If you think about the alarm clock from a historical perspective, it’s a very recent addition to our daily routine. An unnatural one at that. Until recently I never thought about whether or not I should be waking up to one.
I like getting up early. So I use(d) an alarm close. It also wasn’t a conscious mission to stop waking up to one. Rather an ‘experiment’ done out of pure chance and necessity.
If I don’t have enough energy, I’m useless. My guess is that you’re at least somewhat the same. I find it difficult or downright impossible to write content that I deem as good enough to make it on this site, or some other site that I’m writing for.
My training also lacks intensity. I’m less successful in every area of my life if I’m tired or lethargic. Focus? Forget it. I’m like a two year-old playing with a toy, when a butterfly whizzes by attracting my attention. After 15 minutes spent chasing the butterfly I remember the toy I was playing with.
I’ll be writing or working on a project, when all of a sudden I desperately want to watch movie trailers. That leads to Jimmy Kimmel clips or footage of old fights.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Waking up early
I’m a huge fan of waking up early. Actually, earlier than you technically ‘need to’. The earlier the better. I find that my best work is done in the wee hours. It’s when I’m most creative. My imagination running wild, while still being able to focus.
And so, I’ve awoken to an alarm for the vast majority of my life. Until very recently. Come 5:30 am, 6 am, or whenever I want to rise, I’ll hear that bleep, bleep, bleep of my alarm clock ruining the peaceful dream I was having. Usually one where I’m winning the welterweight belt with a win over Floyd Mayweather, waking up next to my dream girl in my dream house in my dream town, city, or village, or one where I’m simply saving the world from certain peril.
There are days where I jump out of bed. Others where I crawl. And there are – as much as I hate to admit it – days where I hit the snooze button. Repeatedly. Those days are always the worst. The most lethargic. Where I’m on the level of a drunk Barney from the Simpson’s. Again, I’m useless.
On my best days, my morning routine gives me an abundance of energy. On my worst, it’s a very brief boost in brain function and energy. The day is spent doing medial tasks rather than the ‘big picture’ or the ‘creative’ that my business thrives on. That I love.
Waking up early is a must. It’s how I get more finished at a higher quality. How I get my training in. Enjoy time with friends. Even watch a movie (I watch a lot of movies). Even as I write this I’m bursting with excitement for my first viewing of Contraband, which just came out on rental. I’m pumped.
The accidental experiment
Waking up early is a must. I love it. It’s become innate and necessary. I usually go to bed at the same time 7 days a week. Waking up at the same time also.
A few weeks ago I forgot to set my alarm one morning. I still awoke at 6:15 am. That day I was filled with energy. So, I did a little reading. The abundance of energy was because I was ready to wake up. I wasn’t disrupted in the middle of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. My much needed rest and recovery wasn’t disrupted. It happened naturally.
So I tried it the next day. Same bed time. Same unassisted wake-up. The same the following. And the following. And then Saturday night came. I had planned to be in bed for around 11. But after a bottle of wine split between me and a friend, the night went on. And on. And on. Awesome night. Laughs. Memories. Oddly enough, no headache the next morning. I did the church thing, then had lunch with my Mom & Dad. I felt great. But tired.
That morning I woke up at 7:30 am. No biggie. I only had an hour or two of work to do that day. It was, for all intents and purposes, a day off. That night I went to bed at 9:30 pm. I was dead. I slept like a zombie. The next morning I was up at 7:15. No good.
Now, here was the dilemma. I needed to get back to that 6am wake-up. But I didn’t want to wake up to that alarm. So I did a little more reading and found a way to make my wake-up gradual. More natural.
Starting at 5:30 am I had a “soft alarm”. It was quiet music. Relaxing. Not enough to fully wake up me up, but enough to get the process started. At the very least it got me out of my REM sleep and into what is usually referred to as “stage 2” sleep. The sleep cycle that usually follows REM sleep (or stage 5). From there, I’m much more ‘ready’ to wake-up.
At 6am my actual alarm rings.
I did this for 2 days. On the third I took away the harsh alarm and woke up on cue. The following day, no alarm. Again, arising on cue. My sleep cycle was regained. Back to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time (usually around 6-6:15am). Energy levels and ability to focus, increased. Productivity and training back up to the levels I want them to be at.
As I wake up without an alarm I have more energy than I do with one. As the summer days get longer, I’ll start training myself to wake-up earlier and earlier. Taking advantage of the longer days as best I can.
Another thing I tried successfully was going to bed the night before a lot earlier. I did it last night. I went to bed at 9:15 pm and woke up at 5:45. The trick is to wake up when you wake up. Don’t lie in bed waiting to be ready to get up. That’ll lead to more feelings of lethargy and tiredness. Treat waking up like a band-aid and jump out of bed.
How to wake up to no alarm
1. Have a strict schedule.
If you’re partying every weekend. An alarm is pretty necessary. Unless, of course, you’re naturally quick at recovering your sleep schedule. Only one way to find out. Give it a shot.
I’m not. I need to be going to be at the same time and waking up the same time as often as possible. The results of which is much better sleeps. I’m more rested. I have more energy. I can focus and my workouts (and work) are at a much higher quality. Whatever schedule you follow, get your 7-8 hours in daily.
Sleep is very important. Not enough attention is brought to the fact that by getting our 8 hours we’re not going to experience as much stress. Our cortisol levels are lower. We’re going to experience greater recovery. Less likely to experience depression, or simply be less moody. If we get good quality sleep, we’re usually much happier. Isn’t that what life’s all about?
2. Train yourself.
Set 2 alarms. One set to soft music. This will bring you out of REM sleep (if that’s what stage you’re in). Then set the stronger alarm to actually wake-up. The first prepares you for the second.
If you have to wake up at a certain time for work, leave the “test-run” for the weekend. Do the previous schedule during the week, then see if you’re ‘ready’ come Saturday.
We’re also getting up earlier on this schedule. If, for some reason, you have a terrible sleep the night before (mind racing, had chocolate chip mint ice-cream too late at night), set an “emergency” alarm that’ll wake you up when you need to get up.
By waking up earlier than we need to, we’ll get more done. We’re taking advantage of the most advantageous part of the day.
3. Follow the morning routine.
Create your own morning routine. Ritual is very important. As we become more and more used to our rituals our body reacts without thinking. We get ‘prepared’ to work for 90 minutes. Our focus is much better. We succumb to distractions much less frequently. It’s easy to see in our work, but also in our training. We can get done what would normally take an hour, in 20 or 30 minutes.
Click the link in the ‘title’ of the 3rd step to see my morning routine. I follow this everyday. Since doing so, even the quality of my articles have noticeably increased.
4. Have something to do first thing in the morning.
Plan a task that you have to complete right when you wake up. Splashing cold water on my face is always great. But then I get right down to work. I’ll have some tea or coffee on hand, but the work is started immediately and requires focus. If you meander through the first part of your day, you may to the same for the second part.
Any other tips?
We each have our own little tips that we learn from different people or sources. If you have any, share them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear something new to try – as, I’m sure, would everyone else. Thanks in advance.