Author Nichole Berneir tweeted the following last week:
One thing that made a tremendous difference in my productivity & happiness a year ago: Instead of fighting insomnia, get up and work.
I found that I'd usually had enough sleep to make it through the next day safely (with coffee), and I get a tremendous amount done 4-6am.
Sleep is bad enough. Fruitless time spent in bed makes no sense at all.
It turns out that Nichole’s advice has support in the scientific community.
Restricting the amount of time you spend lying in bed may be one of the best weapons against conditioned or so-called "learned" insomnia. This kind of sleeplessness is caused by anxiety that comes from trying too hard to doze off when you can’t.
"The harder a person tries to sleep, the harder it becomes," says James Findley, Ph.D., clinical director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
According to Findley, lying in bed when you’re alert strengthens the association between being in bed and not sleeping. Over time, the bed becomes a cue for being awake.
I don’t suffer from insomnia. On the contrary, I can fall asleep in less than two minutes after my head hits the pillow (and oftentimes much faster than that), and I remain asleep until my alarm goes off around 4:30 or (more frequently) I wake up naturally around that time.
But when people turn to me for advice on increasing productivity, losing weight or achieving goals (as they occasionally do), one of their most common excuses for failure is a lack of time in the day to exercise, write, mediate, cook healthier meals or work on whatever goal they are trying to achieve.
I always say the same thing:
Everyone can sleep 30 minutes less. Everyone. If you really want to achieve something great, start by climbing out of bed 30 minutes earlier.
That’s 30 additional minutes in your day to exercise, write, meditate, prepare a healthier meal or do whatever is needed to get closer to your goal.
That’s an additional 3.5 hours per week to do something great.
Think about how powerful that is. You just made your day 30 minutes longer than it was the day before. You’ve given yourself the gift of time.
There is nothing more valuable.
Nichole is right. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed. People who are awake before 6:00 AM accomplish an enormous amount while the rest of the world sleeps.
So sleep 30 minutes less, or like Nichole, stop wasting time in bed, trying to fall asleep, and get to work.
Or you could try a reverse nap. I hear it’s catching on.