Not A Morning Person?
If you’d like to become a morning person but have trouble getting out of bed on a regular basis, you’re not alone. Does this dream sound familiar…
Your hammock sways gently in the breeze while your skin soaks up the warm Caribbean sun. The ocean waves lapping against the white sand beach are almost hypnotizing. A family of ring-billed gulls fly by and eventually disappear into the vast azure sky. The woven shade hat you picked up at a local market is draped over your face while you nap, never moving more than the few inches it requires to sip your piña colada. This is heaven.
Suddenly, an ear-splitting crash of thunder pierces the silence. You jolt to attention, nearly knocking the umbrella out of your drink. Still foggy from the nap, you pull yourself out of the hammock to investigate the noise. The moment your feet touch the sand the weather changes dramatically. Storm clouds overtake the sun and its blissful rays are replaced by a cold downpour. The gentle breeze builds into a freezing gale. The sand feels like ice on your bare feet. Appalled, you fall backwards into the comfort of your hammock. Immediately, almost like magic, the weather changes again. The sun returns. The warmth, the breeze and the gulls return. You’re back in heaven.
Most people agree their bed feels like heaven when they’re not ready to start the day. Waking up can really suck, but it doesn’t have to. With a few tools and a little willpower, you can wake up more naturally and feel refreshed every morning.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
The biggest bang for your buck is the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. It’s a freemium iPhone and Android app that, through some very clever mechanisms, wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase. If you paid attention in 6th grade biology, you’ll remember your body cycles between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM phases throughout the night. REM is the deep sleep where you dream and non-REM is the lighter sleep in between. Before, during and after REM phases, your body is the least responsive to external stimuli . This means waking up to an alarm clock or being shaken awake by your partner during a REM phase will leave you feeling disoriented and groggy. Sound familiar? You can achieve the opposite feeling by waking up without an alarm clock, but most people only do that when they sleep in on the weekends. Waking up naturally occurs during the lighter phases of sleep and leaves you feeling much more refreshed and alert. In other words, it feels better.
The Sleep Cycle alarm clock analyzes your sleep and tracks your sleep phases. You tell it when you need to be awake and it will wake you up during your lightest sleep phase before the desired time. For example, let’s say you want to be awake by 5:30am. If the app thinks you are in your lightest phase at 5:10 and will be in a deeper sleep by 5:30, it wakes you up. By default, the alarm will go off up to 30 minutes prior to your desired time. You can increase this range, but the default is probably fine.
After you turn off the alarm, the app will provide statistics and a graph of your sleep. This includes things like total time in your bed, timing of sleep cycles and data from external sources such as the weather that night and the previous day’s step count from Apple Health. One particularly interesting value on this screen is the Sleep Quality score. This is calculated based on the total amount of sleep and frequency of movement, and the team behind the app is researching more accurate ways to determine sleep quality . This value can be used to identify trends that promote or inhibit quality sleep that you may not have thought of. For example, if you always have a high quality score when you walk 10,000+ steps in a day and always have a low quality score with less than 2,000 steps, the low activity could be causing the poor sleep. Or if going to bed at 9:00pm results in much better sleep quality than going to bed at 1:00am, you should probably get to bed earlier.
So far, all of these features are included in the free version of the app. There is also a premium subscription priced at $1.99 per year that offers online backup and a number of integrations. Among them, the ability to connect your alarm to the Phillips Hue lighting system is our favorite. If you’re not familiar, Phillips Hue is a family of LED light bulbs, standalone lamps and lighting strips that allow you to control them via Wi-Fi. You can create scenes where each light in the room emits a different color and brightness, and toggle between scenes from your phone. Beyond the novelty of making all the lights in your home red and green for the holidays, the Hue system has some very practical applications.
When enabled, the Sleep Cycle alarm clock will turn your Hue lights on when your alarm goes off. If you’re waking up after sunrise in a room full of windows, this isn’t very useful. But, if you wake up early or sleep in total darkness, this can simulate sunlight and trigger a more natural awakening.
Try it out and let us know if it helps you! And don’t forget to subscribe to our free newsletter below for updates on how to get the most out of your technology.