How to use sleep tech to become an early bird

You don’t have to sell me the perks of being an early riser. I’ve seen dozens of articles and studies that break down how waking up early is better for your health, productivity, and stress levels. But becoming an early riser is not easy. Speaking from experience, when you’re a night owl by nature and there’s no particular reason – like taking your kids to school – it’s a lot harder to get up before 7am. Also, alarm clocks and phone alerts don’t always work for the sleepiest of sleepyheads.

That means there Are other sleep gadgets and apps that can be of great help.

If you’re a die-hard night owl trying to disguise yourself as an early riser, then there’s good news. That’s been me for the past 10 years, and I’ve tried everything from melatonin to those alarm clocks that run away from you. But after a lot of trial and error (and experimenting with a lot of sleep tech), I’ve become one of those people who enjoy getting up long before I have to. It can be done! Although I will not lie, you will screw up a lot. What worked for me may not work for you, and frustratingly, sometimes things that used to work suddenly don’t work anymore. So feel free to tweak and experiment, but here are some handy tips to get you started.

Find out your bedtime with a sleep tracker

An early day always begins the evening before. This may seem obvious, but the key to waking up easily comes down to how much sleep your body actually needs. The more rested you are to wake up, the less tempting the snooze button is.

The amount of sleep you need changes with age, but the CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours a night. Some people need less, others much more. The best way to find out how much You You either need to download a sleep tracking app or invest in a sleep tracker.

Sleep tracking data is a great way to learn what your current habits are and where you can improve.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The first step is to record a normal week of sleep. From there you should be able to see how much sleep you’re getting and if that’s good enough for your needs. If you already have a smartwatch or fitness tracker, you probably have a week or two of sleep data and can skip straight to the good part. Otherwise, apps are the easiest and cheapest way.

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I’ve tested several sleep tracking apps over the years and recommend Rise Science for this particular use case. It has a $59.99 annual subscription, but you don’t really need more than the initial 7-day free trial. I like Rise Science because it calculates your sleep debt and need for sleep based on your sleeping habits and offers a bedtime window. I’ve also used and liked Mintal Tracker and Sleep Cycle, but anything that measures your sleep duration and can give you an idea of ​​your sleep quality is for you.

Next, look at your dates to see what time it is Strictly speaking awaken. For example, I wanted to wake up at 6 a.m., but most days I rolled out of bed at 8:15 a.m.

At this point you will set two alarms. Set the first one to be 15-30 minutes earlier than when you wake up. For the second, work backwards to figure out what time you would need to sleep to meet your sleep need. Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes beforehand as a signal to switch off.

In my case, I had two years of wearable data, and the Rise Science app calculated my sleep requirement as 8 hours and 15 minutes. Based on that, I set my wake-up alarm for 8am and my bedtime alarm for 11:45pm. You can always use the sleep schedule feature on iOS or the bedtime in the clock app on Android to visualize this more easily.

Sleep schedules can help you visualize when to go to bed to wake up earlier.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

If you can reliably stick to this schedule for about three weeks, you can move your alarm up an additional 15 to 30 minutes until you reach your ideal wake-up time. Be patient – this entire process can take months, and you might get stuck at some point. It took me about seven months to successfully and sustainably go from waking up at 8:15 a.m. to waking up at 6:15 a.m. (I’m still working on working my way up to 6am).

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Use smart devices to create a bedtime routine and a relaxing environment

A solid bedtime routine can include non-technical things like: B. laying out your clothes for tomorrow before bed, but it can also mean making the most of smart lights, smart sockets, sunrise lamps, thermostats and aromatherapy devices. Your setup can be as simple or as complicated as you like, as long as it helps you create your ideal sleeping environment.

The easiest way is to activate a Sleep Focus (iOS) or Bedtime Mode (Android 13) on your smartphone. These features work a little differently, but both are designed to limit phone-related distractions when you’re trying to relax. These modes are also highly customizable. For example, you can set limits on apps that tempt you to stay up late, turn off notifications for people who aren’t family, or have the phone automatically switch to dark mode. It requires some experimentation, but the most important thing is that it serves as a signal to put the phone down.

Sunrise lamps are a kind of alarm clock that gradually wakes you up by simulating the sunrise.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Smart lighting is also a great way to customize your sleeping environment. We have a full guide to smart lighting here, but one cool thing is that you can program your lights to dim at a specific time. If you’re fully committed to the smart home, you can also sync your lights while lowering the thermostat (cooler rooms are better for sleeping) and queue up for a soothing playlist. Smart plugs are another good option here if you only want to turn a device on or off at a specific time. For example, if you want to turn on a regular diffuser or humidifier every night at 10:00 p.m.

If that’s too complicated, you can always opt for a sunrise lamp. These lamps are essentially a kind of smart alarm clock, using an artificial light source to simulate sunrise. The idea is to replace sound-based alerts with a gentler, non-invasive method that takes advantage of your natural circadian rhythm. Many modern sunrise lamps can also be used as reading lamps, providing warm light to help you relax at night. Some have built-in sleep tracking and can be integrated with the smart home, like Amazon Halo Rise, while others can play white noise to help you fall asleep.

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Basically you are trying to stack the odds in your favor. You’re more likely to wake up early when it’s easier for you to fall asleep. You’ll fall asleep faster if you can control your surroundings, and so on and so forth. The ideal routine looks different for everyone, but here’s an example (assuming you have a fully smart home):

  • Smart lights dim and use warm light at 9pm.
  • The smart thermostat will start lowering the temperature in the bedroom at 10:00 p.m.
  • Smart plugs turn on a diffuser of lavender oil (which promotes sleep) at 9:45 p.m.
  • The phone goes into bedtime mode at 10:35 p.m., mutes all notifications, restricts all social media apps, and dims the screens.
  • The lights go out at 10:45 p.m.
  • You fall asleep at 11 p.m.
  • Your sunrise lamp will start waking you up at 6:15 am.

My personal setup is much simpler these days. I have a smart diffuser that turns on at 9:00 p.m. and my humidifier is connected to a smart plug that turns on at 9:30 p.m. Both turn off automatically at 1am. My phone’s sleep focus turns on at 10:15 p.m. and I usually sleep at 10:30 p.m. At 6:15 am, my Apple Watch starts vibrating to wake me up without disturbing my spouse.

I know I need to tweak this across the board. In fact, over the past month I’ve added the diffuser and removed a sunrise lamp that only woke me half the time. That means doing all of this has has helped me wake up earlier 90 percent of the time while improving my overall quality of sleep—even when my cat is doing its best to thwart my efforts. I don’t always succeed, but after trying to change my sleep habits for a decade, I can honestly say that focusing on the night before makes a huge difference. And if gadgets can help you better automate the perfect bedtime, why not use them?

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