5 Sleep Routines I Tried to Maximize Productivity
Sleep and productivity go hand in hand.
We’ve been studying that for years and even if we hadn’t, it isn’t rocket science.
No sleep = shitty moods, exhaustion and lack of focus.
Good sleep = energy, productivity and generally not biting someone’s head off at every turn.
I’m someone who always despised waking up early because I was told I had to. What I hated more was the afternoon where I felt like crap and wanted to go to bed at 5 pm but couldn’t because I’d mess up my routine.
I also loved late nights and the world before everyone woke up. It was midday that didn’t work for me.
I’ve always been an experimental person, meaning I loved trying things out, seeing how they worked and applying them to my life if I feel like they helped me in some way.
My time working a 9-5 type cubicle job actually opened me up to more of these sleeping styles I tried to maximize productivity because I had such a hard time in that environment.
Seriously, holding my head up at my desk was a regular thing.
I took part in these experiments over many years, and although they worked some of the time, nothing works 100 percent of the time.
Here are 5 sleeping styles I tried to maximize productivity and my results:
The basic premise: Sleep for 4, awake for 3, sleep for 4 more, then awake for the day.
Back when I was working my 9-5 cubicle job, I had to get up at 5, 6, or 7 in the morning to get to work on time. I realized that waking up early and going to work during the day caused me to feel exhausted around 5pm every night, so I decided to create an experiment.
At this point in time, I got to work between 6 am and 7 am, which means I left the office between 3pm and 4pm with my mandatory 1-hour lunch break.
When 5pm rolled around and I felt exhausted, so I decided to try out the 4-3-4 sleep schedule I’d read about and here’s how this experiment worked -
Woke up at 4/5am - got to work by 6/7am
Got home 3/4pm
Slept for 4 hours (usually from 5/6pm until 9/10pm)
Woke up for 3 hours (worked on something in that time, like writing for my blog)
Slept for another 4 hours (usually from 1am to 4/5am)
Results: I was usually pretty productive in the three hours between sleep. If I was feeling really productive, I ended up staying up a bit longer.
The best part was that while I felt awake and energized in those 3 hours, I also felt the pull of tiredness near the end, which meant I could sleep easier for the last stretch.
It didn’t affect my day to day at the office, either.
Another fantastic part was the fact that when I was tired during that after work slump - you know, the one where you sit on the couch and never get up from it until you drag yourself to bed - I just went to sleep.
I didn’t try to fight it or feel guilty about it. Instead, I let my body tell me what it needed.
9 Hours Straight
Everyone has their perfect amount when it comes to sleep.
That spot where you wake up naturally, feeling refreshed, and you have energy for the rest of the day.
Well, 9 hours is my perfect amount, so I let myself sleep consistently for 9 hours every single day. It might seem like a lot to some people, especially when the average night sleep is 6 hours nowadays, but it’s what worked for me.
Results: Although I feel like I have more energy consistently throughout the day, I don’t necessarily have focus. It depends on the day. This routine also makes it impossible to have a night or a morning depending on when you go to sleep, so you really have to decide what you’re willing to give up to have that straight 9 hours.
Night Owl Routine
I used to work night shift at Amazon, which means I know how the reverse days affect our bodies.
I’d always been a night owl, so I figured working nights would be perfect for me. Turns out there’s a big difference between working evenings and working nights into the next morning (and my 6pm-430am shift was killer, especially when in college).
Night owls are a bit different.
Usually waking up around 11am and staying up until 1-3am the following morning is the ideal time for night owls to operate. There are some exceptions and the hours might shift a little, but the whole idea is that you’re awake after the world is sleeping.
When I tried to shift my routine to something similar, it wasn’t the best for me.
Results: Love the nights, hate that I missed the mornings. I was only productive in the later half of the day, so it wasn’t my ideal.
In general, this routine wasn’t ideal because it messed with my clock and I never felt like I got enough sleep, plus my days were extremely short. I wasn’t cool with days that felt shorter at all.
Morning Lark Routine
I used to wake up at 4, 5, and 6 in the morning for my job.
The productive part of me was obsessed with the “wake up before the world does” concept, but I knew in my heart that I was not a morning person.
Honestly I was that woman you didn’t want to talk to before she had coffee, and my family will tell you the same. (I was a monster if they started talking to me before that first sip.)
Still, I gave it a shot. I woke up when it was still dark or sometimes just after sunrise. Some days I would hop right into writing, taking a walk or going to the gym. Other days I’d enjoy my slow mornings with a good cup of coffee and a nice book on my porch.
(By the way, I did not name this “morning lark”, someone else did.)
Results: I bottomed out mid afternoon.
Although I usually felt productive after I woke up, my energy and focus levels would start to taper off around 2 pm and last about 4 hours, which mean I wouldn’t get a second wind until 6-7 pm - but those 4-5 hours were brutal.
This is the most recent sleep routine I’ve tried out. As you’ve read, I’m a night owl, thriving on the 7pm-1am time space, but I also have a love for early mornings if I can get my butt out of bed. It’s usually the afternoon where I falter.
That’s where the mid-day maximizer comes in… otherwise known as a nap.
At the same time, I was also fasting 16/8, which meant I would wake up around 7am and not eat until 11-12, then take a nap around 1pm. I’d set my alarm for 1 hour later, taking into account that it usually takes 15 minutes for us to fall asleep and I only wanted to sleep for about 30 minutes, which left 15 minutes extra in case I woke up before or if it took longer than 15 minutes.
Results: So far this has worked great for me.
The upsides are that I get the morning hours before the world is awake to be productive and the night hours that I love most. As the old saying goes, I burn the candle on both ends.
On top of that, the midday nap reset gives me a good break up between tasks, while also making the day feel longer.
The only downsides that I’ve discovered is that if I don’t get the nap in, I’ll fall asleep earlier, and there’s a bit of a struggle in the morning because of going to bed late and waking up early.
Midday maximizer worked best for me, but I feel that I need a bit of all of them to really feel productive.
I run the risk of messing up my overall routine this way, but sometimes your body just needs what it needs. I’m someone who needs variety, which may be the same for you.
Normally, I consider the midday maximizer my go-to, but if I need 9 hours straight of sleep, I’m going to do it - and I’m not going to feel guilty or punish myself for it.
Sleep is necessary and PIVOTAL to productivity (and life in general. I mean, come on), so find a sleep style that works for you.
No “shoulds” and no worrying about what other people think.
There also isn’t any scientific evidence that says one is better than the other, despite how many people say “early bird catches the worm” and all that.
There have been studies to test that and they found that night owls and morning larks were successful in different areas and not so much in others.
It’s about what’s finding out what works for you.
That being said - don’t lie to yourself.
If the sleep schedule you’re on now doesn’t actually allow you to get shit done, change it.
There’s no point in being dishonest.
It might feel great, which is fantastic, but if you’re spending 70% of your life sleeping, that’s not leaving you a lot of time for your business, traveling or anything else you may want to do.
Try them out and see which one works best. Then stick with it.
Ignore what you “should” do and figure out what works for you.
Do you find a certain sleep schedule that works best?
Tell me about it in the comments.
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