Early morning sunrise with Sleep Well

Experimenting with Sleep

Changing Your Wake Up Time

Self-experimentation is the ultimate way of learning if processes work, and if personal changes can be tweaked to be almost painless.  I say “almost” because this self-experiment is anything BUT…I will be changing my wake up time to “gasp” 5 am!  I have read several blogs, books, and seen plenty of research on this, so I think I am in good hands.  

The whole point of this little experiment is two-fold.  One, I want to wake up at 5 am to start running again.  In the past, before I owned a business, I was an avid runner.  I raced 5k and 10k often, and have a great time doing it.  Running helps me focus and feel more disciplined throughout all other parts of my life.  Running also helps me lose weight, which at 46 years old is getting tougher all the time.  The second reason for wanting to wake up at 5 am is I wanted to experiment with sleep and saw this as an opportunity to practice a lot of what I preach in this blog.  

The essential goals to reach are; keep my sleep time to around 8 to 7 hours, and wake up at 5 am. No deviation from 5 am is allowed, the only permitted deviation is a shortened sleep time of 7 to 6 hours only for limited time periods.  Oh, and NO snooze button, ever.

The first week was no problem.  I was in bed and reading by 9 pm and asleep by 9:30 pm.  Things were excellent in the 8 to 7-hour sleep range and waking up at 5 am was not an issue.  Life kept it’s grubby hands away from the experiment this week.

The second week was not good at all.  Gretchen’s mom was in the hospital, and we stayed long nights with her.  Out of the entire week, I think I managed 5 hours average sleep.  I chose not to count this week in the experiment.  None of the parameters of my experiment could be met; sleep amount, dedicated time, and any other rule, so I chose to omit this week from impacting my research.

The third week was easy yet again. The one issue here was that my asleep time crept up to 10 pm and my hours at sleep were down to 7 to 6. Why? Because Amazon Prime released the Jack Ryan series.  It was a lack of self-discipline, to be honest. The running was still improving though so no complaints there.  I could feel a downtime during the late afternoon though, from the lack of 8 to 7 hours of sleep.  I am an 8-hour sleep person, no doubt about it.  The important lesson here is to consider the effect that choosing something stupid like TV has on your goals.  For me, it was a lag time during late afternoon that cost me with my work efficiency and productivity.  Instead of learning and studying during my afternoons, I was sleepy and not retaining information.  It felt awful.

The fourth week was great; this is my fourth week.  The biggest development of note is that my waking time has moved to 4:55 am.  I am subconsciously waking up before the alarm.  My “in bed” time is now a firm 9 pm; my asleep time is between 9:30 to 9:45 pm.  I have given up TV past 8:30 pm, it is personally not more important than having running back in my life.  I would rather have reading time, writing time, and sleep than watching a TV show that I can schedule in when I have a spare awake moment.  It’s funny how so many of us give so much weight to TV over necessary sleep.  My favorite note from this week is that my running has increased and the breathing is coming easier.  

What I’ve learned and want to share with you:

  • Changing your wake up time does not have to hurt. It can be done smoothly but requires a level of self-discipline.
  • Sleep for all of us is not the same.  Some people can do less than 8 hours; some need more.  
  • You must accept blips of sleep deprivation in your life.  Regardless of how carefully you plan things LIFE gets in the way. 
  • You cannot make up for lost sleep, but you can accept it and plan around it to make sure it is not a long-term trend.
  • Consider your “in bed” time different from your “sleep” time.  It can take most of us up to 30 minutes in bed before being able to fall asleep.
  • TV is not more important than sleep.  Plan your show watching around Sleep not the other way around.
  • Expect a time shift to be bothersome for no more than 2 to 3 weeks.  After that, it’s already a new habit.

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About the author:

Javier is the owner of Sleep Well, professionally trained sleep stores, specializing in specific mattresses for specific needs. He lives to give. He is an active member of his community and church. His hard work and efforts pay off for him when he can help others, and give to efforts for the betterment of others.
His spare time is spent with his beautiful wife, Gretchen. They are craft beer hobbyists who enjoy making their own beers, visiting small breweries, and making new friends. Their lives revolve around church, family, exercising, four great dogs, and keeping up with their home in Alamogordo NM.