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:
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.