I Stopped Setting My Alarm And It Changed How I Think About Sleep

Here's what happened.

better sleep


When I was a teenager, a recurring fight I had with my parents was about getting up in the morning—or rather, not getting up. They’d knock on my door at a certain time, convinced I had slept through my alarm and was going to be late for school. I’d yell back, telling them I knew what time it was and I still had 10 or 15 minutes to sleep in. They’d yell that I was wrong. And so it went, again and again. My parents still joke today about how I’m not a morning person. In the traditional sense, I’m probably not really a morning person, but the truth is that I do actually enjoy mornings when I feel in control of them. If I choose to wake up at 5 a.m. and write or exercise, I feel on top of the world—exactly like that bouncy, wide-awake morning person stereotype. But if someone else is forcing me to get up, or I had to wake up long before I’ve gotten a certain amount of sleep, well, then I’m not so much a morning person at all. 

When I quit my job and went freelance six months ago, one of the most exciting parts was the idea of working from home and building my own schedule. Part of me was convinced everyone else would see just how much of a morning person I was deep down. I told myself I'd wake up every morning around 6 a.m. and have time for exercise, relaxation, and breakfast before starting my work. I’d be a totally unstoppable, incredibly productive version my myself. When I finally did start working from home, though, and I found myself hitting snooze again and again and again. And I felt guilty—even lazy. Isn’t this what working for yourself is all about, I thought? But then I thought about how quitting, moving to a different state, and suddenly working from home was a lot more to process than I realized. I thought about how I was up late most nights working, unpacking, or both. And then I cut myself a little slack. Instead of feeling guilty about hitting snooze a dozen times every morning, I stopped setting my alarm altogether.

At first, I worried I'd start sleeping until noon like when I was in high school and college. But almost as soon as I stopped using the alarm, I was amazed at how easy it was to get out of bed in the morning. I never felt deprived of sleep or anxious about getting my day started. I found I was falling asleep between 11 p.m. and midnight and waking up naturally between 7 and 8 a.m. Now, for the first time, I feel in control of all of my mornings and my sleep. No, I don’t get up before the sun rises now as was my plan when I first went freelance, but I do genuinely love mornings. 

For the first time I am letting my body tell me when to go to sleep and when to wake up, rather than the other way around. I recognize that this, like so many things, is a privilege that comes from being able to work for yourself (which is also a privilege in and of itself), but it’s one I think people ignore in an effort to keep up with hustle culture. I spent so long believing less sleep means more work, and more work means more success, that I thought it was normal to dread getting up every morning (or to feel like there was never enough sleep to be had). I still set my alarm now when I absolutely need to (early flights, important meetings, etc.), but for the majority of the time I just trust myself. I trust my body to know how much rest I need, and I trust myself to know that sleeping, resting, and taking a second for your body and mind to just relax only leads to more success—not less.

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