“Why I’m going back to an alarm clock” are words I didn’t think I’d ever want to say again.
Most of my life I’ve set an alarm. School, university and work. It’s always controlled my life. Every day, I’d wake up and be angry at my phone for buzzing.
But for the last two months, I haven’t sat in alarm.
I spent the last year and a half working as a software engineer in London. A big scary city. Everyone’s always going somewhere. Sleep deprived and caffeinated.
The 5am club
For seven of these months, I woke up at 4.50am before going to work. I was doing this so I could do:
- 45 minutes of writing
- 45 minutes of researching for a book I wanted to write
- One hour of coding.
- Walk to work (I hated the tube)
During this time, I bounced about different accommodations in London. Which meant changing my sleeping routine. I wanted to try being a digital nomad. The last thing I wanted was an accommodation contract. So I kept moving between short term accomodations to keep my options open.
I spent most of my time in London in my first flat. I was by myself as the rest of flatmates would hide in their room. Not having to socialize with my flatmates made it easy to go to bed and wake up early.
Next, I moved into an Airbnb. The Airbnb was with a family who didn’t let me use the kitchen. So for a month I went to bed earlier just because I couldn’t go anywhere else in the house.
Then I moved in with a widower for a month. Her kitchen was dirty, and she kept coming into my room when I was away. I went to bed early to protect my territory.
In each of these accommodations, sleep wasn’t an issue because I would be in bed early.
I was never happy having to set an alarm clock, but it wasn’t a struggle.
A social life makes sleep difficult.
I spent my last two months working in London in my favourite flat. A high-rise flat with people my age.
We spent every night in the kitchen together cooking, laughing, and doing stupid stuff. The only downside with having nice flatmates for the first time was that I stayed up late each night.
This made waking up difficult. My 5am wake up transformed into 6am, then 6.30am.
I went from going to bed between 9-10pm to staying up to 12pm almost every night.
It became a struggle to wake up. I was young in a big city. If there was ever a time to have a social life and go hard at my work, it was now.
But each day it got tougher to wake up. The days became a blur.
I’d smash a double espresso every morning at Starbucks just to survive the morning.
It was during this period I decided I wanted to have a life without an alarm.
I want to get rid of the alarm.
Every day, my alarm would go off and I’d curse to myself. Stumble out of bed. Shower and be on my way.
I started to blame the alarm for me always being tired.
It’s hard to recognise how bad you’re functioning with no sleep.
I quit my job to work full time on Streakoid and be a digital nomad. I was excited to have control of my life and not have to wake up to be somewhere at a fixed time.
At the start of Streakoid I was still setting an alarm because of the pressure of having to build Streakoid.
I work best in the early hours when the world’s quiet. So I set my alarm to make the most of the morning.
But when I got to Thailand, I decided it was time to take control of my life and turn off the alarm.
No more alarm
For the first time in the longest time, I went to bed without an alarm.
I woke up refreshed. The world was in HD.
It’s been over two months since I stopped using the alarm.
In the beginning it I felt well rested. I enjoyed the freedom.
But things started to turn sour.
The dark side
Without an alarm, I wasn’t waking up at the same time each day.
I was sleeping the same amount, but going to bed at different times each night meant I would wake up at different times.
Because I didn’t have an alarm, there were no repercussions for staying up late.
I lost the discipline that comes with waking up at the same time each day.
I no longer had duplicate days. Which made it harder to follow a routine.
In the beginning, it was only a few minutes’ difference each day.
But before I knew it chaos.
No alarm equals chaos
Some days I’d be up at 7am others 10am. It just depended on what time I stayed up to at night.
Instead of being well rested, I’m just stressed.
When you start your work at a different time each day. You’re reacting to the day instead of being in charge.
I messed up. I thought the goal was to have freedom from the alarm clock. But the alarm clock is not the enemy.
The enemy is not getting enough sleep. It’s me that’s the problem.
The alarm clock ensures I wake up at the same time each day which I need. It’s my job to make sure I’m in bed early enough for the alarm.
I need to maximise my time at the moment. My money is running low and the pressure to get a job is growing.
My alarms set for tomorrow. It’s on me now to make sure I get to sleep on time.