How to use sleep technology to become an early riser
You don’t have to sell me on the benefits of being an early riser. I’ve seen dozens of articles and studies explaining how getting up early is better for your health, productivity, and stress levels. But becoming an early riser isn’t easy. From experience, it’s much harder if you’re naturally a night owl and there’s no particular reason — like bringing your kids to school — to be up before 7 a.m. Also, alarm clocks and phone alarms don’t always work for the sleepiest of sleepers.
That said, there are other sleep gadgets and apps that can be of great help.
If you’re an incorrigible night owl trying to pass yourself off as an early riser, good news. That was me for the past 10 years, and I’ve tried everything from melatonin to those alarm clocks that run away from you. But after lots of trial and error (and experimenting with a ton of sleep tech), I’ve become one of those people who likes to get up long before I have to. It can be done! Although I’m not going to lie, you’re going to mess 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 for getting started.
Determine your bedtime with a sleep tracker
A morning day always starts the day before. It may seem obvious, but the key to waking up easily is knowing how much sleep your body actually needs. The more rested you are when it’s time to wake up, the less tempting that snooze button looks.
The amount of sleep you need changes with age, but CDC recommends adults spend at least seven hours a night. Some people will need less, and others will need a lot more. The best way to know how much You need is to download a sleep tracking app or invest in a sleep tracker.
The first step is to record a normal week of sleep. From there, you should be able to see how long you’re sleeping and if it’s enough for your needs. If you already have a smartwatch or fitness tracker, chances are you’ve got a week or two worth of sleep data and can skip straight to the good part. Otherwise, apps are the easiest and most cost-effective route.
I have tested several sleep tracking apps over the years and recommend Boom science for this particular use case. It has an annual subscription of $59.99, but you won’t really need more than the initial 7-day free trial. I like Rise Science because it calculates your lack of sleep and need for sleep based on your sleep patterns, as well as a window for bedtime. I also used and liked mint tracker And sleep cyclebut anything that measures your sleep duration and can give you an idea of your sleep quality will do.
Then look at your data to see what time you In fact wake up. For example, I wanted to wake up at 6am, but most of the time I got out of bed at 8:15am.
At this point, you will set two alarms. Set the first 15-30 minutes earlier than you currently wake up. For the second, work backwards to find out what time you would need to sleep to meet your sleep need. Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes before that as a cue to relax.
In my case, I had two years of wearable data, and the Rise Science app calculated my need for sleep at 8 hours and 15 minutes. Based on this, I set my wake-up alarm to 8:00 a.m. and my bedtime alarm to 11:45 p.m. You can still use the Sleep planning function on iOS or Bedtime in the Clock app on Android for easier viewing.
Once you can reliably maintain this schedule for about three weeks, you can increase your alarms by an additional 15-30 minutes until you reach your ideal wake-up time. Be patient – this whole 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 my way up until 6am).
Use smart devices to create a bedtime routine and a relaxing environment
A solid bedtime routine can include non-technical things like getting your clothes ready for tomorrow before you go to bed, but it can also mean making the best use of smart lights, smart plugs, sunrise lights, thermostats and aromatherapy gadgets. Your setup can be as simple or as complicated as you want, as long as it helps you create your ideal sleeping environment.
One of the easiest things to do is to activate a Focus on sleep (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 for apps that try to keep you awake, turn off notifications for anyone outside of the family, or automatically put the phone in dark mode. This requires some experimentation, but the important thing is that it acts as a signal to hang up your phone.
Smart lighting is also a great way to personalize your sleep environment. We have a complete guide to smart lighting here, but a neat thing is that you can schedule your lights to dim at a specific time. If you’re all into the smart home, you can also sync your lights while lowering the thermostat (cooler rooms are better for sleeping) and queue up a soothing playlist. Smart plugs are another good option here if you just 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 at 10 p.m. every night.
If that’s too much of a hassle, you can always opt for a sunrise lamp. These lights are basically a type of smart alarm clock where an artificial light source simulates sunrise. The idea is to replace audible alarms with a gentler, non-invasive method that takes advantage of your natural circadian rhythms. Many modern Sunrise lamps can also double as reading lamps that use warm lighting to help you relax at night. Some have built-in sleep tracking and can integrate with the smart home, like the Amazon Halo Risewhile others can play white noise to help you fall asleep.
Basically, you’re trying to stack the odds in your favor. You are more likely to wake up early if you can fall asleep more easily. You’ll fall asleep faster if you can control your surroundings, and so on. The ideal routine will be different for everyone, but here’s an example (assuming you have a fully smart home):
- Smart lights dim and use warm lighting at 9pm.
- The smart thermostat starts lowering your room temperature at 10:00 p.m.
- Smart plugs light a diffuser with lavender oil (which promotes sleep) at 9:45 p.m.
- The phone enters bedtime mode at 10:35 p.m., disabling all notifications, limiting all social media apps, and dimming screens.
- The lights go out at 10:45 p.m.
- You fall asleep at 11 p.m.
- Your Sunrise lamp starts waking you up at 6:15 a.m.
My personal setup these days is much simpler. I have a smart diffuser that turns on at 9:00 p.m. and my humidifier is plugged into a smart plug that turns on at 9:30 p.m. Both automatically turn off 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 a.m., my Apple Watch starts vibrating to wake me up without disturbing my spouse.
I know I’ll have to tweak that later. In fact, I just added the diffuser last month and removed a sunrise lamp that only woke me up half the time. That said, do all that To helped me wake up earlier 90% of the time while improving my overall sleep quality, even though my cat is doing its best thwart my efforts. I’m not always successful, but after a decade of trying to change my sleeping habits, I can truly say that focusing on the night before makes all the difference. And if gadgets can help you better automate the perfect bedtime routine, why not take advantage of them?