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9 More Minutes

Lessons about snoozing and sleep from Marcus Aurelius, Seth Godin, and Arianna Huffington

What’s usually your first thought of the day when your alarm goes off in the morning? For me, it’s usually “9 more minutes.” Laying in bed all warm and comfy for 9 more minutes always sounds better in my head than getting up. It usually turns into another 9 minutes, and sometimes another 9, until finally I have to get out of bed or I risk being late. I consider myself a morning person, although I am a professional snoozer. I usually can’t sleep past 8am and I feel lots of energy in the mornings. But still, when my alarm goes off in the morning, no matter what time, I need those 9 extra minutes.

Last year I tried to stop snoozing for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to wake up earlier and have better mornings. I wanted to have at least an hour before I needed to leave my house or start work, where I could meditate, write in my journal, cook a good breakfast, and not feel like I’m rushing through the morning just to get to work. I love the mornings, and I believe that if you have a great morning, it’s already a great day. Second, I wanted to continue practicing discipline. I had gone 200 days in a row taking a cold shower, I went a year without eating meat, so how hard could it be to quit snoozing? Well. . .  Over the course of 30 days from September 20 till October 20, I was only able to not snooze 21 out of the 30 days. It was really hard, and I started to feel a lot of anxiety about not being able to snooze. I would wake up before my alarm and actually dread the moment my alarm went off because I couldn’t do something that felt so good and that I was so used to. I got worse sleep because of it. So after the 30 days I gave up. I convinced myself that being a snoozer is just who I am.

"In the morning when you feel unwilling to rise, let this thought be present: I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist, for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed clothes to keep myself warm? - But this is more pleasant! - Do you exist then for the sake of pleasure rather than action or exertion? Do you not see then the plants and birds, the ants and spiders and bees working together to put in order their own corners of the universe, and are you unwilling to do the work of a human being, and do you not make haste to do that which is your very nature to do? - But it is necessary to take rest also! - It is necessary, however nature has fixed bounds to this too, she has fixed bounds for eating and drinking and yet you go beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient. By contrast, in your actions you stop short of what you can do. All this goes to show that you do not love yourself, for if you did, you would love your nature and her will. Those who love their own art, they exhaust themselves by working at them, without washing and without food. But you value your own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vain glorious man his little glory. And such men when they have a violent affection for a thing chose neither to eat or sleep in order to perfect the things in which they care for."

This passage is from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. and it totally resonates with me, as this is very similar to the mental battle I experience as I’m snoozing in bed. Crazy to think the the Emperor of Rome dealt with the same small problems as every other human. I love the question he asks himself, “Do you exist then for the sake of pleasure rather than action or exertion?" The self talk is spot on. 

Seth Godin also has some thoughts on this topic that resonate with me. Seth Godin was interviewed by Chase Jarvis on Creative Live’s 30 Days of Genius series. Chase asks Seth, “how do you face the day, do you have any morning routines?”  Seth’s response surprised me:

"In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I decided that facing the day didn’t feel right anymore. So instead, I started viewing every day as an opportunity, and since then I've never hit the snooze button, not even once, and what I've done with my work is try to create a life where I bound out of bed, because today I get another chance at unlimited bowling."

What a badass response, and a badass outlook on life. He stopped snoozing because he stopped feeling like he “has” to get out of bed, instead he “gets” to get out of bed. Then what does it say about how I view life, that I just lay there in bed for 9 or 18 or 27 extra minutes each morning? And what would it mean to me if I started “bounding” out of bed excited to live that day like Seth does?

After listening to Seth’s interview, I decided to give the no snooze habit another go. The difference this time is that it isn’t just about the extra time in the morning, or the discipline. Those are the benefits, but not the reason. The reason, this time, is that every time I get out of bed with no snooze, I’m making a statement about how I view life.  I don’t "have" to get out of bed, I "get" to. When I rise out of bed with no snooze, I’m showing my gratitude for another day. So far I’m 10 days into it, and there is no anxiety like there was before. It’s definitely still hard, and I wouldn’t say that I’m “bounding” out of bed each morning, but I haven’t snoozed yet, and I’m feeling really good about it.

Arianna Huffington was also interviewed for the 30 Days of Genius series, and she was talking about her book The Sleep Revolution. She talked a lot about the importance of getting enough sleep. She says how sleep is a keystone habit, it makes everything better - more energy, higher performance, increased creativity, better mood, improved relationships. In today's society, running on no sleep is like a badge of honor, people brag about how they are so busy that they are pulling all nighters and so on. But the scientific equivalent of showing up to work on no sleep is showing up to work drunk. If you want to be able to perform at your highest level, you need to get 7-8 hours of good sleep.

"We care more about recharging our smart phones than recharging ourselves." - Arianna Huffington

She also brought up the difference between waking up naturally versus waking up to an alarm. She said “the very word ‘alarm' means that the moment we wake up we are in fight or flight mode.” Funny but true. I wake up almost everyday to an ALARM going off, like my iPhone is saying “Emergency! You need to get out of bed now!” Not cool. I often wake up before my alarm goes off, but I usually just lay there in bed because I don’t “need” to get out of bed yet. But if I get 7-8 hours of sleep, and my body wakes up naturally, why not just get out of bed? So this past week I tried it and it felt awesome. It feels so good to get up without an alarm. It makes me want more days where I wake up when I want, or when my body is ready, instead of when my iPhone says so. And of course, the best days are the ones where I don’t even need to set an alarm. I want more of those days.

So right now I have 3 habits I’m tracking, 7 or more hours of sleep, no snooze, and no alarm. My intention is that every morning, whether I wake up to my alarm, or before it, or without it, I wake up without feeling like I “have” to get out of bed, but rather awake feeling excited and grateful for the opportunity of that day. 

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