’d expect to see in a preteen boy.

        1. Miles*

          My point being, #5, make sure to look up a list of the symptoms like LadyL is saying, and go through to see if you meet the criteria for diagnosis, and see if you can find a doctor who does work with people with ADHD if you do to confirm if you think you have it.

          1. Jesca*

            A psychiatrist is also always recommend to make mental health diagnoses. There are plenty trained to recognize adult ADHD. Then, there are also mental health professionals (private or group) that can teach strategies on how to handle it.

      3. Anon for Privacy*

        OP#5, I had to comment here because you sound very very like me. I have struggled with being on time, especially to the first thing in my day, for my entire life. In my case, my issues are caused by a constellation of interrelated stuff:
        1) I have Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, so I don’t get tired until late
        2) I have sleep apnea, so my sleep wasn’t restful until that was treated
        3) I have (very recently diagnosed) ADHD, which impacts both “getting up and getting out the door” and “going to bed on time” and complicates all of it.

        This is an ongoing process of gradually whittling away at one root cause after another that is still ongoing, but I will share what has worked for me – I have gone from 30-60 minutes late every day to an average of 15 minutes late, and am still working on bringing the number down. I sincerely hope this can help you.
        1) Sought medical help from specialists and treated things that are treatable. For me this meant both a sleep specialist and a specialist for the ADHD. I am currently using a CPAP machine for the apnea and taking medication for the ADHD, which has helped me go from “this is impossible no matter what I try” to “I’m improving and feel confident I’ll get where I need to be eventually.”
        2) Sat down and really looked at what was happening to make me late. This included writing down every day what time I left and what time I arrived to get an accurate idea of my commute (longer than I thought, naturally).
        3) Dealing with the nighttime: This is hard for me because I’ve always been a night owl and like having the time to myself, plus the undiagnosed ADHD meant I tended to hyperfocus on doing something and stay up way too late doing it. I do use melatonin regularly to help trigger a sleepy feeling, which does work well for me. I also have a blue-light reduction routine. I use Night Shift/f.lux on all my devices to shift them warmer in the evening. I also use Phillips Hue smart lightbulbs to make the light in my house shift warm at night and blue in the morning. (Blue light triggers wakefulness.) It’s honestly a struggle every night to go to bed “early” (read: before 2am) and I’m working with my therapist on strategies around that part of it.
        4) Dealing with the morning: I use a TON of redundant gadgets and it’s helped a lot. First, I use the Phillips Hue bulbs to turn my entire bedroom into a giant sunrise alarm. This helps a LOT, and you can make it a lot brighter than single-unit sunrise alarms. I also use a Withings Aura, which is a sleep monitor which purports to be able to trigger the audio/light alarm at the time in a certain window where you are sleeping the lightest.
        5) One of my problems is that in the morning I tend to lose track of time or get distracted – that’s the ADHD – so I have a series of alarms – one to get up, one to get into the shower, one to get dressed, one to leave, etc – these cue me when it’s time to stop doing one thing and move to something else.

        What I’m working on right now is sort of nudging the alarm times around to accommodate how long these tasks actually take me. I need to actually start timing with a stopwatch probably but the problem is I’m usually too sleepy in the morning to remember! Ah well. One step at a time.

        1. JB*

          Just a tip for figuring out how long it takes you to do things… Instead of timing your shower with a stopwatch, put a piece of paper in your bathroom and each day right what time you get in the shower and what time you get out of the shower. During the work week don’t really look at it to try to calculate how long you were in there, just write down the times. Then on the weekend or another day when you have some spare time do the math and figure out how long it’s really taking you to take your shower. Plus now you have several times to get a better idea of the average.

        2. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

          Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I think I’ll always be a committed night owl, but there are several things in here that I think can help.

    2. Bobstinacy*

      Same thing, I have delayed sleep phase syndrome from my ADHD and it’s brutal to handle sometimes. I sleep naturally between 4:00am and 11:00am so getting up for a 8:00am shift is the equivalent of the average person getting up at 2:00am. It’s doable with excellent sleep hygeine, sleep aids, and feeling slighty jet lagged all the time.

      LW definitely talk to your doctor, in the meantime track your sleep – do you usually fall asleep at the same time? What time do you usually wake up when you have a day off? Also Google sleep hygeine.

      Being sleep deprived has similar effects on your brain as consuming alcohol and can cause a whole host of health problems. I think you’ll find that a lot of aspects of your life will improve when you start to get on an even keel.

      Also side note, melatonin can have side effects so be aware of your own mind after taking it. I can’t take it because I get the fun side effect of severe depression, about an hour after taking it my low level depression turns into being on the brink of suicide. It’s very rare but it does happen so be careful!

      1. Kella*

        I second looking into sleep hygeine!

        The basic concept is you want to develop a consistent routine before bed time that helps you wind down, but also trains your brain to associate this set of activities with sleeping. Avoiding screen time– phones, computers– in the half hour before bed is usually recommended. My routine used to be: Short gentle yoga routine, brush hair and brush teeth, write in my journal, then play relaxing music softly as I fall asleep. I did this consistently for several years until I trained my brain how to fall asleep more easily. Now, my routine is just meditation to relaxing music for 10 minutes until I feel sleepy.

    3. LadyL*

      Ok, tips for going to bed:
      1. If the anxiety is what is keeping you up, try writing it all down before you go to sleep in like a journal or something. That way you can take it out of your mind. Meditation/mindfulness activities can be useful here as well, there are phone apps/websites with guided meditation recordings, if you are like me and you struggle to empty your mind. A nice soothing voice giving you instructions is much easier to focus on than just doing it alone, IMO.

      2. Routine, with a reward is very helpful. So for me I like to either read, listen to a podcast, play iphone games, or watch Netflix before falling asleep, it’s my reward for going to bed. A lot of people say screens keep them awake, so keep that in mind. Generally if I’m in bed and I’m doing something low energy it makes me sleepy regardless of screen, but YMMV

      3. As I keep saying, I struggle with noticing time is passing, so a big helper for me is a reminder that bedtime is coming up. The iPhone has a function called “Bedtime” within the clock app that comes with the phone, and you can set that with what time you want to go to sleep and what time you want to wake up, and it’ll do alarms for both. I set the go to sleep alarm for 45 minutes before I want to be in bed, and I am surprised when it goes off almost every night. It’s been a real game changer for helping me recognize that it’s getting late. It also will tell you how many hours you’re going to be sleeping, which is another basic thing that I had previously failed to understand. Seeing the little dial saying “going to bed at 2am means you will only get 4 hours of sleep” was way more helpful than just generally knowing that 2am is “late”.

      4. I use a sleep aid that doesn’t interfere with me waking up, but it’s a bit controversial. I find that smoking or vaping indica-heavy strains of marijuana before bed will get me very sleepy and tired, knock the anxiety out of me, and I feel no lasting effects the following day. I have a medical marijuana license, and my job didn’t drug test, so that worked out really well for me. If you are in a state with legal access to marijuana and you’re comfortable using it, you might consider it.

      Tips for getting out the door in the morning:
      1. The most helpful thing for me is setting a lot of alarms. Not just alarms for what time to wake up, but alarms telling me when I should be doing everything in the morning. I don’t have a real great sense of how time passes, so I set an alarm telling me what time to wake up (a few alarms with very loud scary music, as I am a deep sleeper), an alarm telling me what time I ought to get into the shower, an alarm that goes off when I ought to be getting out of the shower, and alarm that tells me I ought to be done getting dressed and it’s now time to pack my bag for the day, etc. I still run late, but at least I’m always consciously aware of where I ought to be (“Oh darn, the alarm went off and I still haven’t decided on what pants to wear. I need to just pick some and get moving, or I’ll have to skip breakfast to make up the time!”)

      2. Playing music while I’m in the shower also really helps, because that’s one of my favorite places to lose track of time. Songs help me recognize how much time is flying by (“Oh boy, that’s been like 4 songs already, I bet my alarm is about to go off, I need to hurry).

      3. This is going to sound really dumb, but bear with me. Once I was complaining to a co-worker that I had actually been ready early that morning, but since I had like twenty minutes before I needed to leave I decided to check my email, and then I lost track of time and ended up late. “Why didn’t you just leave 20 min early?” he said to me. “Huh?” I replied, completely bewildered. That’s right, it had actually never occurred to me in my 22 years on earth that if ready early I could just leave early. I know all of you probably already figured that one out, but just in case there’s someone out there as clueless as me: if you’re ready early, just leave. Don’t try to use up the time on projects at home.

      4. Rewards help (sometimes). Back when I was making more money, I would treat myself to a latte once a week if I could make it out the door early enough to get one. If money is tight you could do what one of my favorite coworkers used to: her treat for getting to work early was she got to read at her desk until her shift started.

      I hope any of this mess of words can help somebody out there, lol

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        In related news: do as much as you can at night. If I know I have an early morning, or even if I just have somewhere important and time-specific to be in the morning (i.e., not wandering in to a mimosa-laden brunch by 130-ish, and even then my girlfriends have told me 130, knowing the reservation is at 2), I shower, lay out clothes, pack my bag and sit it by the door, plan / organize/ pack my breakfast and lunch — whatever! — at night. I know I’m groggy in the morning, and that means everything takes 3x as long. A 3-minute shower taking 9 minutes is the difference between making and missing a train.

        If I prep at night, I can go from bed to car in 17 minutes. 20 if I have to toast some cheese and bread and cook an egg (but if I know I’ll really be rushing, I skip the toast and egg, and plan to grab a banana and/or a yogurt and eat ‘em in the car). If I don’t prep at night, it’s at least 75 minutes. Night prep is, like, 15 minutes, tops.

        Also, I have learned that my morning self does not argue with my night self. In the morning, if nothing is prepped, I debate what to wear and what to eat (+10 minutes each time). If it’s prepped? I wear and eat what’s there.

        1. LadyL*

          Weirdly, prepping at night does NOT seem to help me much. Part of the reason I don’t go to bed on time is because it’s too much work. You gotta change into pjs, wash your face, brush your teeth, clear off your bed (I use mine as a shelf for random stuff during the day), set the alarm (s), etc. All of it just seems exhausting. It makes absolutely no sense logically, but when I get tired I often feel too tired to go to bed (i.e. do all that self maintenance), so I’ll procrastinate starting that process so long that I just pass out on the couch in full makeup and wearing jeans. So part of my self-care turned into streamlining the going to bed process as much as possible, which means not pressuring myself to prep stuff the night before.

          Actually, it was the day I told my therapist about being “too tired to go to bed” and explaining the above that led her to respond, “…have you ever been screened for ADHD?”

          1. Sarah*

            “Part of the reason I don’t go to bed on time is because it’s too much work. You gotta change into pjs, wash your face, brush your teeth, clear off your bed (I use mine as a shelf for random stuff during the day), set the alarm (s), etc.”

            I know exactly what you mean! I simplified my bedtime routine to just brushing and peeing for this reason. Anything else is done earlier (pjs as soon as I get home, face washing usually couple hours before bed, etc).

            1. Parenthetically*

              AH THIS IS BRILLIANT. I hate going to bed because, especially now that I’m tip-toeing around a sleeping baby, it takes FOREVER to do the whole routine. I love the idea of just doing most of it earlier!

            2. Serin*

              I was about to say this same thing! I do a lot of get-ready-for-morning things as soon as I come home from work (pack the next day’s lunch, put out the next day’s clothes) and most of the rest immediately after dinner (floss, take my evening pill). That way I don’t have to try to persuade myself to put down Best Fiends just so I can go and get ready for bed. (My Best Fiends addiction is totally Alison’s fault.)

              Another advantage of doing this is that I find that flossing my teeth after dinner reminds me that my evening time is limited. Otherwise it can feel like a great time to pick up Page 1 of that un-put-downable novel, because I’ve got all evening, right?

            3. Squeeble*

              Yep! If I don’t have any evening plans, I put on PJs and wash my face as soon as I get home. Then all I have left to do is clean my teeth several hours later.

            4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I’m “dressed for bed” within SECONDS of walking in the door from work. There is absolutely no reason that cooking dinner can’t be done in PJs and it’s exceptionally rare that I do anything after work that involves leaving my house or someone coming over during the week.

          2. CheeryO*

            Oh man, this is my life. I don’t know if I have ADHD, but I definitely have anxiety, and bedtime is difficult. Lately I’ve been starting up a podcast at like 9:00, which gets me through my 15-20 minutes of prep and getting ready for bed. Once I’m done, I still have an hour before I need to go to bed, so I can listen to more podcasts/watch TV/read without worrying about the “work” I still have to do, and it’s much easier to just pee one last time and collapse into bed when the time comes.

        2. LKW*

          I often fly really early so I may have to get up at 4:30. The key is the prep. Years ago I got into the habit of showering before bed and I truly love it. I go to bed clean and in the morning I too can be out the door with a full face of makeup, hair done and dressed in less than 20 minutes. I lay out my makeup in the order I put it on while brushing my teeth for bed. I pick out my clothes, I make sure my bag is ready to go. Everything can be done ahead of going to bed. I can most of that while watching TV.

          You have to start earlier than 15 minutes before you want to go to bed. You also have to start going to bed earlier. You’re internal clock will shift. It may take a couple of weeks, but it will happen. And you have to maintain it over the weekend. Which means staying out late on Saturday will impact your ability to fall asleep on time on Sunday.

          Welcome to adulthood – some things suck.

      2. LeRainDrop*

        Thank you SO much for sharing these tips! I can really relate to a lot of how you describe your thoughts or unawareness as time passes.

      3. Shop Girl*

        #3 is a variation of “Live Close to Work Syndrome”. Whenever I have lived close to work (10-12 min drive) I have always felt you could do one more little task before you left and then you were always late.

        1. LeRainDrop*

          OMG, you are right! I live 5 minutes from my office. . . . if you are literally only counting the walk time from building exit to building entrance. But if you count in reality for elevator, etc., then I should be planning 15 minutes to commute. Why does my brain always convince me that 5 minutes is sufficient?

          1. Lindsay J*

            I have this problem a lot.

            It’s like my brain has mentally saved only the fastest possible time that I can do something, and I always assume that that will be how long it takes.

            Like, from parking spot to parking spot I can get from work to home and vice versa in 15 minutes. So whenever I’m estimating times, I always say that I’ll be home in 15 minutes from when I plan to leave work.

            But, it takes me a minute to pack my bag. And a minute to walk from work to my car, and from my car to my apartment., And if I hit all the lights on the way home, that’s another 3 minutes. And if I get held up coming off of that one road with really bad traffic that can be another minute. And if there’s a line of cars waiting to get into the apartment complex that’s another 30 seconds to a minute. So really I should estimate 20-25 minutes. But in my mind it’s stuck at 15.

            Same for like everything. Like, yeah, if I literally shower as fast as I can it will take 5 minutes. But usually I take like 15. So I should estimate like 15. But if I’m trying to plan to get out the door at a certain time I’ll be like, “Okay, showering will take me 5 minutes. So I don’t have to do that until X;XX”.

      4. ainomiaka*

        yes! The alarm at various points in the morning routine is so very helpful for me. A lifesaver.

        The just leave early can be a bit of a problem in other contexts, though-if the OP had an hourly job instead of salaried. For example, I would have had to sit in my car if I wanted to avoid being told I had to clock in and then getting in trouble for overtime at past jobs. However, since the OP doesn’t have this drawback it sounds like a good idea.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I generally use the 5 minute snooze for that. I just keep snoozing the alarm on my phone until I’m actually in the car. I know by the :15 alarm I need to be finished getting dressed, by the :20 alarm I need my kid mostly dressed, by the :25 we need to be in the car. Otherwise I have a tendency to take way too long to decide what to wear. This weather vacillation doesn’t help at all.

      5. HR is Fun*

        Your comment about being OK with being early is not a dumb thing. I have been consistently late for my whole life (and raised by a parent who was consistently late). I finally realized I am actually uncomfortable with arriving somewhere early. I’ve worked to get over that, but it is a real thing. I bring a book to read as a reward for getting to a doctor’s office early, for example.

        The only thing in my life that I work very hard at being early for is a therapist appointment. I was late to therapy one time and the therapist did not let me “make up the time” because she had another appointment afterwards. I was crushed because I needed that time! So I learned how to leave extra early (because of unpredictable traffic) to get to the therapist’s office early.

        Related to that: train yourself out of doing “just one more extra thing” before leaving the house. I have my morning routine and I don’t deviate from it, even if it seems like “it will only take a second.” So I won’t water the plants that I forgot to water the night before, I won’t detour past the mailbox to get something in the mail sooner, I won’t look up one extra thing on the internet, etc. My late parent does this stuff all the time and it’s part of what makes them late.

        1. Grad student*

          Seconding that the thing about being early isn’t dumb. I’ve recently realized that I have a strong irrational aversion to leaving early for things, because it feels like not using the extra few minutes for a productive task is equivalent to wasting time. So I do the “just one more extra thing” and then I end up late and that’s bad and I feel bad, and on the whole I’m less effective/efficient/productive/[metric of choice] than if I had just left when I was ready and not tried to do the other thing.

          I’m trying to learn to postpone tasks that aren’t urgent in this scenario, because from a mile-high view I know being early or on time is more useful to me than using every minute available to me (and let’s be real, at other times I let HOURS pass unproductively so it’s not like I’m following a consistent productivity philosophy). It’s interesting and difficult to learn this while also trying to overcome my tendency to procrastinate in general…

          (HR is Fun, I used to be almost the opposite about therapy appointments–I had a standing appointment that I always left late for and couldn’t stay late at, but my therapist said she didn’t mind if I was late, it was my time that I was paying for and it’s up to me if I want to spend some of it on the commute. Of course I’d rather spend it in the appointment because that was valuable to me, but in the moment when I was running late, I’d think “well, at least I’m only hurting myself by being late this time, so it’s ok.”)

          1. the gold digger*

            I’ve recently realized that I have a strong irrational aversion to leaving early for things, because it feels like not using the extra few minutes for a productive task is equivalent to wasting time.

            I am married to someone who thinks like that. The stress it causes me worrying about if we are going to be late for a flight – it’s awful. One time, we almost did miss the plane. We had to park in short-term (expensive) parking, couldn’t check our bag (so I wore the clothes I grabbed out of the suitcase and stuffed into my gym bag), and ran (I was barefoot because I cannot run in heels – he had picked me up from work) onto the plane a minute before they closed the door.

            I don’t care if Primo is late for something he is doing without me (although I think it is very rude), but when he risks my being late for something, it makes me furious.

            1. tigerStripes*

              When I am going to fly, I like to bring stuff to do in case – many of them never get done on the flight or between flights, but it’s nice to have them. Maybe Primo could bring along something he’s been meaning to read or work on and then he could be early and work on that.

      6. Yorick*

        I have two alarms in the morning. The first is 30 minutes before I want to get up. When it goes off, I turn the light on but stay in bed for a while longer, until the second alarm at the latest. It feels gradual, more like naturally waking up.

        I’ve heard of alarm clocks that have light components, and those sound interesting but I’ve never used one.

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          I had a housemate that had an alarm clock that used light, but hers must have been a cheap version because she said it went from pitch black to SURFACE OF THE SUN O GOD WHY in a millisecond. I think she tried it for a week and then it gathered dust in her room. :)

      7. Frank Doyle*

        Oh my goodness, thank you so much, this is all SO helpful! I am always late and a terrible procrastinator, and am trying to get the proper medication to treat my ADHD (which is a nightmare in and of itself). These are all great, especially the idea of setting multiple alarms throughout the morning and night. Thank you so much, LadyL!!

      8. my two cents*

        I also have ADD (no H), and was diagnosed when I was 30. Years and years of anxious thought-racing, trouble going to bed, SO many lists in very visible areas, and needing to have a bazillion things going at any time so I didn’t just crash out.

        I was only sleeping 2-3 hrs at a time, and I’d then wake up with my brain 100% ON. My doc didn’t want to make the anxiety and sleep issues worse, so he had me try *Straterra.
        Now that I’ve been on it for about 2 years, I know my sleep ‘sweet spot’ is around 5-6 hours. Before the medication, I would hit the gym after work to try to ‘work it off’ and help exhaust myself. Then, cannabis in the evening before bed to help fall asleep (possibly with some melatonin). And so much caffeine in the morning to get moving again.

        *Straterra doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s funny because it either REALLY works or it doesn’t do anything. I do get flushed from time to time, and being notably fair skinned it can be obvious as my cheeks go pink. But OH BOY after yeeeears of trying to manage that anxiety/ADD-ness down to like 70%, the Straterra just seems to shift that threshold back down to around 20-30% which feels like magic in comparison.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Definitely see a doctor.
      I’ve seen a lot about the not using screen for an hour or so before you try to sleep. I understand that there is also some more recent research which suggests that the light in the morning may be as much / more of an issue , so getting a natural light alarm clock (or even one of the daylight bulbs sold for people with SAD and putting it on a timer) may help – apparently being exposed to daylight early in the morning can help to re-set your body’s rhythms so you start to wake up ‘naturally’ earlier.

      good luck

    5. Coffeelover*

      I thought I’d include my “tips” as well. Unfortunately, I’m currently unemployed and have fallen off the good sleep wagon (I sleep around 3am and wake up around 11), but I did have it fairly under control until recently. Here are the things that help me the most.

      1) People have suggested night-time routines, but what really helped me is a morning routine. Namely, wake up early and have a big, real breakfast (I’m talking omelette and sausage here, not cereal). Training your body to need food early in the morning does wonders for waking up. This also means you need to wake up early so you have plenty of time to make food and eat it and get ready for work. If you need to leave at say 7:30, that means waking up at maybe 6. This has the added benefit of de-stressing your morning since you’ll have time to calmly get ready. I know it’s hard (I didn’t eat breakfast at all before), but try it. The breakfast thing has helped me get on a good sleep schedule within days (at which point I switch to oatmeal). Plus, it helped me actually enjoy my mornings and waking up, which makes the whole thing easier. Usually, I wake up, grab my phone to read news for 15min (the light helps wake me up), make coffee and breakfast, eat, get ready, go.

      2) This is obvious but needs to be said 100 times: wake up at the same time every day. If you go out over the weekend and get home at 3am, still wake up at 6am. You should go to bed at the same time too, but that’s not as important (and eventually, you’ll naturally start to get tired around the same time if you’re waking up at the same time).

      3) If you’ve been laying in bed trying to fall asleep without success for a long time (that’s 1hr for me though some suggest 20min), get up and do something. I usually get up and clean my bathroom. A physical and thoughtless activity is the best.

      4) Do Not Nap. I don’t care what they say about short naps being okay. For most of us insomniacs, naps are the enemy. One nap can throw off a carefully crafted sleep schedule.

      5) The other stuff aka healthy living. Don’t drink alcohol. Not even a beer. It will mess you up (it’s fine sometimes ie when you’re out with friends, but it WILL mess you up so keep that I mind). Also, no coffee after say 5pm. Exercise. 5 days a week if you can. Eat good food. Limit the grease and sugar. Basically, do all the things you know you should be doing health wise.

      I think if you suffer from poor sleep and don’t want to go the medicated (or self-medicated) route, you need to make sleep a priority in your life. It’s not easy and involves some sacrifice, but it’s doable and it will do wonders for your health and happiness. Consistency is key and unfortunately it’s so easy to fall of the wagon, but you can get yourself back too. I think if you do it long enough it will become natural, I’m not there yet myself (the no job thing has killed it for me) so I still struggle. You’re not alone in the battle, and it’s a battle we can win.

      1. Coffeelover*

        Thought of a couple of other things (they’re mentioned elsewhere here too, but I wanted to also include them). Don’t watch tv or use your computer or phone before bed. It doesn’t have to be hours before, I usually cut myself off when I start my nighttime routine and make sure I don’t while in bed. I had to force my husband to move the tv out of the bedroom. The second thing, don’t smoke. Nicotine can make falling asleep difficult and causes you to wake up during the night.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          My husband has sleep apnea and has had a machine now for years to help with the snoring but this:

          I had to force my husband to move the tv out of the bedroom.

          Is actually hands-down top of the list of things that improved my sleep quality. Revolutionary, even.

          No TV in the room did WONDERS for our sleep.

      2. 5 Leaf Clover*

        Seconding #2 here -get up at the same time even on weekends! It’s so hard at first but it WILL help you get sleepy earlier.

      3. Natalie*

        Re: alcohol, to add:

        It doesn’t matter how much you have to drink in the evening for it to affect your sleep. That is, you don’t have to be drunk to sleep just a little worse from drinking.

        If you want to have a drink with your dinner or go to a happy hour or something, the two things I would do is a) keep your total consumption to a minimum, 1-2 drinks max and b) finish your last drink at least 2 hours before you are going to bed, but 3 or more is even better.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      In the past, Alison has made a distinction between “OP, the problems you describe in yourself seem like those I experienced before my XXX was diagnosed” versus “based on one paragraph, let’s diagnose your accounts receivables person from four steps removed!”

    7. Competent Commenter*

      So glad that you brought up ADHD. When I heard the letter writer say they are always late and can’t turn off their brain to go to sleep at night I thought sounds exactly like me! Letter writer it’s worth learning more about. Try the ADHD Experts Podcast.

    8. Mr. Rogers*

      Yes, this is what causes my partner to be late! I don’t have any good advice though, bc I sleep and wake up pretty easily (I’m not exactly functional for a solid hour after waking, but I’m mobile enough for autopilot). My partner’s biggest solution though has been me. I spent a few weeks waking up when he needed to (not when his ADHD brain told him it was cool by lying about how time works) and basically kicking him out of bed, and he’s gotten much closer to on time now. So all else fails, only date people with good sleep habits?

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Honestly this is clutch for me. I would never be on time for anything if it weren’t for my punctual other half. I actually do okayish in the morning because I’m crabby and don’t want to do anything else (no getting distracted by mail or dishes or whatever), but if we try to go anywhere in the evening, it’s basically like trying to get a toddler ready. “Are you dressed? Do you have your shoes on? Did you go to the bathroom?” I have a seven tab spreadsheet meticulously planning our wedding, but the steps to get out the door are beyond my ability.

    9. Matilda Jefferies*

      I was recently diagnosed with ADHD as well, and I’m currently going through that I-have-a-new-diagnosis phase of diagnosing everybody around me with the same thing. :)

      That said, a lot of what OP5 describes rings true to me from an ADHD perspective as well. And even if you don’t actually have it, a lot of the behaviours and strategies that work for people with ADHD will likely work for you as well.

      Some things that work for me, that I haven’t seen mentioned:

      ~First, I *hate* sleeping in socks, with the white hot heat of a thousand suns. I can’t do it. So where I’m going with this is, try different things! Lots of people love them, lots of people hate them – try both, and see what works for you. Same with different types of pyjamas (warmer, cooler, more vs less coverage, etc), and blankets. Experiment a bit.

      ~I also have a million pillows in my bed, and arrange them in a very precise way when I’m trying to get to sleep. The physical arrangement is important, but so is the ritual of it – it’s part of what tells my body that it’s time to go to sleep.

      ~Insight Timer is a great meditation app, with lots of guided meditations for sleep.

      ~For mornings, follow the usual advice of plan everything the night before. Set out your clothes ahead of time, set out whatever you need for breakfast (make a special place in the fridge for anything that needs to be refrigerated – if you need two eggs, get them out of the carton and put them in a bowl in your “breakfast spot”). Put everything you need in your purse, and so on. This is not new or creative advice, but you hear it so often because it really does work!

      ~Make a time log. For a week or so, spend some time estimating how long you think a task will take, and note how long it actually takes. For example, maybe you think it takes half an hour to shower and get dressed, but once you start logging it, you might notice that it actually takes 45 minutes. Adjust your schedule accordingly.

      ~I listen to my local radio station in the mornings. (on an actual analog radio, even!) It’s great for providing both background chatter and a set schedule. I set my alarm so I can listen to the 6:30 news, and I know I need to get up when the money columnist comes on at 6:45. The kids need to be up shortly after the 7:30 news, and if we don’t leave by the time they do entertainment at 8:15 then we’re going to be late. They also do the actual local time and weather, of course, so it’s a really good way of keeping everybody on track.

      ~Spend some time sitting with this problem, and writing down and evaluating your solutions. You’re introducing a big change into your life, so it’s going to take some time. Be deliberate about planning your strategies, and modifying them if they’re not working.

      ~Finally, the books I’ve been recommending to everybody since my diagnosis:
      ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau
      Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

      Whew, sorry for the novel. I hope some of it is useful to you!

      1. Competent Commenter*

        I second the ADD Ways… book. I found some other ADHD self-help books to be patronizing and irritating but this one was very good.

        Congratulations on getting a diagnosis! And yes, I also am frequently mentally diagnosing other people with ADHD, even after three years, and let me just say that this turned out to be correct in the case of my foster son–and his own psychologist of seven years had never figured it out. So there!

        Lastly I was extra late to meet my friend to run this morning because I had trouble sleeping last night, had trouble getting up this morning, and kept reading these comments. Living the dream!

    10. AJK*

      I have ADHD, and I have the same problem. Sleep issues combined with trouble with transitioning into the workday. I feel like I have tried every trick in the book to be on time, and nothing works! If someone told me I could solve the problem by standing on my head, I probably would have tried it. But my boss and I ended up finding a solution that works for me and our office – since I am hourly, I just make up my time either during the lunch hour or after work. This works really well for me – I was skipping lunches anyhow because I’d get hyperfocused on a project and not want to stop. (or I would just forget to stop, because ADHD…) Obviously this would not work for every office or for every job – my work is not time sensitive, and nothing in the office depends on me being there at a specific time.
      Also, my office works extensively with people with disabilities and/or mental health challenges, so once I explained to my boss what was going on she was very understanding. I know that is not the case everywhere.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    #5 dr time! There are a lot of prescription sleep aids that won’t render you unconscious. I take a low dose of doxepin. I had Ambien but I was shopping online in my sleep and all this weird shit kept showing up unexpectedly.

    Also prepping everything possible the night before helps with having more time in the morning and the anxiety about getting out the door. Clothes, food, coffee if you can, put everything you need by the door so you don’t forget. I shower and wash my hair at night and just rinse off in the morning, so that saves time.

    Also any chance of some work from home days? That might help too.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I love Ambien stories — can we have more details? Was the stuff you were buying in any way related to things you’d normally buy or was it totally random?

      1. Grand Mouse*

        Not Bend&Snap but I had to quit taking Ambien after I woke up at midnight to go to school and started to drive myself there- I only realized once I was already on the road. Sleep-driving was too much for me

        1. brainjacker*

          Can confirm. Ended up being charged with a DWI that I have no memory of being involved in (wrong way down a one-way street with the lights off. Luckily I had an rx label and hadn’t been drinking, but that was the end of the Ambien road for me.

          Ambien stories may be fun (and I have my fair share of weird-shit-buying, furniture-moving stories as well), but it’s a dangerous as hell drug and should be prescribed in MUCH lower doses (if not taken off the market entirely).

      2. ENFP in Texas*

        I take Ambien on occasion and while I haven’t had issues with online shopping with it, I have had mornings where I looked at my Facebook and wondered “When did I post THAT?? And what does that even mean??”

        (Every year the Ambien-influenced post about “pancreatic monkeys” comes up in my “On This Day” list as a reminder to get off Facebook after taking a sleeping pill…)

        1. Lioness*

          I can’t remember if I took a sleep aid or not as this was years ago, but I did wake up one morning to find that I had written a paper about children eating the sun.

          1. ENFP in Texas*

            I just scrolled through my “On This Day” for Dec 6, and I kid you not, this is an entry from 2011. LOL!!
            From now on the computer gets turned off right away when I take a sleeping pill, even if I don’t feel sleepy. Nothing like waking up in the morning and finding stuff I don’t even remember posting. =/

          2. irritable vowel*

            When I was younger I would occasionally wake up from a nap in the middle of a phone conversation with someone and have no idea who I was talking to or what I’d said. No sleep aids involved, just answering the phone in my sleep. I had to train myself to never answer the phone when it woke (or “woke”) me from sleeping, even if I was pretty sure I was actually awake.

            1. crookedfinger*

              Back before my boyfriend started taking care of his health, he would text me while asleep often. It was always a jumble of letters until he got a phone with autocorrect, then it became a bunch of funny gibberish. Now that he’s taking care of himself, he’s stopped doing weird shit in his sleep. It’s better for him, but far less entertaining (I used to keep a blog of our sleep-conversations that is all but dead now)

        2. Nines*

          That sounds like me! My biggest issue would waking up to the weirdest text messages ever. Why would I send that?!? I doesn’t even make any sense!

      3. Bend & Snap*

        Oh my goodness. So much stuff. Some of it I would have bought anyway but a lot of it made no sense. It ended up being hundreds of dollars over a couple of weeks.

        Water shoes. Pool toys (don’t have a pool). A life jacket. A pair of 5-inch sandals with black and white striped platforms. A printed throw pillow cover with a constellation on it—no pillow. A dog toy (don’t have a dog). A purple tutu. Malt-o-meal. Sunglasses. A toddler leash. European tonic water. A Zumba DVD…

        Ambien and Amazon are a dangerous combination!

        1. Natalie*

          I’ve heard people joke that Amazon should have a breathalyzer attached. Clearly they also need some kind of test for Ambien.

      4. SpaceySteph*

        I know someone who took an Ambien, and then passed out on the toilet. Another person had the opposite reaction to Ambien– he could not fall asleep, laid awake the whole night. I tried Ambien a couple times to help when I rotated to the night shift– I would sleep but I would have CRAZY dreams.

        It works for some people, for sure, but it also backfires tremendously for some people. If you’re going to try it, then I would definitely recommend trying it on a Friday night, just in case.

      5. Connie-Lynne*

        I feel weird about this comment, Alison. I had some really messed up stuff happen to me as a result of Ambien; I know I’m not the only person, and it feels … minimalizing? … to say “I love stories of how the meds you tried for your sleep disorder caused chaos.”

        Like, I know for a lot of folks it’s a lighthearted “oh whups” tale but it’s also serious for a non -small number of people.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sorry, definitely didn’t mean to sound minimizing and was interested in the lighthearted stories that also abound, not trying to imply I’d take pleasure in people’s actual trauma and chaos.

        2. Nines*

          Great point! I eagerly jumped in too as my Ambien stories are quite lighthearted. But you are so right that not all of them are. It can be really devastating for some people. I’m sorry that you had one of those experiences.

      6. Ambien Story Time*

        My Ambien story is not a fun one, and still fills me with shame and embarrassment when I think about it, even though it was years ago.

        My doctor prescribed this for me after multiple subsequent stressful life events, and the previous things we had tried to help me sleep failed. My doctor was very emphatic that I be careful with this medication, as patients have been known to prepare meals, eat food, take a shower, etc, while sleeping. My husband would monitor me in my sleep for a few days to be sure. We had an open concept lofted apartment, which made it easier to do as well.

        At this point, it had been a week and everything seemed to be going well with my sleep excepting a few strange dreams, so my husband no longer stayed up to monitor me.
        I literally have no memory of any of this: I got out of bed and got dres
        sed. (I guess the silver lining here being that at least I got dressed as it was a hot summer and we slept naked.) I got my purse, my keys, walked down the steep three flights of stairs to the front door, walked the three/four blocks to the garage where we parked the car, got in the car, drove out of the garage, and drove about 7-10 minutes from where we lived until I rear ended another driver and their child.

        The first this I remember is waking up in the hospital, not knowing where I was or how I got there or why. The last thing I remembered was laying down in bed.

        Thankfully, no one was hurt, and I can’t even image what I would’ve done or where I would be if I had hurt anyone. My car was pretty damaged up front, so I drove it like that for a while, and I had to work through the consequences of an OWI due to the type of medication it was.

        I immediately discontinued the medication. I didn’t try any other solutions after that; I just worked through with trying to sleep as best as I could.

        It’s not something that I continually dwell on, but it is scary that this is a thing that happened, and that it’s possible to have this gap in my memory, and the total disassociation the medication caused.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I’m sorry that happened, Ambien Story Time. My own tale involves only hurt to myself and a lot of embarrassment, but if I had had a less understanding partner it could have been way worse.

          1. Ambien Story Time*

            Thank you, Connie-Lynne. I appreciate where you are coming from as well, and I’m glad that your partner was understanding.

            I am a super private person, however I felt the need to share my story relating to the point that you mentioned above. I realize this type of experience is in the minority, but it is still there, even when you try to be cautious.

      7. LeRainDrop*

        Years ago, my dad had completely messed up his sleep schedule so that he was pretty much working at night and sleeping during the day, and the doctor was prescribing Ambien to help him shift that back to “normal.” Anyhow, one day he and my mom went to a friend’s birthday party and had a lovely time. He went to sleep when they got home. When he woke up, he asked my mom what time they would need to leave to get to the party. She was like, “Uh, we already went!” It was very confusing because my mom says he acted completely normally at the party, yet my dad had absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever.

        1. LeRainDrop*

          Oh, thankfully, my mom was the driver, so no issue with that. After reading Ambien Story Time’s story, I can only imagine how scary that must have been for her. She and Connie-Lynne are right that the potential side effects of Ambien are no joke. When my doc prescribed it for me and told me to watch out for disappearing food because of the not uncommon effect of night-binging, at first I thought he was kidding and I kind of laughed. He was like, no, seriously, this really happens with a sizeable number of people and other night-walking, as well. Connie-Lynne, thanks for raising the important point about the serious risks here.

          1. JulieBulie*

            Oddly enough, the morning after one of my few experiences with Ambien, I found my upstairs bedroom TV remote control in the refrigerator downstairs. I had been warned about sleep-binging, but saw no evidence that I had eaten anything or taken so much as a glass of milk. But by golly I wasn’t going to let that remote control get rancid.

            Doctors do warn (or are supposed to) about weird behavior on Ambien, and sometimes there are stories on the news. Even so, it’s hard to believe that the really weird stuff will happen to you (me, us, whomever). Having a chilled remote control was not a big deal, but it served as a good wake-up-call (so to speak) to seek a better solution before something bad happened.

      8. Peanut*

        I was on Ambien long term, but it took me a while to realize the effect it had on me. Apparently it made me send bizarre and hilarious emails to whoever I was dating at the time. Except I was totally serious while writing them, and I never remembered sending them.

        Often these would be punctuated by sentences like, “the other day, I went to the store and bleucht#? Yebk snot. Jei$;

        my nose fell asleep on the keyboard. The store went but I szmix”

        Or I would explain, in great detail and seriousness, an idea I had got, say, becoming rich. (This involved a mobile pet grooming business – with robot arms that would snatch pets off the sidewalks and whisk them away to be snipped and then deposited back in their alarmed owners’ hands.)

        I got off the Ambien for good after the third time I Ambien-emailed the guy I’d broken up with.

      9. Red Reader*

        Never been on Ambien, but I once bought a toiletry bag, a coloring book and two pairs of scissors off amazon in my regular sleep, no meds involved. Last month when my little sister took me to Target on benzodiazepines post dental surgery (that’s where my pharmacy is), I apparently bought Halloween candy, Oreos and ice cream (with no chunks), and told her that I was going to punch the pharmacist if he didn’t stop mispronouncing my name. Also texted several people, including my boss, my coworker and one of my reports. I was apparently almost completely coherent at the time – in fact, I had a discussion with the pharm about how I was allergic to the abx originally called in for me so he had to have them change it – but I remember none of it. The time before that a few years ago, I ran into a trash can and spent ten minutes profusely apologizing to it.

        1. Red Reader*

          I also once went to sleep – no medications at all – in bed, naked. When I woke up, I was still naked, on the couch in my living room, under a blanket that had been in the hall closet in a storage bin, with a cd that had been in my car playing one particular song on repeat. I never did figure out whether I had gotten dressed before I went out to the car or not (in a rough neighborhood of downtown Lansing, in January, in the middle of the night, in a blizzard).

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          As I recall from a book on neuroscience: When asleep, you are supposed to be paralyzed, so that you don’t run around acting out your dreams. When you wake–for example, because your breathing is getting a little light and you need to roll over–one of the associated brain signals is to undo the paralysis. Mess that signal up one way and you wake up paralyzed, unable to breath, and often convinced that this is because of an elderly woman/demon crouched on your chest. Mess that signal up the other way and you sleepwalk, sleepdrive, etc.

          My husband, if stressed, has been known to sleep-do-things. (No drugs involved.) Sleep-position the bed correctly in the crystal lattice. (The associated leap out of bed was dramatic enough to take the covers, waking me and rendering me cold and grumpy.) I eventually learned to state firmly that he was standing next to the bed because he had to go to the bathroom–this wasn’t it, but since he couldn’t remember the actual reason he would eventually go off and do this, and it was enough familiar routine of why you might be standing up in the middle of the night to shuffle back to bed and go to sleep. This also worked on our child, who would be standing in the hall trying to remember why. (My husband eventually learned to always spend half an hour reading before he comes to bed, to disengage and not run around enacting work problems in his sleep.)

          1. Jesca*

            Both my kids are sleep walkers/doers. Seem to be growing out of it. Myself? Sleep paralysis. OMG that is the worst thing on the planet! I had this well into adulthood. I am so glad I don’t get that anymore. Some actually believe this is the reason so many sane people believe they were abducted by aliens. I can totally understand that. You would not believe the things I saw in my room.

          2. DeskDuck*

            Sleep paralysis is the most terrified I’ve been in my entire life. It is not for the feint of heart. It is also the closest my husband has ever come to convincing me that ghosts exist – before I found out that it is a thing that happens to a bunch of people and I had science reasons again.

        3. Alex the Alchemist*

          Never taken any sleep medication either, but according to my partner, one night during the finals week of my senior year of college, I started folding my laundry in my sleep. I have no recollection of this whatsoever. The only reason I can think of for doing this is maybe I didn’t feel productive enough in my waking hours?

      10. Murphy*

        I was reading in bed, and (so I’m told) my book slowly made its way onto my face, and when my husband tried to take it away from me, I stubbornly insisted “some people read like this.” Eventually, I fell completely asleep with the book on my face and my husband was able to remove it. Pretty tame as far as those things go, but I never took Ambien again.

      11. Ambien Contortionist*

        My stories are all tame, lots of texting friends weird stuff that made zero sense. I had to stop, taking them though, when I had to take two to be effective.

        I fell while plugging my phone in on Ambien, rolled into the space between the nightstand and bed, crying because my equilibrium gave out and refused to help my SO pick me up. He got me in bed and I spent twenty mins crying about it.

        I remember nothing of this event but I had texts saying I was talking to people. The side effects eventually went away but so did the effectiveness, shop now I’m back to insomnia. But it was edging towards doing something scary without oh knowing.

      12. 123456789101112 do do do*

        I had been in labor for about 36 hours already and wasn’t nearly done, but I was already exhausted. We went in to the hospital but the doctor sent me home. I told him that I was worried about not having slept and how that would affect me being able to manage my pain response, so he gave me an Ambien. Except that it took 30 minutes to get home, so the Ambien had kicked in by the time we got home (I had to take the pill at the hospital, under supervision) and my husband was terrified that I was going to fall down the stairs because I was effectively asleep but “awake” and responsive. I don’t remember any of this, but he somehow got me safely upstairs and into bed. I don’t know what that doctor was thinking.

      13. Jesca*

        My 92 year old grandfather has a crazy addiction to Ambien. And OH THE STORIES. The worst obviously was the midnight falling. But once he was found wandering around the yard completely naked in his condo complex. Luckily the neighbors just called my aunt. She guided him back to bed … Ambien is some crazy ish.

      14. Sydney Bristow*

        I woke up underneath my bed once with fully (poorly) painted nails and toenails. They were not painted when I went to bed.

      15. Turtle Candle*

        I sleep-cooked while on Ambien, and the thing is the things I sleep-cooked made NO SENSE. Like, penne with a sauce made with frozen blackberries. Or a kind of loaf thing made with ground farina cereal, agave nectar, applesauce, and nutritional yeast. (I’m sure that, like, Thomas Keller or David Chang or Gordon Ramsey could make a pasta with blackberry gastrique taste amazing, but that is not me.)

        It was mostly hilarious to find these random concoctions in the morning with no idea how it had gotten there, but I switched to a different sleep medication because I was afraid I’d accidentally burn the house down while sleep-cooking.

        1. Natalie*

          Or a kind of loaf thing made with ground farina cereal, agave nectar, applesauce, and nutritional yeast

          I am 100% certain that some health food store somewhere sells this exact dish.

      16. Coalea*

        The first time I was prescribed Ambien, I did really well with it. It knocked me out and I slept soundly through the night.
        The second time (a few years later) was a different story! I woke up one morning to find my toilet seat up (I am a female and live alone) and vomit in my trashcan.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      I love Ambien… it works great for me and I don’t have any side effects. That said, I used to know a guy who took Ambien and started gaining weight really fast. He was totally flummoxed because he hadn’t changed his eating or exercise habits and his doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Finally, one night his roommate got up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water and found him standing in front of the fridge eating a tub of cake frosting with a spoon while still totally asleep. He’d apparently been sleep eating for weeks. I don’t know why neither of them noticed the food going missing… I guess they each thought the other was eating it while conscious?

    3. LeRainDrop*

      I agree with Alison’s recommendation to talk with your doctor about your symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness, how long this has been going on, and the impact on your mornings/timeliness. I can very much relate to what the OP is going through, and when I finally talked with my doctor, he did prescribe some sleep medication for temporary usage. To my astonishment, there actually are several different kinds of prescription sleep aids — some focus on helping you fall asleep in the first place, while others are more about keeping you asleep if you’re the type who wakes up in the middle of the night. By discussing your particular pattern, your doctor can make the best recommendation.

      In my case, I had trouble falling asleep in the first place until quire late (like 3-5 a.m.), but once I did, I had no problem sleeping through the night. We tried Ambien first, and it seemed to do nothing for me. I think I tried it like 3-5 nights, and yet I was still tossing and turning come 7 a.m. without getting any sleep. He then switched me to Zaleplon, which worked very well to put me to sleep pretty quickly. As I recall, the effects of this medication pretty much wore off within 4 hours, so it was focused on the part of getting me to fall asleep but not hampering my ability to wake up in the morning. I point this out because there are medications out there that should not put you at greater risk of sleeping through your alarm clock. Anyway, I think I used this for about 2-3 weeks before my sleep reset to a much better schedule. Truthfully, it helped that my toxic boss resigned from the job; I’d been putting up with a fair amount of bullying from her for about 1.5 years, and the day she told me she resigned, I had no more trouble falling asleep. (Eventually I had trouble again — ahem, I am still awake at 4:52 a.m., though I don’t have to get up at any particular time “tomorrow” — but at least cutting off the anxiety of working for her helped my sleep tremendously.)

    4. Menacia*

      I hope OP 5 can find some non-prescription ways of getting the sleep they need. My husband takes a low dosage Melatonin but that’s because he’s older now (56) and the older you get the less sleep you need apparently? Going to the doctor is definitely the first step, but also looking at your lifestyle, no tv or social media at least 1/2 hour before trying to sleep. I find reading to be really relaxing, and also make sure there are no lights on (even small lights bother me). Make sure the temperature in the room is cool, and drink a glass of warm milk (or some other warm non-caffeinated beverage). Definitely cut down on caffeine during the day if possible.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        No TV and social media not only because of the engagement, but because the screen light is telling your body “Look, sun’s up, let’s go!”

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, this. If you must look at your phone or tablet, try getting a blue light filter.

            1. SarahKay*

              And the Android ones have apps you can download – I use Twilight, which I think was free but is definitely excellent.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Oh, thanks for sharing that. My tablet has one built-in, but my phone doesn’t, and I don’t really like the one I have now.

          1. kitryan*

            I haven’t made it through all the comments but f.lux works great for that on my Mac – also available for windows and linux. They even have a ‘darkroom’ option that makes everything black and red. The link’s in my name for this comment.
            Better to stay away from screens overall, but if that’s not doable, reducing the blue light is the next best thing.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I take low-dose melatonin (about 2mg), and it doesn’t seem to make it harder for me to get up in the morning. It’s always been hard for me to get up in the mornings, but I haven’t noticed the melatonin making it worse.

    5. Red Reader*

      If you’re talking prescription sleep aids – triazolam is a benzo with the primary on-label use of addressing the inability to fall asleep. The idea is that it knocks you out, but the effective life is such that it’s out of your system by a normal (7-8 hours) wake up time. I’ve never used it for that purpose – it’s also very commonly used off-label and at higher doses for dental anxiety as an alternative to IV or nitrous sedation, which is where my experience lies – but the last time it was prescribed thus, my dentist wrote me extra and I’ve been planning to talk to my doc about the pros and cons for keeping it on hand for those “I absolutely must be awake at 4am tomorrow and it would be really nice if I could get to sleep by 7:30-8 tonight moments, which I will have a couple of coming up in the first half of the year.

      1. engineermommy*

        #5, my sympathies on the sleep problems. I didn’t get adequate sleep for about 4 years after the birth of my youngest. Did lots of reading, including something that compared the effects of long term insomnia to begin drunk all the time.

        I had success with a prescription from my doctor for an off-use antidepressant. Once my body basically learned how to sleep again, I then weaned off the medicine using the techniques described in “Say Goodnight to Insomnia” by Gregg D. Jacobs. It specifically addresses sleep anxiety and provides ways to address that anxiety. Even if you aren’t on medication, I highly recommend it for anyone who can’t sleep because they are worried about not sleeping.

      2. JulieBulie*

        That reminds me – Sonata, it’s another so-called z-drug like Ambien, but its half life is like four hours or something, so you probably won’t have time to sleep-binge or anything. It provides a good knockout wallop, and is very short-acting. So if you need something to keep you asleep all night, Sonata will not help you. But if you can stay asleep on your own, it might be enough.

    6. blackcat*

      I have heard this about prescriptions like Ambien, but not about over the counter options like benedryl/unisom. So trying one of those first, even if a doc jumps to Ambien, might be better.

    7. rck*

      My former boss used Ambien and would send me emails and texts at night. It was the only time she would criticize my work and tell me all the things I did that she disliked. It was awful.

  7. Sami*

    OP#5: I feel for you. I have had insomnia since high school (and I’ll be 45 on Friday) and anxiety. It’s… not a fun combination. Alison is right- make an appointment with your doctor ASAP. A sleep study may be able to pinpoint issues that are resolvable. Perhaps there’s a medication that will help. Maybe talk therapy or meditation or specific relaxation/breathing exercises may help.
    Good luck!

    1. chi type*

      More commiseration from a fellow insomniac. The only treatment that has ever been consistently effective for me is currently illegal in most states. :(
      In the meantime I switch between valerian, diphenhydramine, and doxylamine succinate (all available OTC) so I don’t build up a tolerance to any one.

      1. LadyL*

        If I’m correct about what you’re referring to, that’s my number 1 go to for treating insomnia as well! A hit before I go to bed and it lessens my anxiety, makes me feel peaceful and sleepy. No after effects in the morning, no grogginess, and it’s always worn off long before I wake up. I wish it was more readily available, I honestly think its gotta be one of the safest and most effective sleep helpers out there.

        1. chi type*

          Yes, exactly! We even have legal medical in my state but only for very serious conditions like parkinsons. I walk by the fancy dispensary and sigh…

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      Yeah. Although, I was sad when I got a sleep study and it wasn’t a study of my sleep problems so much as a test for sleep apnea.

      Still, talk to your doc and get a sleep doctor referral. Although there *are* non medication solutions for my sleep disorder, they’re incredibly disruptive to my life, and my doc was able to help me find the right balance of meds vs lifestyle changes. Having a diagnosis also means that when new meds come out (and they do come out regularly) I can talk about trying them without giant “ZOMG DRUG SEEKER” alarms going off.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Did you do the sleep study? Normally they test for apnoea before going on to other stuff so it shouldn’t have stopped there.

        1. sap*

          My doctor referred me for sleep study with a note that said “definitely not an apnea issue, don’t even bother to test for that” sand the center still refused to do anything but test me for apnea. Some of them really suck. And waste 12 hours of your life.

          1. Natalie*

            Ugh, my husband’s experience with a sleep doctor was the same thing. Even though the test showed NO. effing. apnea. her only recommendations were things to combat apnea, or benzos, which I had to tell her were addictive. She literally didn’t know that.

            (Apparently I’m still mad at her.)

            1. Anxa*

              Oh, back when I foolishly thought that there was such a long as an affordable, accessible sleep doctor for my issues I kept getting directed to ‘pulmonology’ and when I finally caught on I asked them who I talked to about circadian rhythm issues and I literally was told “we don’t study coordination problems here” and was hung up on.

              1. sap*

                I know that a medical scheduler is not a doctor, but that is just ridiculous.

                Other funny medical stories-I have a secondary, fatiguing condition with a long name that has the acronym “POTS,” and I can’t tell you how many doctors have just told me to stop smoking weed if it’s making me tired. One nurse at a treatment center threw me out because she doesn’t administer treatment to people on drugs (and didn’t listen when I tried to explain the acronym).

        2. kitryan*

          Just for more data points, the doctor I went to deals with all kinds of sleep issues but had to have me do the home apnea test before doing the full sleep study because the insurance wouldn’t pay otherwise, as the incidence of apnea is high enough to make it more affordable to screen for that with the less exact home test first.
          Of course, my issue wasn’t apnea, so we moved on to the in-office study once the home study came back clear.
          Now I’m feeling pretty lucky that my doc was clear in her explanation of the procedure and that her practice isn’t limited to sleep disorders involving breathing issues.

      2. Anxa*

        Yes to this!

        To anyone who has trouble sleeping, be aware that there are “sleep specialists” that are basically respiratory/pulmonary care professionals and equate sleep studies with sleep apnea studies.

        Many sleep specialists have no specialized knowledge or awareness of ADHD or circadian rhythm disorders.

        Sleep issues are a huge public health issue that doesn’t get much awareness in this country (the US) and I think a large part of that is the hang up on focusing on sleep apnea. Therer are few places to go to find an ACTUAL sleep doctor.

  8. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Your assistant knows she is pocketing/spending the money. However you choose to phrase the question, keep it in the back of your mind that she shouldn’t be shocked that you’ve noticed. It doesn’t have to be a malicious thing – she might have latched onto a previously unknown office norm, or she might be one of those people who tries to get as much free food as possible at work. I’m raising my eyebrows a bit at the fact that she kept buying you the occasional black coffee knowing that you’d buy her much more expensive beverages in return. She’s saving a few bucks every time she initiates the coffee tradeoff, and now she’s averaging $5 extra per day off of this lunch arrangement. An honest person wouldn’t be shocked at all if you approached her about this. At best, she thinks you’ve been deliberately generous.

    1. Ruth*

      The sudden change it what strikes me. As you said, she knows she’s doing it so why was the switch? If I was the assistant I’d say something cheeky like “oh, another partner said I should charge a delivery fee ha ha!” & start returning it again.

      1. Sam*

        Yeah, that struck me, too. It just seems weird that she would suddenly change her habit after almost two years. It’s possible there’s a legitimate reason for it, but nothing comes to mind. If there is a good reason, presumably she’d share that with OP if they follow Alison’s script.

        1. Anony*

          Is she getting lunch for multiple people? The most innocent explanation I can think of is that she is picking up lunch for a bunch of people and not keeping track of whose lunch cost what, especially if someone else is underpaying and she doesn’t end up with change. No matter what the cause I think there are two solutions:
          1. Start giving closer to exact change so that any change will be an amount you are willing to write off.
          2. Since you mention the lunch sitting out for a while before you can eat it, why not just pick up food on your way in? It isn’t fresh anyway by the time you eat it and that way you are guaranteed to have the food you want and control of your lunch money.

    2. Effie, who is worth it*

      LW #1, the coffee unevenness stood out to me too. It’s nice that you don’t mind buying more expensive coffee for your “thoughtful assistant”, but I don’t think you’d be remiss in letting her know that you’re fine with the coffee at work and she doesn’t need to bring you Starbucks black coffee anymore. If you decide you want to bring it up, you don’t have to get into a big conversation about it, just say something simple and direct along the lines of you’ve appreciated her bringing you Starbucks and she doesn’t have to anymore because you’re really fine with the work coffee.

      Re: change, all of Alison’s scripts sound fine to me.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yep, tell her that and then stop buying her drinks. See if that gets her to stop buying you the coffee and gets you out of the reciprocity loop. After that, if you want to buy her the occasional drink, you can, but first you have to break the cycle. It may be that she’d like it to end as much as you do.

        1. Elysian*

          Since its the holidays anyway, the OP could also consider getting her a Starbucks gift card alongside the message that the office coffee is fine, and then considering that the end.

          1. Letter writer #1*

            I wish she would read this blog—she often gives me Starbucks gift cards, such as for my birthday or at Christmas. I would much prefer she didn’t give me anything.

            Cash is the expected end-of-year gift from associates to assistants, so that’s what I always do

    3. Yvette*

      “I simply can’t check on the food or change at the moment she comes back. ” Is there any chance that she is leaving the change out and someone else is pocketing it? You did say this was recent. Maybe someone has noticed that money gets left unattended. However if that is the case then the script Allison suggested would work as well. If she has been leaving it she will know you have not been getting it.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        It’s also possible that she only recently learned that you’re supposed to tip on takeout. There are many likely reasons for the missing change. The problem is that she skipped a step when she stopped delivering change and acted as if nothing was different, and that’s strange coming from a “thoughtful” assistant.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’m wondering if the price has gone up at the place they’re getting the food from, so that price+tip now eats up the whole amount OP is giving her, or possibly even exceeds it. Source: me, when I was younger, having higher-ups often not give me enough money for their takeout (not maliciously, just accidentally, using old menus or bad math) and having to dip into my own money for it, and in my youth and lack of confidence, keeping my mouth shut because I didn’t think I was “allowed” to ask higher-ups for more money.

          I also don’t think OP needs to feel obligated to bring her expensive coffees.

        2. Natalie*

          Right. Since there are a ton of possibilities, I think you *have to* just ask her what changed, LW. Even though it’s awkward. Practice a few times in the mirror or with your cat or whatever. You can do this!

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        I was thinking this too- that either someone else has been stealing the change where she has left it with your food (as you stated, sitting unattended for hours on your desk sometimes), or she has been holding on to it for you because she didn’t want to leave it there to get stolen. You aren’t very accessible from what you said, so she hasn’t remembered or had a chance to give you all of it back or ask you where to put it that’s safe. So just ask her about the innocent explanation first, I wouldn’t jump to her stealing.

      3. Letter writer #1*

        Good question. While I am unavailable for conversation with her in the moment, it’s most often because I’m on video conference calls at my desk, so the change isn’t sitting unattended.

        She grabs one of my “usuals” from a restaurant on the ground floor of the building: either a $6 value meal, or a $10 salad. The salad place does have a tip jar. On less hectic days, I go down for these same meals, so know how much they cost. For reasons pointed out by Kelly L, I would always rather send too much than risk sending too little and putting her in an awkward spot.

    4. LeRainDrop*

      I agree with Stellaaaaa — your assistant KNOWS what she is doing! I worked as an associate in BigLaw for several years like you, OP, so I totally get what you’re talking about when you say you can’t always get away from your desk or tend to your food or change in the moment. However, you seem to be taking your assistant up on her offer to grab you lunch a whole lot more often than was ever the norm in my office — perhaps the norm is different at yours? I thought it was interesting you dismissed the idea of giving her your credit card because actually the first thought that came to my mind about the change was that you should be giving her your credit card! That’s what I did, and my assistant would bring me back my card and receipt, making it much easier to not have to deal with change in the first place. Of course, my assistant never would have pocketed my change in the first place, but I always just thought it was much easier to go the route of a credit card (and earn rewards points/cash-back at the same time!).

      1. Colette*

        That’s actually not allowed, though – the assistant isn’t the person authorized to use the card. (I mean, I know people do it, but it is technically credit card fraud as the OP could claim she didn’t make the charges and the credit card company would not be able to prove she did.)

        1. Triangle Pose*

          No it’s not fraud. Have you ever had an assistant? This an authorized use of a credit card.

        2. LeRainDrop*

          Colette, as others have mentioned, it is allowed because I as the credit card holder authorized the other person to use the card for that purchase. The first few times I did this, I would send a note with my assistant that she had my authorization to use the card. But no one ever bothered to look at that, so I stopped writing the note.

          Also, as others have mentioned, ordering food online is another great option for avoiding the awkwardness of giving your assistant cash and asking for the change.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        I think this is a jump when there are other potential explanations, and the assistant hasn’t shown any previous signs of being untrustworthy. It’s not like she’s being very sneaky or trying to hide it- this isn’t $1 extra she might expect to be overlooked, which makes me more likely to think there’s an honest mistake or miscommunication.

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      In related news, one reason the above (it’s around lunch and coffee; recent adjustments to the process) did not sound major alarm bells for me is that OP mentioned that she is in a BigLaw firm.

      It’s highly possible that the other attorneys recognize that the admin makes way less money than they do — because BigLaw lawyers generally make big bucks — and just don’t sweat the change, because they can afford $30 a day, easy.

      It is equally possible that the other attorneys recognize that having someone pick up their coffee and lunch is a favor worth buying lunch for, or giving a tip to, a lesser-paid person (“you fly, I’ll buy”).

      OP also mentioned that she shares an admin; other attorneys may be currying favor with the assistant by treating her, which has created a culture.

      All of that considered, if you want your change back, just say so. Alison’s script is fine: “Here’s cash; just stick any change in the bag / leave any change for me here in this dish on my credenza / put my change under my keyboard.”

      1. Kate F*

        I was going to make the “I fly, you buy” point. Whenever my first boss (the only one who was a true direct supervisor) had me pick up lunch she had me get mine, too. Maybe she finally heard another assistant mentioning it and realized you were breaking the unspoken rules of engagement for a higher-paid person having a lower-paid person do them a favor.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, the pay disparity between a senior associate (I think, based on OP’s description?) and an assistant is going to be huge. Any current Biglaw employees, can you provide an estimate? This is a field where, for example, it’s common/expected for attorneys to give their assistants a generous cash gift at the holidays.

        1. ScroogeMcLawyer*

          A fifth year associate (mid-senior) at a biglaw firm in a major market (think NYC/Chicago) makes a $260,000 base salary and gets an $80,000 bonus. A shared assistant likely makes around $70,000 and probably does not get a bonus from the firm, but standard biglaw etiquette dictates each lawyer they assist should give them roughly $100 per year that lawyer has been with the firm (so a fifth year lawyer would give a card with 5 crisp $100 bills inside). Source: Biglaw associate.

          1. BigLaw Midlevel*

            assistants definitely get end of year bonuses at my firm and at my previous firm, both of which I think are pretty representative of the market.

            1. ScroogeMcLawyer*

              Any idea how much they get? I guess I don’t know that ours don’t, but I’ve just assumed they don’t because we all “have” to give so much.

              1. BigLaw Midlevel*

                I don’t know from personal knowledge, but from stuff I have read on Abovethelaw I think a somewhere around a week of salary is common.

          2. BigLaw Midlevel*

            sorry second thought and I can’t edit – My assistant picks up my lunch for me a couple times a month or so. I feel like my assistant usage is pretty normal for my firm and a midlevel or lower having their assistant pick up lunch daily would be unusual. That feels more like a partner-style relationship to me. If it’s normal for your firm, though, that’s totally fine.

      3. penty*

        Yeah. As a former biglaw attorney, it’s also NOT the assistants job to get you lunch! It’s a favor and maybe she thinks that by getting it for you, most likely on her LUNCH BREAK that the perk is that you are buying her lunch as well.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I would think this, too, except the OP said this was a change. The assistant can’t realistically expect that the OP intends to buy her lunch, too, because she’s never said anything in the past about the assistant keeping the change or buying herself lunch. That may well be the culture in the office, though, in which case the OP needs to be mindful of that (and maybe stop having the assistant pick up her lunch anyway, except for the rare favor).

        2. Green*

          As a former biglaw attorney: I concur.

          I had a lovely assistant (after a few bad ones), and the only times I think I had any of my assistants do anything related to lunches was making reservations for team lunches/interview lunches or when I was part of a team that planned to work through lunch (or we had co-counsel or clients or experts on-site), and she organized catering (which was part of her job).

          Having her actually leave the office, purchase me lunch, and bring it back to my desk NEVER happened and would have been outside of her job description, even if she’d offered. If you accept your assistant’s offer of picking you up lunch, it should be rare, not a daily thing. I get that biglaw schedules are crazy, but you need to be planning for your own meal in your day.

          I think you should avoid this problem by not treating her as a personal assistant, even if she offers to do personal assistant-type tasks.

          1. kittymommy*

            This is great. The few times I have every picked up lunch for any of my bossrs at law firms, they bought mine or it was assumed not to give them the change back. It was SOP in the office for many reasons: pay disparity, me using my lunch break to do them a favor, fuel (if applicable).

        3. Super Secret Commenter*

          I had an assistant pick up lunch for me once – I was third trimester pregnant, had a HUGE project due that day, and had just been yelled at by the important partner overseeing said partner, so I was crying my eyes out with my office door closed while typing furiously because I didn’t even have time for a break to compose myself. My assistant took pity on me and my giant belly and offered to grab food, and I will always be grateful to her. But yeah, this is not a thing I regularly expect.

      4. Letter writer #1*

        Glad to hear from other BigLaw folks. Perhaps instead of a script about the money, we need to re-establish our roles regarding what she does and doesn’t do in her role as an assistant. I’ve never asked her to bring me lunch or coffee, but perhaps she feels that it’s expected because she’s done it in the past. I’ve never had a previous assistant do this, and it would not have occurred to me to ask. She also doesn’t do the same thing for other associates.

  9. Crystal*

    #3 – well now you’ve got me curious. You can’t order fettuccini alfredo or treat yourself to some tiramisu to go a few times? Is it that they use tomatoes in the kitchen so it’s cross contaminated? It’s such a common food it seems like you would never be able to eat out, then. I’m genuinely curious about this.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I feel it’s a case of not wanting to take a risk, which I feel is perfectly fine. Also, because she can’t eat tomatoes, it limits the kinds of foods she could choose from. Who’s to say she’d necessarily like fettucini or tiramisu? It’s better for her to go to a restaurant where she had less restrictions and more options to choose from.

      1. Solanaceae*

        I can see how, depending on the allergic reaction, this could be tough to navigate.

        I’m allergic to nightshades: tomatoes, potatoes, all peppers (including paprika), and eggplant. Eating out is practically impossible without some exposure. Fettuccine Alfredo with broccoli + chicken? Despite it not being listed on the menu, the chef seasoned the chicken with paprika and the broccoli with red chili flake. (As an example.) I wish it was as easy as asking the waitstaff but they don’t always know, and honestly these seasonings are so common the chef herself doesn’t even think about them sometimes when she’s asked.

        Even navigating the grocery store is a challenge: many shredded cheeses contain potato starch… and almost every single packaged food has the ingredient “spices” which nearly 100% of the time includes paprika.

        My reaction isn’t life threatening, though it is painful and annoying. Nightshades cause an inflammatory reaction for me, which presents as pain in my joints, legs, and feet, sometimes with swelling.

        The safest bet for me is to cook all my meals at home following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) but I absolutely have to go out sometimes! Easiest places for me to navigate are sushi restaurants; Italian and Chinese restaurants are challenging; Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, and Ethiopian are impossible.

        1. Weekday Warrior*

          I have the same nightshade sensitivity, maybe to the solanine in them. My reaction has worsened from reflux, to nausea and now vomiting! Potato starch is in so many things I eat very little that I haven’t prepared myself from scratch. Ugh.

        2. Sutemi*

          You may already know this, but I am allergic to all nightshades and goji berries are also on the list.

    2. Circus peanuts*

      With the tiramisu and Alfredo choices, you are getting a lot of rich food that your doctor might frown upon. I know mine does. So the menu is cut down even further if you have fears of weight gain, heart trouble, and diabetes. But it still gets down to the fact that the employee isn’t going to use the gift and it might be a kind thing to do to let the boss know. I know I would be horrified to know how off the mark the gift is.

      1. Ruth*

        Counter: As an employee I’d be horrified to give a holiday gift back to my boss. To me a gift card is a gift. People get gift cards to places they can’t use/don’t like at the time. You don’t tell the person you can’t use it, you regift it if you can’t use it. I guess it depends on what the relationship is like between the two.

        1. MK*

          If you get a one-time unwanted gift, absolutely. But being given a gift you cannot use year after year is its own brand of awkwardness.

            1. MK*

              Well, I don’t place much stock in that. She might “know”, in the sense that she has been told once or twice, but she might not be making the connection that a giftcard for an italian restaurant is useless to the OP; or she might assume that there are plenty of things in the menu that the OP can safely eat.

            2. You're Not My Supervisor*

              It’s possible that the CEO remembers the tomato allergy and knows its MIGHT be relevant, but she only has gift cards to this one place and she’s giving them to everyone, so why leave OP out if there’s a chance she can use it? I guess I could see just as easily a letter to Alison saying “my boss gives everyone gift cards to a restaurant and never gives one to me because of my food allergies, but I CAN eat there and it hurts my feelings”… seems like erring on the side of “give the gift anyway and leave it to OP’s discretion” is the kinder thing for the boss to do.

              1. eplawyer*

                Or the boss thinks as other here have said that there must be something she can eat without tomatoes. Instead of taking her at her word that she has an allergy to tomatoes so the place is right out. But she needs to tell the boss that there is nothing there for her.

                1. Susanne*

                  I wouldn’t have assumed someone with an allergy to tomatoes couldn’t eat at an Italian restaurant. There are plenty of salads, there are plenty of pasta dishes that are made with oil or cream sauces. There are plenty of chicken or veal dishes.

                  I’m allergic to shellfish, but if someone gave me a gift card to a seafood restaurant there are still a few things on the menu I can eat, or I’d just re-gift the card (or sell it to someone at face value).

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh yes, like my ex’s mom giving me many Victoria’s Secret gift cards, which was both awkward because I was too fat for the store and because I didn’t want her thinking about my underwear. I ended up with sooooo much lotion and body wash.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              *snort* I love this.

              PSA: Don’t get people gift cards for underwear (unless you know them really really well and they always talk about how they love X underwear store).

        2. SignalLost*

          I would file it under “the thought that counts” and either give it to someone else or pitch it, personally, but OP wrote in about the issue, so it seems likely they don’t have that thought process in place.

          1. Mockingjay*

            Yes, regift the card. Consider this as one less holiday present you have to buy for someone else?

            1. nonymous*

              +1 I’ve definitely been saved socially by having unwanted gifts available for re-gifting. My position is that re-gifting is fine as long as the item is unused, the re-giftee and original gifter don’t know each other, and it would be something that I’d want to buy for that person.

          2. Parenthetically*

            You can sell gift cards! You typically don’t get the full face value, but that’s a win-win, IMO — someone else gets a gift card with a value of, say, $100, and OP gets $75 cash in hand for something that would otherwise be wasted.

          3. Someone else*

            I think there’s a different way to approach “the thought that counts” though. I take it your meaning of that phrase is “the thought to give a gift at all” is what counts. Whereas my perspective on that phrase has always been, yes, it’s the thought that counts, and if the giver gives something they in theory should know is useless to the recipient, it’s a gift that shows lack of thought on the part of the giver. I’m not quite sure which bucket this scenario fits into though because there is the question of whether the boss really knows about the allergy to the extent they’d recall it vs just having been told at some point in the past, and to whether they’d realize the extent to which the allergy might rule out this restaurant. But for example, if you have an Orthodox Jew employee and give everyone in the office gift certificates to Honeybaked Ham every year, that would be a definite case where I’d say, it’s the thought that counts and thus reflects very poorly on the boss because it’s so thoughtless. Whereas if you know a certain employee loves dolphins so get them something with a dolphin on it that’s otherwise useless or wanted, well it was still a nice thought because they were using their knowledge of the dolphin love to try to do something nice even if it failed in execution. But the tomato allergy is a less obvious situation.

            1. SignalLost*

              It’s more that I can file things I don’t feel strongly enough to fight about in “the thought that counts”. Not that I think there actually was thought, because ifvyhere is, you don’t get someone you are supposedly close to a gift they can’t use, and I would not be quick to assume a tomato allergy meant other things were fine – some allergies are severe enough to be set off by scent. But if I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, that would nudge me to the thought that counts whether I felt that was true or not.

        3. Jana*

          I’d tend to agree with this. It seems odd to me to return a gift or suggest that you want a different gift, especially if it’s from someone with whom you have only a professional relationship. I understand that in OP’s case there’s a food allergy involved and it likely is a little awkward to repeatedly receive a gift that you can’t use. I see that the boss is aware of OP’s allergy, but I also wonder if it’s possible that the boss may have forgotten or simply doesn’t realize that the menu prohibits OP from enjoying the gift cards. Honestly, this just seems like a situation where you get a gift you don’t really want, say thank you, and then re-gift. Some gift cards can even be sold to certain websites.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah, I technically “know” about a lot of my friends’ and colleagues’ allergies and dietary restrictions, because I’ve asked for the specific purposes of ordering food or making them dinner. I don’t keep the knowledge in active memory; once I’ve done the making or ordering of the food the knowledge sort of slides away. There are scores of people who I’ve been involved in feeding, and I just can’t remember all of their dietary requirements, especially since they’re lengthy or complicated for some people (one friend is allergic to about a dozen things, another has a complex set of requirements based on glycemic index, etc.). My brain just can’t keep that all to the forefront. So I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that the boss has knowledge of the LW’s allergy but potentially forgot.

            (Or they could be a jerk that doesn’t care, but it’s easy to just forget. My mother in law, who I feed all the time, has a huge list of allergies, and I still have to refresh my memory each time I cook so I don’t forget one.)

        4. Anon non non*

          I don’t know if I’d be “horrified”. I don’t drink alcohol, have stated, at work and at every company event, that I don’t drink alcohol, and yet the same department head buys me wine as a gift. I don’t know anyone who drinks wine outside of this office. I don’t cook with wine. I end up thanking him for the thought and telling him to take the bottle as I don’t drink and don’t want it to go to waste. It’s possible the OP could find someone who likes that restaurant, but it’s equally possible that she couldn’t. There’s really nothing wrong with saying “Oh Jane, thank you so much for thinking of me, but I can’t use this gift certificate. I wonder if there is someone else you could pass this on to who isn’t afflicted with my limiting allergies.”

      2. Lars the Real Girl*

        I mean…most Italian restaurant food is rich (or at least high calorie). And a lot of restaurant food in general isn’t the healthiest, so medical concerns about weight, etc cut out most items on most restaurant menus. But I don’t think it’s the boss’s job to figure out every food issue for employees and make sure that they have at least x% of the menu to choose from. This is an especially hard one because I doubt there are many restaurants that don’t have tomatoes on their menu. (So I’m curious too about how the OP manages if they have cross contamination issues – it’s gotta be really tough!)

        That being said, it would be nice in this scenario if the manager got her something else, but even if she doesn’t, that’s one less present for someone else’s birthday/holiday that the OP doesn’t have to buy!

        1. SignalLost*

          There are a lot of restaurants that have tomato on the menu, but I am not aware of a cuisine that takes that as far as average-American-Italian, so it’s a bit dramatic – like giving a gift card to a fish house to someone who’s allergic to fish. Lots of places have fish (or tomatoes) on the menu; few places have as much on the menu as those restaurants specifically, and that’s without worrying about cross contamination.

      3. Annie*

        Or OP could suck it up and just regift the gift card when they need a generic gift for someone else. I really don’t think this is worth getting so bent out of shape over.

    3. chi type*

      There are sites where you can sell or exchange gift cards online (link to follow).
      But, yeah, either OP or the restaurant has a very limited idea of Italian cuisine that apparently doesn’t include alfredo, marsala, primavera, saltimbocca, etc, etc.

      1. SignalLost*

        Or, maybe OP has cross-contamination issues with Italian restaurants, or maybe OP (like me) ate alfredo sauce once and was unrelatedly sick and is now violently ill at the sight of alfredo, or maybe it all doesn’t matter, because OP doesn’t want to and/or cannot eat at this restaurant.

        1. Anon non non*

          I had such a bad experience at one restaurant (that we only tried because of a gift card, BTW) that I will never return to it again. It makes me gag a little just thinking about that awful meal and the illness that plagued me for days after.

      2. Doreen*

        There are actually Italian restaurants like that in my area. They are one step up from a pizzeria (because they have table service) but the non-tomato sauce menu is limited – maybe some appetizers and spaghetti with garlic and oil.

      3. Laura*

        Yes, I too am baffled at the idea that you can’t find plenty of food to eat in an Italian restaurant in America that doesn’t have tomatoes in it. If you want to avoid creamy sauces, they should all be able to grill you a chicken breast or saute it in lemon and white wine (poss with mushrooms if you like those). Very few risottos have tomato in them. There really ought to be a ton of stuff that she can order. And she could use it to treat a friend or partner, too.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Or we could trust her when she says that she can’t

          a person with food allergies whose former boss could not accept I couldn’t eat at the restaurants she liked

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            Indeed. I don’t see why we are arguing with the OP that they should be able to find something at this place just because there are theoretical Italian foods that should be safe. The OP knows the restaurant and their reactions, I think we should trust those to be true.

            After all, the commentariat tends to get outraged when people with allergies are told that it’s not a real thing, when people sneak foods that people can’t eat into dishes in order to “test” them, and so on. Telling the OP that they should be able to eat something at this specific, unnamed place seems to be a very similar behaviour.

            If it were me I’d look into selling or re-gifting the cards. I have a relative that has bought me several bottles of perfume in recent years, which is a nice gesture but I don’t wear perfume. Eventually I sold them on eBay and got near the RRP for them and they went to someone who really likes them.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes, exactly (and reselling is a good idea if the OP can’t bring herself to tell the boss to stop)

    4. Really?*

      There is also carbonara dishes and a few others. And my local Italian place also serves a variety of seafood. Apps come without tomatoes.

      1. Bryce*

        Do they make them on separate pans from the tomato-based dishes? What’s their allergen protocol for less common ones like that? Even if they have a good one, will the chef just say “eh, it’s no big deal” and ignore them?

        These are things most folks don’t need to think about, but we do. This restaurant is past the OP’s comfort threshold, don’t second-guess it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Let’s take the OP at her word that there’s nothing there for her rather than insisting she must be wrong, given that she’s more familiar with the restaurant and her own dietary restrictions than we are.

    5. Bryce*

      Depending on the allergy, certain restaurants are like walking in a minefield. You CAN do it, but you’re not gonna enjoy it. With my peanut allergy I have to have a hard veto on Thai and a couple of specific restaurants of other types.

      Yes, “never eat out” is a thing we do. I’ll grab fast food occasionally but otherwise I just feel a lot more comfortable making meals myself. My mom has gluten issues and is even more strict, she’s got a handful of places in town she trusts and flat out won’t go anywhere else, since even a little gluten exposure won’t kill her but will leave her feeling tired and glorpy for a week.

      1. Zathras*

        I was going to post something similar – I have a peanut allergy and a policy of not eating in Thai restaurants. Technically there are maybe 1-2 things I can eat, but the risk of cross contamination is a lot higher. I went to one once with a coworker who spoke fluent Thai and explained my allergy to the kitchen staff, but even then I was so freaked out by the omnipresence of peanuts that I spent the rest of the day worrying that every tiny twitch meant I was about to have a reaction (mine is sometimes delayed-onset). And I am someone whose allergy is not particularly sensitive and who is also frankly kind of careless about it!

        That said if the boss is giving everyone the same gift card, I don’t know that I would bother to say anything or give it back. I’d probably just re-gift it to someone else. I got a (sealed) bag of pistachios as a Christmas gift from work once, every employee got the same thing. I’m also allergic to tree nuts, but I just said thanks and gave it to a family member who loves pistachios.

        1. DCompliance*

          I think the boss probably is unaware of the risk of cross-contamination. She probably thinks her employee can just eat the non-tomato dishes. I am allergic to sweet potatoes. Fortunately, even if French fries are cooked in the same fryer as sweet potato fries I am okay, to eat them. Other people do not have it so lucky as my allergy is more mild.

          1. Bryce*

            It’s kinda nifty (albeit frustrating) how people have blind spots in their thinking and just assume everyone else thinks the same. My brother doesn’t have allergies but grew up with me and mine, and last year in a word-association game with other folks he was shocked that nobody immediately linked “chocolate” and “peanuts” like he did. He and I are just used to thinking in contamination vectors, while others linked chocolate with things like “cookies” and “donuts”. It’s hiccups like that which help reveal how our minds work.

            Really infuriating when it keeps happening though. I’ve got some neighbors who always give me a gift basket full of stuff I can’t eat for the holidays, my friends enjoy it but I have to spend an evening muttering “they mean well they mean well” to calm down.

      1. SignalLost*

        That actually stuck out to me as the real issue. I was once given a couple of gift cards to stores related to interests of mine but stores that I personally do not patronize Because Reasons. I still used, and appreciated, the gift cards because why would I expect someone to know that I don’t like Big Box Music Store and prefer Indie Music Store? They were unexpected gifts, they were meant very kindly indeed, and the fact they weren’t “perfect” didn’t matter. This is not that. This is someone who is not actually putting thought into their gift, but rather convenience, because a) it sounds like it’s obvious they’re not even buying the cards (I have a thing about that, apparently – I guess I’d say that if someone went to a place and spent money on something they have thought about it, but if they just wind up at the end of the year with a handful of gcs and give them to people that’s … not the thought that counts) and b) it’s just really making the whole thing pro forma to give someone a gift they can’t use, and to keep on doing it. Also, c) my favourite restaurant currently is a local sushi place; it would be the height of ego to assume that my mother would appreciate that gift, because my mother loathes fish and it doesn’t matter that there’s other things on the menu – I would be seriously circumscribing her choices by giving her a gc to MY favourite restaurant.

        I think it’s fair not to start with the assumption of malice, and I like Alison’s scripts for that reason, but it’s also reasonable to feel slighted that there’s so little thought here; it wipes out the kindness of the gift to put no thought into it.

        1. Yorick*

          If you’re giving many of the same gifts out, a gift card to your favorite restaurant is a personal gift, imo. It’s personal for the giver. It says, “I enjoy this and want you to experience it too.”

          1. SignalLost*

            Not if you have reason to assume the recipient cannot use the card. Broadly, I agree, but that changes things. It’s not thoughtful to give anyone a gift they won’t use, whether that’s a skimpy top to a modest dresser or wine to a non-drinker or car accessories to someone who doesn’t drive.

            1. anon scientist*

              How often does the tomato allergy come up, though? I’ve worked with people who had allergies to certain foods, and if it didn’t come up regularly, I often didn’t remember. It’s not like I didn’t care, but there’s a lot of information going into my head every day – if I don’t need to regularly know that Jane is allergic to tomatoes, I’m not likely to remember.

              I wouldn’t assume the boss is uncaring just because she doesn’t remember the tomato allergy. If it was me, I’d just regift the card.

            2. Yorick*

              I agree with anon scientist- Boss “knows” OP is allergic to tomatoes, but that may not be something that comes up enough to remember. Also, Boss isn’t thinking about that when planning gifts: Boss isn’t buying individual gifts for people, so what each person will think of the gift isn’t in her mind.

              I understand it must be annoying to get a gift card you can’t use, but in this context I think OP should just regift it, or do as Allison suggests.

            3. Yorick*

              I just think we have to remember the context – this isn’t a gift that Boss picked out for OP, it’s something that she gives to everyone. Of course, picking out an individual gift would be nicer, but bosses don’t have to give gifts at all, so we should assume she’s being kind by giving these.

      2. Susanne*

        Well, Ramona, it is kind of a “duh” that people are going to give gift cards to restaurants they personally like / enjoy, on the feeling that “if I think it’s a good restaurant, chances are you’ll think it’s a good restaurant too.”

        Starbucks cards are a pretty universal / ubiquitous “small thank-you” gift, and even if the person doesn’t drink coffee they have tea, or a muffin, or a salad, or you can just re-gift to someone else. There are plenty of issues to angst over, but this isn’t one, and I don’t know a polite way of asking for a different-restaurant gift card.

    6. sap*

      Since it seems like a curiosity issue for you:

      A lot of allergies won’t have a strong/any reaction to mild cross-contamination (used a pan that had [thing] in it, but was washed/rinsed first) and will be fine at most restaurants. But if your allergy is to the most common ingredient in that restaurant and can be triggered by moderate cross-contamination, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting some of that thing in your food.

      At a Thai restaurant, for instance, there is just PEANUT EVERYWHERE, and you really can’t prep any dish without getting some non-trivial to an allergic person but non-taste relevant peanut into it–there’s just always peanuts being cut up, peanuts are probably cooking on the range with your non-peanut food in your non-peanut dish, spraying microscopic peanut particles in the oil fumes all around a 5-foot radius and into your food, peanuts are being chopped 5 feat away and the dust is spraying in the air. In, say, a restaurant with one peanut butter dish, the air just isn’t full of peanuts all night, everywhere. I’d imagine it’s the same in an italian restaurant that is very red-sauce heavy–90% of the dishes on the range have tomato in them and are constantly aerosolizing particles with the oil, someone is always cutting one up and spraying its juices all around, it’s even in the fume hoods. Whereas the local Indian restaurant has tomato in 2 or 3 dishes.

      There’s also the problem of people not believing customers have allergies. Many people hear an obscure allergy and go “this person doesn’t like tomatoes.” You sound lucky enough not to have a serious food allergy/any immediate family with one, so you’ve probably never seen this happen, but I’ve personally observed many instances of “nope, no [ALLERGEN],” followed by a sick allergic person shortly thereafter, and a comment to the effect of “I didn’t think you really had an allergy/you’re faking it.” That can be anyone from a waiter to a chef to your kooky sister, and it’s way more common with obscure allergies that are also to foods that many picky eaters simply don’t like (such as tomatoes). While inadvertently eating a tomato is a low risk at a restaurant that definitely serves dishes that simply won’t have any tomatoes in them, at a restaurant like an Italian restaurant, tomatoes could be hiding in tomato paste bases (I have a delicious marsala recipe that has maybe 1-2 tsp) paste) all over the menu in ways that don’t impart a lot of tomato flavor, and a waiter would often say “no tomatoes in that,” maybe because s/he doesn’t know it’s in the sauce and doesn’t bother asking the chef, maybe because the waiter assumes your allergy isn’t a big deal/real and it only counts if you can taste the tomato, maybe because the chef doesn’t think your allergy is real/will react to just a bit of tomato paste and gives inaccurate info to the waiter, maybe because it’s a chain and the marsala sauce comes in a big tub and nobody really knows what’s in it at all.

      So, to sum up, #1 is probably specifically avoiding Italian restaurants because of the higher than average ratio of dishes with tomato to dishes without, possibly because of the increased level of cross-contamination, possibly because s/he fears that the staff won’t actually know whether a dish has hidden tomatoes (which are more common in Italian cuisine than many other cuisines), and possibly because s/he is concerned that the staff will serve them tomatoes anyway because their allergy won’t be taken seriously.

      1. Crystal*

        Thanks for the reply and info. I’m allergic to bell peppers and they sneak into things a lot, but I’m not deadly allergic, just get Mick Jagger lips a few days and itch like crazy. I appreciate the reply.

      2. O*

        This is a helpful description. Just want to add, it turns out that Indian food also has a lot of unexpected tomato paste. :( I’m sensitive to tomato (not allergic), so I found this out by asking the kitchen at one restaurant… I figured the saag paneer (spinach + cheese) would be a safe dish, but no.

    7. Legalchef*

      That’s what I was thinking too. My dad is super allergic to tomatoes – as in even a tomato seed can kill him, or at best give him gastrointestinal issues. He’s also deathly allergic to all kinds of things. But he eats out at all kinds of restaurants. He just orders things that won’t contain tomatoes or other allergens or asks that they be left off because he’s allergic.

    8. NoTomatoesForYou!*

      I’m the OP. It’s a restaurant that makes everything in house, which is awesome for an allergy person. The Alfredo and soups contain tomato paste, per the chef. And I’m allergic to cinnamon as well, so no tiramisu. I do choose the “it’s the thought that counts” response and pass along the gift card. But it’s a bigger issue than just the gift card one. My coworker’s birthday is a couple weeks after mine. This year, our manager ignored my birthday, but gave him a bottle of wine. He doesn’t drink. He’s been at the job over 10 years, so none of this is new info to our manager. The gift issue is a bizarre and ongoing one. :)

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Hearing this information, it seems more deliberate, or at best, violently oblivious. Maybe you and the wine receiver could swap gifts. ;)

      2. Zathras*

        Some people are just bad at gift giving. They give people things they would want. And/or they do it impulsively, so they may miss one occasion, then give something outrageously lavish at another time, confusing everyone around them who thinks of gift giving in a more orderly way.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been gifted a bottle of wine, despite the fact that it’s a migraine trigger for me. And anytime I’m offered a glass of wine, I tell them that.

        2. Becca*

          Hrm. I think I’m an impulsive gift giver BECAUSE I put thought into them. It’s not “oh it’s Gift Giving Day again, so here’s a thing.” It’s “I saw this thing and thought you’d appreciate it.” The only exception to both things is when I’m on vacation. I’ll still try to find individual souvenirs, but I might also buy a bunch of key chains and let everyone choose one or something.

          In a work environment, though, giving a birthday gift to one and not the other, especially so close together is… so incredibly thoughtless. It gives the perception of favoritism, even if not actual favoritism, and it’s a failure on her part as a manager that she doesn’t realize that.

      3. Antilles*

        If the gift issue is more than just you, I wouldn’t say anything to him about it; seems like it’s just his weird thing about being awful at gifts so nothing you could Just continue your policy of regifting the cards to others – since he obviously isn’t putting any thought into your gifts, you certainly shouldn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt over regifting them.
        Also, I’d bet that the bottle of wine your non-drinking coworker received is also something that boss got for free and just didn’t want.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I agree with Zathras, quite a few people are just bad at perspective-taking in general, and when trying to give gifts, they pick something that delights them because they don’t go further than the subconscious association of “this item makes me happy, I want Wakeen to be happy, I will give this to Wakeen!” It’s well-intentioned, but a LOT of people do that.

        It actually took me a long time to realize that the best way to buy gifts for many people is to look at what they buy for you (assuming it’s not all off of a wish list).

        1. Language Student*

          That’s a great take on gift-giving – getting people things similar to what they get you. Explains a lot of “this is lovely, but, uh, why?” gifts I’ve had, as well!

      5. Laura*

        THE ALFREDO CONTAINS TOMATO PASTE?? I am passing this onto Italian friends in horror.

        At least they were frank with you, but this is *not* an Italian restaurant in any true meaning of the word! Much sympathy. If they’ll do that, you’re right not to trust anything you can eat there. They’d probably put it on a piece of grilled chicken, FFS.

        1. AnotherJill*

          If you aren’t familiar with it , look up Umami. Chefs are tossing a tsp or two of tomato paste, soy sauce, etc. into everything these days.

          1. NoTomatoesForYou!*

            You’re so right! I learned of my tomato allergy as an adult. It’s shocking how much tomato paste is used in food I would never have guessed.

      6. Mockingjay*

        If your company is otherwise a good place to work, then I would let this go as a CEO quirk. Some people just aren’t good at or care about shopping and gift giving.

        (Cue my poor husband – if I don’t tell him exactly what I want for birthday/Christmas (to the point of circling item, size, and color in the catalog), I will get nothing. Seriously. He gets so bewildered and frustrated – he HATES shopping period and he doesn’t know how to match personalities and gifts. But he’s pretty terrific in all other areas, so I’m keeping him. I can order on Amazon for myself.)

  10. AnonAndOn*

    5. I agree with those who said to try melatonin on Friday and Saturday to see how that works. Also, if you’re doing anything like watching TV or using a laptop before going to bed, try turning those off earlier. I also agree with Alison about checking in with a doctor.

    Another thing to consider are doing prep things the night before, like showering before going to bed (unless you sweat in your sleep), having lunch packed in advance (if you bring one to work), and having the coffee machine set up to run (coffee in the filter, water in the reservoir) if you take coffee to work. That would help lessen the amount of things to worry about in the morning.

    Best of luck to you in getting this situation under control.

    1. de Pizan*

      On the melatonin, since it comes in a few different doses, I would also recommend starting out at the lowest they sell (I think it’s 1mg) to see how the LW does on that.

    2. Connie-Lynne*

      I would caution the OP about melatonin. IMO it’s largely useless for serious sleep disorders except in large doses. Those doses, for me, for example, are large enough (12 mg) that they also trigger horrifying night terrors.

      Lots of people think sleep problems can be cured with hygiene or onprescription remedies, but if your condition is severe, those don’t work, and the failure of being able to be “normal” for something everyone else does relatively easily can be devastating.

      1. krysb*

        Yeah, it doesn’t work with me at all. Neither does ZQuil. Of course, my doctors think I have an adrenal tumor that’s causing the issue (which I finally – after months of waiting for the appointment – get to see an endocrinologist for today).

    3. Gerta*

      I struggled to get to sleep throughout my teens and early twenties. It wasn’t unusual for me to take 2 hours to fall asleep because I would have a lot on my mind, mostly worries about things I needed to do. For me personally, the turning point was starting to keep a simple “to do” list next to the bed, with a pen. I now have a diary in which I put this list, prioritised, for the next day every evening. If I start thinking about something else while in bed, it goes down on paper and often that’s enough to get it out of my head. I realise everyone is different, and perhaps you’re already doing something like this, but if not I encourage you to try it. It means I’m well organised the rest of the time as well!

    4. PB*

      I agree with the suggestion to prep things the night before. I even bought a coffee maker with a timer, so it’s automatically brewed by the time I roll out of bed. Trying to get a ton done before bed can lead to extra stress, however. I’ve gotten in the habit of making my lunch and coffee while my dinner is cooking, so those things are ready to go hours before bedtime.

    5. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yep, all of this. Pick out your clothes for the next day, down to the accessories/socks, and make sure your clothes are ironed/steamed the night before, too. If you take a bag to work, put it by the door. Anything else you want to take with you–put it by the door, including your keys. Make a list of all the steps you have to do in the morning, and follow it–when you finish one, immediately start the next. When going through particularly sluggish periods, I have even taken to getting my phone and setting a timer for every step. “You have two minutes to brush your teeth. Go!” “Ok, JB, wash you face/apply skin care/put on your makeup in 10 minutes, and whatever you look like at the end is what you look like.”
      In the past, when I had more counter space, I would line up the products I needed in the order I used them (toothpaste, face wash, essence, moisturizer, sunscreen, etc). I doubt it saved me all that much time to not have to search for the next thing I needed, but it helped to keep me focused on the next step.

  11. Cheryll*

    #2 I use a heating pad on my chair. It has an auto off feature so I was able to get the Saftey people to agree. Plus it is discreet and doesn’t interfere with my desk area.

    1. The Expendable Redshirt*

      My office can get very cold in the winter. I’m two windows down from the reception area, so it can get pretty chilly. I keep a Magic Bag in my office that I heat up when I’m getting chilled. Space heaters are a no-go for everyone. However, management knows that the receptionist is experiencing the coldest location of all. The receptionist can use an electric blanket at the front desk.

  12. Rana*

    #5 I’ve been reading a book called “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker and I’m finding it really motivating to get me to bed earlier. It also has some practical suggestions for getting more and better sleep. I can recommend it.

    1. Rana*

      Also, if you’re like me and like being on screens late at night, use Night Mode or get the app called f.lux to dim and warm your screen colors. Exposure to bright, blue-end-of-spectrum lights will make it harder to fall asleep.

      1. Story Nurse*

        The equivalent app for Android devices is Twilight. It’s great. There’s also a blue light filter built into the latest version of Android. I assume similar things exist for iOS.

      2. Mockingjay*

        f.lux is amazing! I have been using it on all my devices, phone, tablets, and work computers, for years! My eyestrain has been reduced to almost nothing!

      3. callietwo*

        Along with f.lux and night mode, I have glasses that blocks blue light from screens. I also use a cpap but was able to get a mask that would allow me to wear my glasses until I’m ready to take them off and actually fall asleep. They’re called tach5 I believe, progressive and have computer distance & reading distance for the prescriptions. I will never willingly go without these again.

    2. EmilyG*

      I was scrolling down to see if anyone else was recommending this book. I read an early copy this fall and thought it was fascinating. I haven’t had real sleep problems since high school (when the enforced schedule was so opposed to my circadian rhythm) but I learned a lot from this book and have altered some habits based on it–particularly around drinking in the evenings. (Extreme paraphrase: the author says that some things that feel like they aid sleep, like alcohol and sleeping pills, actually prevent you from getting *good sleep*, so do more harm than good.)

      If you’re interested in this whole discussion, I highly recommend this book!

    3. Rachel Green*

      I second this book recommendation! I have been telling everyone I know to read this! So interesting and helpful! I had been falling into some bad sleep habits in the last couple of years, and reading that book really motivated me to take my sleep more seriously.

    4. Bean Counter*

      Yes, I read that recently, and what it says about the consequences of not sleeping enough are frankly terrifying. It has led me to setting an earlier time to turn the light off every night, and I am sleeping more and feeling better.

  13. AnonAndOn*

    2. It’s ridiculous that you’re not allowed to have something to help keep you warm. A space heater can easily be unplugged and stored somewhere when not in use. I’ve worked in freezing jobs and having a space heater under my desk was a lifesaver.

    For ideas that are within your office’s rules for the time being: A pashmina wrap can act as a nice way of keeping warm (it’s fancier than a winter scarf) as could a cardigan.

    I am sorry that you’re going through this and hope the issue’s resolved soon.

    1. Talvi*

      I once had a job where my department the only one allowed to have a space heater… because without it, the lift on the loading dock would freeze and stop working during the winter!

    2. Raven_144*

      I second the call for a pashmina. There are some well-weighted ones that provide comfort and warmth and look professional. A heavy cardigan also helps. It wasn’t clear to me if you’ve been told specifically that you can’t use a blanket or if you’ve determined that yourself. I know there’s no way anyone at my office would know if our receptionists were using blankets because of the desk height obstructs the visitors vision a bit. If you haven’t been explicitly told you can’t use one maybe you can experiment with the blanket?

    3. Turanga Leela*

      Pashminas are good for an “indoor scarf” look. Also, OP, long underwear is your friend. People I know rave about the Uniqlo stuff (heattech is the name of the line, I think).

      I hope they let you get a heater.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I’m wearing mine right now! I also buy those disposable toe warmers (you can get a box of 30 at Costco for about $20 this time of year). They say “up to 5 hours of heat” but I usually get at least 8, and they keep my toes nice and toasty warm (sometimes even a bit too warm!).

    4. Oranges*

      That reminds me. There are weird heating pad things that go under the desk for your legs. I might have an icebox of a basement where my computer is…

  14. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 It sounds like you’re now in a vicious circle where worrying about waking up is stopping you from sleeping. But there are things you can do that don’t involve taking sleeping pills. For example, CBT therapy can be helpful for sleep problems, and there are other things that can help you fall asleep like mindfulness meditation.

    It would be a good idea to take a sleep diary to your doctor covering a couple of weeks of sleep and wake times. Your doctor will also likely ask if you’re practising good sleep hygiene – and if you’re not, it’s worth looking into. The advice you find will probably seem really annoying but small things like checking the temperature in your bedroom, replacing your pillows and not using your phone before bed can make a huge difference. However this is getting away from work advice.

    Have you told your manager you have insomnia or do they just think it’s unexplained lateness or disorganisation? If you haven’t, I think you might need to consider letting them know what’s going on – and that you’re trying to get it sorted.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Definitely tell your manager. Sleep disorders are eligible for ADA accommodation like any other disability.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Indeed it is documented that I might be late to work due to my own sleep disorder although I haven’t been yet (I have narcolepsy so bit different to the LW). But understanding varies greatly – there are people who get that sleep problems can be serious medical issues whether they are primary sleep disorders or caused by something else (eg medication wide effects, anxiety or depression) and those who think they’re a joke or wonder why you don’t just go to bed earlier or whatever. So in reality some managers will be more understanding than others.

        1. nonymous*

          Does OP need to disclose the underlying medical cause to get reasonable accommodation? I had a dr who insisted I take some time off due to anxiety-related symptoms and the note just said I wasn’t eligible to work during that period, and when I got back I gave a vague description that just repeated that sentiment (“I just went in for scheduled exam and the Dr told me I wasn’t eligible to work until DATE. ” and “I tried to negotiate and the Dr said NoWay! can’t go in until DATE”). ADA accommodation is different than sick leave, though – would it be appropriate for OP’s physician to write a note specifying that OP needs a modified work schedule due to “ongoing medical care”?

          1. Natalie*

            I can’t imagine why they would need to reveal the underlying cause since they only need accommodation for sleep issues and not anxiety. Like, if I used a wheelchair I wouldn’t have to tell my boss why I needed it to work on accommodations.

  15. Amber*

    #2 You could look into getting a heated mouse. Also there are some times when it’s better to just buy yourself something to keep warm and ask forgiveness if anyone brings it up rather than ask permission.

    1. Moonmodule1998*

      “Also there are some times when it’s better to just buy yourself something to keep warm and ask forgiveness if anyone brings it up rather than ask permission.” This is a very real and good point, LW #2. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Also, I’ve never seen one, but a heated mouse sounds awesome and not very noticeable.

    2. CheeryO*

      YES, I bought one of these for myself a couple years ago, and it has been life-changing. I can get by with leggings under my jeans and two or three layers on top, but my hands get cold no matter what. The heated mouse keeps my right hand toasty, and I can sit on my left hand or stick it in a pocket when I’m not typing. I’m pretty sure it’s against our rules, but no one has noticed yet, and I haven’t started any office fires (knock on wood).

    3. zora*

      “Also there are some times when it’s better to just buy yourself something to keep warm and ask forgiveness if anyone brings it up rather than ask permission.”

      This is my main advice. Since the facilities jerks have already said no (jerks), I would buy an electric blanket or heating pad. I covered mine with a dark colored pillowcase and I sit on it, so it’s under the desk, most people can’t see it at all unless they are actually sitting in my chair. And just take care of yourself. And in my experience, heated blankets use way less electricity than space heaters.

      If someone ever does notice and brings it up, use Alison’s language about how cold you are/were, and act very matter of fact about it.

  16. Chris*

    Something important to note for #5 is to not just accept all sleep advice wholesale. I know people who want deep, stygian darkness, and require absolute silence to get to sleep. I, on the other hand, prefer a BIT of light (that is, not pitch black), and I will absolutely go insane if it’s dead silent. I need a fan, or a quiet podcast, or SOMETHING (noise machines don’t do much for me). I also have a CPAP, so the hum of the machine is often enough. So YMMV on ANY sleep advice, we are all very different animals.

    I will say that I used to have issues with not getting to sleep, and my CPAP fixed most of it (I guess, based on timing). Now I’m asleep in minutes. But that sleep anxiety feedback loop is horrible, I know it well. I agree with experimenting on the weekend, keep to your schedule even when you don’t have to get up. Also, I’ve found that for me, podcasts or audiobooks are ideal for getting to sleep, being careful to pick one I’ve already listened to, isn’t all that engaging, and keep it quiet. Talky science podcasts seem to work well. But as I said, everyone is different, I know there’s some advice about NOT listening to stuff, so…

    1. Cary*

      I hate that whole anxiety, no sleep, more anxiety oh look now I’m having nightmares loop. It’s like some kind of cruel joke.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Best sleep advice I ever got was that when I get into that cycle, I should get up and do something else until I feel tired. In combination with other sleep techniques, this works incredibly well for me.

      2. Oranges*

        Funniest thing for me is as soon as I send my “insomnia happening, I’m working from home tomorrow” email I’ll instantly fall asleep since I’m not worried any longer.

    2. Story Nurse*

      For all my life I’ve hated white noise. HATED. I could not sleep with a fan on; I needed silence or natural background noise.

      Then I developed tinnitus and discovered that there’s a whole world out there of white noise apps with lots and lots of options. Now I have a custom mix of brown noise, cars-on-road, and rain-on-roof that I’ve perfectly adjusted to cancel the tinnitus out. Even when my ears are quiet I’m used to having the noise app on.

      So even if you think you know what does and doesn’t work for you, there may be options that you’re not aware of!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I didn’t realize white noise machines were a thing but having one changed my sleeping life! Also it turns out that the reason I had trouble sleeping in “silence” is because I have a type of tinnitus and didn’t realize that either. Only recently did it rise to the level where I finally noticed it, instead of being the low-grade ‘noise’ I’ve always been only slightly aware of – I always thought it was an ambient quality of the rooms I was in, not in my head!

    3. Edina Monsoon*

      This ^^^ I need some noise to be able to sleep otherwise I start thinking about things that are worrying me and then I’ll be wide awake for hours! I read that many babies who were Ferberised need the TV on to go to sleep as adults.

      Another thing that helps me sleep is doing exercise, but I’d echo Alison and say get to a doctor ASAP.

      1. Oranges*

        I listen to audio books. They must be books I know by heart though because then I’m not all “what happens! I must know!” Pratchett, Dorthy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Hitchicker’s Guide are my BFFs. If it’s really bad, Just So Stories because they’re just… so soothing.

        The only problem is some of the narrators don’t keep their volume level between their different “voices” or the production company didn’t equalize well which means either I can’t hear them half the time OR I get jolted awake.

        Tangent: Any one know of a good easy way to even them out? I’ve tried in the past but it appears that mostly it’s the change in timbre/pitch that causes the issue and not the actual volume.

    4. Nye*

      My favorite insomnia podcast is In Our Time, by the BBC. Mannered British intellectuals discussing some extremely academic topic for an hour, guided by the host, Melvyn Bragg. It’s great. Voices are almost never raised, so it’s a fairly even tone with nothing to jolt you awake as you’re falling asleep. And it’s interesting, so if I truly can’t sleep at least I’ve learned something about Feathered Dinosaurs, Germaine de Stael, or The Congress of Vienna. (All recent episodes.)

      In fact, I’m going to put on another episode now, since I can’t get back to sleep.

      1. Mephyle*

        Me too! I like the way a topic that I never thought I would be interested in turns out to be fascinating.
        But my best ones for sleeping are certain geological episodes that I’ve re-listened to dozens of times (per the discussion above where a well-known audio puts you to sleep because you don’t feel like you’re missing something, since you’ve already heard it many times). The K-T boundary, Ediacara biota and the Cambrian explosion are my sure sleep aids.

    5. MerciMe*

      When I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, they told us that insomnia is often a symptom because your body realizes that when you sleep, you stop breathing, so it tries to keep you awake, so you won’t stop breathing… Definitely a vicious cycle! But yeah, definitely trillionthing the see a doctor recommendation. And don’t be afraid to request a sleep specialist, if your GP doesn’t seem able to effectively help.

      1. Oranges*

        I didn’t know this! I do know that my cPap changed my life. 34 episodes an hour. That’s one every two miniutes. No wonder I never had any energy.

        Whenever my Dr.s ask me about using it every night they get a little “OMG Yes!!! I love it so much!” because a) I do and b) they probably don’t hear that enough.

      2. Oranges*

        PS. Sorry for the double comment but… Yes, if your GP isn’t helping please get one that’s more aligned to you. My apnea went undiagnosed for YEARS because “Of course she’s tired, she has depression”.

    6. ainomiaka*

      I don’t know that I would say don’t accept all advice so much as OP may have to figure out what’s applicable for them. But this might be a minor semantic quibble. I absolutely agree with you that solutions are going to be individual-my husband and I joke that our marriage was made possible by underpillow speakers because he NEEDS noise to sleep and I NEED silence.

    7. cataloger*

      You might check out the “Sleep with Me” podcast. It’s all kind-of-interesting kind-of-funny stories (like summaries of old Star Trek episodes) specifically made to keep you company, distract you from worrying thoughts, and help you get to sleep. I listen to it every night, and usually don’t even get to the story part — the intro knocks me right out.

  17. Cary*

    I had terrible insomnia after my son was born. He’d be asleep, but I’d be lying awake worrying about waking up and then needing to get up to him. When I did sleep I had gruesome nightmares. Eventually attempting to go to sleep was enough to trigger an anxiety attack which made it even harder to go to sleep. I ended up doing therapy, taking a low dose of Ativan (I had no problem getting up in the morning) as I got to the right dose of a SSRI and 50 mg of trazadone to make me sleepy before going to bed. I also practice deep breathing, yoga nidra, exercising each day and if I’m struggling to get to sleep I list inconsequential things in my head like capital cities or dog breeds. I’ve worked hard to let stress and anxiety wash over me rather than drowning in it. It’s hard to describe, but it’s taking the time to acknowledge and observe what I’m feeling and to duck my head under the wave.

    1. Regular post going anon for this*

      This is almost exactly me, although my anxiety and panic attacks are triggered by other issues. The sleep thing was the game changer for me in terms on management. 100mg of zoloft, 50 mg of trazadone at bedtime and xanax as a “rescue” drug when meditation, Ant therapy or other mindfulness activities don’t work. I take the xanax probably one time in every two to three week time frame.

      For the OP, I would recommend seeing your PCP, a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist for an eval to get a good handle on your mental health. Sleep deprivation can be mentally, physically and professionally detrimental and getting it under control will probably change your life in positive ways you haven’t even considered.

      Also, I highly recommend the calm app for the meditation sessions and sleep stories.

  18. Dan*


    So… sleep disorders are becoming more and more recognized as medical/physiological/biological (whatever the right term is). I don’t know the particulars of getting diagnosed with one — in my professional career, my employers have been generous with “flexible hours” so I haven’t had to make a legal issue out of it. (Most days I show up a tad bit after 11am; I have a “normal” job.) The thing that keeps me out of the lawyers’ office is I suck it up and show up to early meetings — these aren’t common, though, maybe once or twice a month.

    I had the best luck with melatonin — it was one of the OTC things I could take without waking up feeling half dead in the morning. However, after awhile, I started becoming immune to it. I don’t think I’ve taken it in a year.

    Also, I’m going to pass along something that has helped me immensely: Regular exercise. I used to never exercise (I’m in my late 30’s) but have started exercising regularly. I haven’t lost much, if any, weight, but I sleep remarkably better. It hasn’t turned me into an early bird — I consistently go to bed between 1am and 230am — but the days of not being able to fall asleep until 4 or 5am are in the rear view mirror. That alone keeps me going to the gym.

    One last thing — how’s your bed? Is it comfortable/appropriate for you?

    1. Effie, who is worth it*

      I stretch before bed and it puts me to sleep. Sometimes when it’s late I’ve tried skipping my stretch routine (it’s 20-30 min) and I stay tense and don’t fall asleep as easily, so I’ve learned it’s generally best for me to stretch before bed.

      I also like sleeping on a really hard surface, and that makes a difference in quality of sleep too.

      Best of luck, LW #5

    2. chi type*

      I posted this above but switching out sleep aids can help you not build up a tolerance. I currently switch between something called Tranquil Sleep with melatonin in it and drug store brands with diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate. Any one will lose effectiveness quickly but rotating them helps.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Exercise can help but if you’re chronically tired / sleep-deprived it can feel impossible – in which case you could consider something like a gentle yoga class.

      As well as your bed, consider your pillows. Prop them on your arm – if they flop down at the sides they need replacing.

    4. CityMouse*

      I was going to suggest exercise as well. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, but not since I started workijg out every day (high intensity).

    5. sap*

      A word of caution about exercise–for many, evening exercise can release a lot of active stuff in your body that will give you more energy for a period of a few hours. So if you want to try exercise, you might be best off doing it RIGHT after work or during your lunch break (if that’s feasible with your office setup/schedule). If you exercise too close to bedtime, you may have more trouble getting to sleep.

    6. NeyNeyGirl*

      #5 I also can recommend exercise. Like others responding to your letter, I also struggle with being on time in the morning. I have always had trouble getting to bed on time and tried a number of things such as putting my lights on timers, setting reminders, etc., but found that whenever I exercised earlier in the day I had no problem being motivated to go to bed because I was *tired*. I also wake much more refreshed. Going to the gym is not for me, so I subscribe to a fitness website that has a number of exercise programs to choose from.

    7. CheeryO*

      Yeah, it’s such a catch-22 because starting an exercise routine when you’re exhausted is incredibly difficult, but there’s nothing like it for sleep. I sleep like the dead when I’m running regularly. I just can’t run after 7:00PM or so (10:00-10:30 bedtime) or it keeps me awake.

  19. Story Nurse*

    OP #5, please do talk to a doctor, and get a referral to a sleep specialist and a mental health professional if possible. If you want to do some googling on your own, try “anxious insomnia”, “night waking insomnia”, “delayed sleep phase”, and “adult ADHD insomnia” (and make sure you’re getting your info from sites written and vetted by doctors, like WebMD and Verywell, not just random articles on feel-good lifestyle sites). But you really can’t diagnose or treat a complex sleep problem on your own.

    Depending on your relationship with your manager, now might be a good time to say, “I’ve been late because I’m having a lot of difficulty sleeping. I’m talking with my doctor about diagnosis and treatment for this condition, and in the meantime I will keep doing my very best to get here on time. However, if it’s possible to make some schedule adjustments until I have this under control, I would really appreciate [being able to come in later/leave later, being able to work from home, being able to call in to our morning stand-up and commute in after, not having any morning calls/meetings scheduled, etc.]. Is that feasible?” If you don’t think such things are likely without a diagnosed medical condition and the commensurate legal requirement to accommodate your limitations, that is a great big reason to get to a doctor ASAP (and to find out exactly what paperwork your company requires on that front).

    I have delayed sleep phase syndrome and the only time I was ever fired from a job was because I couldn’t stop coming in late. I ended up freelancing until I landed a job that let me set my own hours (in part thanks to my DSPS diagnosis) and work from home. Now I wake up at noon, work from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., and couldn’t be happier. Lifestyle changes can be a hassle and come with some costs—I can’t share a bedroom with anyone, I miss out on morning family time, and during the winter it’s very easy for me to get insufficient sunlight—but they are worth considering, especially if medication turns out to not be useful. Make sure any doctors you work with are open to all options.

    Good luck!

    1. Yorick*

      I agree. As much as possible, avoid having meetings first thing in the morning. Also, plan out and set everything up for your morning tasks the afternoon before; that way, you can start being productive right away even if you’re a little late.

    2. Natalie*

      Yes, my ex had DSPS but didn’t know if and for years thought he was an insomniac, simply because he couldn’t get to sleep before 2 am no matter what he did. In the middle of the night, though, he’d fall asleep easily and stay asleep just fine. The year he worked at a middle school and had to get up at 5 am was basically the worst year of his life.

      Now he works a noon-8 job and does just fine.

      1. Anxa*

        I may have DSPS, and I have worked my butt off at getting better, but I’ve settled on 2am being my goodnight time. I can swing 12-2am bedtimes if I’m really physically exhausted for a few days at a time. There is job I’m not applying to because one of the fields I studied is a typically 9-5 field. It’s fine now, but I think one day I’ll want the option to exercise. Morning showers are a no-go if I want a little more sleep, and I can’t take a post-workout shower too early if I want my night shower to carry over to the morning.

        I think I might have been a teacher if it weren’t for the early mornings. I remember hearing as a teen that people had to get up at 5 to get to work and I just couldn’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life. That’s only 3 hours of sleep!

        Then in college I averaged 3 hours of sleep per night anyway for 8 semesters.

        12 to 8 sounds like a magic schedule.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I had delayed sleep phase syndrome but had a mandatory 7:30 am start time for my first job years ago. Essentially I was always sleep deprived during the week and managed because I could catch up (kind of) on the weekends. My ideal schedule since I was a kid was falling asleep at 2 am and waking up around 11 am, but that only really worked in grad school.

      Every job since that first, I was able to negotiate a later start time (if they weren’t already flexible on that), but at the same time, having kids completely disrupted my sleep schedule. Now that things have settled down, I am more on the typical sleep phase track, to the point where staying up til midnight is an effort and I rarely sleep past 8 am even when I have the chance.

      So it may not be a permanent thing, even without medical intervention, but in the meantime try all the sleep hygiene tips mentioned and see what works best for you.

      Keeping a consistent schedule every single day, no exceptions for the weekend, was probably the second most helpful thing to me, the first being a white noise machine.
      Melatonin gave me too vivid dreams/nightmares and didn’t make me feel rested or help me fall asleep.
      Not looking at the clock after a certain time helps too – nothing like seeing that it’s 4 am to induce anxiety about getting enough sleep!
      Loud alarms just gave me panic attacks, but radio alarms can pretty easily get integrated into dreams, so I stick with the radio but allow for extra time in case it takes a while to recognize what it is.

  20. AAMfan*


    Please, talk to your doctor! I thought I was frequently late to work/school because of a personal failing. This persisted for years until I figured out it was a medication side effect. Oh. I’m still a deep sleeper but an adjustment to my medication combined with my sunrise alarm clock has helped immensely! I bought the expensive $120 alarm clock from Amazon and I’ve never regretted a penny of that purchase!

    1. Bookworm*

      Oh, I love my sunrise alarm clock. It’s worth its weight in gold for how much more relaxing it’s made my mornings.

      1. Story Nurse*

        Yeah, some people swear by ALERT ALERT type alarms, but for those with anxiety-related sleep issues, I recommend a gentle and gradual alarm. I used to use a sunrise clock, and now I have white noise that gradually fades out and a quiet set of chimes that gradually fades in. I dread waking up so, so much less than I used to. Often the white noise turning off is enough to wake me without the alarm at all. As a bonus, if I wake up and the white noise is still on, I think “not time to get up yet” and go back to sleep without having to look at my phone to check the time or make sure the alarm was properly set. (Looking at your phone during a nighttime wake-up will almost certainly doom further sleep for a while. Not recommended. Some people can’t even look at clocks without becoming too awake, so aural cues are great.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep, I used to have a neighbor with one of those klaxon-type alarms, and that — through the wall and across the room — was enough to wake me up with heart pounding and fight-or-flight adrenaline roaring through my veins. “Loud alarm” would never be in my top ten list of the best solutions for struggling to get out the door in the morning.

        2. Oranges*

          Is it audio only or does it do light too? I ask because I have a smart light switch in my room and I set it to turn on at 6:30 am on weekdays. This tells me that up time is nigh. So I’m wondering if there are alarms with light for when I no longer have it.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          When I had a Fitbit, I actually used it mostly for the vibrating alarm. It’s so much gentler than blaring sounds, and that way it doesn’t wake up my boyfriend. Downside — especially if you’re already kinda disorganized, it’s really easy to not realize the thing has run out of batteries until it doesn’t wake you up the next morning.

      2. LeRainDrop*

        Well, I just impulse-bought a spendy alarm clock off Amazon, LOL! I really did. My sunrise wake-up clock should be delivered later today with Amazon Prime same-day shipping :-)

    2. sap*

      I have a non-sleep disorder illness that also causes wakeup issues, and the wakeup alarm really helps me get out of bed much more than loud alarms ever did.

      Also, I don’t know if you live in a cold climate, but getting some sort of heater that will warm your bedroom before wakeup time has helped me immensely. If you don’t have a thermostat you can control, you can rig a timed outlet with a space heater, which I did when I had a roommate who kept the inside at legit about 55 degrees. It is immeasurably easier (for me, at least, though I’m more sensitive to temperature than most) to get up when I’m not stepping out into frigid air.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Before I had a small human that woke me up every morning, I used to use one of those timer plugs to shut off my white noise fan. It was almost always enough to wake me up gently.

          1. sap*

            They are magic. I’ve been thinking about putting an electric kettle on one so that tea will be ready at my bedside when I wake up.

  21. Grand Mouse*

    I’m not an expert on professional clothing but would a shawl work for LW2? Granted I’m assuming she’s a woman. Either gender should be able to get away with wearing a thick wool coat that looks professional. That doesn’t solve hands being cold tho. I’ve heard about hand warmers that maybe you could keep in your lap?

    For LW5 I’m in the same boat. My solution was to get a job I could start later. Even then, I have to get up early some times. I found out I have delayed sleep phase disorder. Right now I take a med (trazadone) that puts me to sleep but I can wake up when needed without being drowsy. My doctor talked to me about sleep hygiene. Apparently any amount of light or noise is enough to disrupt my sleep- even the little bit of light coming from the parking area.

    Now I don’t know if this applies but I was told to avoid alcohol before bed. It does put you to sleep but it’s a shallow sleep where you wake up quickly. But I agree to definitely go to the doctor. I was only able to get help and rule things out like sleep apnea before I could start to get good sleep. It’s still a struggle so that’s why I work a job later in the day. Explore all options and consider if you don’t need a different work schedule.

  22. de Pizan*

    #5, if you have insurance that covers specialists, I really recommend going to a sleep doctor, rather than going to a general practitioner. I’ve had insomnia for as far back as I can remember, and when talking to my general practitioners about it, they only offered me prescription sleep pills which made me really sick and groggy all the time. But after consulting with the sleep doctor, doing an overnight sleep study, keeping a sleep diary, looking at how foods/drinks/medications/activities might factor into it, etc–discovered there were several different issues at play with my insomnia. After getting them addressed, it’s been so much better without needing prescriptions. If you don’t have that option with doctors, there’s a good book on helping figure out some things to do on your own called The Insomnia Answer.

  23. JD*

    I recommend melatonin as it NEVER makes me oversleep but any sleeping pill or this just try it on a weekend day when you don’t have to wake up so you can see how it affects you. THIS is the ONLY thing that will allow me to sleep without missing my alarm or feeling hung over in the a.m. Actually I just took one and am about to fall asleep. There are plenty of other things to try but it isn’t too difficult to give it a shot on a day you don’t have to wake up to go to work.

  24. bridget*

    #1 – If it were me (also a biglaw associate), I’d do my best to get off this cash system entirely. Normally, I think it’s fine to use a pointed hint like the one Alison scripted, because you are returning awkward to sender, but having a good relationship with an assistant as an associate is extremely valuable. I would be pretty hesitant to inject any tension in that relationship. If she’s a great assistant in other ways, I’d just sidestep it.

    Maybe something like this would be an option instead? At my firm, we have a corporate account for Seamless/GrubHub/Doordash. If it’s an overtime meal or a working lunch, I can put in a corporate billing number for the meal. If it’s a meal I’d pay for myself, I can save my own cc# in the account. I can either order it myself from my office, or my assistant has my login and I ask her to do it. I can shoot her off a quick email while on a call asking if she can get me a salad or whatever, use my seamless account, and tell her whether to charge it to the firm/the client/me. It goes straight on a saved credit card, no cash involved. Then the delivery person can call up to my assistant if she needs to grab it from the lobby. That sounds like less total work for her than picking up lunch herself, removes cash from the transaction, and also doesn’t give her access to your card directly.

    1. sap*

      Fellow biglaw person here who does it this way now as well.

      If you don’t have a corporate account, you can work with delivery anyway. At my previous biglaw firm, there was no corporate account. A fellow associate and I would often go in on a delivery together and have one of our assistants pick it up; we had to take time out to order it ourselves, which I know isn’t always feasible on a packed day, but if you’re doing it yourself you can probably just ask when your assistant is planning to take lunch and order something on your smartphone while you’re taking a natural, forced break to pee (many services will allow you to specify delivery time).

      Delivery fees might be more than if your assistant gave you back all of your change, but less than letting your assistant keep the change. I would also be hesitant to push back about the change with my assistant, if s/he is otherwise fabulous. I can’t count the number of non-billable hours I spent doing stuff that an assistant really should have been handling when a partner would ask me to work with their snooty assistant who my assistant (that I had good rapport with) warned me was known for screwing around when she was mad at an associate, always for something really unreasonable. It ended up being faster to just do it myself and send it to the assistant for polishing than to go 10 rounds of phone calls about why she needed to follow my instructions. I don’t think my assistant would ever have behaved that way even if she was mad at me… But I wouldn’t have risked finding out (and losing 5 hours of non-billable time, i.e. sleep, every week) for 20 bucks a week.

    2. patricia*

      I’m also in big law and can I please second the idea that a good assistant with whom you have a good relationship is invaluable?? Do what you can to preserve that! I can’t emphasize that enough. And I agree with bridget that you should probably get off the cash system. Delivery- whether paid for by you or the firm- is your friend. And easier for your assistant as well.

      I’d go a little further and say stop with the coffees and stop injecting money into your relationship with your assistant entirely. It’s got too much potential for unpleasantness, especially given the power and financial dynamics at play. Putting cash in the middle of all that is just asking for trouble.

      1. Letter writer #1*

        This is probably at the heart of it. I can’t help wondering if she started keeping the change out of resentment. I don’t expect her to feed me, I’ve never asked, but it became a thing that happens, and if it doesn’t feel like a favor to her anymore, well, that sucks.

        She is also too generous at any possible gifting occasion, such as my birthday and holidays. I would rather give gifts to her at the end of the year, and during the specified appreciation day/week.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Unless you think she has some weird thing with you in particular (I can’t tell if you think this) – if this is what she is like in general with everyone, it is possible that she is one of these people who has a very expansive/more abstract sense of generosity and considers it not a big deal to give or share money/food/presents and therefore she assumes that others feel this way also (as people in general, we tend to imagine that other people share our same attitudes and reactions). I think a lot of us have experienced that there are some people who don’t put much importance on who pays when going out with friends (like “I’ll pay this time, I’m sure you’ll get me back some other time”) or if you’re buying something that both consider inexpensive like a cup of coffee, will just have one person pay and forget about it because it’s only a couple of dollars. Meanwhile other people are much more oriented toward a “pay individually” system (I’m talking about difference in attitude rather than a difference in budgeting constraints). Even if Elizabeth makes a lot less money than you do it is possible that she wouldn’t expect to get change back if she handed someone some money for lunch. Her very generous attitude in other circumstances suggests she might have this worldview. I tend more toward this perspective too, for example, if I handed someone $5 to get me a $2.50 cup of coffee I wouldn’t expect change and if I handed someone $10 for a $7 meal I wouldn’t expect change. I acknowledge the change from $20 is more significant but perhaps she has been observing and has concluded that it isn’t significant to you simply because you keep handing her a twenty.

    3. Indigo*

      In my experience, it’s unusual for an assistant (even in biglaw) to regularly pick up lunch for an attorney. I mention this because 1. Alison suggested that the office norms might be impacting whether the assistant brings back the change, and 2. Others might assume that in a conservative industry like biglaw this is still the “Mad Men” kind of norm where assistants run personal errands as part of their job duties.

      I agree that taking the assistant out of the equation makes sense. You can explain to the assistant that you don’t expect her to feel obligated to deal with your lunch.

    4. ks*

      I find that online ordering at Potbelly etc. is invaluable for the truly rare cases I have my assistant grab my lunch. I’m never so busy I can’t take 3 minutes to enter my order and then my assistant can just run across to the restaurant to pick it up. (Saving time on that end as well.)

      If things are busier than that, the firm/client should really be picking up the lunch for everyone involved and ordering ahead.

  25. Engineer Girl*

    “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people” Thomas Jefferson

    You and your situation are not the same as the others in your building. You therefore should not be treated the same. I’m so tired of people that think that treating people the same is treating them equally.

    You really need to push back on your safety officer. Point out that your work area is significantly colder than any one else. Tell him he either needs to warm up the room or provide you with a warming device. Just for fun, put a thermometer on your desk. Remind the safety officer that the OSHA technical manual recommends employers maintain workplace temperatures in the range of 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit. And BTW, the company should pay for the solution.

    1. JamieS*

      Agreed. Honestly, if the safety officer is truly concerned literally everyone (or at least enough people to cause an issue) will suddenly want a space heater that indicates to me someone needs to make their way to the thermostat and turn it up a degree or two. If it’s not a legitimate concern,by legitimate I mean something the safety officer thinks is a likely occurrence, then it just comes across as ridiculous to me. Sure if everyone suddenly wanted a space heater there could be issues but then again that can be said about nearly everything if we take it to the extreme of everyone doing it.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        And if everyone wants one just because they’ve seen the receptionist with one, well, they’re adults and are capable of hearing the word no.

    2. sap*

      Here are some warming devices that you can suggest to your safety officer since you’re prohibited from wearing the items that would allow you to suffer through your terrible cold workspace:

      And, while obviously these aren’t office appropriate, if your safety officer won’t even let you get something with very low power consumption that (in the case of the mouse) literally will only be drawing from the computer’s load, you might get something like this

      And plug it into your computer’s USB ports, and put them in discrete black sleeves, and just hold them in your hands when you’re on the phone/when you get cold while using your computer.

        1. CheeryO*

          I don’t have that exact mouse, but I have a similar one that I found on Amazon. I’ve used it daily for ~2 years without any issues. The only thing I’ve noticed is that the heat isn’t terribly consistent – sometimes I need to have it set on high to get the same heat that I usually get on the low setting. Not sure if that’s related to my computer or the mouse itself.

        2. sap*

          I have wireless toasty gloves that I keep it the pockets of my winter coats. I have a circulation disorder and they really help me with that–but my extremeties produce essentially 0 heat on their own, so maybe they don’t make a difference if your hands are radiant themselves.

    3. TheTallestOneEver*

      Agree about OSHA. Our lobby staff is in an area that’s impossible to heat – next to three entrances in an area with a ceiling that’s open up to the third floor. The response to their complaint was quick once they started quoting OSHA guidelines.

    4. Former Hoosier*

      Hear, hear. I get so sick of the argument “If we do it for one person, we have to do it for everyone.” While sometimes that is actually true, it so often is not. There can be different standards for different employees for many, many valid reasons. A strong leader/manager is willing to apply those standards differently when the situation calls for it.

  26. Lauren R*

    LW5: Please please please go see a sleep specialist. I spent over 7 years being so miserable (and late to everything!) when it came to my sleep, before I forced myself to make an appointment to see one. There is something so amazing about having a doctor tell you that you’re not the only one to experience this thing that’s been wrecking your life and then tell you, clearly and in writing, what to try out before your next appointment and how that’s worked or hasn’t worked for other patients in the past.

    I spent way too long feeling like if I could just make myself sleep like everyone else does I’d be fine, and I kept beating myself up because it was clearly a character flaw that kept me from doing unconsciousness right. I’d try one thing and then when it didn’t work I’d switch to another, all the while just guessing at what was right or wrong and hating that it was so easy for everyone else. In my case I have a circadian rhythm disorder (delayed sleep phase) – the fact that I could have known that 7 years earlier is pretty frustrating haha But having a list of instructions and guidelines every night that I know I’ll be able to go in and talk to my doctor about and tweak accordingly has made a major difference in my life and the amount of stress I feel over this issue.

    Hang in there and know you’re not alone in being overwhelmed by sleep problems!! It’s easy to get into the mindset that sleep is the kind of thing you shouldn’t need help with – but that mindset won’t change the situation you’re in. It’s okay to admit that you do need help and to ask for it. Find a good sleep doctor ASAP (and a good therapist will likely help too, especially with the late-night anxiety). If you live in NC, I can give you the info for the specialist I’m seeing, who was so nice and really listened to what I had to say. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure you can check around online for recommendations in your area. I’d definitely recommend seeing someone who specializes in sleep, not just a general practitioner. Good luck! I hope things start to get better for you soon!!

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Yep, all of this, especially the shame of not being able to sleep like neurotypical folks. DSPS wasn’t a well known disorder until well into my 30s, so I spent many years of my life trying everything to be “normal” and criticizing myself for not managing something that was trivial for the rest of the world.

      1. Story Nurse*

        Me three. It took a decade after my DSPS diagnosis for me to be able to hear someone say “go to bed” and not flinch or become filled with rage.

      2. Anxa*

        I wonder how much of my life I ruined by being dumb enough to believe the school systems that equate punctuality with discipline.

        I definitely want to see a sleep specialist (a real one) when I can afford it. I’ve been saying that for about 7 years, but I’m still making roughly poverty wages and am currently uninsured (I moved out of NC to a Medicaid expansion state so now I am uninsured).

  27. Melatonin PSA*

    LW5: If your circadian rhythm is off, melatonin can do a great job of resetting it or, if it is a more pervasive physiological issue, keep it synced. The main mistake I hear people making is using high doses of melatonin. This can cause you to have a ‘hangover’ in the morning, as a decrease in melatonin over the course of the night helps signal you to wake up. Research supports using ONLY 0.3mg of melatonin 2-3 hours before your desired bedtime.

  28. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    I can’t agree more with Alison about the last OP working with a doctor. I struggled with getting enough, restful (key word), sleep for years. My doctor was keep to diagnosing my soeep disorder and getting treatment for. The disorder, but also the anxiety about sleep like the kind you described. I still have rough nights and late days, but much less frequently.

  29. Mad Baggins*

    Sounds like the LW is at the point where doctor should be the first thing tried. I struggled with a less severe version of anxiety-affected sleep and what helped me was:
    -making habit changes so I have less to be anxious about (like packing things the night before)
    -ASMR videos on YouTube (weird at first but so relaxing)
    -meditation (I recommend the Meditation Minis podcast for <10min guided meditations for anxiety and sleep)
    -visualizations (guided visualizations for sleep are plentiful on YouTube. I like to imagine putting my thoughts in a jar by my bed, writing down important things on a notepad, and piling my worries in a big heavy trunk and throwing that trunk onto the floor. I can pick up anything I need in the morning but I don't need it now! I find this helps me be less forgetful too)
    -brown/white/pink/background noise of your choice
    -exercising and stretching regularly/more often
    -having a bedtime routine that involves limited screen time, limited snacking, and limited activities that make me sad/angry/excited. Instead I made time for self care and quiet activities like reading or crafts
    -journaling or writing out what I'm nervous about with positive encouragement to myself (ie "I'm nervous about forgetting my name badge again but I packed it in my bag tonight and even if I forget it somehow I'm still a good person")
    -seeing a therapist to help with anxiety

    Good luck!

  30. JKP*

    LW5 – I used to have a horrible time waking up in the morning, used multiple alarm clocks going off in a sequence, even the Deaf alarm clock that was really loud and vibrated. What finally worked for me was a sunrise alarm clock, and now I only need the one, and I wake up on time even with little sleep. The clock slowly gets brighter and brighter for about 30 min until by the time the alarm goes off, the room is fully lit. It means that you’re at a very light level of sleep when you’re woken up by the alarm instead of being jolted out of a deep sleep by a sudden blaring alarm. It made a huge difference in how tired I felt in the morning to wake up gradually. You can find a bunch of different brands on Amazon.

    1. Basically Useless*

      I have always had problems getting up reliably in the morning. This is a major reason why I am a night auditor.

  31. ChantelleL*

    I used to have a hard time sleeping, it would take me 3-4 hours to fall asleep. My old job didn’t care if I was 30 minutes late and My shift started in the afternoon so stayin yo until 5am wasn’t a problem. Then,5 years ago, I started at a company in a role where lates meant losing your job and I needed to be in at 8am sharp. I had to made immediate habitual changes and fast. I made some small changes but I should stress that consistency was key. 1. White noise, I need it. I didn’t realize that silence kept my mind racing. I use a white noise app which leads me to my other habit…2. Put the phone down and keep it down. Once I turn my white noise on, I can’t do anything else because closing the app turns off the sound so no scrolling through Instagram for an hour. 3. I set the white noise to turn off after 45 minutes. This helps me track if it’s taking longer than 45mins to fall asleep. If it does take longer than 45 mins nightly then it’s a sign there could be a sleep problem. 4. Meditation or some form of relaxation – I force myself to think about mundane or pleasant thoughts especially when my anxiety/worries are spiraling. Even my white noise aids me; it’s ‘rain on a tent’ which reminds me of camping, then I’m planning a camp trip or thinking of my favourite lake. 5. Rituals before bed – I start preparing for bed about 30 minutes before I lay my head down. Wash my face, brush my hair, tidy up the kitchen/pack a lunch, feed the cats etc. I know it sounds silly and this is purely anecdotal but getting into “sleep mode” really does help.
    Good luck!

  32. SS Express*

    #5, I have a sleep disorder (Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, to be precise) and your situation sounds very much like mine. For so many years I thought my inability to get up and at em in the morning was just due to laziness (and that’s what everyone else told me), but nope, it’s a medical condition.

    Things that helped me:
    -melatonin (it regulates your sleep cycle, so it helps with waking up as well as falling asleep)
    -cutting out caffeine almost completely (added bonus: when I’m seriously exhausted I make an exception, and WOW does it pick me up now that my body isn’t so used to it)
    -moving in with a partner and sleeping together every night
    -sticking to a really regular schedule, which sadly includes waking up early-ish on weekends
    -limiting blue light from devices late at night
    -scrolling on my phone first thing in the morning so the blue light can help me wake up
    -having curtains that allow some light through in the morning, so my body starts waking up naturally – I HATE staying anywhere with blackout curtains, I feel much worse waking up because my body thinks it’s the middle of the night
    -having a solid and super-quick morning routine, so I can maximise time in bed without being late to work and can easily get ready and out the door even if I’m still half asleep
    -not drinking on weeknights – alcohol helps you get to sleep but the sleep you have is much worse
    -thanks to therapy I’m also less anxious and better at relaxing and unwinding, which I’m sure helps
    -when I really can’t sleep, I get up and do something else for a while instead of lying in bed stressing

    But I figured all this out with the help of my doctor so that’s where you need to start.

    1. Bookworm*

      The waking-up earlyish on weekends is key for me. I can throw in an extra fifteen minutes or so, but no sleeping in for an extra hour. For me, once I start sleeping in longer on weekends, my whole week gets thrown.

  33. Anonnynow*

    RE #3: I’m sorry, but I can’t believe that it’s literally impossible to eat anything at all at this restaurant if the only issue is a tomato allergy. Get a glass of wine, a Caesar salad and some garlic bread. Some pasta with pesto. Shrimp scampi. Mushroom ravioli. Veal marsala. Linguini in white wine sauce. Chicken piccata. Heck, go get a cappuccino and some biscotti and some cannoli. I am 100% positive that there are more than a few things without tomato molecules involved in any given Italian restaurant unless an allergy is so severe that some sort of cross contamination will cause a reaction, in which case I can’t imagine that any restaurant in the world would be feasible.

    I’m really not trying to be rude, but when someone gives you a gift, I think you should take it, be gracious, and smile. Someone did something for you as a gesture of kindness that they weren’t obligated to do. People miss the mark at times. It’s human to assume that if you personally really enjoy something, you think/hope others will enjoy it too. And a gift certificate to a basic Italian restaurant is hardly some peculiar, bizarre thing like a subscription to the sardine of the month club. At the very worst, re-gift it.

    1. ??????*

      Wtf? The boss knows the OP is allergic and is buying this for her own monetary benefit. It’s not unreasonable to point out OP literally can’t use it. Good people don’t want to keep giving gifts that are unwanted.

      1. Boy oh boy*

        +1, it’s not a gesture of kindness to give something you know the receiver can’t enjoy, especially when you’re also doing it for bonus points!

        It’s the thought that counts, and very few kind thoughts went into this gift.

    2. Perse's Mom*

      By this logic, my mother should just shut up and smile if I give her a gift card to Best Buy (there is no BB within an hour of her, and she would never shop there) or iTunes (she does not have internet at home or a computer capable of running iTunes).

      As opposed to me being thoughtful about what she would LIKE and what she would enjoy USING. Which is the whole point in giving a gift. Ideally, that the gift recipient doesn’t have to fake their enthusiasm like my sister does every year when her mother in law gets her a new ugly sweater for Christmas.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Like I wrote above, please take the OP at her word that there’s nothing there for her rather than insisting she must be wrong, given that she’s more familiar with the restaurant and her own dietary restrictions than we are.

      1. Allison*


        At first I was like “but surely she could get scampi without tomatoes” (or ravioli or something), BUT then I realized that pretty much all the prep tools touch tomatoes at some point, and unlike nuts, the restaurant may not be making an effort to ensure that there are tools that haven’t come in contact with tomatoes.

      2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

        Agreed, and it also depends on where the OP is located. Where I am there are Italian restaurants everywhere that offer plenty of non-tomato options, but there’s other areas (as my poor friend that moved from this area cries about all the time) that the majority of the Italian restaurants only offer pizza, pasta with tomatoes and/or sauce, and basic salads.

    4. Nursey Nurse*

      I think the OP is probably the best arbiter of whether she can safely eat at this particular restaurant. I find it very peculiar that commenters who don’t know anything about her situation are trying to explain her allergies to her.

      1. Becca*

        I think it’s the way the wording makes it seem as if OP is taking it as obvious that someone with tomato allergies couldn’t possibly eat at an Italian restaurant. They didn’t say “I’m worried about cross-contamination” or “I’ve had bad experiences at this restaurant,” but rather “I literally can’t eat anything at this restaurant.” Taken at face value, especially when considering that cross-contamination will be a concern to some extent at any restaurant, not just this one, that’s giving the impression that OP thinks all items in an Italian restaurant contain tomatoes, and I think people are latching on to that and trying to be helpful by pointing out that it’s not the case.

        While I do think it’s likely that OP has cross-contamination concerns, I also think that these responses are a good indication of what the manager’s thought process might be. It depends on what all she knows about OP’s allergy and the limitations it creates, but maybe it’s not that she’s given OP unusable gift cards despite knowing about OP’s allergy. It’s that she figures there are plenty of items OP could eat, and the food is so good, so she wants to share. If that’s the case, then gently pointing out that OP can’t actually eat there at all very well might solve it.

        1. Oranges*

          I read the OPs “I literally can’t eat anything at this restaurant.” as a fact statement of “This restaurant has nothing on the menu without tomato products or my allergy is severe enough that I fear cross contamination” with the subtext of “I’m kinda sick of everyone telling me what I can and can’t eat”

          I’m curious how it came across to you?

    5. NoTomatoesForYou!*

      I’m the OP. The chef confirmed that I can’t eat anything at the restaurant. They make everything in-house, and the chef said everything has tomato paste or another tomato product. Maybe he was concerned about cross contamination, but I took him at his word. I ended up getting a glass of wine and giving the rest of the gift card to the waiter as a tip. The poor guy ran back to the kitchen a dozen times for me and was very helpful.

      Regarding desserts, I’m allergic to cinnamon as well. So, again, I chose to believe the chef when he told me not to eat anything.

      I do graciously accept it and say thanks. But there are other issues regarding gifts in the office. For example, this year the manager ignored my birthday. Two weeks later she gave my coworker a bottle of wine for his birthday. He doesn’t drink. He’s been with the company for over 10 years.

      1. SignalLost*

        This … is a different problem. It almost sounds like your boss is giving gifts she knows damn well the recipient cannot use. Does she want them back? Does she feel put on the spot and give the first thing that comes to hand? (This is how I once received a bar of soap, and later from another person a pound of radishes.) Is she thoughtless in other parts of her work life, and if so is that tinged with malice or absent-mindedness? I am dying to know.

        1. NoTomatoesForYou!*

          She’s absolutely thoughtless. She also rarely does anything out of pure generosity. I really believe her main motivation is to get the bonuses for herself with the gift cards. I don’t think she comes from a place of malice. She’s incredibly self-centered.

      2. INTP*

        Honestly, it sounds like your boss is just not interested in being a thoughtful gift giver. You said she gets the restaurant cards so she can get freebies, and she probably just gave your coworker a birthday gift because she had a bottle of wine she felt like regifting to someone. I know it’s annoying to thank someone for gifts you know were given with selfish intent, but this isn’t something that I would spend “special request” capital trying to change about her. I think that you will have better luck changing your own expectations of her so that your feelings do not get hurt by her crappy gifts than you will trying to get her to buy you better gifts.

      3. Becca*

        How very odd. Of course you were quite right to take him at his word. But I have a lot of trouble believing it just the same. Did they not have garlic bread, or did they put tomatoes in the garlic butter? Or maybe they only have cheesy or stuffed and it’s mixed in? I imagine it would come with marinara sauce, but it should be possible to leave it off… Oh well. Better safe than sorry, no sense risking your health by pushing back about it, especially if you don’t particularly care for [insert standard non-tomato Italian dish here].

        At any rate, regarding your boss, that is annoying. I’ll confess, one of my ruder qualities is that I’ll point out when I dislike a gift, especially when the giver would be expected to know it’s something I wouldn’t like. I do usually only do that with people I’m closer to, both because I’m more likely to get future gifts from them and because it’s more reasonable to expect them to put thought into their gifts. (Side-note, people get really weird when I say I don’t like receiving flowers.)

        Usually a manager wouldn’t be someone to push back against, but since you seem to want to, perhaps something like, “It’s lovely that you thought of me, but I actually can’t eat at this restaurant because of my allergies. Perhaps you could give this to someone who has more use for them.” And I guess decide how far you want to push it if she decides that your needs don’t matter when gifting you something. I wouldn’t want to rock the boat over it, and from the outside it would seem odd, but in the end it’s your decision and your consequences either way.

    6. Laura*

      I agreed up till the point this LW posted to say that they put tomato paste in the Alfredo! This place is so far from the Italian cooking norms that it can’t be trusted.

      1. NoTomatoesForYou!*

        I only know what the waiter told me, which supposedly came directly from the chef. I learned as an adult about my tomato allergy, and I can tell you that tomato paste is in many places I would never expect. A chef friend told me it adds umami and depth, without adding actual tomato flavor.

  34. GovSysadmin*


    Take that as a very good sign. I’ve been on a number of search committees, and trust me, if they didn’t think you were a strong candidate, they would have cut you off at the scheduled time. I’ve never gone over the time limit with candidates that I wasn’t impressed with, only the ones where I wanted to learn more because I thought they would be a good fit.


    As others have suggested, please see your doctor and try to get a sleep study scheduled. I have sleep apnea and used to have terrible insomnia, but my CPAP machine was a lifesaver, and I’ve gotten into a routine that lets me fall asleep more easily. What helps me is to take a melatonin pill and then put on a sleep relaxation CD. By listening to the CD, it takes the focus away from the parts of my brain that think that I need to worry about stuff RIGHT NOW, and I can fall asleep.

    1. CityMouse*

      My dad struggled with insomnia for years before finally doing a sleep study and getting a cpap machine. It has changed everything for him.

  35. GMN*

    OP 5:
    I know this is going to sound harsh, so let me start by saying I understand, I have had serious insomnia problems for long stretches of time. It sucks big time.

    However – wrgds to your job, you don’t have a sleep problem, you have a getting up in the morning problem. It is quite possible to get up at the proper time even if you’ve slept less than optimal.
    Definitely see your doctor to get better sleep so that you can feel better, but in the mean time, don’t use bad or little sleep as an excuse to miss important meetings. 5 hours is not extremely short – many adults don’t sleep more than that. There is significant evidence that it’s healthy to sleep more, yes, but it’s completely possible to function well at this level of sleep and occasionally less.

    If I were you, I’d stop considering getting up in the morning as optional, and make sure you’re on time every day from now since it’s been commented on. Also I would explain to your boss that you have had some sleep issues that you’re working on, but that you won’t let that affect your work any more. Best of luck!

    1. namelesscommentator*

      This. I have issues falling and staying asleep. I don’t have issues being at important early morning meetings.

    2. Bobstinacy*

      I’ve always been a bear for punctuality, I had a coworker once who was 20 minutes late every day and it drove me nuts. Sometimes you have to take control of your own life.

      I have a sleep disorder and I’m late because of sleeping in maybe a few times as year. It’s not easy but if my employer is paying me to show up at a certain time then it’s reasonable that my job security would involve not being habitually late.

      LW if you can maybe see if you can have your start time changed so you can come in a bit later. It won’t be an option in every position but if you know you can be in by 9:00 but not 8:00 then set yourself up to succeed by getting it approved by your manager.

      1. Dankar*

        Not everyone needs to be in their desk right at the start time. There are jobs where start-time flexibility is the norm, so people working outside the 9-5 norm aren’t necessarily struggling to take control of their lives.

        And rigid start times are worth pushing back against (formally, rather than just showing up late and expecting it to be fine). More and more research shows that not everyone operates on the same circadian rhythm, so the morning start doesn’t work, uniformly, for all of us. I have a set 9am start time and it’s really hard for me to get up and moving at that time. 10am is no issue, though.

        1. Bobstinacy*

          Yep, which is why I suggested that she talk to her manager about switching start timea since showing up on time is important to her :)

      1. namelesscommentator*

        Sure. But if you’re consistently showing up a half hour after your start time, and able to function throughout the day, it doesn’t sound like an amount of sleep issue.

        Maybe trying a sleep cycle tracker/alarm clock that wakes you up in parts of the sleep cycle that you’re meant to would be beneficial.

    3. Nursey Nurse*

      Not exactly. Sleep needs vary between individuals just like other biological needs do. The average person may be able to function well on 5 hours of sleep, but that doesn’t mean that the OP can.

      1. Nursey Nurse*

        I should have said function, not function well. I don’t think i’ve ever known anyone who could function well on 5 hours of sleep a night.

    4. LadyL*

      Everyone’s body functions differently, just because you were able to function on very little sleep doesn’t mean OP is. I have no idea where you got the stat that most adults sleep fewer than 5 hours, almost all the adult people that I know need at least 6-8 to feel “functional,” if not more (my 60 year old mother, for example, prefers to get 9-10 hours a night). I do know that the amount of sleep one needs not only varies by individual, but also by age. As you get older your body tends to need (and get) less sleep, and many older folks might only sleep a few hours each night, but that doesn’t mean that’s healthy for younger people (teens actually need way more than 7-8 hours a night, for example). OP mentioned that they are not too far from college aged, so they may still need closer to that teenager amount of sleep for their body to be healthy.

      Also if there is an underlying medical issue that’s causing some of these problems there’s no amount of deciding to get up in the morning that will fix it without getting medical help. There are a vast number of both physiological and psychological conditions that can severely impact one’s ability to go to bed, get good sleep, wake up, and/or be punctual. No where in the question did the OP suggest that they don’t take getting to work on time seriously, or that they view it as “optional”.

    5. Story Nurse*

      Shaming the LW while making extremely broad generalizations about the entirety of the human race is probably not a great way to help them with their anxiety around sleep. Saying “Make sure you’re on time” to someone with a chronic (not temporary) sleep disorder is like saying “Aw, smile!” to someone with chronic depression. It just does not work that way.

      My friend J and I both have sleep disorders. He has anxious insomnia; I have a delayed circadian rhythm. He can function moderately well only getting four or five hours of sleep a night; I absolutely cannot get less than six hours of sleep for more than one night, and that one night is pushing it. He has trouble falling asleep and often wakes in the middle of the night or wakes earlier than his alarm; I fall asleep easily if I go to bed at the right time, and sleep almost without moving. He’s wrung out and useless by 11 p.m.; once I’m up I can stay up until 5 or 6 a.m., doing very detail-oriented work, without much effort. He can get up at 6 a.m. even when he’s exhausted; if I leave my bed before 10 a.m. I feel extremely physically ill and also behave like I’m drunk. (A partner literally staged an intervention once because I had let myself fall into a chronic pattern of staying up very late and then having to get up early for work, and it was not functionally different from me having a drinking problem.) He uses caffeine and melatonin, and has sometimes used prescription sleep aids; my system is hypersensitive and I can’t use stimulants or relaxants at all, even at very low doses. He’s always early or on time; I’m often late both because getting up is a struggle for me and because my OCD makes me very resistant to padding travel times (“It’s a 45-minute trip so I will leave exactly 45 minutes before I need to be there”).

      If J tried to give me advice based on what’s worked for him, just because we both have trouble with sleep sometimes, it would go incredibly badly for me. So instead of telling the LW to suck it up and thinking that your experience with insomnia means you know everything about everyone else’s sleep disorder, I suggest staying in your own lane.

    6. Ceiswyn*

      You’re a morning person, aren’t you?

      Google ‘Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder’ and consider how well you’d deal with getting up at 3am every day; and people telling you to just get on with it, it’s not a big deal, to boot.

    7. LS*

      There are a very, very small number of outliers who do well on less sleep, but I suspect they seem more numerous than they are because they never shut up about it.

    8. CityMouse*

      I do think this is an important point. LW is new to the job world but really needs to treat this as an emergency situation to be rectified asap. This is the kind of thing people can get fired for, especially if you are missing meetings. This is not meant as a shame or a pile on, just a huge huge warning for LW – you have to focus as much effort as you can on rectifying this.

      1. INTP*

        I agree with this. I don’t agree with all of GMN’s opinions about it being possible to function on 5 hours of sleep, but OP DOES need to consider this an emergency situation that has to be rectified. Ultimately the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the fact that OP isn’t fulfilling critical parts of her job, like attending meetings on time. If a change in attitude is enough to start waking up on time, that’s great, but otherwise it might be necessary to give up socializing to go to bed earlier, give melatonin a try, drink a lot more caffeine, or something like that.

    9. PersephoneUnderground*

      “I’d stop considering getting up in the morning as optional” really? This just isn’t helpful. When someone is overtired, getting up can be extremely difficult. Not to mention when you aren’t yet awake, your brain isn’t either, so you can’t think “oh, I absolutely have to get up now”, your brain often only wakes up enough to go “agh- *hits snooze*” until your alarm gets you awake enough to process the need to get up. I’ve learned a long time ago that if I didn’t go to bed on time no alarm in the world would get me up on time, no matter how important it was to me or if it was a fun activity as opposed to work I was going to- I’d sleep right through or hit snooze without regaining actual consciousness.

  36. Archie Goodwin*

    Another person with sleep issues here. I’ve been diagnosed with apnea (to be honest, I’m not 100% convinced for a variety of reasons, but for now I don’t feel it needs to be pursued further. Although that can always change, and I’ve got that in the back of my mind).

    Which is point the first…schedule something with a doctor ASAP. I would mention that to your manager, in fact…that you’re aware of the problem being caused by your sleep issues, and you’re seeing a professional to look into them further. Show you’re being proactive without having to be pushed into it.

    Meantime, as a stopgap issue…please forgive the indelicacy, but I always found that a quick and dirty way to keep from oversleeping is to drink a lot of water (or other liquid) before bed, enough that you’ll have to get up to use the bathroom at some point. It took a little work to find out how much to drink to get me up at the time I wanted, but I’ve managed.

    It’s not something I’d recommend as a habit, but in an emergency it can be made to work.

    1. another Liz*

      My kidneys are very efficient. Any amount of liquid at bedtime means I’ll be needing to pee in 30 minutes exactly, and drinking more than a small glass of water will have me getting up 4 times or more. I don’t drink anything after 7 pm and start my day with a big glass of water and 2 cups of coffee. So as with everything else, YMMV.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Well, exactly. Me…it depends on a variety of factors, but I’ve found that the right amount of liquid will wake me up after about four hours. Sometimes a bit less…rarely a bit more. Might be worth a try, but like anything else, there’s always the possibility it won’t work.

        And it’s certainly no substitute for a doctor’s visit.

  37. Chayse*

    OP #5- Everything you described rings so true to me, not falling asleep, anxiety about falling asleep/waking up. I was regularly getting somewhere between 2-3 hours of sleep a might and even though I got to work on time, I would find myself falling asleep during the day. I even started bringing a pillow and trying to catch up on sleep during lunch. Part of the reason I switched to my new job is the later start time, which I understand isn’t feasible for a lot of people.

    I was actually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that manifested in sleep problems. I tried various sleep meds and they all made me super drowsy in the morning. I echo melatonin and cutting out alcohol at night. For the anxiety, I highly recommend Natural Calm. It’s a magnesium based powder and it does wonders for relaxing me. I usually drop some liquid melatonin in a small glass of the drink. It’s not a cure all, but it does work about 80% of the time.

  38. Bryce*

    #5 — Most other people have given their medical-based advice, and I definitely agree to check with a doctor but there aren’t enough details here to even pretend to diagnose in that respect. The shift from a college schedule to a regular one is one I still struggle with (body wants to be nocturnal, but my depression goes into overdrive when that happens so for the sake of my sanity I get up early instead), here’s a few things I found helped. Maybe you’ll see something that you can adapt.

    –routine. In my case I needed a CPAP machine for apnea, and after a year of using it I noticed that even if I wasn’t tired I started to go out like a light soon after putting it on. My body sees it as a signal to go to sleep. Getting a bedtime routine of your own could help there, such as a shower or turning off the electronics to read a book or what have you. That could also help as part of a morning routine if you can manage to find time for it, I’m draggy to get up but if I can get into the shower I can usually keep moving.
    –schedule. I don’t know why you’re staying up, if it’s stuff that can be adjusted, but in my case I found I need to set an alarm for 11PM or I can “one more episode” my way through until dawn. It’s been frustrating, I’m usually the first to leave parties and there one streamer I used to like watching who I had to drop because he streams late and I can’t trust myself not to get sucked in, but in my case it had to be done.

  39. Boy oh boy*

    #2, I agree you should get a heater. However, just in case, there are very thin, warm thermals you can buy that are pretty much thin leggings and long-sleeved lycra tops. They are low-profile and should layer fine under office clothes, trousers, long skirts or black tights (pantyhose). I use these to stay warm when waiting for trains to work in the winter and it’s very effective.

    I used to think that thermal underwear was bulky fleece stuff — it’s become much better. And I hope you get your heater!

    1. Rebecca*

      I was going to suggest this! It’s not your grandfather’s long underwear any longer, no need to struggle with that thick waffle weave stuff or heavy fleece. I have a large collection of CuddlDuds, from thin, medium, to fleece weights, and the thinner layer isn’t noticeable under my clothes. I also wear wool socks.

  40. Agent Diane*

    OP5: if you don’t have one – and have the budget for it – get a fitness tracker that logs your sleep. I am a night owl and still hate mornings. And I get into the spiral of thinking about stuff, then thinking “gods, get to sleep!”, then “OMG, I am never going to sleep…” and then “I’m going to get insomnia and never sleep properly again”. The tracker helped me with my perceptions. I’d have a bad night and think “I didn’t get to sleep for hours”, only for the app to show that the restlessness was 20 minutes. Just knowing that can help disrupt the spiral.

    1. Agent Diane*

      Forgot to say:

      If you get a posh one like a Fitbit Charge HR+, edit the sleep settings. Mine was set to a default ‘target’ of 8 hours, but I only need 7. Before I edited the target I was thinking “argh, I’m not sleeping enough!”. Such is the psychological power of these things.

      Also, you can use cheaper ones where you just switch to night mode to track how restless you are. I started with the Fitbit One and that was enough to help me adjust my nightly perceptions.

    2. HR is Fun*

      Agent Diane, the funny thing is, I had a different reaction to the same situation you are describing. I would have a bad night of sleep, see that my Fitbit basically showed the same results as a night I felt was good, and so I assumed the Fitbit is flawed. It never occurred to me that perhaps my perception is flawed…

  41. Perse's Mom*

    #2 – I feel your freezing pain but have little advice on top of what others have already suggested. I bought mittens that convert into fingerless gloves to help with my own freezing cubicle farm issues; they’re cozy knitted things where the top half of the finger portion of the mitten folds back so typing is still possible. They’re pretty quick to slide off and on. Would it be possible for you to acquire something similar and just pop them off when you spot a visitor arriving?

  42. Miles*

    #3 A lot of people don’t get the dangers of cross-contamination if they haven’t had to worry about food allergies for themselves or someone very close. I’m sure the boss is in a similar situation and is possibly trying to “be fair” by getting everyone the same thing.

    If the boss remains silly after you try Alison’s advice, you can sometimes sell gift cards online.

  43. Knitting Cat Lady*

    A big part of treating sleep disorders is sleep hygiene.

    A key element of this is getting up at the same time every day. And I mean EVERY day. Even the weekend.

    Get yourself as many alarms as you need to wake up on time in the morning so you have enough time to get ready for work and be at work on time.

    I’ve had breathing issues that were fixed by surgery. Before that I was tired all the time. I could sleep 18 hours at a stretch and still wake up tired.

    I’ve also had disordered sleep more or less since day one.

    I’m on the autism spectrum and getting my brain to shut down for the night was always a fight.

    And lastly, 5 hours is an okay amount of sleep. Sure, you’ll be grumpy and not feel your best, but physiologically that is enough sleep to function properly.

    I’ve been through just about every sleep disorder on the planet, and the only way to deal with it is to suck it up and work with medical professionals until you find a permanent solution.

  44. Nico M*

    #2. Safe low power underdesk heaters are definitely A Thing . Do a bit of research and present a couple of options to your boss.

    Make it so that the lazy office safety twerp has to go out of their way and clearly be a Jerk to block you.

  45. Em Too*

    #5 – until you find a better solution – just make sure you are getting up on time and at the same every day, however many alarms that takes. It will be horrible for a day or two then should settle to about the same level of sleep deprivation you have now, with an earlier schedule. The (sad, sad) important thing is that includes weekends – one lie in and you have to go through it all again. Even if I have a late night or a really bad night, it’s better for me to get up early and have one bad sleep-deprived day than sleep in and be out of sync again.

    Signed – night owl with early schedule and small children (so no sleeping pills for me).

    1. bec*

      Yeah, this is one of those simple things that sounds like it’s no big deal but makes a world of difference. I used to roll my eyes at my mum when she said this while I was at university (she didn’t understand my insomnia and sleep issues), but now working, it really does help. Plus getting things ready the night before/simplifying the morning routine.

      Another thing that helps more than I would have thought is having another friend that struggles with mornings. we text each other most days from 7am onwards. We are often in sync even without realising it when it comes to getting ready. If I get a message from S that she’s leaving the house, or whatever it may be, I do start to rush a little more.

    1. LS*

      I live in a very rural area with no major stores/chainstores/cinemas/restaurants so whenever someone gives me a giftcard (or I win one) I’ve got an immediate gift for next time I’m visiting friends or family in the city! Of course, I don’t have someone giving me the same one every year…

      1. Delta Delta*

        This. I received a gift card to a major department store as a gift. Problem: we don’t have that store within 200 miles. It was for an amount low enough that even if we ordered something online it wouldn’t cover shipping. So, basically, it was useless.

    2. SignalLost*

      I have never regifted anything in my life, and I rarely give gift cards – like, literally only “I know you want supplies for X hobby, I’m not going to guess your taste or needs, go nuts.” They’d be useless to me, as well as offensive, given that clarifying comments by OP suggest there’s more going on than thoughtlessness.

  46. RainDrop*

    #5. I recommend asking your doctor for a referral to a Sleep Clinic where you spend a night hooked up to electrodes and your night is video taped and data analyzed. It’s called a Sleep Study. You may very well have a disorder which qualifies for ADA Accommodations. And getting treatment could change the quality of your sleep for the better and making most mornings easier to navigate.

    I have a REM disorder, Sleep Apnea, and PTSD. All are being treated and manageable but on occasion, I have sleep problems that cause morning issues. My accommodations allow me to notify my supervisor that I’ll start my workday later and work later at the end of the day to get my time in.

  47. Miles*

    #2: I’d bring in a thermometer and set it on the desk. Take pictures when it’s low and make a case to your manager to have a permanent heater installed above the main entrance door. (Like what some department stores have to make a blast of heat hit customers when they come in) You probably won’t get it but making an exception for a space heater at your desk will seem downright reasonable in comparison.

  48. SleepyKitten*

    LW#5: when you go to your doctor, it might make sense ask about low-dose amitripyline as a sleep aid. It’s non-addictive, and causes drowsiness rather than sedation. I take mine at about 8pm and fall asleep by 11pm most nights, and I now sleep through the night instead of waking up every hour for no reason. Taking it that early means it wears off by the time my alarm goes. It has honestly been a life-saver for me. If you’re on another kind of anti-depressant, prescription systems might flag up an increased risk of serotonin syndrome, but at 10-20mg most doctors should judge the risk to be acceptable (it is honestly tiny). Note: I am in the UK, so don’t have to deal with insurance shenanigans for off-label prescription.

    The other strategy I use for getting to sleep is to put on a TV show I’ve seen before, or a podcast at a volume that’s on the edge of hearing, to distract my brain and stop me having anxious thoughts. I find I have to switch up my material quite often because after a while my brain gets quite good at having anxious thoughts while also paying attention to whatever I’ve put on.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I take amitripyline daily to control migraines and to help with insomnia. I find that it helps me both fall asleep and stay asleep, the latter being my problem. I had a tendency to wake up after a few hours sleep and be wide awake for the rest of the night. It was somewhat anxiety-driven (I was usually awake thinking of all the things I needed to do and worrying about stuff) and I think the amitripyline was helpful in that it’s also a mild anti-depressant. I definitely notice if I forget to take it as inevitably can’t fall asleep/wake up at an ungodly (for me) hour.

      1. Dawn*

        I used to take amitriptyline, then my heartrate started to speed up, then one day I was walking up my stairs and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack, I was 29. I guess in a small subset of people, that medication can cause rapid heartbeats. I switched to melatonin, and got botox for my migraines.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I’ve recently started using the Calm app, which has a function called “Sleep Stories” that have rather mundane little stories with music meant to make you drift off.

      I’ve also started listening to the BBC podcast “In our time” which discusses topics ranging from Purgatory, Kant’s categorical imperative, feathered dinosaurs, plasma, and heaps of other things in a suitably dry tone and without any music or loud noises.

      I can really recommend it! I found it by googling for “dry informative podcasts to fall asleep to”, haha!

    3. always in email jail*

      To the second paragraph- I re-read books when I can’t fall asleep. Reading distracts your brain, but since I’ve read it before I don’t run the risk of staying awake to see what happens!

  49. MJ*

    @ #5 I remember watching a ted talk (sorry I can’t find the link) on sleep that argued that before electrical lighting, people often slept in two chunks. It’s only in modern times that people have compressed the sleeping time into one block. Thus waking up in the middle of the night may not necessarily be a cause for concern.

  50. Bagpuss*

    #3 I’d mention it now, hopefully before she shops for this year. If she still gives it to her, then either return it to her as Alison suggests.
    I think if it were a one-off I’d just recommend re-gifting it to someone who could make use of it, but as it’s happening repeatedly I think it is worth raising.

  51. SRMJ*

    #5 – try provigil/nuvigil if you haven’t – it’s a ‘wakefulness’ drug that you take in the morning. It’s not a stimulant, it just gives you mental clarity and alertness. I’ve also had sleep issues in the past, and my dad got a prescription for it and would give me some (this was several years ago; I think it was quite expensive then, hopefully it’s cheaper now if you have shitty insurance), and it helped me A LOT. If, for the time being, you can’t figure out a way to fall asleep earlier, but you NEED to get up earlier, maybe provigil/nuvigil can help you endure that.

  52. bec*

    OP 5 – There’s a podcast called ‘Sleep With Me Podcast’, and I highly recommend it. It’s designed to help you drift off, with the narrator having a low gravelly voice and speaks slowly, often talking in circuitous ways. It really does help the brain slow down enough to sleep. There’s a great story in The New Yorker about it. It’s only failed me one time, and I have a long history of sleep issues (as well as lots of over-thinking that can keep me up at other times). I tend to put the podcast on a sleep timer of 15 minutes, and it’s fairly rare for me to get to the end of that and need to add more time; if I’m not already asleep, I’m drowsy enough that I’ll drift off 9/10 times.

    1. Boy oh boy*

      My husband tried this and found the rambling stories (about chairs and nuns in space, among other things) so funny, he couldn’t sleep! Your mileage might vary :)

      (When I can’t sleep I try to remember all the lyrics to “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 11-minute shaggy dog story ‘Albuquerque’ and, luckily, that does the trick. I was terrible at sleeping when I was a kid, though.)

      1. bec*

        I do that too! I go through Hamilton and every time I get a line wrong, I go back to the start. One night I got to Schuyler Sisters and realised I wasn’t getting to sleep, but it usually works.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I like Sleep with Me, or various ambient music podcasts, and guided meditations.

      For many years I had terrible insomnia problems that were mostly resolved through a combination of meeting my husband and not sleeping alone anymore, being treated for depression, wearing socks to bed, and listening to music/podcasts. Since my husband hates hearing the music I use headphones, which was its own issue until I recently bought a set of cheap bluetooth earbuds from eBay. The sound isn’t very good and they have an annoying blinking light that I have to be careful to cover with the blankets but it stops me from getting tangled up in a cord and yanking my phone off the bedside table in the middle of the night.

  53. SCtoDC*

    OP5- While you’re working with a doctor on the sleep issues, I would try now to implement a few things that are within your control in order to get out of the house as quickly as possible. Things like showering at night, making sure your bag is packed and ready to go, choosing an outfit the night before, etc. The sleep issues may take some time to work out, but in the meantime you can try to mitigate your lateness at least a little.

    1. always in email jail*

      I’ll add to keep some quick breakfast options at the office if at all possible. Having an electric kettle and some plastic bowls of instant oatmeal makes a world of difference for those mornings you’re running late.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I usually make some kind of breakfast that I can eat cold on the train. Most of the time this is a fritatta that I cut into pieces and wrap up individually every weekend, or something like breakfast cookies, peanut butter sandwich, banana bread, etc. It goes in the lunch bag and everything is prepped and packed the night before.

  54. Thlayli*

    Op5 I was a lifelong insomniac until I found a book by Paul McKenna called I can make you sleep. He’s a hypnotist and the book includes a hypnosis cd. It’s 20 mins long and the most times I’ve had to listen to it to fall asleep is 3 times – i.e. The longest it’s taken me since using the cd is less than an hour.

    I also recommend following all the advice in the book.

    I will add link below which should come out of moderation in a while

  55. Traveling Teacher*

    What worked for me was, in a phrase, getting married. Basically because I had someone with very firm sleep habits say, “Ok, it’s time to go to bed now.” and then he’d go to bed, turn off the lights, and sleep. After a month or two of that, it absolutely, radically changed my approach to sleep. Same routine on weeknights as weekends, and I’ve never felt more rested in my life. It was a hard change to get used to at first, but with 7+ years under my belt and counting, it’s for sure the way forward. I also had a lot of anxiety around beds in general, let’s just say a #metoo thing, and making bed a safe place to be and addressing that with a therapist has worked wonders, too.

  56. Delta Delta*

    #3 – it strikes me that the other thing going on with the gift card situation is the likely feeling of being dismissed. A gift, by its nature, should be something nice/useful to the recipient. It feels a little like the boss here is saying, “I’m giving you this because I have to, but I basically don’t actually care.” If it already feels like that at the workplace, the thoughtless gift exacerbates that.

    1. NoTomatoesForYou!*

      Exactly! (I’m the OP). And this is a company with only a handful of employees. My manager knows us all very well. My allergy comes up every time we do a company lunch or pot luck.

  57. Kate*

    OP5: I have the same problem, I’m guessing it’s also because I’m an owl, and it takes hard work to get into the habit of going to sleep on time, so I could wake up in the morning, and every little thing throws it off. It only takes 1 late night to mess up my schedule, because staying up late comes to me more naturally. So all I could do is to make a habit to go to sleep at around 10, no later than 10:30 if I have to wake up at 6:30. And I mean be in bed, trying to sleep at 10-10:30, not just preparing to go.
    Otherwise, I’m struggling to reset this whenever I stay up later…

  58. Janet*

    #5: I don’t want to be rude but do any of us really have a place offering medical advice???

    Any sleep issues need to be brought up with OP’s doctor. For people to be kind of shouting out different medications amd treatments just doesn’t seem right; just because it helps you doesn’t mean it is even safe for OP to try (or anyone else stumbling across this).

    Apart from any sleep issues I would recommend to dissect your actual morning schedule. Identify any fat and cut it: I started laying out my clothes before bed, bringing my tea in a travel mug, and keeping the tv off and my phone down. My whole morning schedule is also prompted by alarms in my phone to make sure I keep on schedule because a few wasted minutes can make me miss my bus.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I actually agree. There is a lot of medication advice in this thread right now.

      1. Also Tired*

        Medication and POT, FFS! Now we’re suggesting solutions which are (mostly) illegal? *shaking head*

        1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          I can understand the impulse. And many doctors are SOSOSO bad at chronic insomnia that us sufferers grasp at straws. And the advice I’ve seen isn’t necessarily wrong – in fact lots of it is good. But it’s against the rules to give medical advice for a good reason.

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          As Jules said it’s legal in a number of places.

          I actually feel like the overwhelming amount of comments are non-medication suggestions but rather behavioral. But in terms of strictly medical suggestions, a number of people have shared their own experiences (“I had similar or xx different experience and ended up taking x”) but I don’t really see what I’d call specific “medical solutions” being advocated to others to try. I think hearing a range of experiences can be helpful to give people ideas about things to ask their doctors about, or knowing what types of options for treatment there are, as long as it doesn’t overtake the comments entirely which it definitely hasn’t.

    2. Jules*

      I’m sure that most people are competent enough to know when something is unsafe for them or iffy enough to consult with a doctor first.

  59. MG*

    OP5: I can relate. I have depression, anxiety and hypothyroidism which is not exactly a winning combination when it comes to getting up in the morning. At my last job I negotiated with my manager to start and finish work half an hour later every day than the rest of my team due to my issues. This helped but ultimately what kicked my butt into gear was my manager sitting me down and essentially telling me that my tardiness was putting my job in jeopardy, since we already had a few dicussions about it and there was little change. Then it was a case of getting up in the morning by telling myself that I could be fired if I didn’t.

    You mention anxiety keeping you up and waking up during the night. It might be beneficial for you to speak to a doctor or therapist about these things if you have access to those resources, or to seek out a support group to learn some techniques for dealing with anxiety. It also might be useful to know that scientists have found that simply lying there with your eyes closed is still more beneficial for you than not sleeping at all. I find this very helpful and reminding myself of this actually helps me fall asleep sometimes when I’m dealing with insomnia or my anxiety is keeping me awake. Putting my alarm across the room helped wake me up too, as well as making sure my feet touched cold floor when I had to get up to go turn off the alarm.

    Sleep issues are a pain and often disheartening to struggle with. I hope you find something that works for you.

  60. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    A more general question regarding LW#5:

    I keep seeing people give sleep hygiene advice.
    Maybe it’s just because I’ve had insomnia for so long (my whole life – thanks ADHD!) but… Is sleep hygiene not a thing most people know?

    I get really offended when people (casually or in their professional capacity) tell me to look up sleep hygiene because do they really think I haven’t heard of or thought of or tried it before? It almost feels mocking to me when someone suggest to me that I should keep my bedroom dark, cool and quiet, etc,etc.

    But is it a thing people in general don’t know? It seems so basic for me, but maybe my frame of reference is off?

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I should mention that while sleep hygiene can do wonders and should be implemented by pretty much every, it’s NOT ENOUGH for some people (like me.)

      I need pharmacological help to fall asleep fast enough to get me enough sleep to function. There isn’t anything physically wrong with me, my body just doesn’t function in this one area.

      Which is why I react so strongly when someone suggest sleep hygiene to me. Or meditation. Or weighted blankets. I once spent $800 on a 8kg blanket with chains in it, in the hopes that it would improve my sleeep. That’s how bad my sleep has been on occasion.

      But since I’ve spent so much time thinking about sleep, I really genuinely thought (think?) that sleep hygiene was something people knew.

      (Adding all this in case someone found my original question to be belittling or aggressive. I really am wondering.)

      1. copy run start*

        Some people never learned good sleep behaviors (possibly like my cousins, who were allowed to fall asleep wherever, whenever, all throughout their house as kids) and really do need to look up sleep hygiene, because for them, it is a fix. Versus what sounds like a serious condition for you.

      2. Bree*

        Totally understand that frustration, but in this case the LW directly asked for suggestions and personal experiences, so that’s why people are sharing.

        Personally, I was familiar with the general idea of sleep hygiene for a long time, but it wasn’t until I really took it seriously that it started to work for me. Sometimes hearing success stories can encourage people to put that effort in.

        1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          Oh, I’m sorry! Believe it or not, I wasn’t planning sleep hygiene as advice for insomnia (it’s great!) and those sharing that advice , I really was wondering if my frame of reference was off.

          I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer.

    2. No Name Yet*

      I’m in mental health and have worked with lots of people with many different kinds of sleep difficulties. And yes, LOTS of people have no idea about sleep hygiene. Or they may have heard a few things, but not actually believed they would help (or tried for 5 minutes and figured it ‘failed’ when they weren’t immediately asleep). So while I can totally understand your frustration (and would 100% share it!), it’s entirely possible OP/others have never considered them before. Also, OP is not too far out of school, and college students are not generally known for excellent sleep hygiene.

    3. Also Tired*

      I feel the same way you do. I often have trouble functioning due to life-long insomnia. I get into a cycle where people think they’re being helpful giving me tips, and I either have to brush them off or get into details about why my situation doesn’t apply to their suggestions. Either I seem rude, or I have to overshare.

      I’ve tried to condense it and end the topic by saying firmly “I’ve had multiple brain scans since childhood, and still haven’t gotten a useful diagnosis. I know you want to be helpful, but multiple neurologists over several decades have not been able to find a solution.”

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with such awful insomnia. I totally feel you on the “rudeness vs oversharing”-thing.

        Mine is “copeable” nowadays. It’s a careful ecosystem though.
        I take melatonin every night, and alternate Ambien and another med. I start to wind down at around 6 or 7pm (no phone calls, no food, nothing.). I try to do something soothing with my hands (pratice handlettering or knitting, usually) I usually take a hot shower. I meditate for a little while, or listen to an very familiar audiobook, a dull podcast or some music. I have my weighted blanket and a VERY cold bedroom. I sleep with earplugs and an eyemask even though I live alone and in a very calm area. I track my sleep and what works with various apps.

        I get up if I can’t fall asleep in time.
        My alarm rings early and I turn on the light and take my ADHD-meds and get up 30-60 minutes later when they’ve started working.
        (and I’ve done several rounds of CBT-I, sleep restriction, you name it, I’ve probably tried it).

        And so on and so forth. And despite that, I still have nights I can’t sleep, especially if I get wound up too late. I almost never sleep more than 2-3 hours when away at conferences or work trips, for example.

        But I should add that my sleep is improved by all the things I mentioned. It’s gone from “severely life-restricting” to a “minor pain”. :)

        It’s just not ever gonna be great.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve heard of it, but I’d say my husband has not. My guess is that people that don’t have sleeping issues may not have heard of sleep hygiene since they sleep well, whereas people who do have sleeping issues tend to know about it because they’re trying different things to see what works.

  61. Jules*

    I’m a teacher and also a night owl. It’s hard for me to go to bed early and get up at 5am, but sleep deprivation really impacts my patience with kids. I take zzzquil really early—like at 8–and then usually fall asleep by 9. I’ve never slept through my alarm, although I’m a little paranoid, so I set multiple alarms just to be safe.

  62. A*

    When I order my lunch using Grubhub, I usually end up paying $3-5 in delivery fees plus tip. Convenience cost money. It seems unusual for an assistant at a law firm to pick up lunch for you. If you don’t want her to keep your change, just use a food delivery app but those comes with built in fees. She can pick it up for you in the lobby if you aren’t around. But in the past, whenever I’ve been instructed to go out and buy lunch for someone higher up, they always give me enough money for my lunch too because I work in the legal field and in my area it just is not the norm or part of our duties to pick up lunch. It would be considered a favor.

  63. Argh!*

    Re: #5

    If you talk to your boss, don’t say “sleep problems.” Instead, say “I have a sleep disorder, and I’m working with a doctor to get it under control.” You might also be honest about the reason you are reluctant to try medical intervention – that it could make things worse.

    The holidays are coming up. A string of days off may be the right time to experiment with whatever your doctor recommends.

    Please send an update when you have a resolution, and good luck!

    1. Another Academic Librarian*

      As someone with two sleep disorders, please do not claim to have one until you have been diagnosed by a medical professional.

  64. always in email jail*

    #4- That’s probably a good sign! Like Alison said, an interviewer will normally cut the interview if it’s not going well. I do count time management in my interviews (because being able to answer a question/make a point in the time allotted is relevant to the positions I hire for) but I state that upfront by saying “we will have ___ questions and have allotted ____ minutes for the interview. Please be conscious of time, as time management will be part of your evaluation today”. But that just counts towards the official questions, if they have their own questions afterwards we do not count that (and make that clear at the time)

    #5-Have you talked to your manager about an alternate work schedule? If it can be accommodated, maybe working 9-6 instead of 8-5 would help you, for example, with the understanding that if there’s an 8:30 am meeting you’d come in in time for it, but it should be easier to get in early on occasion than every day. Good luck.

  65. MCM*

    1. How do I ask my assistant to return the change when she picks up lunch for me?

    Is your assistant using her lunch time & gas to pick up your lunch? If she’s driving somewhere to pick up your lunch on a regular basis I wouldn’t say anything. She’s using her gas & putting miles on her car. You could also get a prepaid VISA that you hand to her for purchases and ask for the receipt.

  66. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    #5: I’m hoping your job includes health insurance, because stuff like this is WHAT IT’S FOR. Chronic sleep deprivation can have really, really serious health effects in the long term.

    Now, this is your first “real” job out of college, it seems, and I’m sure your health plan has copays and deductibles, but this is serious: could-effect-the-rest-of-your-life-if-you-don’t-deal-with-it-now serious. Not to mention that it could end up putting your source of income in jeopardy.

    Put the fees on a credit card, ask your relatives for a loan, do what you have to do to get yourself to the doctor and into a sleep study and whatever else they recommend. And if you need more motivation to do this, Google “effects of chronic sleep deprivation”. It is literally worth any amount of time and money to fix this.

    And please update us!

  67. Rebelina11*

    OP #5: I deal with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and taking anti-anxiety meds is out of the question for me. What I’ve found that helps is taking one Benadryl right before going to bed at the time I know I’m supposed to go to bed. Then I read until I feel sleepy (about 1/2 hour)… and I read something like a romance novel = not too anxiety producing, like a mystery novel would be to me. I went to the doctor and she gave me a low dose of Xanax, but I found that’s too strong – and doctors like to prescribe things when the solution can be as simple as some OTC allergy medicine (which I need anyway, I might add).

    I wake up during the night too, but I make a conscious effort to redirect my mind to something pleasant (usually, something about the aforementioned romance novel), or I try a breathing/relaxing exercise without opening my eyes. Once I open my eyes, it’s sure to take me longer to go to sleep.

    Also: don’t try anything on a work night! Try it on, say, a Friday into a Saturday and see how it goes. Did you wake up to your alarms? Did you wake up during the night? It’ll take you a while to figure out what works for you, but you have to try and see what WILL work. Maybe, just maybe, you would do well with a small dose of anti-anxiety meds – but that’s for you and your doctor to figure out. Good luck!

  68. Book Lover*

    Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a really good choice for the kind of insomnia you are describing. A lot of people don’t have the money or time for it, so there is an online option that is quite good –

  69. Rebelina11*

    OP#5: I just had another idea that’s helped me a lot! I can’t believe I didn’t remember. Have you heard of second sleep? Just knowing that the human body is sort of “programmed” to wake up in the middle of the night takes the anxiety OF waking up in the middle of the night away. Seriously, it’s a thing. Look it up, it will help.

  70. KitKat*

    For the sleep deprived LW- I had extremely bad sleeping anxiety when I first lived alone. I would stay awake until 2-3am because I was too anxious to fall asleep, and then would wake up like every hour. I was able to talk to my primary care doc and prescribed Xanax. Taking it as part of my night time routine helped so much. It took away the panic I had associated with getting into bed and sleeping, and combined with good sleep hygiene made a world of difference! I would definitely recommend talking with your doc.

  71. Kix*

    To OP#1 — maybe I’m a weirdo, but I don’t expect anyone to go fetch my lunch when I’m trapped at my desk unless it’s specifically listed in their job duties. If I ask someone to get lunch for me (unless they are going, anyway, and stop by to offer to pick up something for me), I’m not likely to be petty enough to ask for change. In fact, I’m likely going to ask if I can pay for their lunch as well. But as I said, I’m a weirdo.

    1. Allison*

      I think fetching the boss’s lunch is generally part of an assistant’s job duties, assuming she’s only working for OP and not the team or department. And “change” could mean coins, which might be petty to ask for, but if my lunch costs $10 and I only have a $20, my “change” is $10, which I don’t think is petty to want. Just because my company pays someone to help with errands and admin work doesn’t mean I have extra money to throw around.

      1. Indigo*

        I agree that this is very field dependent. Getting lunch is definitely not the norm for the legal field, even in a biglaw. In fact, I would guess that it is much more common in an extremely small office run by an older attorney (like a solo practitioner).

        1. Letter writer #1*

          That’s my overall experience as well—it never happened in another office, and does not routinely happen in the current office. It’s an unusual personal favor, which perhaps is the problem, as others have pointed out. I’ve never asked her to do it, but perhaps she did it so many times she feels obligated now, even though it’s well outside her actual duties.

    2. Angie*

      I have never been an “assistant” but I have had arrangements with coworkers, occasionally bosses and subordinates as well… you fly, I’ll buy and vice versa. It was always informal but also clearly stated. No one ever assumed they got free lunch. Just a thought.

  72. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #5

    Absolutely mention this to your manager. You don’t have to go into some big explanation; Alison’s script is just fine.

    As a manager who once had a chronically late employee, it was so frustrating and annoying to find out many, many months later that she actually had a second job that required her to work very late hours. On top of that, she wasn’t sleeping well, and also had some family issues going on. Had she mentioned this to me, she could have saved herself many stern conversations and saved me a lot of frustration, because I totally would have worked with her. But she would just sit there and say she would do better, with no mention at all that she had anything causing her to be that late. (As to why she was never fired, I was always overridden by my boss on that decision. Another source of frustration…)

  73. a different Vicki*

    For #5:

    The f.lux screen-dimming program also has a “reverse alarm clock” function: you tell the program what time you usually want to get up, and it reminds you to start getting ready for bed with a message like “you wake up in 9 hours.” It doesn’t automatically shut the computer down, so if you’re in the middle of something important, or tomorrow is a holiday and you’re not setting an alarm, you can keep working.

  74. OldMom*

    I offer this suggestion for OP5 only because I have not seen it elsewhere in the comments. Medical marijuana. A friend of mine with anxiety issues and insomia swears by it. A few pulls on a vape pen before bed does the trick…no dangerous smoke and ashes…and no dangerous side effects unlike some of the other medications commonly used for this. I second all the other “see your doctor” and “sleep hygiene” practices but this is one possibly easy solution, often overlooked, that your doctor may not know about. (In areas where medical mj is legal, many strains and brands have been developed that are not necessarily psychoactive. Ymmv….I am not certain of the particulars but I think my friend uses a strong indica and she is typically asleep before any stoned sensations kick in.)

    1. Elizabeth H.*

      This is a good suggestion too. Also CBD – it does not get you high but it is supposed to have many of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the sense of relaxation (and I think some other medical applications). I have used it occasionally and I feel like it’s relaxing; I don’t smoke and don’t like marijuana at all because I react very strongly, but I don’t have any negative reaction to CBD and it seems like it has a positive effect. I think it is legal in most places or at least way more places than marijuana (I live in MA where we have recreational marijuana legal).

  75. Koala dreams*

    I agree with the recommendation to see a doctor, your sleep problem could be related to medication, another illness or be a sleep disorder in its own right. Additionally, I’d recommend seeing an occupational therapist to work on mitigating the effects on sleep deprivation. It could be sleep hygiene things, apps or podcasts to help you relax, or changing your morning routine. As mentioned above, it’s important to find somebody who is willing to work with you individual situation, not somebody who gives you a broschure and thinks it will solve everything. (I’ve been to both kinds of therapists.) If you can’t find an occupational therapist, you can try with other kinds of therapists.

    Another thing to mitigate the effects of sleep depriation is to schedule important things for the time of day when you are most likely to be awake. For me, I’m most likely to get to meetings after 11 o’clock in the morning. If you usually are 30 minutes late, can you change you work schedule to start, and end, 30 minutes later every day? If you manage to get there early, great, you can grab a tea or check you phone, if not you ar