A couple of months ago I decided to experiment with my sleep.
For five days I would stay up all night, eventually going to bed at about 5am, rising at about 10am. For the following five days I would go to bed between 12am and 1am, and rise at 6am.
Up until this point I’d always been a night owl with no real morning routine to speak of, often working late into the night (3am being the norm), getting up 6-7 hours later.
It was no huge leap to go from sleeping at 3am to 5am. I had a lot to work on that week, therefore the time was greatly appreciated.
After eating dinner and watching a few television shows with friends I would settle down at 11pm to six hours of work, often getting funny looks as I sipped on my black coffee. I liked it.
It’s incredibly peaceful at 2, 3, 4am in the morning. I could work away without any distractions, making sure to be quiet whenever I ventured around the house.
The only real issue with this way of working, I found after a few days, was the 10am ‘mornings’. They killed me. I’d wake up after five hours of sleep feeling awful. Often I’d wake earlier to the noise of the traffic outside, the sound of chatter and buses as the real world made their way to work.
Was a productive night worth a wasted (in both the time sense, and the ‘how my head felt’ sense) morning? Time for the second part of the experiment.
The next night I went to bed at 12am, the earliest I’d done so in months. I’d spent some time researching sleep in the past, and had decided on a couple of methods to tackle the inevitable sleepy mornings.
Edit: I’ve since written a hugely comprehensive review of Sleep Cycle (including screenshots) over at My Morning Routine: http://mymorningroutine.com/sleep-cycle-review/
With 3833 reviews, a combination of 4.5/5 stars on iTunes, and official status as the number one paid app in 10+ countries around the world; this is the Goliath of alarm clocks.
In short, this app is designed to both monitor your sleep and wake you up in your lightest sleep phase so to avoid waking you during deep wave sleep.
Deep wave sleep is what would be described as ‘heavy’ sleep. This is the period in which you’re most likely to dream. Those mornings when you wake up to the terrible sound of the alarm clock in your ear, when all you want to do is smash it again the wall and go back to sleep, that’s an example of waking during deep wave sleep.
It probably also spoiled your dream.
Once you’ve set up Sleep Cycle, you have to place it face down on the corner of your bed so it can record your movements overnight using your phones build-in accelerometer (the tool also used to rotate the screen when you turn it on it’s side).
By measuring how much you moved about, the app can tell what level of sleep you were in during different stages of the night.
Sleep Cycle’s best feature is it’s a ability to wake you during your lightest sleep phase, which is why it is my number one tool for becoming an early riser.
You set the time frame in which the alarm clock has to wake you (from 10 to 90 minutes – I usually opt for 15-20) then you set the final time you have to wake up. For example, last night I set the alarm clock for 6.30 am, so the alarm could sound any time between 6.15 and 6.30. I must have moved about at 6.22, as this indicated a light sleep phase and I was woken up pleasantly at this point.
I can’t stress enough how much this app has changed my mornings. The first night I used it (the night in the story above) I couldn’t believe how awake I felt at 6am. I looked out the window, at the dark street with barely anybody on it and I literally sprung out of bed.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to go back to using a regular alarm clock for one night, just to see if Sleep Cycle was still having a positive impact. I couldn’t have felt worst if I’d tried, waking up at 6am to a ‘regular’ alarm clock attacking my ear with sound. Seriously, get it ($0.99).
Strike the Half Military Crawl Position
Known as the half military crawl position, I use this method if I need to get to sleep ASAP.
In Tim’s own words… “Lie on your chest with your head on a pillow and turned to the right. Both arms should be straight by your sides, palms down. Now bring your right arm up until the top of your right elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your hand is close to your head (alternatively place your right hand under the pillow under your head). Next bring your right knee out to that side until it is bent at approximately 90 degrees”.
The reason this position works so well is simple: you can’t move. To toss and turn from this position you have to first lift your entire body off the bed. The less you move, the quicker you get to sleep.
After two nights of rising at 6am, I knew I already had my winner. Sleeping 12am-1am to 6am was ten times more fulfilling than sleeping 5am-10am. When I get up at this time I can do anything I want, often opting to write something (more and more of my blog posts are being written at this time of day), start work on my business, or even watch an episode or two of House to start the day.
I don’t know if it was the change in alarm clock, sleeping position, simply the time of day or a combination of all three, but walking up at 6am (okay, okay, 6-6.30am) has been a complete success. It’s what I do now. I am an early riser. Goodbye my night owl past, you will be missed.
I also experimented with consuming several foods, outlined in the 4HB, before bed in a bid to increase the quality of my sleep.
If you regularly feel very tired in the mornings (despite a decent nights sleep) this is probably due to low blood sugar.
To experiment in combating this I took two tablespoons of organic almond butter every night for three weeks, as well as two Flaxseed oil capsules (2x 1000mg), both of which are designed to increase the rate of cell repair during sleep, decreasing fatigue in the morning.
It worked, for sure, I just don’t believe it bought enough of a benefit for me to continue with. I’ve kept up the flaxseed oil however, as I’ve discovered one capsule in the morning is a very good way to settle your stomach.
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