I want to learn how to wake up peacefully. Here’s what I’ve found.
I used to be a big fan of rising early, quite often at 5 am, to get more done. But things have changed recently.
After getting married, I started questioning my craving for being productive all the time and trying to get as much done as possible.
Rising early just for the sake of it won’t improve your life. You must use that time to develop yourself to have a better life.
What if there’s a way to wake up slowly and start your day with ease?
Some of the experiments described below may help you reduce stress and increase life quality.
Why Do You Need an Alarm Clock?
You don’t need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning or whatever time of the day you set it to. You can wake up naturally.
But there’s but…
Everything is relative and time is no exception.
Then why do we have to wake up early or at a specific hour?
The answer is our complex nature of life.
We live in a sophisticated system, an interdependent society and everyone has a role in it. Depending on your role in society, you may have a class, a job, or a client waiting for you at an agreed time.
If we didn’t have these relative time agreements the system would collapse.
This leads us to other people telling us how much sleep we should get.
There’s a widely accepted “truth” that you should be sleeping 8 hours a night. Many people believe and even more ignore it.
In 2015, The National Sleep Foundation, along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel, issued its new sleep duration recommendations, adding new age groups and widening sleep ranges.
The adult recommended sleep range remains the same, 7-9 hours, 8 hours being the average.
There’s one essential thing about these sleep guidelines you can’t ignore.
They’re recommendations. These are just statistics giving you the direction but not the detailed map of where to go.
Knowing yourself is your lifelong quest and figuring out how much sleep you need is your responsibility.
Why Top Athletes Sleep More?
Clear outliers abusing sleep recommendations are top athletes sleeping up to 12 hours a night.
Reportedly, Roger Federer and LeBron James famously sleep for an average of 12 hours a night, while Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Steve Nash get up to 10 hours a night.
Research by Stephen P. Bird, Ph.D. confirms that, generally, athletes require more sleep to promote recovery and restoration processes as a result of high training loads and competition stress.
Are Long Sleep Hours Reserved Only to Top Athletes?
Pilots, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and many other high-stakes professions require freshness, sharpness and patience. I prefer to have a happy and well-rested surgeon rather than a sleep-deprived and frustrated one.
Rest becomes a question of life and death and not only for these high-stakes professionals. For you and me.
Good sleep and peaceful mornings don’t just happen. You have to work for it.
How to Wake Up Peacefully
Waking up peacefully, early or late, can give you an opportunity to beat distractions, focus on yourself and improve the quality of life.
If you have the flexibility to start your day when it fits you, consider these morning activities to make your mornings more peaceful.
Craft a Morning Routine
Having a morning routine, no matter how simple or complex, can help you start your day on your terms. It serves as an anchor and gives you a better chance to navigate through uncontrollable life events with more peace.
If you haven’t yet, read “The Miracle Morning” and craft a morning routine for yourself.
As I’m most effective in the morning hours, my morning routine is crucial.
I drink a glass of water, do some yoga movements and stretchings, 10 pushups, a short sitting meditation (5-10 minutes), and write in my journal the tasks for the day – the things I want to do and how I want to behave in the world.
Sean Tierney, an experienced salesman, entrepreneur and podcaster, believes that starting your morning in airplane mode and following a morning routine can set you for success.
Staying in control of your morning is the most high-leverage habit you can implement. I put my phone in airplane mode when I go to sleep then have a morning routine in which I:
Wake up and do a quick 5 min gratitude journaling practice.
Do 15 min meditation (started with Headspace then Sam Harris’ Waking Up, now doing my own practice).
1 hour of exercise (alternate days between TRX and minimalist running).
Take an ice-cold shower.
Do 15 min of spaced repetition cards (add 5 new cards, work through 5 existing ones).
Ditch the Alarm Clock
You should wake up peacefully when your body feels refreshed and ready to go. Sadly, it’s hard to achieve due to our hectic lifestyle choices.
Paul Millerd, a writer, course creator and strategy consultant, strives for at least 8 hours of sleep and ferociously protects his natural sleep rhythm by ditching the alarm clock.
I typically read for a half-hour or hour before bed and then wake up when my body is ready. I get 8 hours of sleep 98% of the time and try to avoid waking up to an alarm clock at all costs.
Jonny Miller, a curious entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster, shares his morning routine based on self-reflection, breathwork and meditation.
Living in Bali these mostly look like:
Wake up around sunrise (no alarm).
Some stretching and breathwork outside, followed by 20-30 minutes meditation (usually Vipassana body scan).
I’ll then do something active (either surf/yoga/calisthenics) and ice bath.
Around 8 am I’ll write morning pages and set priorities for the day.
I aim to have 9-12 am for flow time (i.e. no email or social media), but this doesn’t always happen!
I’ve also been experimenting with intermittent fasting recently (until 1 pm) and have found this to help with clarity of mind and focus.
One of the biggest insights for me has been to tune into how my body is feeling first – to rest if I need rest, post-pone the gym if I’m sore rather than push through (which often leads to sickness/injury!)
Once I realized that treating my body correctly meant better creative output, I started focusing a lot on eating and health. For me, an organic, whole food, plant-based diet gives me the fuel and clarity I need to be creative all day. As does going to bed between 10-11 pm after reading for an hour. I’ve never had an alarm clock (I’ve worked for myself for 20 years), but I tend to wake up around 6 am each day, make a cup of coffee and get to work.
Make Time for Yourself
Andrew Henderson, a serial nomadic entrepreneur and investor, emphasizes the importance of making time for yourself.
For me, I wake up every morning and I take some me-time. I get ready, then I go for a little walk, then I come back and do some journaling in what I want to accomplish that day. Then I’ll do a lesson in language or something else.
Use “Screenless” Technology
It’s hard to imagine life without technology.
The never-ending flow of FOMO-based social media updates, clickbait news and habit-forming apps keep you glued to your screens all day long.
Unmonitored exposure to blue light produces cortisol (stress hormone) and hinders melatonin (sleep hormone) production, reducing the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Starting at about 10 pm, I put on blue blocker goggles, and stop consuming any video media or social media. I read until my eyes feel heavy, which is usually about midnight. I sleep wearing an eye mask and ear plugs. I allow myself to wake up naturally, and usually get out of bed about 8 am, after writing with my eyes closed on a cheap portable word processor while still in bed.
Create a Peaceful Evening Routine
Your morning starts the evening before.
I don’t have a set time, but 95% of the time I get 8 hours a night. First, I turn off all my electronic devices and take them out of my bedroom. Then, I take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a candle flickering nearby – a bath that I prolong if I’m feeling anxious or worried about something. I no longer sleep in my workout clothes (think of the mixed message that sends to our brains) but now have pajamas, nightdresses, even T-shirts dedicated to sleep.
Then I’ll have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea if I want something warm and comforting before going to bed. And then I’ll do some reading.
Lydia Lee, a corporate escape coach and entrepreneur, tries to take care of herself before even opening her email inbox filled with other people’s agendas.
Ever since I moved to Bali, waking up early has been a good practice of mine (partly because of the noisy roosters!). I find that my most productive time is between 7-10 am. What I’ve found most valuable is starting the day with a 10-minute meditation using the Headspace app, and not checking emails until I’ve done at least 3 ‘non-negotiable’ tasks that are important to my life and/or business. This allows me to feel complete at the end of the day that I did things on my own agenda vs. other people’s.
Calvin Rosser, a writer, speaker, and community builder, allows himself to be flexible with his waking hours and takes short naps to recharge throughout the day.
I don’t have a regular sleep schedule since I often work whenever I’m feeling productive, but most nights I go to bed between 10 pm and midnight and wake up between 6 am and 8 am. I also use binaural beats to take 30-minute naps on most afternoons. After a productive morning, I need to recharge before doing a second cycle of work during the evening.
Peaceful Morning Is a Choice
Hopefully, these insights can help you evaluate your lifestyle choices and work on reducing chaos in life.
As Nick Harkaway, a British novelist, writes, “Peace is not a state – it is a choice, and you have to remake it every day. It’s possible to get a sort of stability, a habit of peace, but it’s like an egg balanced, spinning, on its point: lose your momentum, and your equilibrium is gone, too.”
As a recovering productivity addict, I can only add this: seek peace and ease and you’ll be fine.