I once ran an experiment on waking up early. For a month, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. every day, determined to use the “extra” time to work on something I’d always wanted to accomplish but never had time to complete.
I’ve done a lot of experiential and/or stunt stories, but this one was by far the worst. I never became accustomed to waking up at 4:30 a.m.
I also did not become accustomed to going to bed at 8:30 p.m. I was miserable for the entire month. It was a chore. I was drifting along as if in a cloud at the end.
I’d been blasted with proclamations about the importance of waking up early throughout my whole life, so I’d never understood why I hadn’t adjusted.
This summer, I went through an unplanned phase in which I awoke at 5 a.m. on a regular basis. Those were the days when I walked about with a cotton ball in my brain. Now, after spending the summer attempting to improve my sleep, I realize what I’ve always suspected: I’m genetically predisposed to not being able to wake up that early.
That seems like something my kids would make up if they didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning for school. However, this is not the case. If you’ve ever had trouble deciding when to get up and when to go to bed, it’s probable that you, like me, are fighting your genes.
Dr. Michael Breus (“The Sleep Doctor”), an author, speaker, clinical psychologist, and Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, states, “Everybody—every human on Earth—has a genetically programmed bedtime and wake-up time.” “It’s referred to as your chronotype.”
That may be a new term for you, but it’s an idea you’re probably familiar with.
Early birds do not go to bed early, and night owls do not stay up late only for the sake of staying up late. In a way, they have to. Researchers believe that your chronotype is determined by as many as nine genes. Breus divided chronotypes into four groups in his book The Power of When, prescribing appropriate bedtimes and wake-up hours for each:
Lions: Also known as early birds, they are the animals that Ben Franklin had in mind when he remarked, “early to bed, early to rise.” 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. is the ideal sleep pattern.
Bears have the highest population of any chronotype. They are the reason why culture operates on a set timetable. 11 p.m.-12 a.m. to 7 a.m. is the ideal sleep pattern.
Wolves, sometimes known as night owls, are creative extroverts.
The best time to sleep is from midnight to 7 a.m.
Dolphins: Insomniacs and/or light sleepers who feel tired when they wake up. 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. is the ideal sleep schedule.
Analyzing your life and contrasting it to Breus’ descriptions should help you figure out which one you are. You could also take a DNA test or an online quiz. Ask your parents when they go to bed, according to Breus.
As a solopreneur, you most likely operate from home and have complete control over your schedule.
Breus highly advises you to use this to determine when you should go to bed and when you should wake up. Set your sleep routine based on your biology, not what society expects. To put it another way, if you have trouble getting out of bed early and don’t have to, don’t.
Not everyone has the option of choosing their own wake-up hour. If you have to get up at a certain time, your lights out, eyes closed sleep should be seven to nine hours before that time. Whatever bedtime you choose—or whatever bedtime chooses you—
Stick To It As Closely As Possible.
Even on weekends, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. According to Breus, the wake-up hour is particularly crucial because it resets your circadian cycle every day.
In a MasterClass video, Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and head of the Center for Human Sleep Science and author of Why We Sleep, says, “Regularity is king.”
“It will also help you sleep better by anchoring your sleep and improving the quantity and quality of your sleep.”
Additionally, improving the quantity and quality of your sleep will improve the quality of your life. Breus recounted a story of a patient named Kate who was an extreme wolf in a TEDx talk.
Her failure to acclimatise to a “regular” schedule had a negative impact on both her personal and professional lives. She was usually fatigued, just like me throughout my 4:30 experiment. Breus suggested a fresh experiment—the polar opposite of mine: she changed her sleep schedule from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m. with the blessing of her family and boss. Her attitude and work performance both improved dramatically.
Although most people won’t require such drastic modifications, Breus claims that aligning your sleep routine with your chronotype can help. “Life becomes so much easier if you can follow those parameters because your body understands what to do and when to do it,” Breus adds.
As I worked to improve my sleep this summer, I gradually realized this.
I utilised an Oura ring, a wearable device that evaluated my sleep patterns to find the ideal bedtime for me (9:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.) and then reminded me two hours before bedtime to stick to that bedtime via push notification.
I looked back at my best sleep scores from the previous two months (80 or better, 18 times). I fell asleep in all but three of the misses between 9:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., and two of the misses were within four minutes (10:16 and 10:19; the other was 10:38).
I also went over my poorest scores from the previous two months (70 or lower, 15 times).
Only four of those times did I make it to my bedtime. My major misses occurred frequently as a result of my lateness in getting to bed due to travel. But there were occasions when I remained up late for no apparent reason. Poor sleep was the price I paid, which sometimes lingered for days in the shape of low energy and nasty moods.
It became a ritual and then a necessity as I learned to set an alarm for bedtime. It’s almost as though I have to sleep in that window now. It is a requirement of my body. My sweet spot now appears to be 9:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. I’m still figuring out the best time to get up. But I can tell when it isn’t: 4:30.