Thursday, June 25, 2009

Uphill battle part 3

aka Strategies for early waking. So how about one more post about my sleep schedule? Keeping in mind my two earlier posts (here and here), I actually made myself get up at a set time this morning. I got to sleep about 4:15 am and woke up at 8:30.

I'll explain my method and touch on another method I've read about in a bit, but first let me go into my background.


You see, my problem isn't a lack of desire to get up in the mornings, it's lack of mental presence. When my alarm sounds, I turn it off and go back to sleep. There's no decision made, I'm on autopilot. Okay, some mornings I do make a decision to stay in bed, but most of the time it's out of my control.

This is partly due to the fact that, as I mentioned before, I don't have to be up at any given time. I can do my work any time of day. I'll also point out that if I do have to be up for something important, I usually wake up a lot and check my clock, sleeping so lightly that I have no problems getting up when I need to.

I used to have a job where I had to get up at 5:30 am every morning. It was both lucky and unlucky that I worked with my roommate, because he could make sure I was up in time, but we also stayed up late a lot of work nights hanging out. The odd thing is, after the initial dread of waking up (still craving more sleep), and 30-minutes of grogginess, I was fine the rest of the day, and even capable of staying up pretty late even on that 4-5 hours of sleep.

That's probably been my biggest problem. No matter what my roommate would be doing--watching tv, typing on his laptop, reading books, whatever, once he got too tired, he'd fall asleep where he sat. I can stay up for very long amounts of time as long as my brain is stimulated. No, amend that, it's not that I can stay up, it's that I generally don't have a choice. If I have something to think about, I will, and that keeps me awake.

Previous attempts

I've tried going to bed earlier and earlier each night, but one bout of sleeping in throws off my schedule so much that I feel like I need something more drastic.

I also got on a normal schedule a couple of months ago, waking up at 6am regularly, but that was helped by the fact that I had to be up at 7 anyway to drive a friend of mine to work. I fell out of that habit before he got his car fixed--I would get home from dropping him off and crawl back into bed. This is because I got too little sleep too many nights. My bedtime slowly creeps backwards until I'm going to bed at 2 and I'm supposed to be getting up at 6? Fat chance. I also ended up taking naps, which I think is something I need to resist until I'm on a more solid schedule.

I have to be able to make myself wake up at the same time consistently, and force myself to go to bed at a reasonable time, 8 hours for sleep at first. I also need to avoid staying up late on the weekends, which is hard when hanging out with friends, but I think it'll be worth it to get on a steady schedule.


I suppose I should explain my reasons for wanting to get on a steady schedule. I sleep too much. I stay up for long hours and then sleep for long hours, and I think in the end I have more sleeping hours per waking hours than I would if I slept even 8 hours a night. Ultimately, I hope that my sleep time will be reduced to around 6 hours of sleep a night once I get steady. The other primary reason for wanting to get on a schedule is because I have a lot to do in a day, and I waste a lot of time. I'm hoping I can get in the habit of doing certain tasks at certain times to ultimately be more efficient with my time. Sound fair?


While looking up methods to get up in the morning, I found this. It's a very interesting blog post where the author talks about how he trained himself to get up without thinking when his alarm goes off. This is accomplished by many dry runs during the day. I didn't do this, but it sounds interesting and someone else might find it helpful.

I also have a book on sleep I thumbed through a bit, and it seems like the rule of thumb is to make changes gradual. Adjust your bed time by 15-minute increments per night until it's where you want it to be. I don't have a bed time, so I guess I'll have to try the hard way for now.

My Method

I consider this a brute force method, and I used a lighter version of it a few months ago when I was getting up at 6am every morning (for a few weeks). I got an alarm program for my cell phone. Any one with unlimited alarms should work. I set 12 alarms, starting 20 minutes before I wanted to get up, and ten 2-minute increments leading up to that time. So if I want to get up at 6, my alarm is set for 5:40, 5:42, 5:44...5:56, 5:58, 6:00. I tried it in 1-minute increments, but it had funky results, some alarms not playing.

Doing this actually reinforced some beliefs I had about my sleep state. The first few alarms that go off, it feels to me like as soon as I turn one off the next one sounds, when in fact 2 minutes has passed. This makes me wonder if I'm actually still in some state of sleep when I turn my alarm off.

I've tried this method it before with 10 minutes leading up instead of 20. It stopped working, but as I said that was mostly because my bedtime kept creeping back. I got very little sleep last night and was wide awake and in the shower by the sixth alarm (12 minutes). My personal bet--I'll have to expand the time the alarm sounds (to 16 alarms in 30 minutes) if I keep getting too little sleep, but I'll be up much earlier if I get to bed on time.

The point of this method is to make absolutely sure I'm up at the same time each morning so I can train myself to go to bed at the same time each night. I'll try to keep this site updated with my progress.

Till then,


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