When you have to wake up earlier than usual. A tip for insomniacs.

Jason Freedman's Avatar By Jason Freedman in Musings on

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Some of you know, I’ve dealt with some pretty significant sleep issues, including some pretty bad delayed sleep phase syndrome. My long term solution is light regulation. And light regulation, along with lots of other healthy sleeping habits generally works for maintaining a healthy, consistent sleep schedule. All those efforts keep me within the normal band of what the world considers healthy times to wake up and go to sleep.

My wife may still go to sleep three hours earlier than I do, but at least I’m no longer up until 5 a.m. All of which has been very good. If you currently struggle with sleep issues, especially delayed sleep phase syndrome, definitely check out my recommendations on how to solve for it with light.

But none of that work makes me like the morning any more. I still hate morning, but instead of hating them at 11:30 a.m., I can adjust my schedule to hate them at say 7:30 a.m. which itself is a massive accomplishment. And as long as I stay consistent, I can generally adjust that time to be whatever I want.

But even with this progress, I;ve struggled with those rare times when I have to get up significantly earlier than I am used to. For instance, when I have to catch an early plane.

Waking up extra early has always been a source of great anxiety for me because usually I am waking up extra early because of something that is important in my life. I remember being in college and extra early was 8:00 a.m. I had this student government committee meeting that was really important to me. And so to be able to wake up at 8:00 a.m., I had to pull off extraordinary means.

Because I didn’t trust myself to be able to get up with enough time to make it to an 8:00 a.m. meeting, I would simply stay up all night. I would have this euphoric sense of alertness after being awake for that long and then I would crash right afterwards.

That may have worked in college. But it’s bat-shit crazy. And there’s no way I want to be doing all-nighters anymore.

So I just learned this awesome trick on how to wake up extra early. It works freakishly well. So well, in fact, that I’m stunned that I’m only just now learning it at age 35.

The key is waking up hungry on a low carb diet. I’ve tested this several times now, and if I have a medium size dinner at say 6 p.m. with few carbs in it and have no snacking before I go to sleep, I will go to bed slightly hungry. By the time I get to 6 a.m., I’m famished and I wake up naturally. And I wake up not only hungry but also alert and feeling strangely good. It’s a really enjoyable feeling.

The carb part matters. If I have enough carbs in my system, I don’t wake up feeling that way. But it can’t just be low carb, I actually have to be hungry. I’ve been doing it for the last several weeks straight and now that I’m accustomed to it, I’m kind of addicted to it.

There is one obvious challenge – I had to learn how to go to sleep hungry. It’s actually not that bad if you can get over the first few days of it. The first few days you will probably struggle to sleep at all, but once you get used to it, it’s actually a refreshing feeling as you look forward the next morning to springing out of bed and having a huge breakfast.

I’m not really sure if I can keep this up long term, but I know at least for now what to do when I have a super early flight or an important early morning meeting in the office. Fasting the night before and staying away from both carbs and alcohol pretty much guarantees that I’m going to be able to wake up feeling good.

Give it a try.

 
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