As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m really trying to change my habit of sleeping all day. While I have generally got up a lot earlier, I have been sleeping a little longer every day and this morning, I didn’t make it out of bed until 2 hours after I meant to. Time to turn to science and see if there isn’t a way of optimizing this!
I happen to be reading the book The Power of Habit at the moment. I’ve only read about a third of it so far but I’m quite liking it. According to Charles Duhigg, habits work in three stages: There is a cue, which triggers a routine which then leads to a reward. If the cue is triggered without the reward occurring afterwards, it triggers a craving which makes us try really hard to get whatever we want. This makes it hard to change habits but apparently attempts are most successful if one keeps the cues and the reward the same but changes the routine in between. If you want to know a bit more about this, have a look at his website here. The analysis sounds reasonable to me (and he cites lots of studies to support it ;) ) so lets see what I can do about my morning routine:
The situation so far
I wake up when my alarm rings (the cue!), switch it to snooze and snuggle back into the covers. A few minutes later, it rings again and I repeat the snoozing. Sometimes I switch if off and fall asleep again. At other times I just snooze and snooze and snooze it. (the routine)
I’d say the reward I get out of this is the feeling of snuggling deeper under my warm covers and daydreaming. I really like lying awake in my bed but I hate rapid changes from the warm covers to the cold air around. I also often didn’t know where to go afterwards or what to do, so one reward was not having to decide. The prospects were the Mister’s room (very much his space) and the kitchen which generally required at least 15 minutes of cleaning or more before I felt even vaguely comfortable. Not very enticing prospects.
The last problem has solved itself by us rearranging our rooms such that we now have a bedroom and a living room with some really comfy sofas. I already put a blanket in my favourite corner.
The new plan
Cue: I’m going to keep the alarm on my phone but I might change the ringtone.
Routine: I want to switch off my alarm and get up immediately. Then I want to get dressed and make myself a cup of chai tea before wandering off to the living room and curling up on the sofa in my favourite blanket. Then I want to read for about half an hour while drinking my tea before actually starting my day.
Rewards: I will still get the same feeling of warmth and security by snuggling up on the sofa. On top of that I get a warm cup of sugary heaven and I get to read without having to make a decision until I am fully awake. That should be enough rewards for making it out of bed.
Notes: To make things easier and avoid decision making in the morning ( I tend to not get up until I have decided what to do next and often by that point I’m fast asleep again), I will lay out my clothes in the evening and keep the book always in the same place. When I get bored of the Chai, I might swap it for hot chocolate, actual tea or a smoothie. Any nice drink I don’t usually have should do.
I’m aware that it will probably take weeks to really change that habit, provided it works at all. The few days I managed to get up early really showed me how valuable all that extra time is, so it’s definitely worth it. I’m also really curious if this will work or not.
I can really recommend the book. Some of the content is fascinating! Did you know that even people with serious brain damage, who have lost their ability to remember things, can still form new habits? Neither did I. It’s also written in an interesting and engaging way, even though the case studies can be a bit long at time.