Learn how long it takes you to wake up

If I told you that the average person needs seven to eight hours sleep per night, you would not rush to hit the Facebook share button. But what’s less well known, certainly by me, is that there is an amount of time we each take to wake up – and that’s it’s several hours.

I find that half reassuring, half miserable. Read Fast Company’s account of how to find out your time.

The Great Experiment: getting up at 4am

Don’t do it. 

I’ve now got up to work at 5am on weekdays exactly 350 times and yesterday I tried 4am instead. It was brilliant until about 1pm when I struggled, then 4pm when I was underwater. Grabbed thirty minutes nap somewhere around 5pm when I got home and the day was done.

That feels like such a waste: finishing my day by, what, 5:30pm. I know I can argue that I did a lot from 4am to 1pm and that this is officially the length of a working day.

But now this morning I am struggling again, the 5am lurch was harder than ever and I’m somehow feeling it all in my stomach.

I’ll try it again and I’ll have to try it again sometime soon but for now, I think I’ve found my limit. It’s 5am and no earlier. 

How do people manage any earlier?

Rash Recommendation: Sleep Cycle Power Nap

Okay, yesterday I got up to work at 5am; around 6pm I had to sleep. At about 7:15pm I was back up, the went to bed at 11pm, got up this morning at 4:45am, contributed to the MacNN podcast that’s recorded at that time of the morning, then back to bed at 7:10am until 8am.

This is typical and this is a bit stupid. But during the podcast, my colleagues Charles Martin and Michelle Hermark both happened to recommend an iPhone app that helps with sleep. They rate Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock and Power Nap – actually two apps that I bought before they’d finished speaking.

I’ve tried the Power Nap one twice now, starting with that 07:10 nap. You leave the phone on the bed near you and it does some monitoring, I’m not sure how much, and around 45 minutes later it wakes you up quite softly. Each time it’s a curious surprise to find myself awake and each time I’ve benefited from it.

Whereas when I’ve given in and napped before, I’ve struggled because it’s hard to wake up promptly or anywhere approaching an actual nap time. It’s been more a couple of hours or so. Which is a problem and contributes to how napping makes me feel like an old man.

If I can do this 45 minute lark, that will help me and I hope I can get beyond feeling ancient. Go take a look at the app for yourself, will you?

The Onion: Study: Majority Of Time Machine Owners Use Device Primarily To Get Couple More Hours Of Sleep

EVANSTON, IL—In a study published Thursday that looked into the most prevalent uses of the groundbreaking technology, researchers from Northwestern University confirmed that the majority of time machine owners are primarily using their devices in order to get a couple more hours of sleep. “Among those individuals who have designed and assembled a fully operational machine that is capable of transporting them through the fabric of space and time, we found that most did so as a means of catching up on sleep,” lead researcher Jessica Farber told reporters, who noted that time travelers regularly forgo the exploration of historically significant or pivotal time periods in favor of conveying themselves back a few hours from the present so that they can curl up in their bed or futon and enjoy a little extra rest.

Study: Majority Of Time Machine Owners Use Device Primarily To Get Couple More Hours Of Sleep – News In Brief, The Onion (26 June 2015)

Read the full piece.

How to fall asleep in seconds

Look, if this works for you then that’s great. I offer that exercises to make you sleep sooner at night have more of a chance of working if you’re ahead on your work and aren’t worried about your mortgage.

But there’s this doctor, see, who doesn’t agree:

You simply breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.

When you feel stressed or anxious, adrenaline courses through your veins, your heart beats at a rapid rate, and your breathing becomes quick and shallow…. [The] effect of the breathing technique feels almost like a sedative drug, because in order to hold your breath for seven seconds and then to exhale for eight—when your breath is so shallow and short—your body is forced to slow your heart rate. It has no choice. Holding your breath, and then slowly, deliberately exhaling for eight seconds, causes a chain reaction. It feels like going from a mad-dash sprint to a finish line to a slow, leisurely, calming stroll through the park.

How to Fall Asleep In Less Than 1 Minute – 99U

Read the full piece on the 99U website for more.

Lack of sleep kills your productivity

Tell me about it.

Pushing late into the night is a health and productivity killer. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

We’ve always known that sleep is good for your brain, but new research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep (and sleep the right way–more on that later). The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think–something no amount of caffeine can fix.

Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity.

Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You and Your Career – Travis Bradberry, Inc.com (20 January 2015)

Oh. They told me about it. Read the full piece so that they can tell you too.

How to spend the last ten minutes of your day


Alternatively, do this to get yourself ready to sleep tonight and start fresh tomorrow:

Start by identifying an exact time when you want to be in bed. Be specific. Trying to go to bed “as early as possible” is hard to achieve because it doesn’t give you a clear idea of what success looks like. Instead, think about when you need to get up in the morning and work backwards. Try to give yourself 8 hours, meaning that if you’d like to be up by 6:45am, aim to be under the covers no later than 10:45pm.

Next, do a nighttime audit of how you spend your time after work. For one or two evenings, don’t try to change anything—simply log everything that happens from the moment you arrive home until you go to bed. What you may discover is that instead of eliminating activities that you enjoy and are keeping you up late (say, watching television between 10:30 and 11:00), you can start doing them earlier by cutting back on something unproductive that’s eating up your time earlier on (like mindlessly scanning Facebook between 8:30 and 9:00).

Once you’ve established a specific bedtime goal and found ways of rooting out time-sinks, turn your attention to creating a pre-sleep ritual that helps you relax and look forward to going to bed.

How to Spend the Last 10 Minutes of Your Day – Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review (10 November 2014)

There’s more to it. Have a read of the full piece.

In case Christmas dinner makes you very sleepy…

Virgin Media has teamed with a couple of schoolboy inventors to come up with KipstR wristband, a 3D-printed device that will automatically set a Virgin Media TiVo box to record when the wearer falls asleep.

Designed as part of Virgin Media’s Switched on Futures initiative by 15-year-old Ryan Oliver and 14-year-old Jonathan Kingsley from Manchester, the KipstR uses a pulse sensor to tell when the user has fallen asleep. It then sends a signal to the TiVo box to pause or record a show automatically.

If the wearer wakes up, it can also tell the box to resume the programme from its paused state

Don’t worry if you nod off during Doctor Who Christmas special, this wristband will record it for you – Rik Henderson, Pocket-lint (19 December 2014)

Read the full piece.


Tell me about it

I spent the day hours behind and carrying a ferocious headache because I entirely cocked up my sleep last night.

Coffee, late night email and the snooze button sap people of energy, compromising an employee’s overall performance at work. Though these things seem innocent, an evening cup of Joe, one quick reply to a colleague and an extra 15 minutes of shut-eye in the morning can drastically diminish the quality of one’s sleep.

9 Sleeping Habits to Enhance Your Productivity

Read the full piece for things we can do.

Use your alarm for going to bed

You’re familiar with the concept of setting an alarm to wake you up. You’ve come across this before. But I think this is new:

Set an alarm for when you have to go to bed

We all stay up later than we should given how early we have to rise tomorrow. And this tells you when to go to bed. It’s not ever going to be a shock to you since you choose the time but still, it works.

It’s like the alarm switches you into going-to-bed mode. Switches your head into it, switches your head away from whatever’s occupying you.