I spent 2-3 weeks in November making an attempt to wake up without an alarm clock. The hope behind this was that I’d be able to wake up more naturally and feel more refreshed.
Turns out this was difficult. My initial plan was to set an alarm for later than usual, and get to sleep early enough that I’d wake up before it went off. Unfortunately, I just ended up waking up and then laying there or falling back to sleep a lot of days. On the days when I actually managed to wake up earlier and get up, I didn’t really feel like waking up was easier or that I was more awake during the day than usual. I did notice, however, that my desired sleep level seems to be between 9 hours and 9 hours and 20 minutes.
Last week a friend of mine sent me a link to this article, originally from sleepwarrior.com (which claims to be down temporarily for maintenance, but has been down for at least a week). The article contains 40 different sleep “hacks” ranging from suggestions on how to sleep better, to specifics on what do do if you want to learn to sleep less. I highly recommend reading it. It’s missing some information that I would have like to see about the cognitive impacts of lessened sleep over time, but reading it sparked a lot of ideas for me to experiment with.
One mistake in my approach that this article brought to light was not waking up at the same time every day. Because I usually work out in the mornings Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sleep in sometimes on the weekends, I was never really giving myself the recommended 10 days to settle into a sleep pattern. If I ever decide to try this again, I’d have to pick a time for 2 weeks and stick with it.
Another suggestion made in this article that I think I’ll try out, is to train yourself to get up right away when the alarms goes off. The suggested method is to go through your normal getting-ready-to-sleep activities and then set your alarm for 5 minutes later and lay in bed with eyes closed. As soon as the alarm goes off, jump out of bed. By repeating this process, it claims you can train yourself to react this way in the morning when your alarm goes off. Seems to me like it could work.
On a bit of a side note: during this experiment, I also discovered that there are both Android and iPhone apps which claim to wake you up when you’re in a less deep sleep state. The best one I’ve found for Android is called sleep-as-an-droid and is in the market. All of these apps seem to try to guess what state of sleep you’re in by using the accelerometer to detect movement. The theory is that you move more when you’re closer to being awake I believe. So they allow you to set a time frame in which it’s allowed to wake you up. It will then wake you up within that frame if a suitable sleep depth is reached. I used it for four nights last week and during only one of them did it wake me up before the last possible time I’d specified. Looking at the graph of movement, it also did not appear that it was gathering much useful data to determine my level of wakefulness. I tried messing around with sensitivity of the sensors and placement of the phone on my mattress, but I’m not convinced that these apps really work.
The article I linked above references a watch which has similar properties. I’d imaging that a watch would be better at measuring movements, but that said, I don’t want to pay the $180 or so that they cost just to see if it works.
Post any sleep-hacks you’ve tried in the comments.