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Free Running Sleep : On my way to better sleep

Alarm clock

I suffer from insomnia a couple nights every few weeks and it generally takes me 30 minutes to an hour and a half to fall asleep.

I've had sleeping problems for so long that I can't even remember when they started.

Not long ago, I went through probably my worst case of insomnia of all time. I ended up skipping a night of sleep to make sure I'd fall asleep the next night. Still didn't worked, it kept going…

To clarify: I was not going through some kind of depression. Of course it affected my productivity and daily life but I took it with a positive attitude most of the time. I knew I had something to learn.

A couple weeks ago I would have said it was caused by:

  • Couldn’t stop thinking
  • Conscious / unconscious stress
  • Worked too late
  • Woke up too late (vicious circle)
  • Didn’t exercise enough
  • Drank coffee too late in the day
  • It's just a problem I have, there's not much I can do about it…

I have tried counting sheeps :), tried to stop working earlier, meditation, and numerous other things over the past few years.

Some of these have helped but nothing has really made a consistent big difference.

A week ago I came across what I would now call "My bible of sleep." Thanks to Joel Gascoigne (great blog) for tweeting the link.

It really gets into how sleep works and why most people get it wrong.

It made me realize that some of the reasons I listed earlier do have an impact on sleep, but they are just surface things.

And ultimately, it made me realize that the most important thing is to listen to your body.

Free running sleep

"Free running sleep is sleep that is not artificially controlled to match our schedules and desires. It is a sleep without alarm clocks and sleeping pills."

One way or another, I've been doing it wrong for years by:

  • Trying to sleep at a set time
  • Using an alarm clock to get myself out of bed
  • Keeping myself awake when I feel like falling asleep

By imposing on myself what I thought were healthy sleeping habits I was in fact aiding the cause of my constant sleep difficulties and occasional insomnia.

I've been doing all this without doing the most important thing: listening to my body.

My new sleeping rules

  1. Go to bed only when I feel I will fall asleep within 5-10 minutes.
  2. If I don't fall asleep after 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something that requires concentration and causes me to feel tired. Back to #1.
  3. Wake up naturally. No more alarm clock unless necessary—like a flight or a meeting. No more going back to sleep once I wake up naturally.
  4. Keep and develop healthy and anti-stress habits that contribute to good sleep. Whether I'm doing it successfully or not I must always apply steps 1 through 3.
  5. Record sleep hours to know how I am doing and find correlations with good sleep.

How am I doing so far

It's been five days since I converted to free running sleep and started following my new rules. I really think I found what will lead me to optimal sleep.

I've always had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, but with the new rules I've been able to do it with relatively little hassle.

Here's what my sleep has looked like for the last few days:

Sleep hours

Looks pretty good considering it generally takes me 30 minutes to an hour and a half to falling asleep and the last week were more like three hours to sleepless nights.

It’s still new so I shouldn't get excited too fast though. I will report back with my results and findings after a few weeks.

What sleep mindset and sleep habits work for you?

Photo credit: Martino Sabia

Category: Personal Growth

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About Me

I'm Charles, an independent SEO Consultant. I blog here about SEO and life experiences. Read more