38 Straight Days of Awesome Sleep

My fascination with sleep is pretty well documented. Rightfully so, I think, given how “no single behavior, we’ve come to believe, more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life than sleep.”

From January of 2008 when I became an early riser through early 2010 I had my morning alarm set for 6 AM and almost every day that was when I got up. In my 1 month update and 7 month update I used phrases like “amazing” and “life-changing” to describe my new sleep schedule.

At some point last year though, I got off track. Too many things were keeping me up late, both with work and socially, and I started to think “why not just sleep until I wake up?” All of a sudden I was getting up anywhere from 7 AM – 9:30 AM on most days, depending on how the prior day went. I went back to always feeling tired and always playing “catch up” with my sleep.

After my trip down south in the fall, where I slept until almost noon on the day of my presentation (!), I decided it was time to get back on track. I remembered how much better I felt when I got up early and I wanted that back. Not only getting up early, but sleeping consistently. Being fully awake during the day, and fully asleep during the night. Something I’ve only accomplished with a dedicated consistency to sleep, much like the dedicated consistency required in exercise, dieting, or even starting a business.

To be more practical, I switched my time to 7 AM. This is much more realistic. On any given night I tend to want to start winding down around 10 PM. By the time I fall asleep it’s probably close to 11, giving me a full eight hours instead of seven. On nights where I’m out late, I simply take a nap the next day per my productive napping rules, or go to bed a little early the next night.

I’ve taken to setting my phone to vibrate right at 7, and I set my loud annoying alarm across the room to go off at full blast at 7:05. Nothing gets me out of bed faster than the fear of having to hear that thing go off! Generally once I’m physically out of bed, it’s only a few minutes until I’m moving at full speed…there’s not that lethargic feeling that I get if I’ve just underslept or overslept.

I’ve also taken to tracking my 7 AM wakeup progress on an index card I keep on my desk. It’s something I think I’ll keep doing – it helps keep me accountable. Throughout the holidays I’d miss a day or two over the weekend but I’d get right back on track during the week. Recently, I’ve been doing pretty good:

Sleep Tracking Index Card

Predictably, I feel great again. I don’t ever feel tired. When I’m up I’m fully up, and when I’m sleeping I sleep great. The scary thing is that I never knew this was possible until I committed myself to sleeping well. Had I kept on with a corporate career path, the sleep deprivation that I was putting myself through, which probably started when I was in grade school, would have probably continued on, unbeknownst to me how much I was hurting myself.

4 comments on 38 Straight Days of Awesome Sleep

  1. Tim says:

    Cool post! I’m in a similar situation as you know and it is sometimes a struggle to be honest with myself when the alarm clock comes on. By some miracle I’ve been VERY good about it over the last month and I feel great and I’m getting more done in a day. The problem for me is that some of the work I do is better done late at night, but I’m getting better at adapting and just being tired for a day. For some reason DST really owned me this year, it’s never hit me like this before.

    As you know I tried to go polyphasic with my sleep schedule and while it sounds like a good idea at first, there are a few short term, and as I’ve found out, a few long term problems. The short term is that it is very socially unacceptable to leave every 4 hours to take a nap, it just become a pain and you’re basically left with a chopped up day and what seems like endless night time hours with nothing but odd activities to occupy your time, after all most people are sleeping. The long term effect I’ve noticed is that I can no longer nap period. I have not been able to take a nap since late 2007 and let me tell you it SUCKS. Some days I just don’t get enough sleep and I have to deal with it until the next night and hope I can make it up.

    On an unrelated note I don’t think I’ve ever seen two posts in one day on your blog!

  2. Adam McFarland says:

    Haha well I had this post planned for a while, I scanned the image in and everything so I wanted to get it up today. The LockerPulse one was unplanned. I may have posted twice in a day one or two times before, but certainly not recently…twice in a week has been unusual!

    I of course remember your polyphasic sleep experiment, something I was/am very interested in but not enough to try, which is why it was so interesting following your experiment. It’s pretty interesting that it’s prevented you from napping since then. Why do you think that is? Man, I can’t tell you how much a 20 minute nap helps me sometimes.

  3. Tim says:

    I have no clue what broke when I went polyphasic, but I’ve been different since then. In addition to not being able to nap I haven’t had a headache, been sick or had any other ailment. I’ve been dead tired some days and want nothing more but to take a nap but it just never happens, I just toss and turn and never fall asleep. I typically give up 20-30 minutes in and feel stupid for even trying.

    If it wasn’t so socially weird I would try it again just to see if it fixed my napping problem. What adds insult to injury is my father has literally fallen asleep standing up cooking an egg, I’ve never seen anything like it, he’s not narcoleptic, but he falls asleep in under 30 seconds, it’s insane. I know I’ve got it in my DNA, I just have to figure out how to make it work!

    There is the somewhat famous case of Al Herpin and more recently Thai Ngoc, both insomniacs who lived for decades without sleep and no ill effects. The human body and mind is capable of it, we just don’t understand enough to make it happen. In Thai Ngoc’s case he did sleep but after a fever he was unable to sleep and that was in 1973!

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