Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sleep Hacking

One thing I never seem to have enough of is daylight hours. I have always been the kind of person who stays up into the wee hours of the morning. It drove my parents to distraction when I was a kid. If you have kids, as I do, you'll understand how frustrating that is for parents. Now as an adult, and a computer programmer, I am just as bad. I frequently stay up until 12AM for no good reason, then silently chide myself the next day for doing so as I sleepily go about my day.

One evening when I was about 17 or 18 a close friend of mine who was out of town called me and said that he would be flying into the Salt Lake Airport the next morning at something like 5:30 AM and could I come and pick him up. "Sure" I said and I set my alarm clock to wake me up in time to make the trip to said airport. When I woke up the next day at 8:00 AM I knew I was in trouble. I think I vaguely remember my alarm clock going off but I was in such a stupor that I never even budged. Except maybe to turn the D@#% noise off. As I recall he told me after he gave up waiting for me he just took a cab.

In high school this problem was so bad that I had to resort to things like moving my alarm clock across the room so that I would at least have to get out of bed to turn it off. The only thing that this really accomplished was train me to get really good at going back to sleep after walking across the room to turn off the noise. I even bought one of those wind up alarm clocks with the 2" brass bells on the top. Nothing worked.

So after reading an article titled "How to Become an Early Riser" by Steve Pavlina I was truly inspired. Its not that I don't like getting up early in the morning. I just cant. Really, who wouldn't want an extra two hours in their day. And not just any two hours those first two hours in the morning are probably the most productive. None of my kids are awake yet, and neither is my wife, so those two hours are truly mine to do what I want with.

So last Friday, Aug. 10, I began the experiment in earnest. That evening I disabled my backup alarm and fully committed myself to waking up with the first one. The next morning when my alarm went off and at 5:51 AM I stretched and hopped out of bed. Believe it or not it wasn't actually that bad, I was a little tired that day but I really enjoyed getting my daily workout out of the way and actually getting to work on time.

Since then I have learned by trial and error. This morning for instance my alarm went off at 5:51 AM and I pushed snooze knowing that it is a 9 minute snooze and that I would still get up at 6:00 AM anyway. Wrong! When I ended up waking up spontaneously at 6:23 I jumped out of bed to avoid being sucked in my oh so comfortable and warm bed.

So in conclusion I think I have to say that my experiment is a success so far. I enjoy the extra hour so much that I might move my alarm to 5:00 am just so I can add another one to the top of the heap. The biggest hurdle to that may be my psychological aversion to the idea of waking up at 5:00 AM. I'll keep you all posted.

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