Two years trying to sleep earlier: This is what I learned

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“Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise” Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s quote doesn’t apply to everybody. If you are one of those whose productivity skyrockets at night and hates morning time, then this article won’t add up much to your routine. But if instead you barely do something productive at night, and you wish you could sleep earlier to achieve more in the morning, then you are in the spot I was 2 years ago. Here is what I learned.

Why should I sleep early anyway?

  1. You want to have enough sleep hours: Especially if you have morning commitments. Some people admit they only sleep 4 hours, well, good for them, I need 8 hours.
  2. Your brain works better in the morning: Make sure you perform your most demanding/important tasks when your brain is clean, pure and healthy, and then the less critical ones in the night.
“Your brain is like the fat McDonalds use to cook your french fries, after too much use it turns dark, ugly and unhealthy. When you sleep (well) is when you replace the fat and start anew” — G. Izasa ( PhD in Software Engineering)

Follow these advises to fall asleep earlier:

Notice: I currently fall asleep at 9:00 p.m. and wake up at 4:30 a.m. (fully rested). Probably you don’t want to be as freak as me about it, but it can give you an idea of what you can achieve.

1. What to do during the day?

  1. If you take naps, do so before 3:00 pm: Taking naps afterwards can drastically change your bedtime making it too difficult to go to sleep.
  2. Naps should be utmost 15 minutes long: Long naps make your body believe you are going to sleep for a long time, affecting your circadian rhythm.
  3. Have dinner 3 hours before going to sleep: Eating right before sleeping is not healthy, trust me. It also affects your sleep: your body spends the night digesting the food instead of resting, therefore making you wake up tired and desiring more sleep (even if you slept 8 hours).

2. How to set up my bedroom?

  1. Keep the lights dimmed: It can trick your circadian rhythm making your body believe it is daylight, when it’s not.
  2. Take your appliances outside: Nearby electronic devices are known to be unhealthy for a good night sleep.
  3. Make sure you have good ventilation: A good source of oxygen is key to fully rest.
  4. Make your bedroom cooler instead of warmer: Open the window, start the fan or don’t use many blankets. It was always easier for me to sleep when it was cold.

3. How to get ready for bed?

  1. Avoid screens: Phone, laptop or TV. Their light affect your circadian rhythm.
  2. Drink a glass of water: It keeps you hydrated at night. Just don’t drink too much water. It isn’t healthy either.
  3. Put on white noise: I often search “Wave Sounds” in Spotify. I made a short playlist with the most calming songs I found.
  4. Meditate: Cleaning up your mental RAM can significantly reduce stress. If you really want to sleep you want to clear your mind before doing so.
  5. Get your body tired: If you want to help your body sleep, you have to make it desire it. Sometimes I read for 15 minutes, standing. After that time frame my body is exhausted, it wants to sit or lay in bed. Then I throw myself in bed and fall asleep instantly. You can also try some yoga asanas.

4. What to do in bed?

  1. Focus on anything but sleeping, don’t even think of it: Stressing or thinking about falling asleep is the quickest way to stay awake.
  2. Have deep regular breaths: It can help you relax and slightly reduce your heart rate.

5. What to do if I don’t fall asleep after a while?

  1. Stand up: It’s time to get your body tired again. Read for 15 minutes, you should be feeling sleepy again after that.
  2. Turn off the white noise: Sometimes it can work the other way around.

6. How should I wake up?

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  1. Use sleep cycle alarms: Your sleep has a cycle with several phases. If your alarm wakes you up during a light phase you feel awesome, rested and happy, but if instead it wakes you up during a deep phase you feel like you need more sleep (even if you already slept 8 hours!). I purchased this app to track my sleep using my smartphone.
  2. Use soft alarms: You want to wake up in a subtle way, so use alarms that gradually increase the melody volume. I use Jamiroquai songs, it always gets me in the mood.
  3. Harness time after opening your eyes: You’ve got around 30 seconds after you first open your eyes before they start closing again. So first thing to do is to put on your headphones and play lively music at a regular volume.
  4. Stand up: If you remain in bed for a more than a few minutes, you will find excuses to wake up, so get to do what you have to do right away.

Last piece of advice

Your body loves habits. So do your best to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday no matter what.

Especial thanks to Daniel Bravo for proofreading.
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