Regardless of whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, you’ll likely have to wake up earlier than you’re used to if you decide to go into the medical field. So, how do you make this as painless as possible? What it ultimately all comes down to is “sleep hygiene”. What is sleep hygieneIt’s essentially your behaviors and patterns leading up to sleep. With good sleep hygiene you can fall asleep faster and maintain high quality sleep. I’m not going to give you a detailed breakdown of every aspect of sleep hygiene. You can find detailed guides elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to share with you what I found were the key factors are to being able to wake up early day after day… and not be miserable.
Consistency with Bedtime and Wake Time
I found that this was the most important factor in making this an easy process. First, determine what time you have to wake up in order to get to work on time. Then subtract the number of hours of sleep you’ll need. Ideally, we should be getting anywhere from seven to eight hours each night but let’s be honest, that can be a challenge during certain rotations. I personally was able to survive happily on six hours per night but figure out what works best for you. Once you’ve determined your bedtime and wake-up time, stick to that for every day that you’re going in, which usually means six days per week. Even if somebody’s you can go in an hour later, stick to your original schedule and use that extra time in the morning to get work done. This will make the entire chore of waking up early that much more bearable. I used to get to the hospital early and just pump out some ANKI cards or get started on my reading for the day. More on this later. Now, technically you should be doing this on weekends as well for optimal results, but you probably have some sort of semblance of a life you’re trying to live and sleeping at 9:30 p.m. And working about 3:30 a.m. is probably not how you want to spend your Fridays and Saturdays. That’s totally okay, just stick to it during the week. Along with having a consistent bedtime and wake-up time.
Pre Bedtime Routine
having a pre bedtime routine will help train your body to wind down and get ready for sleep. For me, a warm shower followed by ten minutes of meditation worked wonders. My mind used to race at night and I know that’s a common problem for a lot of you. Meditation and writing down any lingering thoughts or ideas essentially cured me of this problem. Limiting screen use before bedtime is a huge one. My own personal rule was no screen time thirty minutes before bed unless it was to set an alarm for the morning. You would be surprised how big of a difference this little change makes. The backlight on TVs, phones, computers and other screens tells your brain that it’s bright outside and messes with your circadian rhythm. Limiting the use of these items in the 30 to 60 minutes leading up to your bedtime wIll both help you fall asleep faster and increase the quality of your sleep. In short, it makes you feel a lot better when you wake up. I also like to use apps that transition the screens to warmer temperatures at night. This decreases the negative influence that backlit devices have on your sleep cycle. So, flux is what I use on my computer. It’s free, runs in the background and takes essentially no resources. Every evening around sunset, it transitions to a warmer color temperature, meaning that the screen looks slightly yellow. As it gets lighter, it adjusts the temperature accordingly. For your mobile device, night shift on your iPhone or iPad allows you to do the same thing and is built into iOS 10.
Find an alarm system that works for you.
I use my smart phone as my alarm, as I’m sure most of you do as well. A few of my favorite alarm clock apps that I’ve used include Spin Cycle, which forces you to get up and spin in circles to turn off the alarm. Sleep Cycle alarm clock, it estimates your sleep stage and tries to wake you up during lighter stages of sleep and there’s many other apps for your phone that either force you to do a math problem or perform some other tasks to help you wake up and not go on a snooze a phone. Wakeup Lights I also found extremely helpful. They essentially mimic sunrise to help tell your body it’s time to get up. You can either use a Wakeup Light, I’ll put a link in the description below or another smart lighting system. I personally used the Philips Hue Lights, link in the description below, which I thought were amazing. This is actually a smart lightbulb system that you can plug into regular light bulb sockets. So with the regular wakeup light, it’s basically a dedicated alarm clock that uses light to wake you up but the reason I love the hue lights is that I could program them to do exactly that in the morning but then also have all the additional fun and useful features of having smart lights in my home. So, another quick word on lighting; when you’re sleeping, the room should be pitch-black. Invest in blackout curtains if streetlight or daylight depending on your sleep schedule is creeping into your bedroom, you’ll sleep durn much better.
Keep in Mind
avoid naps if possible or keep them short like 15 or 20 minutes tops.Taking naps during the day decreases the sleep debt that is so necessary for natural sleep onset. Obviously, avoid stimulants by late afternoon and evening. Caffeine late in the day will likely be more trouble than it is worth. Cooler temperatures are more conducive to sleep. So, a little bit cooler is better than a little bit warmer when it comes to bedtime. Don’t sleep with the TV on, this is terrible for your sleep quality. But other background white noise like a fan is fine and can actually help you drown out other distracting sounds. Your bed is for sleep only. That means no working, no reading and definitely no TV while you are in bed. Otherwise, you will subconsciously associate your bed with wakefulness.
some unexpected benefits that I noticed
I never considered myself a morning person, but by following the above, I’ve slowly become one. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out; so, no matter what, waking up at 3:30 a.m. For your surgery rotation is painful no matter how you cut it. But you’ll learn you can get so much done in a day by waking up early. My productivity skyrocketed as I was fresh and had the energy to tackle my to-do list early in the morning. I could go through more Anki cards or get more reading done in the same amount of time. This also translated to me having less stress and pressure to get things done after I came back from the hospital since so much was already done earlier in the day. There’s a reason that countless prominent and successful figures highlight the importance of waking up early. Try it out for a couple of weeks yourself and see how it makes you feel.
So, one last thing: I also found it helpful to set my alarm clock on the other end of the room to make sure I had to get up and couldn’t just lie in bed constantly snoozing but and I know this sounds really cheesy, hopefully you decide on the specialty that actually makes you excited to go in every morning. I was fortunate enough to land on a specialty that cured me of my snooze-a-thons because I was genuinely excited for the cases that day. If you haven’t found that specialty yet, keep on looking. It is one of the most important decisions you’ll be making since you’re gonna be doing it day in and day out for the rest of your career.