Introduction: DIY Failproof Alarm Clock System
Let’s face it, waking up sets the tone for your entire day. There’s a reason it’s possible to ‘wake up on the wrong side of the bed.’ I find oversleeping sets a slow pace that doesn’t lead into productivity. A new study suggests that an overly long night's sleep could be just as bad for you as not getting enough. Sometimes it’s nice on a weekend, but ain’t nobody got time for that on Tuesday morning.
I believe this system will consistently get you out of bed at any desired time. I’ve never considered myself a morning person and have been using it this year to awake at 5am. My productivity between 6-11am is 2x that of 9-5pm. These are results I can’t ignore.
After a couple REM sessions, your body (not necessarily your mind) is ready to awake. Sleeping slows senses, so all may be groggy upon waking. Just as coffee or bacon awakens your nose, there are ways to arouse all five of your senses. Some are more crucial than others and they are listed in order of efficacy (for me.)
1. Bright light
2. Loud noise
3. Stimulating smell
4. Drink something
5. Warm up
Step 1: Let There Be Light...
Circadian rhythm is our evolutionary response to the sun and moon. The yin/yang, good/evil… Light and Darkness. As the sun gradually rises, our body and mind gently return from wherever they go (science is still clueless) and another day begins. Humans are allotted 27,375 days, on average, so best to make the most of ‘em!
Mimic the subtle brightening of our sun by having one light gradually strengthen or several lights come on successively. The easiest option is app-controlled lighting, like Phillips Hue. For you DIYers, check out some cool Instructables on replicating sunrise. An easy and inexpensive option is attaching electrical timers to existing lights. At 4:55 am, I have a string of LED lights come on, followed by a 300W CFL at 5am. It's 2700 on the Kelvin scale; lower is warmer, so this is similar to candlelight or sunrise. At 5:05am, I have two 6500K CFLs about six feet from my head that ensure I don’t sleep much past this point. 6500K replicates the light of the midday sun and is a great temperature for productivity and photography.
It’s tough to ignore bright light, and in combination with these other sensory stimulators, one is hard pressed to keep snoozing.
Step 2: Awake Your Ears With Sound...
If you’ve ever slept in a jungle, you know there’s no sleeping past the first sign of light. Early birds will wake you up with thunderous chirping before getting their worm. Ohlone records (the original San Francisco hipsters) say birds were so numerous that flocks aflight would darken the sky with a thunderous roar. Many of us today woefully mimic nature with a pulsating electronic tone. Which will put you on the right side of bed?
I like waking to music. Our hearts won’t beat slower than the beats per minute of the music we’re listening to (it’s actually more interesting than this). I raise my heart rate with progressive electronic music. (Oontz oontz oontz.) Ensure your alarm is at least five moves away your bed. The ability to roll over and blindly swat a large snooze button is an insidious invention.
Step 3: Smells Like the Start of a Good Day...
Scent is our strongest sense and if you’ve ever gone for an early morning walk, you’ll notice that air smells sweetest in the morning. Let’s use this to our advantage and employ scents pleasing to our olfactory receptors. Use a timed warmer that gently heats and diffuses oil - I prefer citrus or essential oil of coffee. It’s also easy to put a few drops on a plate atop a heater that turns on 20-40 minutes before waking. You can rub oil on a light bulb but it won’t diffuse before light, the final stimulator, wakes you up.
Step 4: Break the Fast...
After 6-8 hours of sleep (ideally), your body is dehydrated and acidic. Cleanse your digestive system, ignite your metabolism, and neutralize excess acid by drinking water with unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Add some local, unheated honey to jumpstart your blood sugar, which is running low after fasting all night (hence, the term ‘break fast.’) Hippocrates drank ACV and honey back in 400 B.C.
Step 5: Awake All Over...
Chuck Norris doesn't sleep... he waits. The rest of us need to wake our mind and body. There are three elements of awakening below the neck: heat, heart and muscles.
It’s nice to sleep when it’s cold out and ideal to wake up as the sun gently warms you. We can replicate this indoors by having a heater turn on 30-60 minutes before your set time. Eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to getting up: the temperature difference between your warm bed and cold room. You can also place a plate on the heater to diffuse oil and kill two early birds with one stone.
Your resting heart rate is lowest in the morning. While training for a race, I track this number religiously. It spikes after a hard workout and when it returns, my body has recovered. It’s imperative to get your heart rate up and blood pumping to the lungs and brain. Try some quick squats or jumping jacks to get my heart pumping blood to my lungs and brain. You can do side bends or sit-ups...
Last, but not least, is stretching. Your muscles are tight after lying horizontal and still all night. If you have access to a patio or rooftop, do some sun salutations for a zen moment before your bustling day begins. At the very least, tense every muscle in your body, raise your arms above your head, and bend over so your head is below your heart.
Step 6: Customize for You...
Don’t worry about employing every technique listed. Try a few and see what works best for you. The important part is that instead of rolling over, reading your email and slogging out of bed, you create gradually awaken and create a natural buffer of peace to carry throughout your day. Best yet, avoid technology for at least an hour; you have the rest of the day to allow your Pavlovian conditioning to take over.
Start your day right and everything else falls into place.