Disclaimer: In this post I am not indending to solve most of the sleeping problems, nor am I qualified to do so. I merely describe what worked for me to solve some of my, very particular, problem.
I have never had sleeping problems in the classical sense: I fall asleep when I lie down in the bed and I don’t wake up until I have slept enough. But for a long time I couldn’t make myself wake up when I wanted:
I would almost never wake up earlier than an hour after I had decided to wake up,
If I had to be somewhere in the morning I would never wake up before it is too late: I would come late and never have time for breakfast, let alone do anything else that I would plan.
I couldn’t predict when I am going to wake up even if I didn’t have to wake up at any particular time.
Needless to say this greatly reduced my productivity and control over my time. A year ago I decided to put an end to this and try to learn to take better control over my sleeping patterns. I experimented with polyphasic sleep but with very low success. I managed to have two or three siesta days (6 hours of sleep at night and 0.5-1 during the day) in a row but then the pattern broke. I would either oversleep the naps or the night sleep. So this didn’t really work. I started also a consistent morning routine in which I stretched, worked out, ate breakfast and meditated (experimenting with different orders). This, (surprisingly for me at the time), helped quite a bit. I had more motivation to get up in the morning and my mornings felt more meaningful to me. But it was not until this April when I really got the hold of it. What happened was that my girlfriend and I decided to wake up at 5 AM every morning during the whole month (we lasted eventually even longer). One of the reasons was that I had to move to my mother’s house for several months and I wanted to have more awake time alone when everyone else is asleep, so I could concentrate on work. My mom thought I was crazy. For whatever unexplained reason (I think the fact we did it together was a big factor — love, you know) it worked right from the beginning. We didn’t wake up exactly at five every morning, but we definitely woke up before 6. There were only 3 exceptions during April. This was great. Very efficient time. In the mornings obviously the time was very efficient and I got a lot of work done while other’s were still sleeping. But the evenings were also more efficient than usual. This is because in the afternoons and evenings I was still synchornized with the society and came home from my hobbies or work at around 8 PM. And when the “relaxing time” of my family started (which lasts to around midnight), I joined them only for an hour and then went to sleep earlier than anyone else. During this time I
learned to wake up when I decide to,
realised that I don’t need so much sleep as before: I can now easily replace my normal 8h/night by 5.5h on two or three nights in the week without any problem, in fact, it seems more natural to me now..
no longer have any problems whatsoever waking up early enough to get things done before I have to go to work.
In the same way as concentrating on mathematics for 2 weeks in a row resulted in a permanent skill to get into the state of ‘mathematical flow’, concentrating on waking up for a month resulted in a permanent skill to control my sleeping schedule (well, its been only two months now, but I am optimistic!)