A reader asks:

I’m in the midst of a chronobiologic Catch-22: I need to wake up earlier to use my light box (for depression) and to get to work on time, but when I set my alarm for the time suggested by the AutoMEQ (and my boss!), I’m not able to wake up and in fact I’m so deeply asleep that I sleep for another hour despite the alarm blaring away. Each night I tell myself that I’ll force myself out of bed the next morning at the necessary time, but when the alarm goes off, I don’t even become conscious enough to act on that resolution. How can I wake up early enough? I try going to bed earlier but, even though I dim the lights in the evening, I’m not able to fall asleep sooner than my usual time. Thanks for the help.


It won’t work immediately to wake up at your target time. You need to start using the lights about 15-30 minutes before your normal (late) wake-up time, which will start to move your internal clock earlier. Every few days, you can advance your wake-up/light time by 15-30 minutes, depending on how early you can wake up easily. Over a period of time–which might last two weeks, for example–you will be able to approach your target (early) wake-up time. This cannot be done abruptly! If you have difficulty even with the small adjustments earlier, try low-dose melatonin (0.3 to 1.0 mg) 12 hours before your current wake-up time. As you move wake-up and lights earlier, also move the melatonin earlier.