Posted on 03/21/2016
I've struggled with my sleep for years. I have gone through periods of great sleep, horrible sleep, or no sleep. I use the Sleep Cycle app to help me track my sleep and have been frustrated at being unable to break 60% sleep quality on a regular basis. I've always heard that blue light from my computer and phone could be a reason why I wasn't sleeping well, but sometimes I need to work and getting away from my computer is not possible. I recently came across this article on Lifehacker and I learned that I needed to change when I wake up as well as what I do to wind down the day.
The aforementioned Lifehacker article outlines the "10-3-2-1-0" rules for getting better sleep. The rules are as follows:
- No caffeine within 10 hours of bedtime.
- No food or alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
- No more work within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Turn off all screens within 1 hour of bedtime.
- Hit the snooze button 0 times in the morning.
One should notice that the frame of reference here is the time that you want to be in bed. Something about adjusting my frame of reference helped me realize that I don't get a lot of work done between 18:00 and 21:00 each day because that is the time I walk the dog, have dinner, and spend time with my wife. After this time, I have trouble getting back to work. The remedy I came up with was to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. This had the affect of improving my sleep as well as maximizing my working hours.
My new daily routine is as follows: I set my Sleep Cycle alarm for 05:15 with a 30 minute window. This allows me to shift my potentially unproductive working time after 21:00 to the morning when I am more focused and have fewer distractions. With a bedtime of 22:00 in mind, the above rules dictate that I stop my caffeine intake at 12:00, abstain from food and alcohol after 19:00, stop working by 20:00, and turn off all screens at 21:00. At this point, I get ready for bed so I can fall asleep quickly. With the remaining time I have before my bedtime, I read a book (right now I am reading Steve Jobs). I have no problem falling asleep, and Sleep Cycle reports that my sleep quality has improved. Here are a before (left) and after (right) screenshot from Sleep Cycle as evidence of the improvement.
There are a couple things to note here. First, in the after screenshot, you can see that I missed my goal bedtime. I used this particular day's data because the bedtime, wake time, and sleep notes are similar in the two, however, the sleep qualities are not. This is also reflected in how I feel when I wake up and my energy throughout the day.
The bottom line is that it is possible to help yourself sleep better and wake up more rested each day. Doing so is difficult and takes discipline; I have already had to tell friends that I couldn't grab a beer with them because it was later than 19:00. In my opinion, the productivity and energy I enjoy throughout my waking hours is worth the sacrifices I have made. There is plenty of time for beer between 05:00 and 19:00.