Advertising
Advertising

Sleep Hack: A Simple Strategy For Better Rest In Less Time

Sleep Hack: A Simple Strategy For Better Rest In Less Time

Do you start every morning with an internal argument over whether or not to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock again? Do you struggle to fall asleep at night and end up catching a “second wind” that lands you on the couch watching TV at 4am? If so, this sleep hack is for you.

Sure the term “hack” has been used a lot. But in terms of simplification of a very complex process into two quick steps, this hack takes a very large cake. Keep reading to see what I mean.

    I stumbled upon this sleep hack weeks ago. Like some of the better hacks in existence, this one was unearthed by necessity. I’d reduced my belongings to fit into two carry-on’s (another post entirely) and headed to work in Boston.

    Advertising

    I’d only given myself 6 days to find a place to live and it wasn’t until my final day of searching that I finally found an apartment. It was cheap. It had a bed and desk. It was Sunday night. By the time I’d signed a lease it was too late to go shopping for bedding. There was a clean fitted sheet in the bedroom closet that fit the mattress. I had no soft pillows, no 1200 thread count sheets, and no down comforter.

    I took the bath towel from my bag, folded it a few times, and used it as a pillow. It was a warm night and I slept easily. I woke in the early morning chill of darkness. It was 5am. I didn’t need to be up for hours.

    But I had no reason to stay in bed. Bed was cold. Bed was unwelcoming. I had slept. I was awake. The day had begun.

    Advertising

    As days slipped by, I continued to sleep on that fitted sheet and mattress. Each night I’d get tired around 10:30pm, drink some water, and fall asleep immediately. Each morning I’d wake, grab my towel and head to the shower. I no longer had to argue with myself over whether or not I’d get out of bed.

    If I woke very early and still felt tired, I might fall back asleep for another hour but only if I really needed it. Those accidental morning naps I’d experienced in the luxury of my previous bed no longer haunted me. I was free.

    I now have a regular sleep schedule with better rest than I’ve had in years. I wake on-time without an alarm and enjoy an extra 10-12 hours per week that I’d have spent awake but in bed in years past. It’s really, really good.

    Advertising

    So here’s the hack.

    Step 1: Treat your bed like a recharging station.

    Get rid of the temptation to treat your bed like anything other than a recharging station. You won’t need books by your bed. You won’t need fancy pillows (unless your doctor says you must). Your bed is a place to help you get from wake to wake in as little time as possible with optimum rest. If you’re young like me the mattress won’t be such a big deal. If you’re over 40 you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a good mattress though.

    Step 2: Get rid of your bedding

    If you’re really, really tough you can just fold all your bedding up and put it in another room. Chances are good that you’ll give up and drag you bedding back in the middle of the night if you can though. I recommend giving your bedding to a local homeless shelter or, if it’s really ratty, throwing it out.

    Advertising

    Step 3: Try it for at least 7 days

    One night won’t work. You need to give yourself time to get used to this lean way of sleeping. If you wake up at midnight and feel cold, don’t grab a blanket. Throw on a sweatshirt instead. Most of us live in climate controlled housing so there’s really no excuse for all the bedding we tend to heap on ourselves.

    Does this sound crazy? Sure. Does it work? Absolutely yes. I love sleeping in a big bed with warm blankets and big pillows. But I don’t need that extra sleep right now. I don’t need the morning arguments with my alarm clock. I need productivity. If you feel the same, I suggest you give this a try.

    Have you tried something similar? Do you have a specific question? I’ll get back to you in the comments.

    Image: Freddy The Boy

    Click Here to follow Lifehack on Twitter!

    More by this author

    How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day Lifehack Challenge: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days 21 First Date Ideas 11 Sinfully Easy Sangria Recipes Sleep Hack: A Simple Strategy For Better Rest In Less Time

    Trending in Featured

    1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 3 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

    Advertising

    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

    Advertising

    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

    Advertising

    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

    Advertising

    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

    More About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next