Bed time protestations

The wife is at a girls night out this evening. I put older two boys to bed shortly after she left. We had a big day, and they had short naps, so they went down without incident.

The baby girl, on the other hand, made it very clear that she was not yet ready to go down for the night. I wasn’t surprised since she had slept in the car on the way home from the children’s museum in Naples in addition to her regular nap.

I let her stay up while I worked on getting the house picked up and the kitchen cleaned. When I wasn’t looking she had gone into my room, pulled my pillow off the bed, and dragged it to the living room where I was gathering toys.

She then spent the next 15 minutes dragging the pillow to each room I worked on, and laying on it until I moved to the next room. When I finished cleaning, I laid her down in her bed, and she went right to sleep with no protest.

Update: She waited until I pressed publish on this post to resume her protestations.

Polyphasic sleep mask

Intelclinic launched a Kickstarter project to fund the creation of a polyphasic sleep mask.

NeuroOn is the world’s first brainwave – monitoring SLEEP MASK that allows you to switch from monophasic to polyphasic sleep. That means you can sleep less and more efficiently.

Neuroon: World's first sleep mask for polyphasic sleep by Intelclinic — Kickstarter

Adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule isn’t practical for me now, but it would be an awesome experiment to try and a cool way—if it works—to add more hours to the day.

The Paradox of Routine and Freedom

Routine works. Establishing one does not make life boring or formulaic, but it does set up guide posts where true freedom and excitement can take place.

A routine I recently established was getting up at 6 a.m. This guide post has given my days structure. It has established a time where I can write this.

With the responsibility of fatherhood, I have had to change my focus from myself to my family. And having a family is a sure way to confuse and throw a wrench into any established order or normalcy in life.

However, I established this routine months after my son was born. It opened up the possibilities of being a great dad while still caring for my own needs.

The last several mornings now I woke up two minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Each time I glanced at my phone, and it showed 5:58. It’s only been a few weeks since I started, but already the routine is freeing me from the annoying buzz of the alarm.

Before I started working on this I’d be sleeping deeply and when my alarm would sound, I’d hit the snooze button two or three times. The idea, of course was that “10 more minutes and I’ll be rested and ready for the day.” But snoozing three times adds up to a half hour of frequently interrupted sleep.

On the other hand, getting up and getting going shakes off the sleepiness much faster than laying awake in bed between pressing the snooze button.

Routine has given my day something new–a beginning. Rather than drifting into the day from a haze of sleep and snoozing, establishing a routine has created a clear delineation between night time and day time.

Also, my wife and I have been working to establish a routine for our baby. We’re starting to see the first fruits of our efforts. The last several nights now, he’s slept soundly from when we laid him in the crib until after I got up.

These routines do not diminish the freedom and spontaneity of a day. It is exactly the opposite, yet still a paradox. Fixed and strictly adhered-to routines create more freedom in a day than an open schedule.

I haven’t established strict guidelines for what I’ll do when I first get up. I try to read, write, or exercise, but sometimes I surf around on the web, play with the baby if he’s awake, or spend some time in prayer.

However, no matter what I decide to spend the time doing, it is something I wouldn’t be able to do if I didn’t have the routine established to get started.

By setting up a few starting guide posts, I was able to establish much greater freedom in my day. And now I’m searching for similar opportunities in other possible routines.

Big change can be easy if the change happens over night

I want to start getting up at six. I did it this morning, but I want to do it every morning.

The conventional wisdom says that baby steps are the best. Break down your big goal into manageable action items. Forget it. Radical change has to be more like ripping off a band-aid.

However, keep it to one big change at a time, or you may go into shock.

What big change can I make overnight? Nothing. I got up early today, but I’ll start my big change again tomorrow in the morning by getting up at six.

This is the wake up time goal I’ve been setting for my self for weeks now, but I haven’t made much progress. I’ve told my self that I’ll work at 6:30 a.m. for a few weeks to get the hang of it. But I just kept resetting my alarm.

I made the excuse that I didn’t have enough time to get much done between 6:30 a.m. and the time I have to start getting ready for my day, so I chose to sleep in instead. Starting tomorrow though, this big change is happening. Not in pieces, not step by step, but all at once.

Finally, I didn’t snooze ’till seven

I made it to work by 6:32 a.m. Not to the office, but to the laptop to begin writing. I’ve been trying for a few weeks now to wake up earlier in the mornings to no avail. It seems like every week night, I’m able to set my alarm for 6 a.m. with no problem, but when it comes to morning I’ll hit the snooze button repeatedly until 7 a.m., which is last call for getting up and getting ready for work.

This may not seem like any great accomplishment, but for, me, a new dad, whose decided to become a writer, it is a real milestone because it creates for me a new 30 minute block of time in the day. I’ve been developing more goals for myself in the last several weeks, more things I want to do and accomplish on a daily basis. However, to even start working on those goals, I needed to create some more time in the day, so this was a major step forward.

If I can carve out this time consistently, it won’t all be dedicated to writing. I also have a 5k run coming up, and I want to make sure I finish. Therefore, part of this newly created time will have to go towards running to get in shape and to make sure I don’t come in last. It’s a corporate race, where many of my co-workers will also be participating, so I have to be sure not to embarrass myself. That should, actually, provide great motivation to get in shape, but I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before now.

I have not reached my final target yet, but it feels great to even accomplish part of a goal. The final step for me and mornings, or at least the current plan, is to consistently get up at 6 a.m., and get to writing or working out immediately. I may be a ways away from that still, but this morning was a good first step.

For me, getting up early is still a work in progress, but I’m looking for ways to develop this habit of getting up early. Here are a few ideas:

1. Get a reason

Waking up early for its own sake is a losing proposition. I need a reason to make it happen. I already had some new goals set for myself that I didn’t feel like I was adequately addressing, so now I’ve applied these goals to me my action items in this the newly created time. For a long time getting up at 6 a.m. was a goal in and of itself.

I think now, with some clear activities that I want to engage in during that time, it will be much more realistic and manageable. These goals and plans for the mornings are best if it’s something you really want to do that you feel like you don’t have the time to do otherwise. For me that’s writing and working out, but it could be anything. Whatever the case may be, getting out of bed in the morning is easiest when there’s a reason.

2. Banish the snooze button

This, for me, is still the biggest stumbling block. I need an alarm clock to get up in the mornings (and I don’t anticipate that changing), but one of its simplest functions seems to consistently be my undoing. The damn snooze button is so easy to use: just press it and enjoy 10 more minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I haven’t found a way (but I’m sure there is one) to disable that function, but this is not a technical issue.

The 10-more-minutes mentality is what really gets in the way. During that 10-minute snooze, where I promise myself that I’ll get out of bed when it rings the next time, leaves me with too large a gap to start rationalizing all the reasons why it will be better to re-set the alarm to later in the day and sleep until deadline. I’ll be far better off if I don’t give myself the opportunity to talk myself out of getting up. The best solution here is to get up when it beeps the first time, turn the alarm off and leave the bed room. I have a long way to go in learning the self-discipline to stat doing this, but that is another issue entirely.

3. Make gradual changes

I wanted to start getting up an hour earlier, but that could have been too big of a jump. I may be better off setting my alarm for 6:30 a.m. for a few weeks to get used to this new time, to develop my reasons to get up and to wean myself from the snooze button. Once I’ve gotten the hang of 6:30 a.m., I’ll move the clock back again in gradual increments until I reach my goal.

Who knows, with baby steps I may be able to move it back even earlier. Of course if I get really good and start getting up a 5 a.m., I’ll probably have to write and run every morning. I don’t think I’m ready for that.

A Primer on Dream Recall

Each night I sleep between seven and eight hours. Out of 24 that is one third of my day. I never feel like I have enough time in a day to do all the things I want, and so much of my time is eaten up by sleeping. Its seems like such a waste. But it doesn’t have to be.

Every night, the body goes through several distinct stages of sleep. These stages are divided between rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and three stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). The body goes through several cycles of this. The phases vary in length but as the body has been asleep longer the third phase of NREM lengthens and the REM phases become closer together. It is during the REM phase where dreams occur. REM sleep takes up 20 to 25 percent of each night’s sleep or about 90 to 120 minutes. Now this phase usually occurs several times per night, and within each phase the brain weaves intricate plots and unique worlds which we sometimes remember as dreams.

Most mornings I wake up remembering only scattered fragments of my dreams, and by breakfast they have mostly evaporated into nothingness. Effectively, on a daily basis, I forget one third of everything that happens to me. Based on this, I feel it would be very worth while to remember what happens at night.

Dream recall is a learnable skill, and below are a few quick pointers on how to get started:

1. Get enough sleep

Without dedicating enough hours to sleep, it will be nearly impossible to find the dedication it takes to remember what happened between bed time and morning. It is much easier to remember your dreams when you go to bed before you’re completely exhausted, and stay in bed until you’ve had adequate rest. Different people need different amounts of sleep, but chances are that if you hate mornings, you’re not getting enough sleep.

2. Journal

Typically, the bits of dreams that you remember naturally are most vivid immediately upon awakening. This is the prime time to capture as many of those thought and visions as possible and get them down on paper. The longer you wait, the foggier the memories will become until they’ve evaporated into nothing. You’ll be surprised how many details you’ll be able to remember after doing this for a few weeks. Also, reading over your journal days or weeks after the entry can provide some pretty good, albeit weird, reading.

One trick to dream journaling is to write the dream backwards. First, write down the last thing you remember happening before you woke up. Then ask yourself, what was I doing before that? Repeat this as many times as you’re able and you’ll find a much bigger picture come into focus. After a few nights of this, you’ll be surprised how many vivid details you’re able to remember in the process. There will be details you didn’t think of when you woke up, that will be as clear as anything that happens in the day time.
Pen and paper is the best medium for keeping a dream journal. There are far less distractions than if you were to use a computer. Also, with pen and paper, you’ll be able to start and write a few lines immediately upon waking up, without even turning the light on or getting out of bed. Even if you wake up earlier than you have to, try to jot down a few notes about what you remember before going back to sleep. Chances are, after doing that the remaining sleep you get will be filled with even more vivid dreams.

3. Tell yourself you will remember your dreams

Really, you have to want it. The power of suggestion is such a powerful tool. It seems cliche, but telling yourself you will remember your dreams will actually help you remember them. Telling yourself things to make them happen only really works when the desired outcomes are in your head. Dreams and memories are both in your head, so this is why it works.

The best time for this self motivating talk is as you are laying in bed, falling asleep. Let you last thoughts of the day be of hopeful anticipation of the adventures you will have at night with a firm will to remember all that happens between going to sleep and waking up. So many wonderful things go on in your head in those hours that it is a shame to let them go to waste.

4. Talking to someone about your dreams

This will only work if you have someone in your life that you’re completely comfortable sharing your most intimate thoughts with. I’m fortunate enough to have that person in my life… My four month old is a great listener, and he doesn’t judge me for the things I say.

I’ll probably start working on this with my wife as well, especially if I can convince her to join me in working on dream recall together. I’m not prepared to be the only one talking about my dreams on a daily basis, but if she’ll join me then we’ll be good to go, provided I can prevent myself from making fun of whatever goofy things she might dream about.

5. Don’t try too hard, make sure to have fun with it

Developing this skill may take time and dedication, or it may come naturally and you’ll enjoy the benefits right away. But whatever the case may be, have fun and enjoy it. Thinking about it too hard won’t help and may even prove counter productive, but excited anticipation of all the wonderful things you might see in and do at night will, hopefully, motivate you to follow through on the initial pointers and develop this skill.

Dream recall is really just the first step. There is much more to do to build on this initial skill, such as lucid dreaming. However, by developing this skill alone you can effectively add a third of the time to your life. Enjoy it. And thank me for adding one third to your life.