Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sleep Hacking

I've always wanted to become a morning person. On paper, it seems like there shouldn't be (in terms of productivity) any difference between early risers and night owls. However, I like the feeling of getting things done early and the feeling that the whole day is ahead of me. In the evenings, my energy is usually lower and I tend to do more wasteful activities. I've pictured myself jumping out of bed in full Carpe Diem mode and getting at it. So I've made an effort over the last year to change my habits and wake up early:

1) Don't have too much caffeine. I'm particularly caffeine sensitive so I make sure to have just one cup of coffee in the mornings and that's all. Anything afternoon will disrupt my sleep pattern.

2) Natural light alarm clock. I had bought one of these lights to simulate natural light and wake me up slowly. This didn't really help since I just don't notice the light when I am asleep. I found the natural alarm clock useless and resold it on Craigslist.

3) Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room. This was the single most important move. If you put the alarm clock in a strategic place where you can't snooze it you will be forced to get up and turn it off.

4) There are other considerations to where you put your alarm clock besides out of reach. You'll want to put it in a place that will trigger your morning habit routine. For example, if you can put it near your toothbrush the next step would be to pick it up and start brushing. And once there you probably won't be be getting back into bed.

5) So you should have a morning routine. When you wake up your mind and body is not warmed up and you shouldn't be thinking about what to do next. You should instinctively know what to do. This takes first preplanning what needs to be done and then setting triggers to help you develop the habit. For example, placing the coffee pot out in a convenient noticeable spot.

My morning tasks:

Wake up and shut off alarm.
Start coffee maker
Study language vocab
Check email
Cook food
Get dressed

I've conveniently stuck in study language vocab by putting the app in a more prominent position than email.

6) Prepare to sleep at a set time. If my bed time is 10:00pm then I tell myself that I am 15 minutes past my bedtime when it is 10:15pm. This also means that I have to start the wind down process 15 minutes ahead of time.

7) If you are used to sleeping at midnight You aren't going to be able to just change and sleep at 10pm all of a sudden. You won't fall asleep and your body will feel tired during wake hours. When I came back from an extended trip to South America (East coast time) I made sure to not go back to my original time but rather the earlier time that my body was already used to. If you aren't able to take a trip you can do something similar by taking advantage of daylights savings time and wake up normally instead of sleeping in for an hour.

8) I was recommended the desktop program F.lux which is supposed to change the colors of the screen to more soothing colors to prepare you to fall asleep instead of harsh bright colors that keep you awake. To be honest I didn't notice a difference in improving my sleep. It did however function as another alarm clock in which I decide to turn off the laptop once the background change happens.

9) Change of mindset: Ashley Zahabian mentions in her youtube video about rising early that caught my attention. 

"Whats your reason to wake up? If you don't have one why wake up right? But the problem is the process is backwards. You have to wake up first."

I've personally found this to be true for me. If I don't have that day planned I start trying to figure it out in bed and it tends to be foggy since my body and mind is not warmed up yet. I have to wake up FIRST and THEN the day will unravel. 

So that's a summary of what I did to switch from a night owl to a morning person. So far I enjoying the change.