As a "creative" person, I frequently used to work until 2-3 a.m. During those late hours there were no distractions and my creative juices flowed. The problem was that I was constantly tired and had permanent bags under my eyes, even when I felt awake. People would always say "Wow, you look tired."
In my recent push for more balance in my life, I've had a strong desire to become a morning person. This is partially because I now have kids and they need to be places in the mornings, and for health reasons. I knew that being up until 2-3 a.m. every night could not be good for my long term health. Besides, who wants to hear people tell you how tired you look all the time?
Making a change like this would be much easier said than done. After years of being up to all hours of the night and more or less getting up whenever I wanted, my body just wouldn't be ready to work this way immediately.
How to change? I know wishing for things to happen isn't effective: I need to make them happen. Having a system in place is essential when introducing any amount of change into one's life. I've been using my iPhone as an alarm clock for a long time, so I searched for sleep apps that might be able to help me out.
I found Sleep Cycle and have been using it ever since. I tell it when I want to wake up and give it a window of time (30 minutes is the default) within which it will try to wake me when I'm in the lightest possible phase of sleep. So if I want to wake up at 7 a.m. and have a window of 30 minutes, it will try and wake me between 6:30 and 7:00.
Since using Sleep Cycle, I feel like I wake up a lot more ready to go. Some days I might be tired when I wake, but not the heavy, lethargic tired I would normally feel when my old alarm clock would go off and I'd hit snooze 20 times.
Is it magic? Not exactly. I still hit snooze, but the difference is that I get up when I'm supposed to instead of repeatedly hitting snooze and waking up long after the time I wanted to get up. Sleep Cycle has a "smart" snooze feature where the snooze durations become shorter up until your desired wake up time. Also, I don't have to open my eyes to hunt for a snooze button because I can gently shake or tap the phone to snooze.
Sleep Cycle helps me get up when I want to, but I still need to make the effort to change so that I'm getting up earlier. I'm doing this by moving my wake-up window back by only 5-10 minutes every couple weeks. In the 90 or so nights I've used the app, I've gone from getting up any time between 7:45–8:15 a.m. to getting up at 6:45 a.m. every day–and I'm not just up, I'm awake. This is unheard of for me.
I'm slowly working the window back so that I can get up at 6:00 a.m. every day, which is my end goal for now. It might take me a couple more months to shave off that 45 minutes, but this method has been working so far, and I feel like I'm getting more out of my days.