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Sleep hacks: How to Become an Early Riser (stevepavlina.com)
74 points by RiderOfGiraffes 1996 days ago | hide | past | web | 43 comments | favorite



A very useful advice from the "40 Sleep Hacks" from Sleepwarrior:

"Whether you wake up from SWS (Slow Wave Sleep, or deep sleep) or just have a hard time getting up, you can’t trust yourself to be rational at this time. Self-discipline does not work in a cognitive fog. If you have the habit of pressing the snooze button in the morning, it’s not because you lack self-discipline. It’s because even if you did have self-discipline, the self-discipline wouldn’t work in your unconscious fog.

Upon waking up you rely heavily on habits and automation. Spend a few minutes during the day to program proper wake-up habits into your psychology’s auto-pilot system. The procedure:

1. Start by following your bedtime routine – brush teeth, put on pajamas, etc.

2. Lay down in bed, set alarm for 5 minutes later.

3. Relax, pretend to fall asleep.

4. When the alarm goes off, immediately sit up, turn it off, take in a deep breath, then jump out of bed.

5. Walk out of the bedroom.

6. Repeat this a few times for the next few days.

If you do this correctly, you brain will be trained to follow a routine upon hearing the alarm. You’ll wake up on auto pilot, no matter how tired you are. Works eerily well. Kinda scares me to realize our brains thrive on automation, and not so much on things like... you know... free will and self-discipline."

You can find it here, if you are interested: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1953834


Steve Pavlina also talks about this in another post, and I did it for a month to train myself to get up at 345am, which I did with 99% consistency for the next 4.5 months [1]. Starting in Jan, I've been getting up at 430am instead, but this technique of training your subconscious is one of the most effective hacks I've ever tried.

1. http://ryanwaggoner.com/2011/01/135-days-of-getting-up-at-34...


you brain will be trained to follow a routine upon hearing the alarm. You’ll wake up on auto pilot, no matter how tired you are.

I did this every morning in high school. It also helps to immediately take a shower. I never understood why my peers would just go back to sleep and I didn't, but I suspect this is why.


I think there are many ways to jumpstart your system like you do with your shower. For me, it's a tall glass of water. I do have a (single) cup of coffee later on in the morning but right when I get up, get to my desk (work from home), i down a glass of water as I check HN, email, etc. It really starts me up.


  If it’s taking you more than five minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough.
Some of us aren't fortunate enough for that to be true.

  If you simply go to bed when you’re sleepy and then get up at a fixed time, you’ll cure your insomnia.
Possibly true for some people, but it's an incorrect generalisation - certainly isn't the case for me.


One of the signs of a sleep disorder or significant sleep deprivation is if it takes you less than ten minutes to fall asleep most nights.


I think you're affirming the consequent. Being able to fall asleep quickly does not imply a sleep disorder.


I said it's a sign, that there's a correlation, not that one causes the other. It's one of the questions that doctors will ask when diagnosing a sleep disorder, there are others. By itself, it's meaningless. It might just mean you've been in the military.

If you want to impress people by pulling out big words, at least pull them out in appropriate situations.


No need to be condescending. I prefixed my post with "I think" because I was thought, but wasn't sure, that you were implying causation. Specifically, you used the word "if", whereas other wordings would have been more neutral.


Have to second that. I don't think I suffer from "classic" insomnia, as I don't really miss out on sleep too much, and if I'm awake in the middle of the night (or, well, morning) I can fall asleep pretty immediately. But on a usual day, not so much. Melatonin or meditation didn't help much either, it still takes about half an hour to power down completely.

To get completely exhausted, my cycles would look really, really strange. Or would have to include alcohol on a daily basis.

Never mind that I never have gotten a really good explanation why I should become a consistent early riser. Most people just cite external social effects that are mostly true if you stay up late, too. Or just don't apply at all (wife, company culture, deadlines, meetings etc.). Quite the contrary, if you're in Europe and have to communicate with people in the US, working late has advantages of its own.

So generally I'm not losing any sleep about not being an early riser.


I actually am a (reasonably) early riser, if I'm up at 7am most weekdays, 8am on occasion, despite the fact that I'm rarely asleep before 2am and often not until after 4am.

It's possible to have insomnia while still being someone who needs a sleeping pattern than a large part of the business world adheres to.


Exactly. Once I didn't sleep for 3 days, and it still took me an hour to fall asleep :(


My motto is if it's taking you more then five minutes to fall asleep each night, then your not working hard enough.


During my 20's I always used to have headaches and colds. I used to go to sleep somewhere between midnight and 1am. I'm a night person. At least that's what I told myself.

When I was about 28 I did an experiment. For one week I'd set my alarm for 6am and get up straight away. After a week I was used to it and kept doing it. It turns out I'm a morning person! I get my best work done straight out of the shower between 6:30 and 9am. I can fit an entire days work into that space.

Headaches and cold are gone too.

(I'm 38 now).


As you age your sleeping habits change.

Maybe you actually were a night person at 25 and naturally changed to a morning person as you got older.


    Another problem is that you’re assuming you need the same
    number of hours of sleep every night, which is a false
    assumption. Your sleep needs vary from day to day.
Dear lord. No joke; this blew my mind. I think I have intuitively understood this for ages, but I never really consciously stepped back and thought about it before.

It's so important, because it's deceptively easy to get a complex about sleep times: "Oh God. I'm only going to get 6 hours of sleep tonight! Noooo!" Well... for many (me included) it's not such a giant catastrophe if you don't do it all the time. Owning that, both intellectually & emotionally, is a pretty big deal.


I read that most insomniacs are people who go to bed when they aren’t sleepy.

When I began reading I assumed this was coming from a person who has not really suffered insomnia. Real insomnia (chronic sleep deprivation) is very hard to deal with. It's not like trying to go to sleep when you're not tired. It's like being so tired that your brain is "buzzed" and your body cannot fall sleep... you just continually get more and more tired stretching you thinner and thinner. It is absolute torture.


Exactly. I don't suffer from chronic insomnia, but I occasionally go through bouts of difficulty sleeping, and my experience is exactly like you describe. I am completely exhausted, my brain "hurts" (by which I mean any form of input, whether that be reading, computer/tv, music, audio books, etc are all too much to handle), I'm uncomfortable and restless but also too tired to get up, etc. Not to mention that after an hour or two of this, the anxiety starts to kick in (especially if you have anything important the next day), which if uncontrolled makes things much worse in a hurry.

Describing it as going to bed when you aren't sleepy is almost insulting. Thankfully in my case it's relatively rare, but I've seen enough to know that chronic insomnia can't be far from living hell.


I saw a link on hacker news to this article on how to sleep five hours a day[1]. Since following this advice, my life is really much better. Like Steve I set a fixed wake up time (5am) and go to sleep whenever I'm tired. I use a lamp that slowly turns on leading up to 5am and always get out of bed right at 5am and immediately make tea first thing. Then I use the computer or read in front of the 10,000 lux lamp. I probably don't do every single thing in the blog post, and I'm actually sleeping more like 6 hours a day, but still less than before.

I was never a morning person before either and I always had tremendous difficulty waking up. Part of the problem is that I knew as soon as I got up I had to start getting ready for work. By waking up long before I need to get ready, I actually have something to look forward to every day, some nice relaxing time reading, having breakfast, etc. This has been the most important factor in making it work and making it a truly positive change.

1: http://blog.ernestsemerda.com/2010/08/06/sleep-5-hours-night...


My latest sleep hack has been to get a girlfriend who has a "proper job" [1] for which she needs to wake up at the same time every morning.

If I'm woken by an alarm clock when I'm on my own it's very easy for me to hit snooze / turn it off and go back to bed without fully waking up.

When my girlfriend gets up in the morning I'm usually wide awake as I'll have had a conversation etc... and then it's easy to stop myself going back to sleep.

[1] as opposed to working for myself where I can get up any time I please


I must say this article helps me; I usually work from 11 am to about 3 am, but I notice that after 15:00 I'm less productive. So i'm trying this now.

About the 'longer than 5 minutes to fall asleep'; I have noticed, most of my life, that when it takes me longer than instant to fall asleep, I won't be asleep for many hours. So for me, the author makes a lot of sense. When I go to bed when I'm not completely ready to fall asleep, I can do whatever (assume sleeping position, close eyes, relax, whatever) just to be wide awake 2 hours later. So I have two modes; fall asleep instantly, or read a book for 3 hours. The latter usually turns into reading a book completely and sleeping too little.

So i'm trying this method now and see where it leads me. Thanks for the post.


At least in my case, there is such a thing as going to bed when you are too tired. Some days if I miss my sleep window, I get "too tired to sleep." That probably doesn't make much sense as described, but I know at least some people can relate.


What was wrong with the original title? Why add "sleep hacks" to the front of it?


The biggest barrier for me going to sleep at a reasonable hour is the required ritual just before going to bed. Brushing my teeth, flossing, taking a shower, changing into bed clothes.

From now on, I'm going to try this: - Brush my teeth, floss, etc. a couple of hours before the predicted bed-time. This will have the bonus effect of reducing needless midnight snacking. - Shower in the mornings.

There is something liberating about being able to just "go to bed" without dreading the logistics.

Not sure if I'll bother with the fixed wakeup time, too.


I recently had the problem of being too ambitious in setting an alarm and snoozing and sleeping in. My solution has been to be less ambitious and set it at a reasonable time (7am instead of 6:20) and move the alarm a minute earlier each day. A month will give me 30 minutes, which is great.

This is all a slow return to normalcy after a new kid.

Another trick I use it to put my alarm (my iphone) across the room. If you have to get up to turn it off, then you're more likely to stay awake.


Steve's posts about polyphasic sleep are way more interesting: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/10/polyphasic-sleep/

Also he notes later in his sleep logs that being a vegan and having absolutely ZERO caffiene are what make his system possible. If you have any caffiene at all, his system wont work.


Hope this doesn't sound like an ad, but Philips makes a very interesting alarm clock: "Wake-up light" that gradually increases its light so your body thinks it's sunrise. One model slowly dims so your body thinks it's dawn... May work for someone.


The biggest difficulty is when you have an externally imposed irregular schedule -- flying through time zones regularly, waking up for maintenance windows or other night operations, plus going to all-night parties.

The "get up at a fixed time" is the best way I've found to deal with this, but the problem is I am definitely below normal functioning on some days. Driving when sleep deprived is probably a similar risk to driving drunk, so there are times when waking up at 0546 after going to bed at 0400 means the best course of action is to take a taxi, work from home on tasks where you can't break things, or just take the day off to play games.


Just two days ago I accidentally found a way to trick myself to switch to a morning schedule. Drank a large quantity of beer one evening, fell asleep at 9 or 10pm, woke up at 3am. I couldn't fall back asleep so I stayed up another 7 hours before I had to be at work yesterday. Last night I went to bed at 10pm again (sober), and woke up a couple hours ago at 6am. I kind of like the morning, and hope I can keep it up.

I normally have pretty bad insomnia (the idea of falling asleep in 5 minutes sounds hilariously far-fetched to me). And I really do go to bed when I'm sleepy. It just doesn't happen.


This article is a coincidence for me - since I started working from home full time, I've been going to bed at 4 - 5 AM and getting up at 2 PM every day, but I actually managed to pull off 11 PM - 6:30 AM for the last few days. I've been much more productive and felt a lot better about myself, so yeah - it's a good idea!

If you're on the 5 AM - 2 PM thing, an easy way to force yourself into a normal cycle (or at least the way that always works for me) is to do an all nighter and go to bed at 10 PM or so the next day. Just for god's sake remember to set an alarm ;-)


Even more important than setting alarms is actually getting up when they go off. A really bad habit to get into is the habit of sleeping through alarms. Never set an alarm unless you need to get up, and always get up when you set one.


Very true - there have been times when I've woken up hours late and found my alarm deactivated, with absolutely no recollection of turning it off. The things one can do while asleep are amazing..!


So the perfect setup would be to use your work as alarm, and then wake up and find the work done ? ;-)


I think you're on to something. This must be how the IE developers get things done!


And they really do !


I have accidentally managed to train myself to get up, cross the room, turn my alarm off and go back to sleep... all without any conscious thought. It's not very helpful.


In high school, I asked my mother one night to wake me when a meteor shower was happening. In the morning, I was angry at her, because she didn't wake me. She informed me that not only did she wake me and we saw the meteor shower, we had a full conversation about the meteor shower before I went back to bed.

In college, I once climbed out of my loft, walked over to my desk, turned off my alarm, climbed back into bed, went back to sleep, and didn't remember doing so when I woke up.


This is exactly what happened to me. I find myself being amazingly productive between the hours of 2 - 6AM and then getting up at 2PM or so.

It plays hell with the social life though and I found that it isn't worth it in the long run.


Best way I've ever found to switch to early rising is to go to Europe for a couple of months, then stay as jetlagged as possible upon returning. I did that last summer and I'm still mostly getting up at 7.


I'm a ridiculous insomniac. I use melatonin supps to help normalize sleep patterns -- one 5 mg pill at 9 or 10 pm and I'm toast by midnight at the latest.


I switched my alarm to use the radio. Listening to the morning talk show (Bob and Tom show, nationwide) gets my mind going and helps wake me up.


I used to find a TV useful to wake up, by setting an alarm on it to turn on.


Have kids.

Surprisingly effective. Also encourages development of other positive character traits.




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