Most people who read this little corner of the webternets will probably be involved, in some way, with technology. Recently, the Back to Work podcast discussed the idea of sleep. People involved with technology, including myself, have a hard time with sleep and it certainly stops being a nice way to wind down a day, and becomes an absolute nightmare & stress.
The reason it’s stressful is because we feel like we have to do it. We don’t have to do it. We need to do it. These are two very different use-cases. Having to do something implies a distinct lack of interest in doing that act, but needing to do it implies desire.
And so, aside from being involved in technology, I imagine most readers here have a bad relationship with sleep. They have to do it, and instead of it being a recharge cycle, it’s a cycle that takes away from doing something in the eventing (whether that be work or similar) and becomes an ordeal to wake from in the morning. How many people have several different alarms setup on their iPhone? Not only do lots of people I know not use the sleep function, but they also set annoying sequences of alarms with titles like “Wake Up!”, “WAKE THE HELL UP!!!1ONE” and “You’re going to be late”.
This adds to the stress of waking after a 5 hour nap, and for a lot of people, 5 hours isn’t enough to get a proper deep sleep where they awake fully rested. As such the first thing they do in the morning is gulp down two or three coffee’s.
Overall, this is stressful, nasty, unhealthy and not conducive to a productive day.
So how do you fix that?
Well, the first major step has to be that you have a regular sleeping pattern. If you have to be up at 9AM tomorrow, there’s nothing better than going to bed at 10 or 11PM the night before, to wake up at 7AM. Time is important, and the average human can’t really do much good without at least 8 hours sleep. Don’t try to convince yourself of other numbers. You know damn well that when you get 5 hours sleep you’re nowhere near as happy in the morning as when you get 8.
Getting up an hour or two before you actually have to do work is something I find invaluable. You get time to shower, have breakfast, read the news, etc. etc. You wind up the day gently. It means that you don’t automatically switch your brain into fifth gear, but gradually increase speed. By the time you’ve to do work you’re on fire and ready to crush it. Also, if you’ve a two hour commute, sitting on a bus with a breakfast bar doesn’t really count as the same winding up experience.
Diet is a huge deal. The morning should always involve a light meal. Having a full fry up isn’t healthy. Sure, it’s tasty, but save it for one day a week where you don’t need to be fully awake. Orange juice, cereal, fruit, yogurt and all that fun stuff are perfect. Moreover, they take literally no time to prepare – giving you more “you” time. The same goes for your dinner. Don’t have steak, chips and gallons of heavy sauce at 9PM if you’re going to bed at 10PM.
A cool app to solve the issue of the morning wake up is Sleep Cycle (I’m sure there are other variants, and some on Android too). It measures your movement through the night and graphs it out for you the next day. This allows you to see what your body is doing in a given night. More importantly, you can trend what happens when you input key indicators, like a night where you were drinking alcohol, etc. Moreover, it wakes you up around the time you want to wake up, not exactly on the button. For example, the standard alarm clock app wakes you at 7AM because you said 7AM. However, Sleep Cycle will gauge a time around 7AM when your body is ready to wake. There’s no point in crushing you awake with an alarm if you’re in deep sleep, otherwise you’ll hit snooze and be groggy 30mins later.
Another important factor is to be in a dark room, with no lights (or computer screens). You should also make your bed be a tribute to sleeping. Don’t use it to watch TV, play games or do anything except sleep. Your bed isn’t a chair. Use a chair to sit up & watch TV. Use your bed to be a place where you’re only horizontal.
For those who find it difficult to nod off, ignore the rule about screens in your bedroom. I’ve found using the YouTube app on my iPhone to search for “whisper” or “ASMR” videos unbelievably relaxing. There’s a huge community of soothing-voiced individuals who will put you to sleep. Once you’re out, that’s it. You won’t be coming back for another 8 hours.
Sleep is so important, and I know I never took it too seriously until recently. In the past I had used Sleep Cycle and it immeasurably improved my mornings. One thing that seriously helps me is to not have coffee until 10.30AM, instead of just getting it right away at 9AM. I can’t explain why, but it really helps – especially on the run into lunch.