Rising at Dawn
The art of waking up early consistently
One of the biggest clichés I considered in my life was to wake up at dawn, and I don’t know why everyone was obsessed with it. I couldn’t relate to it at all. I thought the advantages were blown out of proportion, and not everyone needs to wake up early.
My point of view on this has changed. While I still agree that not everyone needs to wake up early, my life has changed dramatically by waking up at dawn.
Why Wake-up Early?
Why the U-turn? Let me share something about myself. About two months ago, I considered myself a rigorous night-owl. It would be impossible for me to close my eyes before 2–3 am. In my heydays, I have done a lot of programming, playing games, or binging shows during the wee hours of the night. I recall once telling a friend that I get started at midnight.
If so, why start the shift to waking at 5 am? The answer is simple yet quite potent, focus and intensity. For me, it was easy to let my guard down during the late hours of the night; I wouldn’t be that articulate with my time. For example, if there were a book that would need deliberations from my side, I’d skip it since my brain would be tired.
Another issue was the time I woke during the day was quite late, so I would be thick in action the moment I got up. No getting out of sleep, taking my time, with work from home, I’d hop on my machine and start my first meeting of the day. Also, the conference wouldn’t be that fruitful without any prep.
Finally, procrastination was a huge issue for me. I’d have extra hours at night, I would let everything be delayed till then without any remorse, and once the night falls, I would delay it to the next day, so the cycle never ends for me. Instead, I eat the frog right away when I get up and plow through all my important tasks (such as this blog post).
How do you change your sleep cycle?
So for me changing my sleep cycle was tricky; sleeping from 3 am to 10 pm is a considerable step jump. One way to do it is to move your sleeping clock by 30 minutes, but I found it ineffective for me. I couldn’t form the habit and make ongoing changes.
I went with the Big Bang approach; I put my alarm for 5.45 am and went with it, and oh boy, was it hard on the initial days. I slept for 3–4 hours the first few days, and it was a task to survive. Yet, something magical happened once I stuck to it for a few days, and following certain tricks, I shifted my cycle for good.
Things that worked:
Consistent Waking-up Window:
I kept my waking up time reasonably consistent. On weekdays, I kept it as 5.45 am, and on weekends, I kept it as 6.30 am by keeping it tight and not sleeping in on weekends. I signaled my body that it was time to wake up when the clock struck dawn.
To come with a consistent going to bedtime, I went with a wind-down routine for myself. It involves switching off my machine, writing down my todos, and reading a book on my kindle before tucking in. I would execute this around 9.45–10.15 pm every day. The routine again signals my body that it’s time to end the day and prepare for the next one.
There has been a lot of things said on melatonin already. I found it quite helpful to change my sleep cycle. It’s a hormone released by your pineal gland at night and primarily controls your sleep cycles. Many shift workers use it to shift their sleep windows when required. It was another factor that helped me switch my sleep-wake cycle.
Naps are lovely, and with WFH being the norm, it’s always possible to get a short nap now more than ever. Yet, one must be careful when you go for a rest and how long. The best times for naps are from noon to 3 pm. About 15–30 mins of sleep can improve your cognitive performance without making you dizzy. Any later or any more will have an impact on rest at night.
Early dinner also helped me a lot with changing my sleep cycle. By finishing my meals by 7–7.30 pm, I let my body finish the bulk of digesting process, which allowed me to fall asleep faster. I noticed if I ate late, I wouldn’t feel sleepy and be energetic.
Lastly, it’s essential to have a plan for the next day. If you wake up and have no clue what to do, your body will choose for you, and you’ll hit the sack again. Please don’t do it; plan something, exercise, meditation, journal, or work on your most challenging problems. That will keep you coming for more day after day.
All in all, these tips would help you turn around your sleep cycles as they did for me and finally allow you to wake up early and chase your goals.