I’ve been working on my routine for waking up and getting out of bed recently, and I think I’ve made a break-through. Instead of thinking as waking up as an instantaneous reaction to my alarm, I now think of it as a process that takes a lot of time. Using 4 environmental cues to make me actually want to get out of bed, I’ve consistently been able to gradually wake up over the span of about 90 minutes or less. The key to this method is to use the four cues of caffeine, light, sound, and heat in a way that gives them enough time to work.
If you want to try what I’m doing, here’s what you’ll need:
- Caffeine pills and a glass of water
- 2 regular old alarm clocks
- Some way of scheduling music to play
- I programed an old laptop to do this
- You could use a cd/mp3 alarm clock for something like this
- 1 or 2 electric space-heaters
- Timers for lights and space-heaters
Waking up is Easy. Getting out of Bed is Hard!
I always had trouble getting out of bed when the alarm went off. The snooze button and I were great friends, but after reading a post by Steve Pavlina, I was concerned that using the snooze button was just training me to hit snooze and go back to sleep. Steve suggests training yourself to get out of bed when the alarm goes off by practicing when you aren’t tired. This sounded good, but in practice, I found it too hard.
Instead, I decided to train myself to do something a lot easier that would have a greater impact. I would train myself to take a caffeine pill when a certain song starts playing. Then I could just go back to sleep and let the caffeine go to work. After making a place on my nightstand to keep water and pills, I programed an old laptop to play Interesting Drug an hour and a half before I want to wake up. Now, when I hear that song, I roll over, reach for the pills, and go back to sleep.
Caffeine takes about 15 minutes to start kicking in (according to what I’ve read). Personally, I find it takes 30 minutes to an hour to have its maximum effect. By letting it do the work of waking me up and giving it sufficient time, I can wake up with a lot less effort. I use a pill instead of coffee for several reasons. First, coffee tastes bad unless salvaged by generous amounts of cream and sugar. Second, coffee takes more preparation. And third, you pretty much have to get up just to drink it; not what we’re looking for.
Cue number two is light. I read somewhere that in a study, people who had bright light exposed to their skin woke up earlier. Using x10 devices, I set up the lights in my bedroom to gradually start coming on one by one until my room is as bright as I can make it. This doesn’t seem to be enough on its own to get me out of bed, but in conjunction with everything else, it really helps. Not needing to turn on and off lights in the morning also saves me a little time and energy.
Now for cue number three: sound. We’re all familiar with the buzzing of an alarm clock, or the sound of a radio or CD used to get you out of bed right away. What I do differently now is to use a combination of alarms and music to signal different phases of my wake-up process. First, as I’ve mentioned, I have a specific song play to cue me to take my caffeine pill. I’m using Interesting Drug by Morrissey now, but I’ll probably switch to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by George Michael. Next, I have my little laptop start playing Snatam Kaur‘s greatest hits CD about 45 minutes before I leave the house. I chose that album because it’s soothing and since I don’t understand the words, I can’t get sick of the lyrics. This music gently wakes me up without forcing me awake. Next, my traditional beeping alarm goes off a half hour before I want to leave the house, telling to get up and take a shower. Finally, an alarm in my bathroom goes off fifteen minutes before I have to leave the house to get to work. This tells me to get out of the shower and get dressed. Or if I’m still not up, to get ready as quickly as possible. Because it’s in my bathroom, I have to actually get out of bed to shut this one off.
Cue number four is heat. I’ve never read of anyone else using this one, but I have the hardest time convincing myself to get out of bed if the outside room is cold and uninviting compared to the bed. So about a half hour before I want to get up, a little space heater starts warming up the room. Later, a space heater in the bathroom heats up the room so I don’t freeze while hopping into the shower. This cue is surprisingly effective for me. A hot room is a little uncomfortable, and makes it difficult to sleep.
Putting it All Together
So those are the four cues: caffeine, light, sound, and heat. All of them are things to avoid when you’re trying to get to sleep, so it makes sense that they help me wake up. To put them all together effectively, you’ve got to give them time to work. From my experience, I’ve found that 90 minutes is a good amount of time. 90 minutes also gives you enough time for another sleep cycle, so you don’t wake up from deep sleep when your alarm goes off.
Here’s a run-down of the routine:
- -90 min: Caffeine music + take a caffeine pill
- -60 min: lights start coming on
- -45 min: Gentle wake-up music starts playing
- -30 min: Heater kicks in
- Wake-up Time: Alarm goes off = time to take a shower or snooze until next alarm if I’m too tired
- +15 min: 2nd alarm goes off = get out of shower (or bed) and get ready to drive to work
- +30 min: Leave house
Ideas for Improvement
- I use a few lamps and my ceiling light to illuminate my bedroom, but it would be more effective If I bought, or made a light box.
- Play a peppy song before leaving the house to help wake me up.
- Use smell as a cue:
- Put a plug-in aroma thing on a timer.
- Use a stimulating smell.
- Release hungry weasels into your bed.
- Gradually increase the volume of the wake-up music.