The excuse: I want to do something great today, but I can't. I'm too tired.
Have you ever put off your ambitions because you were too tired? Of course you have. You're human. I know that I have. I'm the kind of person that want's to do something really great in life, and it's frustrating when I don't feel up to the task.
Today we're going to talk about how to wake up early and have more energy. I've found the world's foremost experts on sleep and we're going to pick their brains.
Successful People Go to Bed On Time
Listen to Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post. I'm starting with this video to expel the myth that successful people must work through the night.
Also, she talks about how women are sleeping their way to the top of their organizations. It's pretty funny.
My sleep pattern sucks right now. I stay up too late, I get up at random times, I rarely feel my best, and I'm often too tired to make a real difference.
That stops here and now for me. I've spent the past week learning how to wake up early and get amazing sleep. If you want to follow along with me in this experiment, we need to create a game plan.
Here's How We're Going to Master Sleep:
- Understand the science behind getting quality sleep
- Learn what successful people do to prepare for sleep and get the most out of their experience in bed (keep it clean people)
- Find the best tips for getting up early and feeling great
Ready? Here we go.
Understanding the Science of Sleep
As I started digging through the research on how to wake up early, I found a lot of opinions out there on how much rest we need. I'm only going to reference actual research that was performed in controlled environments. You can rest assured, sorry for the pun, that I've weeded out the odd ball internet opinions.
How Much sleep do I need?
According to Dr. Daniel Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in California, you need between 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep. He compared the death rates of people to their average amount of sleep each night, and found that people sleeping more or less than this amount had higher mortality rates. These amounts are different for children, but they're probably not reading this blog so we'll move on.
As you sleep, your body is actually going through what's called a sleep cycle. The first 4 phases take you deeper and deeper into sleep and last between 5 and 15 minutes each. Then the 5th phase, know and REM, is pretty close to being awake; your brain activity changes and you start dreaming.
Each full cycle takes about 90 minutes. That means that most people need to go through about 5 full sleep cycles to be well rested. Learning how to wake up early starts with understanding these cycles.
No Sleep = Stupid You
Yvonne Harrison and James A. Horne of the Sleep Research Laboratory at Loughborough University did a study in which 10 people were exposed to different testing environments under both normal and sleep deprived conditions.
Here's the breakdown of the experiment:
- 10 healthy people ( 6 males and 4 females) were selected
- All participants were tested and none suffered from sleep dysfunctions
- They were separated into two groups of 5 people
- The test lasted 36 hours
- During testing, 5 people were allowed to sleep 7 - 8 hours a night and were labeled as the NSD or the non-sleep deprived group
- The other 5 were not allowed to sleep and were labeled the SD or sleep deprived
- At the end of the 36 hour test, the groups switched and the test was run again
How the groups were tested:
Each group, both the NSD and the SD were tested in two different scenarios. The first was a critical reasoning test. They were shown several different statements and were expected to note the subtle differences between them.
In the second test, they were put into a computer simulated business environment, and were expected to increase the company's profits and reduce production errors. This was to test their ability to think on the fly, be flexible and update plans with changing information.
The results were very interesting:
In the critical reasoning test, both the SD and the NSD groups did about the same. In other words, sleep deprivation didn't hamper their ability to use basic and mundane logical reasoning.
In the second test, the SD or sleep deprive groups pretty much ran their companies into the ground.
Here's the graph showing how the NSD did compared to the SD in terms of controlling profits:
By the 5th round of game play, the sleep deprived folks were extremely unprofitable. It's true that the NSD also started showing less profits, but you can see the overall effect.
Here's the graph on their production errors. Notice how many more errors the sleep deprived people made as time went on.
The test concluded that sleep deprived people could usually get through logical reasoning without much of a struggle, but when it came to situations that required flexible thinking, even one night of sleep loss impaired their ability to function well.
Learning how to wake up early and get great sleep is vital to your ability to grow as a person. If you want to have a great life, go to bed.
Getting to Know Your Biological Clock
This was profound for me. Each of us have a biological clock that controls something called a Circadian Rhythm. In English, here's what it means. Your Circadian Rhythm creates physical and mental changes that you go through each day. Those changes are set into motion by the amount of light you're in. In essence, when it gets dark, you're genes set into motion an internal clock that makes you tired. How? This internal clock sends signals to your brain that it's getting dark causing the production of Melatonin, which is a hormone that makes you tired. Dang those hormones!
These Circadian Rhythms exist in all living things. Is it any wonder that the crabs described in the video above act strangely?
How to Get Ready for Bed
Avoid Certain Foods Before Bed & the 2-Hour Rule
If you want to learn how to wake up early, you have to stop eating crappy food.
It's no surprise that some foods are easier to digest than others. Eating a strawberry is easier on the body than a Tootsie Roll. (I don't even know what those things are made of!)
In 2012, The Huffington Post interviewed Sarah Remmer, a dietician, on what we should be eating before bed. Here's a short list of things to stay away from and a few things that are alright:Don't eat this before bed:
- Caffeine - The stimulation will keep you awake
- Alcohol - This will dehydrate you making it harder to sleep
- Spicy food - This stuff creates a lot of acid in your system
- Fried food - You might as well eat a brick
- Sugar - It creates a boost of energy that will keep you awake
- Red meat - It takes forever to digest which keeps your body awake and working
- Most vegetables - They take a long time to digest as well
- Oats - This is a good fuel food so it's great for breakfast, its just not a bed time snack
- Glass of milk
- Yogurt and Berries
- Apples and Peanut Butter
According to the research performed at Minnesota State University, eating too close to your bedtime will keep you from sleeping well. In order to stay on top of your game, follow the 2-hour rule which is to avoid eating 2 hours before you hit the sack.
Develop Your nightly ritual (awesome)
Before I researched this topic, I had never thought of getting ready for bed. I simply lived my life until I was tired, and then went to sleep. All I wanted to do was learn how to wake up early; I didn't realize that process started at 8:00 p.m. the day before!
I've since learned that I need to get my body ready for sleep if I want to increase the quality of rest that I get. I now go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 p.m. Although I'm trying to get 7.5 hours of sleep, I'm actually in bed for 8 hours to account for the time it takes to fall asleep.
Here's My Nightly Ritual:
8:00 p.m. Try not to eat anything else for the evening
8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Wrap up my last tasks for the day
9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Disengage from my brain. This is a good time to meditate, read fiction, watch a funny show with my wife, etc. The goal here is to get your body and mind into a state of relaxation. From this point forward, I don't work at all. That includes not answering emails people.
9:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Brush my teeth, floss, and use the restroom in a low lit environment. By turning down the lights, I can jump-start my Circadian Rhythm so that my body starts creating Melatonin and I get sleepy.
9:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Stretch to relive any stress that has built up over the day. Again, keep the lights low while you stretch. If you do this nightly before bed, you'll love it.
I'm starting to get into yoga a bit more and there's no shortage of yoga instructors creating videos on YouTube with ideas on how to help you stretch for a better rest. Here's one to get your started. This has been a valuable tool for me as I've learned how to wake up early. Stretching the night before has allowed me to really sleep well.
A few other tips for getting quality sleep:
- Never allow an electric device into your bedroom. All cellphones, ipads, and laptops can stay in your home office. Your bedroom is a place to relax. You shouldn't be checking your email right before you go to bed. If you do, you're brain will be spinning all night long.
- Try to do everything from 9:30 p.m. onwards in a low lit room. Doing so will start your Circadian Rhythm and get you sleepy. I started doing this and it has made a huge difference with my quality of sleep.
How to Wake Up Early
You want to learn how to wake up early and feel great. Leo Babauta is one of my favorite bloggers and he tackles this topic nicely for us in his post titled The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early.
It's a great post with a lot of ideas. My thoughts for getting up early are coming from Leo, as well as from a seminar I went to called Unleash the Power Within by Anthony Robbins.
Learning how to wake up early starts by having a purpose to your new day.
So what gets you going? If you're struggling to think of what your passion is, here's a few ideas that you could latch onto:
- Start a business and use the morning before the kids wake up to work on it
- Write a book
- Lose that 30 pounds that's weighing you down
- Study photography
- Go swimming
- Learn how to sing opera
- Plan your vacations
- Find a way to travel more
- Learn how to dance like Usher (that foot sliding thing is pretty cool)
- Do work for your favorite charity
Jump Out of Bed & Never Look Back
Even if you do everything we've talked about up to this point, if you hit the snooze button you're toast. If you're going to learn how to wake up early, you need to move your alarm clock to the other side of the room and when it goes off, take it seriously. You're about to start an amazing day!
- Never hit the snooze button.
- Never get back into bed for just a few more minutes.
- Never sleep through your morning. It's the one time in the day that's yours to create, explore and expand before the craziness of the day starts.
- Don't waste it.
Learning how to wake up early means learning how to drink more water.
While you've been asleep, you're body has been breaking down which means that waste has built up in your system. If you're going to have the best possible start to your day, you need to get rid of that waste.
To do that, start by drinking water. Our bodies are mostly water and we need to keep them that way. You also need to stay hydrated throughout the day if you're going to be at your best.
Go to the Gym
I swear by going to the gym in the mornings. I've experimented with going at different times of the day, but to be honest, getting the oxygen and blood moving early in the morning is the best way possible to stoke the fire.
My experiment in learning how to wake up early has gotten me to the gym more often. I go at 6:30 a.m. each morning and it's such a powerful and motivating experience. At first it was hard, but after I did it for 30 days in a row, it became a part of my DNA.
Have Some "You Time"
This was my #1 motivation for learning how to wake up early. I'm a dad, business owner, community volunteer, writer and more. I could never find time for myself.
Those hours early in the morning are quite and their all mine. I don't need any other reason to get up than that.
What To Do Next
Please take a moment to leave us a comment below. What are your thoughts on sleep? Do you think these tips will help you build a better business? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Harrison, Y. & Horne, J.A. (1999). One Night of Sleep Loss Impairs Innovative Thinking and Flexible Decision Making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 78, No. 2, May, pp. 128-145.
(2013, June 12). Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet. nigms.nih.gov. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.htm
Patel, Arti. (2012, September 09). Foods before Bed: Foods You Should Never Eat Before You Snooze. huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/07/foods-before-bed-foods_n_1861940.html#slide=1486382
Getting a Good Night's Sleep. Minnesota State University. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.mnsu.edu/counseling/students/sleep.html
(2013, January 22) Babauta, Leo. The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early. zenhabits.net. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://zenhabits.net/early/
(2008, June 06) Blue, Laura. How Much Sleep Do You Really Need? time.com. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1812420,00.html