I woke up 8 AM this morning and while it is not very early to most people I take it as a sign of progress. My sleep cycle for the past few months has been horrendous when it comes to waking up and falling asleep at decent times. No, I haven’t been sleeping into the afternoon hours but when you wake up daily at 10:30 or 11 you have already missed a significant portion of your day. It is not that I am not sleeping enough or too much it’s that I have been sleeping at the wrong times, I need to shift my sleeping pattern towards new hours. Now I have accomplished this before successfully and had years of waking up before sun rise while even allowing myself to stay out late and have fun during the less stressful summer months and then later correcting my habits. Let me walk you through the techniques that I use to establish a routine and become an early riser.
First, we have to know why exactly we want to wake up early in the mornings. Although there has been no difference in the number of hours I have been awake when my day doesn’t end until the wee morning hours, the quality of those hours has decreased significantly. Waking up at 10 or 11 during the weekdays made me miss more than half my classes this past semester and took a sizeable percentage of my final grades (over a letter grade in one instance) due to in class work that I had missed. This was entirely unacceptable. I was often scheduled to work shortly after I woke up which left me very little time to get myself ready or eat a decent meal, I started eating fast food when I really had no desire to and cost me pounds and calories. Without a set routine in my life my overall well-being had plummeted and I felt awful.
So a change has to be made to save the way I live my life but how have I gone about setting a routine in the past?
1. Establish a motivation- Well as you can see above my starting motivation is to gain back some control over my life. This motivation is a nice concept but my brain right after I wake up won’t want any part of it and therefore isn’t helpful towards my goal of waking up earlier. So to remind myself in the morning, what the fully awake me wants I write on a post it note a clear message to remind sleep zombie me what my goal is. The post it note gets placed on my cell phone (my alarm clock) each night so that when I get out of bed to turn off that terrible noise I will be faced with it. Now this has failed a few times but the overall success rate has been better than just my alarm clock with no message, this method is simple and helps. When this works immediately leave your bedroom for the bathroom and get all of the stuff out of your eyes so that they will be open and more focused. I like to get right on the computer after this and do simple activities like checking email so that my brain is ready to go.
2. Go to sleep when you’re tired- If you’re a late sleeper be honest with yourself that you’re probably not going to be able to go right to sleep if you get into bed at 9 PM and will in all likelihood just lie awake for hours. By going to bed when you’re tired you will fall asleep much more quickly. Now the tricky part is how you want to accomplish the waking up end.
3. The one-fell swoop method- This is where you set your alarm for a certain time and no matter how late you stay up the night before you get up at that certain time. I like to do this method because it helps set me in the direction of being sleepy earlier that night. For instance I didn’t fall asleep until 3:30 AM, but my goal is to get up at 7 each morning. The line of thinking is that you will have to be tired for one day but can then easily fall asleep and have it feel natural when you wake up early the following day. Now I modified it and pushed my alarm today back to 8:45 (actually a noise woke me at 8 as I mentioned at the start) so that I wouldn’t be too tired to function but still have a desire to sleep early.
What I like about this method is the speed with which you can accomplish a reversal of patterns in most situations as long as you don’t keep yourself up one night and break the pattern too early. The only negatives are that the first day you feel tired and waking up when you didn’t get enough sleep is a tough proposition.
4. The Subtract 15 approach- Sometimes you are really stuck in your ways and the one day method isn’t going to work for you or you’re one of those people who likes gradual change in your life. With this method all that you need to do is figure what time you usually wake up presently and then set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier each successive day. So if 11 o’clock is your normal wake up time by the end of the week your new time will be 9:15 and you will continue until you have met what time you want to get up. Getting up 15 minutes earlier isn’t a big change from day to day but it adds up quick and within a month you should have gotten to where you want to be.
5. Staying with It- I fell into this current late riser pattern at the beginning of last summer and gradually it got to the terrible state it has been for a few months. Looking back what changed was that I no longer woke up and went to the gym at school because I hadn’t purchased a pass to workout during the summer session. I slept because I never gave myself something to do in its place! That is the key thing when waking up early, the aforementioned motivation. It needs to be directed towards something you enjoy doing or a goal that you would like to accomplish. My specific goals are to wake up and write one article (hey I did it), read a book that interests me for an hour, and to exercise for an hour. This will require my utmost commitment and that part is easy because I enjoy doing all of those things.
Tomorrow I will wake up at 7 in the morning and then once I have established that as a routine for a week or two I will begin to scale it back using the subtract 15 minutes method. If you want to become an early riser you’re going to have to plan it out and know what you’re going to do with your time once you’re awake. Remember to not listen to the siren songs of your comfy bed and ‘lie down for a minute’. You’re losing productive time everyday and it needs to end! So sweet dreams and wake up early.