I’m kicking off this blog with one of the most beneficial changes I made to my own personal routine over the last few years. It’s a potential solution for those struggling to maintain a healthy sleep schedule: use alarms to start and to end your day. In fact, I have personally found that the optimal system is to use not two but three alarms each day: one to wake up the morning, one to start winding down in the evening and another one to go to bed.
Here’s how my current system works:
To start, it’s important to note that, at the moment, I work a typical Monday to Friday job and that I like to get up early and work on side projects before my shift begins at work. I also typically need between 6.5 and 7.5 hours of sleep each night. You’ll want to adjust the times for all three alarms around your own schedule and your sleeping needs.
Morning alarm – 5:30 a.m. from Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, 6:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Getting up so early during the weekdays used to be very difficult for me, even with the use of my evening alarms, until I started looking into a solution to prevent me from snoozing so easily. I ended up settling on the free Early Bird Alarm app for android (another alarm app which I recommend is the very popular Alarmy). Early Bird has many useful features but the one that works for me is its QR code function. Once the alarm rings you can quickly tap a button so that it goes silent but you then only have a few seconds until it goes off again (mine is set to remain silent for 15 seconds but you can adjust the silence length or disable it entirely). In order to shut off the alarm for good, I need to get up and go scan a QR code that I printed and taped to the back of the cabinet door in my washroom. By the time I have walked to the washroom and turned the lights on, I’m wide awake. I allow myself to sleep in a bit on Saturdays and Sundays, but no later than 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 6:30 a.m. on Sundays so that I struggle less with the 5:30 a.m. alarm come Monday morning. I also printed off a small business card sized QR code that I keep in my wallet; when I’m travelling for work or visiting friends or family, I place it at the other end of the room in order to replicate my system.
Evening alarm – 9:30 p.m. every night
This is the first of two alarms that goes off on my phone every night. Its function is to remind me to start winding down for the day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, so that I’m physically and mentally more relaxed and more likely to feel sleepy by the time my bedtime alarm goes off. The rule I have for the Evening alarm is that, once it goes off, I can’t continue doing anything that is physically or mentally stimulating or that requires active participation: no sports, no video games, no board games, etc. Instead of doing something stimulating, once this alarm goes off, I’m typically reading a book or browsing Reddit on my phone. Of course, I don’t always follow this rule (going out with friends or watching a movie at the theater are typical examples) but the fact that I follow this routine on most days reduces my desire (or ability) to want to stay up at extremely late hours when I’m out doing something social or watching a late-night movie. An important note: you have to remember to turn this alarm off when you go the movies, as many alarm apps disregard your volume settings and even airplane mode.
Bedtime alarm – 10:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
When this alarm goes off, I have to stop whatever I’m doing, go brush my teeth and then go to bed. Once in bed, I let myself read a book or an article on my phone and then I’m usually sleeping at the latest by 11:00 p.m. I allow myself to stay up a bit later on Fridays and Saturdays but never later than 11:30 p.m., unless it’s an exceptional social event (New Years, a wedding, etc.).
Finally, here are a few other things that have helped me develop a healthier sleeping schedule: playing white noise on a loop through some speakers in the bedroom (I suffer from tinnitus), splurging for a really comfortable pillow (such as the Coop Home Goods - Eden Memory Foam Pillow) and using melatonin supplements (Jamieson 3mg Fast Dissolving Tablets work wonders for me)