From Night Owl to Early Bird With Sleep Cycle

March 26, 2014

I'm using the sleep application Sleep Cycle to help me achieve my goal of morphing from a night-owl into an early bird.

As a "creative" person, I frequently used to work until 2-3 a.m. During those late hours there were no distractions and my creative juices flowed. The problem was that I was constantly tired and had permanent bags under my eyes, even when I felt awake. People would always say "Wow, you look tired."

In my recent push for more balance in my life, I've had a strong desire to become a morning person. This is partially because I now have kids and they need to be places in the mornings, and for health reasons. I knew that being up until 2-3 a.m. every night could not be good for my long term health. Besides, who wants to hear people tell you how tired you look all the time?

Sleep cycle report

Sleep Cycle report: 71% sleep quality is high for me. I can't imagine how 90% feels.

Making a change like this would be much easier said than done. After years of being up to all hours of the night and more or less getting up whenever I wanted, my body just wouldn't be ready to work this way immediately.

How to change? I know wishing for things to happen isn't effective: I need to make them happen. Having a system in place is essential when introducing any amount of change into one's life. I've been using my iPhone as an alarm clock for a long time, so I searched for sleep apps that might be able to help me out.

I found Sleep Cycle and have been using it ever since. I tell it when I want to wake up and give it a window of time (30 minutes is the default) within which it will try to wake me when I'm in the lightest possible phase of sleep. So if I want to wake up at 7 a.m. and have a window of 30 minutes, it will try and wake me between 6:30 and 7:00.

Since using Sleep Cycle, I feel like I wake up a lot more ready to go. Some days I might be tired when I wake, but not the heavy, lethargic tired I would normally feel when my old alarm clock would go off and I'd hit snooze 20 times.

Is it magic? Not exactly. I still hit snooze, but the difference is that I get up when I'm supposed to instead of repeatedly hitting snooze and waking up long after the time I wanted to get up. Sleep Cycle has a "smart" snooze feature where the snooze durations become shorter up until your desired wake up time.  Also, I don't have to open my eyes to hunt for a snooze button because I can gently shake or tap the phone to snooze.

Sleep Cycle Alarm

Sleep Cycle helps me get up when I want to, but I still need to make the effort to change so that I'm getting up earlier. I'm doing this by moving my wake-up window back by only 5-10 minutes every couple weeks. In the 90 or so nights I've used the app, I've gone from getting up any time between 7:45–8:15 a.m. to getting up at 6:45 a.m. every day–and I'm not just up, I'm awake. This is unheard of for me.

I'm slowly working the window back so that I can get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, which is my end goal for now. It might take me a couple more months to shave off that 45 minutes, but this method has been working so far, and I feel like I'm getting more out of my days.

Ryan spends most of his time as Mystery Supply Co. He's been floating through space with you since the 70's. King of Michigan.

More Reading