In this post I will explain how I went from 11 hours of sleep to 6 hours of sleep per night. These strategies are SIMPLE to implement, so please don’t underrate its effectiveness.
My stats before using these techniques
- I slept 10-12 hours a day
- I felt miserable when I woke up, beating myself up for sleeping long
- I would feel weak and not at my best some days
- It would take me 45 minutes to 3 hours to fall asleep at night
- I had dark circles under my eyes
If you look at stats of the correlation between age and sleep time, you will realize that toddlers sleep 14 hours and people in their 60s-70s sleep 6-4 hours. Being in my 20’s 10-11 hours of sleep is not normal, but my natural wake up zone was around 10-12 hours. Ridiculous I know.
Rise Early: Correlation between Success and Early Risers
I read this article a few months ago and realized that if so many top 1% executives are rising up early and sleeping less hours, I will do that too.
Done deal, decision made.
So I announced to my family of my unavailability after 8pm and that I would wake up at 4am.
Next day, I went to sleep at 8pm putting an alarm for 5am and I woke up at 7:30am.
11:30 hours. bad
Since then I tried putting multiple alarms, forcing myself to going to sleep early, forcing myself to wake up early and I even tried wake-up calls. I made strict schedules and some days I was successful. The days I have been successful consistently were when I scheduled meetings with my team offshore. I knew they were waiting for our meeting, so out of necessity I would force myself to wake up.
Before going to bed, I would make solid commitments on how dare my body forces me against my goals, but that also didn’t work. I tried it multiple times and decided I need to reconsider my strategy.
And then It started to work
Myth: You need at least 8 hours of sleep
Busted: You need at least 6 hours quality sleep to recover
Psychological leverage that kept me going [Important]
I always think that Bill Gates also has 24 hours in a day, but he accomplishes more. The days on which I did wake up early (4 am in my case), the thing that gave me most satisfaction was the belief that I had done 3 meetings, workout and shower (I take long showers) and It was still 7:30am. I had accomplished in 3.5 hours that 50% of the world do in 12 hour. Success. I felt Bill Gates productive.
Psychology that kept me sleeping [Important]
At days when I could not wake up my brain would tell me stories such as “its still dark”. For some reason that was enough of a story to keep me in bed. Now when I think about it, I felt satisfied from the social norm that if the world was asleep, it was not that bad that I was also sleeping. But this is just a trap.
How to overcome this: The first time you hear the Alarm, do not judge.
Let go of the thought:
- What time it is?
- What’s on my agenda today
- Do I have a meeting scheduled?
- Well, I have nothing scheduled, let me just sleep
- 10 more minutes and I am going to be up
No! do not fool yourself, 10 minutes more will not give you anything.
Your job is not to do any processing when the alarm rings, just sit up, stand up, and get to the morning ritual you have decided on.
Create a Morning Ritual
I learned about the concept of Morning Ritual from Eben Pagan, in his wake up productive course. (Highly recommended, but probably off the market at this point)
Ritual is something you do consistently. We all have rituals, we operate 90%+ on autopilot. Whenever you want to create a new habit, its uncomfortable at first. For me when I am trying to do something new, I have to be very cautious the first week, the second week I feel proud and it gets easy and then week 3-12 is just maintaining the ritual consciously and then its basically automatic.
My morning ritual is to wake up, drink a glass of water, change real quick and start running or working out. Your ritual can be different, but you gotta workout, because of some body rules:
Body rule #1: Warm body means more awakeness, Cooler body means sleepy-ness
Geekyness behind it: When we go to sleep our body temperature drops, and as we start waking up, our body temperature rises. Our bodies go through a temperature rhythm.
I used to workout consistently around 5pm-7pm. That would make my body warm so It would take me longer to fall asleep.
Fix: I started working out first thing in the morning. That would wake me up, warm up my body faster and plus as a side benefit – I would lose more fat in the morning since my body had less carbs to burn.
Important: Working out in the morning is more difficult for the same reason that you have less carbs (fast energy source) available in the morning.
Body rule #2: Brain processes your sleep, so make it healthy and prepared
Napping 20 minutes
I started napping religiously after lunch for 20 minutes.
Einstein Religiously, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison and many others napped daily after lunch. Napping can make you smarter. Not because of anything, but its a quick reset button for your brain. The optimal amount of time I found is 20 minutes, you can drop it down to 15 minutes and go up to 25 minutes, but do not exceed it. I will write another article on the reason why.
By the way, Napping has been around from the beginning of times. Our workaholic culture has forgot this recovery technique in the more recent years.
Eat 2 hours before Sleeping
Since brain is heavily used for both digestion and sleeping, you can fall asleep faster and get more quality sleep if the brain is only focused on sleeping. (Aha), that’s why I started eating dinner 2 hours before sleeping. By that time the heavy lifting of the digestion is done and my brain can help me sleep.
Use coffee, don’t let it use you
Caffeine limits your ability to sleep. That is common knowledge, but what is not is that caffeine remains in the body for 8-14 hours. I used to drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day. I would drink it anytime I felt like it. But now I limited it to one cup in the morning a day. I have a rule to not have any caffeine after 2pm. When I have a temptation to drink coffee after that time, I drink warm water with honey, it gives me the taste satisfaction.
Body rule #3: Body has a temperature cycle – so calibrate it
Consistent Sleeping times for the rest of your life.
Since Body Rule #1 is that cooler bodies are more ready to fall asleep, we want to make sure that we keep our workout and rest sessions consistent. Lets say you worked out at 6pm, your body will get warmer and it will not make you fall asleep later. You will also mess up your temperature cycle.
Conclusion of Successes and Hypothesis
- Falling asleep immediately when going to bed. Before I could not go to bed for 45 minutes to 3 hours
Techniques that helped:
- Workout in the morning, and not in the evening
- Eating at least 2 hours before bed
- No coffee after 2pm; Only one coffee in the morning per day
- Consistent sleep and wake-up schedule
- More energy in the day, I sometimes sleep 5 hours and have the same amount of energy.
- When I first took my 6 hour sleep, my next day I was active but I so wanted to sleep, the second day was better, and after a week, it settled in for me.
- The Sleep Hacking course by Scott Britton got me started, and I learned a lot from the following as well
Additional Recommendations / Non-Recommendations
- Some people love ZEO, a sleep tracking app, but I saw it had bad reviews on Amazon so I skipped
- I did get a better alarm clock app for my Android. I actually use 3 Alarm apps they are all free. They have a wake up captcha math questions and disabling snooze options.
Oh yeah did I tell you that Snooze should be made illegal, man its the enemy of everything above.