If you can, skimp on sleep beforehand. Sleeping an entire day is not something the body is designed to normally do. As a very rough average, adults tend to require about 7.5 hours of sleep per night, though individual sleep needs can vary greatly from person to person. It can be easier to sleep beyond your normal “limit” if you're abnormally tired when you go to bed, so if the opportunity presents itself, you may want to pull a long night or two in the days leading up to your sleep session.
Note that it's almost impossible to make yourself sleep for a whole day simply from tiredness alone. For example, Randy Gardner, who broke the world record for sleep deprivation after 11 days without sleep, only slept 14 hours the first night after his ordeal.
Clear your calendar for the next day. For most people, it's easiest to sleep deeply when you know there's nothing — absolutely nothing — you need to do the next day. Take the time before your sleeping adventure to give yourself a completely open schedule for the following day. A few things you may want to consider canceling or rescheduling are:
Hangout time with friends
Obviously, if you have any serious commitments, you'll want to attempt this a different day. Sleeping all day isn't worth missing something important.
Make your sleeping area as comfortable as possible. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to sleep — as just one example, some people like firm mattresses, while others like soft ones. You know your personal preferences better than anyone else, so make sure that, when you go to bed, things are just right. A few things you might want to consider include:
Pillows: Do like a big pile, or just a few?
Blankets: Do you like a few thin sheets, or a warm down comforter?
Mattress: Do you like your mattress hard as a rock, or soft as a feather? Do you need a second mattress or box spring?
Sleeping Accessories: Do you use a supportive foam wedge? A neck pillow? A pillow between your legs?
Make your sleeping area as dark as possible. Seal the blinds, close the curtains, and shut the doors. Ideally, you want your sleeping area to be 100% pitch-black. The human body takes its cues for going to sleep and waking up from the environment around it — when it gets dark, we tend to sleep easier, and when it's lighter, we tend to wake easier. Thus, making your room darker than it normally would be can easily add hours to your sleeping time.
There's no extreme that's “too far” here — if light is coming through the bottom of the door, for instance, don't be afraid to block it with a towel.
Have an air conditioner handy if hot weather is likely. Keeping yourself at a comfortable temperature is extremely important for good sleep — get too cold or too hot, and it will be almost impossible to stay asleep. As a very general rule, most people tend to sleep best within 65-72 degrees F (18.33-22.22 degrees C). However, this can vary from person to person, so listen to your body and set the temperature to whatever is most comfortable for you.
Sleeping in a too-cold room is generally easier than sleeping in a too-hot room — you can always pile on more blankets, but you can only take so many away. In the latter case, having an air conditioner or a fan with you will make your task much easier.
Get good exercise the day before. If you have the chance, try to exercise hard the day before your sleeping marathon. There's nothing like going to bed with the feeling of having done a “hard day's work”. Physical exercise is well-known for its effect of promoting good sleep. In fact, exercise is even a frequent treatment for clinical cases of insomnia.
Note, however, that there is evidence that working out too close to bedtime can actually make it harder for some people to sleep. If you're worried about your ability to fall asleep after exercise, simply leave at least an hour or two of “down time” before you go to bed.
Eat a filling meal before you go to bed. Eating well the night before your sleep marathon serves two purposes. First, it makes it less likely that you'll be hungry in the morning, which can force you to wake up. Second, it can make it easier for you to fall asleep in the first place. If you've ever felt drowsy after eating a big lunch, you're familiar with this phenomenon. Meals that contain tryptophan (a chemical found in turkey) and large amounts of carbohydrates tend to make people drowsiest.
As with exercise, you usually do not want to eat right before bed. This can sometimes lead to digestion problems like gas, bloating, and heartburn that make sleep difficult.
Have everything you'll need the next day within reach. Knowing that you'll have everything you need to stay in bed the next day will help give you peace of mind so that you can drift off to sleep easier. Before you go to sleep, gather whatever you'll need to be comfortable the next day, plus a few things to keep you entertained when you inevitably wake up. Just a few ideas are:
Water and snacks
When you wake up, try to close your eyes and go back to sleep. No matter how well you prepare, there is very little chance that you'll actually sleep for 24 uninterrupted hours once you go to bed. What's much more likely is that you'll sleep a little longer than you normally would, but that you'll eventually wake up. If you're still trying to sleep for the whole day, simply close your eyes and continue to rest. Depending on a variety of factors, like how dark it is and how tired you are, you may very well be able to squeeze in a few extra hours of sleep.
Make short trips out of bed for important needs. A few biological needs can make it much harder to get back to sleep, so they're worth getting out of bed for, even if it means abandoning your mission for a few minutes. A few examples include:
Eating: Hunger is a big distraction when it comes to sleep. Evidence suggests that going to bed hungry can make it harder to get to sleep (and to stay asleep). On top of this, it's simply not nutritionally healthy to fast for a whole day simply because you're trying to sleep.
Going to the bathroom: This is a no-brainer. In fact, this may be what forces you to wake up in the first place.
Stretching: When you've been laying in bed for a long time, your muscles can get stiff and start to ache. Fight this unpleasant feeling by rolling out of bed for a little stretching, walking, or yoga, which can help you stay comfortable and fall asleep faster.
Replicate your natural sleep habits. Everyone has a routine before they go to bed. Some people read, some wash their face, some surf the internet, and so on. If you're having a hard time getting back to sleep, performing these bedtime habits can help signal to the body that it's time to “shut down” again. Below are just a few ideas, but you can do anything that you normally do before bed:
Listening to a book on tape
Drinking decaffeinated tea
Brushing your teeth
Bathing or washing your face
Spend a few relaxed minute with a hobby
Filling out a schedule for the next day
Yawn! Ever watch a friend (or a family member, or even a pet) yawn and suddenly feel the urge to do the same? For many people, the act of yawning is connected to a gentle feeling of fatigue. Even if they're not tired, they'll get a gentle sleepy feeling and even sometimes a desire to shut their eyes. While this won't always work, it only takes a few seconds, so it's definitely worth a try.
Yawns still aren't perfectly-understood by medical science, but one theory is that yawns produce their mysterious effects by literally lowering the temperature of the brain. Another theory is that yawning helps lubricate the lungs so that they can take in as much oxygen as possible. However, neither theory is proven.
Try mental sleep tricks. Sometimes, problems with getting to sleep can be all in your head. If you've tried everything else and you still can't get to sleep, you may benefit from using mental thought techniques to encourage sleep. There's no “right” way to do this, but a few ideas are listed below:
Distract yourself with a mental game: Pick a category (e.g., cars, animals, movies, etc.) and think of one item for each letter of the alphabet. Try to mentally replay all of the scenes in your favorite movie in reverse order. Pick a word and change one letter at a time until it is another word.
Focus on an imaginary sensation: Pretend your body is gradually turning to stone from your feet upwards. Pretend you are slowly sinking into your mattress. Pretend your are levitating out of the bed. Try to focus on the space beyond your eyelids when your eyes are shut.
Try reverse psychology: Pretend there's something that you need to stay awake for (like that an important phone call is coming). Mentally repeat to yourself: “I need to stay awake” as you lay in the darkness. Once you're actually trying to do this, you may find that it's a lot harder to do what was quite easy before!
Try a small dose of a mild sleep aid. Small, gentle doses of sleep aids can be beneficial if you're trying to pull off a massive sleep-a-thon. However, you will want to be careful with how you use these — using large doses or unsafe drugs to force yourself to sleep is never a good idea. Always follow the directions on the packaging of whatever substance you use. Talk to a doctor if you have any drug allergies or you are already taking other medications.
A few safe over-the-counter drugs that can help you fall to sleep include Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, etc.), Doxylamine succinate, Melatonin, and Valerian.
Never, ever use narcotics, barbiturates, or other illicit drugs to get to sleep. These drugs are illegal, habit-forming, and dangerous. Side effects can range from mild to deadly. There are no standards of quality control for these drugs.
Avoid caffeine. Because caffeine is one of the most popular substances in the world, it's one of the most common causes of sleep difficulties. Caffeine's stimulant effects can make it difficult to fall asleep when it's bedtime, even if you'd normally tired. For this reason, it's best to avoid any caffeine the day before you're trying to sleep all day. This includes coffee and tea, plus caffeinated gum and snacks.
If you have to have coffee the day before to get through something important, try not to have any after noon to ensure your body has plenty of time to process it before bed. It takes about six hours for the body to get rid of half of a dose of caffeine.
Don't drink alcohol the day before. Alcohol can make you drowsy in the short term, but it's a bad idea if you're aiming for healthy, restful sleep. Sleeping while drunk forces your body straight into deep sleep. As the alcohol wears off, you may drift back into “light” sleep, which is easy to wake up from. This is why it's common to wake up after a few hours when you sleep while drunk. If you do have to drink, try to leave your body about an hour per drink or shot to process the alcohol before you go to sleep.
On top of this, alcohol is a diuretic (something that encourages urination), so it can force you to wake up to go to the bathroom. It can also leave you with a dry mouth and nausea the morning after, further preventing you from getting back to sleep.
Don't force yourself to stay in bed if it's uncomfortable. As mentioned above, sleeping all day is not something the body will be used to. Laying in bed for excessive lengths of time can cause aching and stiffness. If these symptoms don't go away with light stretching, abandon your mission. Sleeping all day isn't worth being miserable.
In addition, even a single day of bed rest can cause significant health problems, like blood clots, bed sores, and nausea. Though these are rare in young, healthy people, they can become a real risk in older individuals. For best results, break up your day of rest with a few periods of activity spent up and walking around.
Don't make sleeping all day a habit. Spending the entire day in bed is never something you'll want to do on a regular basis. Even if you manage to avoid the physical symptoms above, a day in bed can seriously affect your mental state. Notably, too much time in bed can cause depression (or worsen it if you're already depressed). For your mental health, don't make sleeping all day something that you do with any regularity.
In addition to this, spending all day in bed means that you aren't spending it doing something else productive. Everyone has a limited amount of time on Earth — do you really want to spend much of yours doing nothing?