SFAS Prep - Lifestyle Habits For Recovery Pt 2

The Night Alarm

Now that you've got a grasp on every future SOF guy’s favorite activity, journaling, here in part 2, we'll discuss another evening routine that pays dividends  - the night time alarm. Most of us are accustomed to setting alarms or reminders for important tasks or events. 

Important meeting? Reminder. 

Wake up in the morning? Alarm. 

Take out the trash for trash day? Reminder.

Pick up the kids from school? Reminder/alarm.

But for whatever reason, very few of us consider an alarm or reminder for arguably the single most important task in existence - sleep. Yes, we sleep every night - it’s unlikely we’re going to forget to do it altogether. But for most people in the modern world, sleep occurs at sporadic times, which leads to insufficient sleep quantity and poor sleep quality.

To begin, I want you to ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly.

How often do you…

look at social media until right before you try to sleep? 

Watch your nightly show until 5 minutes before bedtime? 

Spend pre-bed hours going through the day’s emails and housekeeping tasks?

Go to bed with the thermostat on 72?

Have several non-dimmed lights turned on in your house till right before you hit the hay?

Realize you should’ve gone to bed 30 minutes ago and you haven’t even prepped your clothes or lunch for the next day?

If you routinely do one of or more of these things (or something similar), there's a strong possibility that you're missing out on a multitude of benefits from consistent quality sleep. I’m a firm believer that what you habitually do in the last hour of your day and the first hour of your day are two of the most profound predictors of not just physical performance and recovery, but also mental/cognitive performance, mood, health and overall wellbeing. Part 3 will highlight morning routine tactics, but in this article, I’m going to discuss the importance and implementation of the night time alarm.

Why is it needed?

Although I’ve been experiencing this myself for the last few years, as well as teaching it to my clients, a recent study showed that the single most important factor for reduced risk of mortality due to insufficient sleep is that we go to bed and wake up at the same time daily - yes, more important than sleep duration (according to this study). 

Many people can easily check this block on weekdays - but weekends are a whole different story. Much to the chagrin of weekend activity enthusiasts, staying up late and sleeping in on weekends is a surefire way to self-induce jet lag like symptoms. The term is coined social jet lag, and it’s something the vast majority of the population unwittingly experiences. We stay up late and sleep in on weekends, only to put ourselves behind the power curve come Monday (and often times, Tuesday). Unfortunately, we cannot outsmart our physiology by simply hoping to change our circadian rhythm on demand. 

The only way to ensure your biological clock is working optimally is to actually take action. The action is simple, but not easy - it's to go to bed and wake up within the same 30 minutes every day. This requires discipline and sacrifice, and for some people likely seems like overkill - but if you’re struggling with sleep in any way, shape or form or consistently suffering from a "case of the Mondays", this also implies you’re not recovering or performing as well as you could be. Therefore, by ignoring this concept you’re willingly trading current pleasure for future potential success.

Assuming that, as a future SOF soldier, you have the willingness to exercise the discipline to implement this powerful recovery strategy, let’s talk tactics. How can we ensure we’re getting to bed at the right time each evening?

The simplest approach is the night time alarm - you determine what time you want to go to bed (the same time nightly), and set an alarm on your phone for at least 1 hour prior. This alarm serves as a firm reminder to turn your phone on “do not disturb” mode (or off), plug it in, and commit to not touching it till the following morning. I suggest plugging your phone in as far away from your bed as is feasible - this will help with 3 things: 

  1. Resisting the urge to look at it as you’re laying in bed winding down for the day (or even worse, looking at it when you get up to use the bathroom at night). It can be tempting to reach for your phone instead of your PM2 journal or a book when you’re laying there looking for a distraction - remove said temptation by putting a barrier (space) between you and the phone.
  2. It will assist you in your morning win routine if you’re the type of person who presses snooze. As you’ll see in part 3, pressing snooze is no longer an option - and if your phone is on the other side of the room from you, you won’t have the option to do it unless you get up out of bed, press it, and walk back to bed (if you’re doing this, you have a LONG way to go)
  3. Your phone gives off EMF signals & radiation 24/7 and having it right next to your sleeping head exposes you to it all night long. Although you won’t “feel it”, doing this nightly can lead to disruptions in sleep, thus leading to decrements in recovery. Recent studies have also shown a potential link between cell phone radiation and tumor growth (just in case you were still on the fence about plugging your phone in elsewhere).

With everything the modern world distracts us with, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of when it’s time to begin winding down for the day. This is why I suggest using an alarm to draw a line in the sand and separate being “on” during the day, and preparing to “switch off” prior to bed. This alarm signals the start of your sleep routine. Many people expect to be able to go from awake to asleep on command, and it simply doesn’t work that way. 

Evolutionarily, we’re not meant to be mentally stimulated and exposed to light (other than that of a fire) once the sun goes down. Although you don’t need to go full caveman mode and only use candle light as soon as the sun sets (although candles are a great option later in the evening), you'll want to consider setting up your sleep environment well before bed. To provide some ideas for what to do after your night alarm has gone off and your phone has been incapacitated, here’s what I do each evening (your routine does not need to look identical to mine - personalize it based on your situation):

-I plug my phone into its charger, located in the kitchen (I don’t wake up to an alarm since I stick to consistent sleep/wake times. If I need one for anomaly days - like when my wife decides to book a flight at 6AM at an airport 1 hour away, requiring a 3AM wake up - I’ll plug it in across the room)

-I turn off most of the lights, and dim the lights I’m still using

-I ensure the temperature is where it needs to be. In the summer, I turn the AC down to 65. In the winter, I turn the heat on 62 (if it gets lower than 62, it’ll kick on - cool is great, super cold isn’t always better)

-(Winter - when it’s <~45 degrees) I open the window next to my bed to rapidly cool my room (we keep the heat on 68 during the day, so instead of swapping to AC in the winter, opening a window for ~45 minutes before bed is a great option. If it’s a warm winter night - common in NC - I’ll turn the AC to 65-66

-I turn my Chili Pad (mattress cooler) on max cold (I don’t leave it on max cold all night - but it makes my sheets cool when I get into bed)

-I prepare any necessary things for the next day (coffee prepped, laptop browser open to first important task of the day & PM1 journal out, morning supplements laid out, warm clothes to put on since I wake up cold - if you’re going to the gym or work, for example, lay out your gym stuff, prep your lunch, etc.)

-I do my pre bed personal hygiene (if I’m running hot for whatever reason, I’ll take a warm shower - after a warm shower, your body temperature will drop, which is biologically necessary for optimal deep sleep)

-If I’m feeling more stimulated than usual, I’ll do ~5 minutes of stretching while focusing on deep breathing and relaxation - not intense mobility work or painful stretching 

-I hop into bed and complete my PM2 journal entry

-I either pet my dogs and chat with my wife (we’ve made an agreement to not chat about anything stressful in the evening - it’s usually abided by), or read

-Depending on the night/how tired I am, I may read for 5 minutes or 30 minutes. But regardless, I’m asleep somewhere between 8:00PM and 8:30PM

This may seem like a lot - and depending on what you currently do in your last hour before bed, it may be a drastic change. But it’s necessary if you want to optimize your sleep. Again, you do not have to go to bed at the same time as I do (but going to bed early is required if you're also planning to rise early), but it should include similar activities.

Now that I’ve experienced the profound benefits of this pre-bed routine, If I decide to skip it and watch a show till right before bed (which happens occasionally, I’m human), I’m knowingly self-inducing an subpar night of sleep, thus negatively affecting my recovery from today’s training/cognitive work, as well as my mood, physical and cognitive performance, and emotional state for tomorrow.

Is this really necessary?

If you’re someone who struggles with falling asleep, staying asleep, getting consistent sleep, or completing daily tasks that are affected by sleep (the vast majority of people do) it is necessary. Sacrifice is the name of the game if you want to get a leg up on the competition. If you want to be extraordinary, you can’t do what ordinary people do.

Luckily, once you begin experiencing the multitude of positive effects from a nightly routine, it becomes much easier to stick to. It’ll certainly take some discipline to develop this habit. You may miss a night here and there. You may even get off track for a few nights at first. You’ll likely experience feelings of FOMO, because you’re used to indulging in pleasurable activities in the evening.

But guess what? Being in SOF requires sacrifice, delayed gratification, discomfort, and constant feelings of FOMO. You can’t do what other people do and expect different results. Being exceptional, by definition, requires doing exceptional things. There’s no better time to start adjusting to these new facts of life than while preparing for selection. 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published