Chapter 9 of the One Life Manifesto: Sleep. Grab my full book on Amazon.
I want to talk about waking up as a morning ritual. Even before breakfast, waking up is the most important process to start off your day. I’ve seen many people struggle with getting up early and tackling the day. Part of it is not having something to wake up to. We need some sort of a burning desire. Your 9-to-5 job isn’t getting you excited enough to wake you up early. As the job starts at nine, what are you doing between the hours of 5 am to 9 am? You have four hours before you start your job! What are you doing in those hours? Likely sleeping in as long as you can.
You can accomplish quite a bit with just an extra hour per day. Its translated to 365 hours in a year. That is a significant amount of time with just one additional hour per day. When you think about it that way, it would be beneficial to have a structure where you go to sleep and you wake up as consistently as possible, at the same times, without sleeping in.
How much extra time you have is free time. If you can eliminate the chaos in a day, you will have more free time and the flexibility to get things done without stress. The flexibility to get things done that you want to get done. If you wake within a reasonable time, you will have more free time. Then you can get even more done, and be more productive. If you take that free time and use some of it for a new exercise routine, you will be even more energized throughout the day compared to if you had slept in.
There is the concept of night owls and early birds. I feel that night owls are night owls because they have chosen to stay up late and they have chosen to sleep in. However, if one day you decide to go to bed at 9pm and just go to sleep at 9pm, you will wake up early, naturally, without any alarm clock. You are unlikely to sleep in to the same number of hours. You only need 6 hours in a day and your body can adjust to that.
When we went to school for years, our classes were in the morning at 8am sharp. We had to be there early. We had to be up early. So as children we learned to wake up and handle that endeavour. We had no choice. We had to get up. We were forced to get up. Hence the reason why in our later years we don’t perhaps enjoy waking up early.
Our childhood days had structured wake up times and maybe that was annoying for you. But there is a way to really make it enjoyable again. To make waking up enjoyable, you just have to get passionate about something and focus on the benefits. Focus on the opportunities of having those extra hours. Another tip is to feel exhausted by the end of the day. If you are exhausted by 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock, you will just fall asleep automatically. The minute you hit your bed you will be so exhausted because you worked hard for that day. You will just fall asleep and have a quality rest.
Having several alarm clocks around the house is another way to wake yourself up in the morning. By the time you shut off all of the alarm clocks in the morning, you will be wide awake. The process of turning everything off wakes you up, whether you like it or not.
Once you get up and once you make your bed, you will be less likely to go back and crawl in. You worked hard to make that bed. That’s a great way to start your day.
I find that some people don’t even need alarm clocks. They wake up because their sleep hours are so structured that they are in bed by 10. They are up by 5 or 6. Their body is just naturally awake. They need no stimulus to wake them up. This requires supreme discipline to be in bed at a specific time. Most people may be at a party, or their family keeps them up. It could be worthwhile to have a set sleep schedule for one or two months to experiment with your sleep.
Over one month I tested the concept of waking up at 3:30am each morning. I would be in bed by 9:30pm every night. I would get six hours of sleep every night. At first it was challenging to be up at 3:30. But then I became determined and said to myself that I have to work out first thing in the morning. I have to go and do this. I have to grind and just get motivated to be up at 3:30 to gain the benefits of being up before everyone else is. I need to get motivated for the vitality and the energy that I will receive. With a consistent schedule, you will never wake up groggy and without energy again. Tackle the day.
Waking up is the hardest part of your day and requires that desire to get after something. So, it’s so important that you have something that you can work on. It really wakes you up. If you have the structure that says: I have to be at this or I have to be at this destination at this specific time, then you will essentially have the urgency to be up. You are forced to be up, just like in childhood. If you don’t have a job and you are self-employed, you need to build urgency around whatever it is you are working on. Say: I have to be up for this. Because no one else is going to take my place and wake up for me.
I believe it is laziness that’s holding people back from waking up. Laziness that is preventing them from hitting that snooze button one more time. I think it’s a lack of determination, a lack of preparation for what’s ahead. A lack of interest in something. Laziness is not a trait, it’s a bad habit that can be changed. You can condition yourself so that you are not lazy. You can become hungry and wake up early to get you the satisfaction that you simply do not get from sleeping in. I can’t think of anyone that’s excited or proud to have slept in till 9 or 10am. I can’t think of anyone who is excited about that. Who is mentally happy about that? Who accepts that?
When everyone else is up, the world is already moving along. The last two or three hours you slept through have already put you behind. You are now psychologically thinking you are already behind. You are in a state of panic. Because the world moves and you stand still. That is not a great feeling to have.
However, it is possible for you to catch up if you are up at 5am, greeting the day because you know you will be ahead of the game. You will be ahead of everyone else. That is a great feeling. Psychologically you will have set yourself up for happiness today because of your early morning. By waking up early, you will command your world. That is a powerful feeling to have, to be in control of yourself. You are not guided by physiological responses to waking up early.
Sometimes it helps to make sure that your electronics are off. They are at a distance so that if some alert or notification comes in, it doesn’t disrupt your sleep. Because if your sleep is interrupted, that can affect your wake-up time. Your bedroom should be like a temple. A silent temple where you hear nothing and you are just deep in sleep.
Consider your opportunity in the day to be successful and your opportunity to make an impact. Consider what you can do with those additional hours. What you can accomplish. What you can work towards. People say they don’t have time. I always look at the time they spend in a day and see the things that don’t matter. Here is where you have time. Stop doing that activity. But when I find out people sleep in, that is the first way to gain some time.
I look at how people spend their evenings. If you stop watching TV, you are going to save yourself some serious time to get ahead in life. The concept of winding down doesn’t make sense to me as you should just go to sleep instead of watching TV. Sleep is your winding-down session. Hop in bed, fall asleep, done. You should be tired and exhausted, not winding down with TV. Pursuing an unproductive activity like TV will ruin you.
Next time you wake up, immerse yourself in your thoughts and how you feel at that moment. When you wake up, do you feel good for having slept in or do you feel regret or guilt? Do better by waking earlier next time. Most importantly, if you have a consistent sleep structure, you are more likely to feel better the next day. Get in bed at this time. Get out of bed at this time. That is your seven-days-a-week process. You will adjust, you will adapt to that schedule. You will feel like it is the only schedule to ensure that you have the most energy in a day.
Observe your sleep schedule. Is it erratic. Are you sleeping in one day? Are you up early the next? Your body does not like those fluctuations. Then you counter-balance the deprivation with caffeine. Yet caffeine is not good for you as a sleep alternative. It is only a short-term stimulant, then you are back to your original groggy state. Natural sleep is the way to go to avoid inhaling unnecessary stimulants.
Sleeping pills are a major industry. If people just properly had a schedule and exhausted themselves throughout the day, they’d fall asleep. Do mindful activities that really take all of your energy away. Take on challenging tasks. By the end of the day your brain will be naturally tired. You will just crash and sleep. No sleeping pills necessary. Work harder. Get more exhausted. Then you will have nothing left in you. Your sleep will be of much better quality. You will go into a deep sleep from the exhaustion. Your body will just require every ounce of sleep. When you wake up, you will be well-rested. You will be ready to go for the next day.
I am against napping throughout the day. I feel that when you nap, you are more likely to have a lower quality of sleep at night. You might be more restless at night. These long naps throughout the day are not the best use of time because you should have a full level of energy throughout the day if you are healthy. You should have a ton of energy to carry yourself throughout the day. Then if you nap, if you absolutely must have one, it should be no longer than 10 minutes. A quick napping dose to get that extra energy boost in you. Just enough for you to push forward. Not a 45-60 minute nap. That is extreme and unnecessary. I am not saying napping is a sign of laziness or weakness. Instead it’s more of a procrastinator.
You should be continuously motivated throughout the day to tackle a particular task. You do not need a nap to compensate. You should be continually motivated to tackle the day. Try getting into a habit of proper sleep. Six to eight hours. If you want to work harder, get six. See the benefits with the extra time you gain from a disciplined sleep schedule.