It was 21:50, I was about to turn off my phone for the night, when an email from Thrive Global – an online magazine, set up around the topic of wellness and well-being – popped in.
The newsletter was dedicated to celebrating the World Sleep day. “Do you have a sleep role model? Do you have a nightly routine or ritual that helps you leave the day behind and prepare for a good night’s sleep?” – it asked.
These questions were so significant, that only after reading them I started realizing that sleep in my life is like a glue – you never notice it, until things break (or in this case, you get sleep-deprived). The topic of sleep, as well as morning and evening routines supporting it, played quite a significant role in my life over the past years, so below I will share how different experiments with sleep led to happier and more fulfilled days.
First off, I must confess, I am quite lucky – I can sleep everywhere and anywhere, therefore I am not too picky or comfort-seeking when it comes to sleep. Throughout the years I have slept in the weirdest of places: 24 hours lasting international coaches; on the roots of a 100 years old oak tree; on a bench of a Budapest train station with dozen homeless people, even in a hallway of a hotel, situated on the highest Czech Republic mountain (3000 m high, marking the borderline of Poland and Czech Republic) as well as in a doorway of a cheap motel near Paris airport, when it unexpectedly closed for a night on a cold December night and left me with no place for a night. These stories require separate blog posts, but all of them show that when it comes to travelling and adventure, I am quite ready to part with comfort and sleep.
Yet for the longest time of my life, waking up early, as for most people, didn’t come easy. You are reading words of a night owl which life forces converted to an early bird. And I learned to enjoy it so much that now I consciously choose this as a lifestyle.
I joined 5 am club back in 2015 out of necessity to find more time for writing my thesis. Yet in February 2017, when I started my new life chapter in Malaysia, I found myself back at square one due to a long adaptation and a huge difference in time zones. Nevertheless, I swore to dedicate mornings for my own growth. After reading a book “The Miracle Morning” and completing Mindvalley’s Hero Genius Legend Quest, I promised myself to exercise, journal, read and meditate every morning before work. That involved a new challenge – I needed more time to accomplish this, so I started waking up 5 am in the morning again. This meant being in bed by 11 pm.
If you think it is easy, think again. Malaysia is a country where, due to the tropical heat and heavy traffic after working hours, most events and activities start quite late at night. So I found myself at a crossroad of choice – social life versus soul fulfilling mornings. On top of it, as you can expect, it took some willpower to roll out of bed this early, not to pity myself and keep on doing it consistently.
Nevertheless, I won this battle. What helped were several things, which you can implement as well if you’re aiming to wake up even a little bit earlier:
- Find a “waking” buddy;
- Know the reason why you are waking up earlier;
- Set yourself positively before going to sleep;
- Go to sleep early;
- Drink some water right before bed;
- Escort your phone out of the room for a better quality sleep;
Ok, let’s dive into this a bit deeper:
Find a “waking” buddy
If you want to radically change your routine, find someone who would do it with you. Having someone who goes through a similar struggle and keeps your motivation flowing is so much better than just an accountability buddy to whom you would report your success or loses. Back home I used to get a call from my dad or dear friend in case I don’t respond to “good morning” Whatsapp message at 5 am. Now I do it together with my flatmate Vykintas who starts his routine at 5 am as well and knocks on my door if needed. Once you get into your flow, you’ll be good to do it independently, but the beginning could be hard, so make sure someone holds your hand.
Know the reason why you are waking up earlier
This is predominantly the biggest leverage point to your new morning routine. Ask yourself: “Why do I want to wake up earlier? Is the reason strong enough to keep me in my new regime?” In my case, I know that short exercise & meditation will make me energised and ready for the challenges a new day brings, journaling helps to deal with worries and put myself in a deliberate gratitude state and, finally, reading makes my creative juice flow and helps to grow as a professional. By waking up at 5 am I get to accomplish all these things before my work day starts and get an extra sense of achievement by making my day count before the rest of the world wakes up.
Set yourself positively before going to sleep
Hal Alrod, the author of “The Miracle morning” made an experiment – before a 4 – 5-hour sleep he would say to himself “Thank you, God, 5 hours is just right for me to feel good, tomorrow is gonna be a good day” and he would wake up rested and pumped up. And then before 9-hour sleep, he would say “Oh no, only 9 hours?? I am going to feel bad again… Tomorrow is a hard day” and guess what happened? I tested this multiple times and each time the way you set yourself up will determine how the day will go. So yes, it is always a good idea to have a great rest, but it is important how you prep yourself. So before counting sheep to sleep, reflect why tomorrow is going to be worth living and what it takes for you to have a great day.
Go to sleep early
Even though pep talk really helps to wake up, long-term sleep deprivation will affect your help. So think when you want to wake up and count back 6 to 7 hours to get a full night rest. Me and my flatmate, “waking buddy” Vykintas sleep by 11 pm or else, our routine breaks. As the perks of it are so important for both of us, we sleep early no matter what.
Drink some water right before bed
Although this tip sounds easy and self-explanatory, get to know your body, so you don’t wake up in the middle of the night. Sip some water so once you wake up in the morning, there is no point to hit a “Snooze” button as the call of the loo will make you jump out of bed anyway. Here you go, the hardest part is done.
Escort your phone out of the room for a better quality sleep
Notifications keep on buzzing throughout the night. Even if they don’t bother you, the sleep would be so much deeper without a radiating buddy around. I know, you have it because of the alarm clock, right? You can come back to the old digital clock or install Thrive app which blocks all the notifications before your alarm rings. Results were shocking – I get on average 77 notifications blocked throughout the night (Guess having your family and colleagues dispersed across time zones really makes a difference). Imagine the quality of sleep with all that buzz happening next to your ear, even if in a silence mode. So make sure to lessen the digital traffic for the night and your day will get a new quality just because of deeper sleep.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to sleep or morning routines. I found my magical formula which helps me not to rely on coffee and go throughout the day with the smile. So I hope you will find yours and, my promise, your days will shine in completely new colours.