On January 1 I wrote about how I hate New Years Resolutions and then proceeded to make one myself: to improve my sleep schedule. Throughout college and my early professional life I’ve always been an erratic sleeper to say the least, and I became envious of those who were able to wake up early and start the day “ahead” of me. I decided on 6 AM as my new wakeup time because it’s early, but not so early that you have to be asleep at a ridiculous hour every night to get your 8 hours.
So how has this past month been? Amazing and life-changing are probably the two best adjectives to describe the feeling. I have been:
- Going to bed by 10 PM most nights. The latest I have fallen asleep is probably 10:45. If a good sports game or show is on, I’ll record it to watch in the AM.
- Waking up every single day at 6 AM. I use my iPod to wake me up, and I have a backup alarm set for 6:10 in case music doesn’t do the trick. The latest I have risen from my bed has probably been 6:12 AM.
- I generally eat, check email, and watch Sports Center (or a recording of a game/show from the previous night) from 6-7, and then leave for the gym around 7.
- By 9 I am showered, dressed, have eaten my post-workout meal, and am back at work (having already cleared my inbox earlier in the morning).
- Stop working by 7 PM at the latest so I have a few hours to myself. If I have dinner plans or other plans with friends, I can stop working at 4 PM and still have accomplished a ton.
Here have been the benefits:
- Far less stress. Instead of waking up and thinking “crap, I need to get to the gym and rush my workout and get back and get to my emails” I’m now way ahead of the game. Clearing my inbox from 6-7 lets me relax at the gym knowing I don’t have anything major waiting for me when I get back. By 9 AM I’m at the point where I used to be at noon, and that is huge.
- Much higher productivity. Obviously if I’m 3-4 hours ahead of my old daily pace I’m getting a lot more done.
- Less tired – I’m only really tired for the last 15 minutes before I fall asleep and the first 15 minutes when I wake up. Never think about it otherwise, which is a huge change for me.
- Better workouts at the gym. Now that I’m not rushed, I feel 100% satisfied with my efforts instead of the usual ‘I wish I could spend more time working out’.
- More consistent eating habits. I have always been a wanna-be-nutritionist, but with a regular sleep schedule I’ve been able to really hone in and eat my 6 or 7 meals at the exact same times each day. And by having more time, I can prepare what I really should eat instead of settling for faster-but-unhealthier alternatives. Much like never feeling tired, I never really feel hungry except right before I am scheduled to eat.
- More time to hang out with friends. I’ve seen my friends more in the last month than I did all last year…seriously.
- More time to play read, watch sports, and play video games.
- Just overall more happy and fulfilled. I’ve always been a pretty happy guy, but if I could quantify my happiness increase it would be around a 25% increase…solely from waking up early!
Amazing as this has been, I probably couldn’t have done it even a year ago. Your social situation dictates when you can and can’t sleep and wake up. At 25, the whole “going out to the bar every night” thing has worn off and I don’t really have the desire to be out until 4 AM anymore. When I do go out, I can stay out until 12 or 1 and still get a decent amount of sleep by 6. And of course, I can always sleep in on a rare occasion.
The big question is: can I stick to it and make it a true lifestyle change like I have with diet and exercise? I vote yes. Partially because I made it 30 days and I have no desire to ever sleep in again, and partially because it just fits perfectly in my entrepreneurial life. Obviously I won’t know for a year or two if it sticks, but I’m going to be extra serious about sticking with it for the next few months and hopefully by mid-year it’s just automatic. I’ll try to post updates every few months to force myself to stick to it or admit that I suck if I don’t.