Trying to improve my sleep

Lately I’ve been struggling to sleep well.

Why exactly? I’m not sure. Could be getting older. Could be life stress. Could be something I ate. It’s probably a little of each, but whatever the reason the result is the same – I’m not sleeping very well.

However, the past few weeks I’ve seen a measurable improvement.

Naps

Napping doesn’t actually help my sleeping, but it does help my recovery. I’ve found when I get in a nap, even a 20 minute nap mid-day, ultimately I wind up sleeping better because I have a better (less cranky) attitude towards getting enough sleep (or rather, when I don’t get enough). Naps are good.

Not waking until it’s time to get up

This is a big one.

Many years ago I used to wake up with the sunrise, or rather, I woke up when I woke up. This was great and I was always rested. Then a few years ago I had to adopt a different schedule, an alarm clock was necessary. And while I don’t strictly need the alarm clock any more, I still keep it because it’s been a rhythm, especially because it keeps me going to the gym in the mornings. I find that works best for me.

And while I’m an extremely early riser, it still sucks to wake up too early. You’ve done this. You don’t need to wake up until 5 AM, but you wake up and it’s 2 AM and you can’t get back to sleep. Or worse, it’s 11:30 PM — which is extra annoying because it’s not even the next day yet! This has been the big problem plaguing me the past many months, waking up too early. Over time that means less and less sleep every night.

A few weeks ago I made a change.

I told myself “Look, you set the alarm for 4:00 AM – if the alarm hasn’t gone off, it’s not yet 4 AM, so go back to sleep”. Don’t get up, don’t look at the clock, don’t anything but just continue to lie in bed. Even if you’re awake, still lie there and rest. The alarm will go off when it’s time, and THEN you can get up and on with it.

This has made a HUGE difference. I still find myself having some sort of waking-up before the alarm goes off, but now I don’t bother with it. Recently it’s become more of like a half-sleep: I’m somewhat aware that I’ve woken up, that the alarm hasn’t yet gone off, but for sure I’m not wide awake. I have dreams, I am aware and remember them, and when the alarm goes off, THEN I get up.

For sure this has helped on two levels. First, I’m just getting more rest/sleep. Second, I’m not caring that it’s early and getting frustrated and upset about having yet another night of less sleep.

Sleep Cycle alarm clock

I saw some people talking about this app, Sleep Cycle. I talked with them about it, and thought I’d give it a try.

I’ve only been using it about a week.

Honestly, I can’t tell if it’s really monitoring my sleep, if it’s really making a proper qualitative measure of my sleep quality.

But what I do know it’s doing? It’s tracking my sleep – at least when I go to bed, and when I wake up. Looking back on the past week, that level of tracking has made me care about my hours a bit more AND be more aware of my hours.

For example, I might get in bed by 8-ish, but not really get to sleep until 9 (reading or whatever). That adds up – or rather subtracts – a substantial portion of rest. Over time, the cumulative effects are not good.

So being able to fully track this and see how much sleep I’m (not) getting at night has been a big help. The past few days I’ve found myself making more of a concerted effort to get to bed AND to sleep sooner. Couple that with waiting for the alarm clock, and the past couple nights have been some of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.

In fact, last night apparently there were huge thunderstorms, woke everyone in the house up, but I had no idea. I’m the only one that woke up refreshed. 🙂

I’ll take that.

So anyways, it’s still early. I have no idea if this Sleep Cycle app will help, but so far it seems useful (and I love all the data and graphs) so I’ll keep at it for now. And I certainly will keep with staying “asleep” until the alarm goes off. Throw in a little nap every now and again, and I hope to be back on track soon.

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