TL;WR (Too Long; Won’t Read):
10PM: IFTTT texts me, reminding me I feel better when I get sufficient sleep. Within (usually) about 30 minutes, I have shut off my TV, and taken a melatonin. I set a countdown timer for 9 hours, climb into bed, and load up the fiction book I’m currently reading on my kindle. (I save non-fiction for my commute.) Then read until I fall asleep. About 8 hours after that, I wake up without the ability to snooze, feeling much better rested than I used to be.
Last week, I posted that one of my (for lack of a better term) resolutions this year was to get more and better sleep. I used to pretend, like most people, that caffeine didn’t affect me, and then fail to understand why I got bad sleep. Caffeine resistance, like alcohol resistance, is one of those things people seem think makes them better than other people. It’s also something a disproportionately large number of people seem to think they have over everyone else. Not everyone can be above average; by definition, that can’t be true. Kind of like how everyone thinks they’re a good driver.
At any rate, I eventually accepted that 1) I am not immune to caffeine, and B) it probably has a lot to do with how poorly I sleep. Over the last 5 or so years, I have tried to give up caffeine several times. And I’ve failed enough times to realize that my heart isn’t really in it. I like soda. And I LOVE coffee.
The last time I tried and failed to quit caffeine, I finally tried melatonin. I had heard of it in college. I had a roommate that swore by it. Melatonin is a chemical that your brain naturally produces when you are tired. By taking it as a supplement it tricks you into thinking you are more tired than you are. Since I can’t stop drinking caffeine, which tricks my brain into thinking I’m more awake than I really am, this is sort of a balancer. Admittedly, it seems really silly that rather than not taking either, I am taking both. If I could actually give up caffeine, I probably wouldn’t need melatonin. But at this point, I honestly don’t think I have it in me to give up caffeine. Especially when I am trying to work on so many other things at the same time.
Another problem I have with sleeping is that I never want to stop what I’m doing. When I get into something, like a good book or tv show, conversation, whatever, I don’t want to stop just because I have to get up in the morning. Learning to give stuff up to get good sleep is though. Until recently, I would just stay up and keep it going until I couldn’t physically stay awake any longer. In order to combat this, I started using an alarm clock. Not to wake up, but to tell me to go to bed. Like I mentioned in my resolution post, I will wrap up whatever I’m doing, but as soon as that alarm goes off (or now that text message comes in), I know it’s time to shut down for the night. I get the text, reminding me that I feel better when I get good sleep, I shut off the tv, or go home, or whatever. Then I take a melatonin, and climb into bed. The melatonin takes about 45 to 60 minutes to kick in, which gives me a good opportunity to read. I read until I can’t keep my eyes open, and then finally nod off.
The other key thing that helps me with this routine is that I don’t use an alarm clock to wake up. I use a countdown timer, instead. When I get into bed, before I grab my kindle, I start the countdown timer on my phone set for 9 hours. I think I read about this in one of Tim Ferris’ books (probably the 4 Hour Work Week, but I don’t recall for sure). Since it takes roughly an hour for the melatonin to take effect, I know I will get about 8 hours sleep. This isn’t as good as those clocks / apps that wake you up in a given window based on your sleep cycle, but it is much better than a standard alarm clock. Granted, this solution won’t work for everyone. Not everyone has a job where they can show up any time in a 2 and a half hour window in the morning. But I do, so I should use it to my advantage. The other advantage of the countdown timer is that there’s no snooze button. You’d be surprised how much more effective an alarm clock is if you permanently disable the snooze button. You don’t get any slack. You get your ass out of bed, or you are late.