When I say I'm suffering from insomnia, it's more like insomnia has conquered my entire life for a while. To fight it, I tried melatonin, over-the-counter sleep aids, cough syrup, you name it. Nothing worked. I looked around at 5 in the morning and slept until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, sat down to work at 3 and worked until late in the evening. Rinse and repeat.
And I'm not alone with that.
Every year, 25 percent of Americans suffer from acute insomnia, according to a University of Pennsylvania study. Seventy-five percent of these individuals recover without chronic problems, characterized by at least three sleepless nights per week for at least three months. But of the 25 percent who suffer from "acute" insomnia, only 6 percent developed "chronic" insomnia.
At the beginning of this year, I was completely swallowed up by chronic insomnia. From February to July, my sleep patterns gradually deteriorated until I was exhausted, unable to concentrate, and exposed to wild mood swings. My work and my friendships have suffered. I was afraid that maybe I could never recover.
In one of my nocturnal YouTube fans, jumping from cat videos to TED talks and everything in between, I stumbled across a video: "Waking up at 5 in the morning is changing my life," made by the fun, insightful creator Jordan Taylor (known for his work on the Blimey Cow Canal). "One day I had just reached my breaking limit, I had enough, I could not do that one more day," says Taylor, who had not suffered from insomnia but was addicted to his cell phone – so much it started to be negative Private and professional life impact. "I started to lose my mind," he said. "Honestly, I started hating myself completely, and at that point, I realized that the habits I had absorbed over time had to stop altogether."
These words hit me hard. I had reached my own breaking point and it was time to make changes in my life. I had to hold myself accountable. Taylor was a good guide. I started checking my bad habits, including sticking to my phone, and started making conscious decisions to end them. And then Taylor announced that he had spotted a video by a Navy Seal named Jocko Willink in one of his own YouTube fans. "Why did not you wake up at 4:30?" Willink says in the video interview with Business Insider. "No one else is still awake, which gives me the opportunity to do things that I have to do."
I knew that I had to revise my sleep plan to reach eight hours, and set my alarm to be nimble at 5 o'clock that night. When the chorus of Hilary Duff's "All About You" rang in my eardrums that first morning, it was not that hard to get up. I sat up, stretched and yawned. "That's a lot easier than I thought," I whispered to myself. I turned off the alarm and rolled my feet out of bed first. It was as if my body and mind were already excited at the prospect of what a previous day might bring.
Dolly Parton would be proud. I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. I pulled my unicorn and rainbow mug out of the cupboard and walked to my porch. On the stairs I sat with relish the morning air. The birds were not quite awake yet, and I allowed myself to breathe in the landscape around me.
This first morning changed life. I did not wake up so early, so voluntarily and without much complaining, as I had accidentally signed up for a biology lesson at 8am in my freshman year. It was like a lightbulb in my head. Five o'clock just makes sense, and I began to wonder why it took me so long to make such a bold and drastic change.
As I sat down to prioritize my day, I noticed that I did not care about myself in a meaningful, long-term way. I had to look closely at the bad habits of not drinking enough water, not eating proper meals and ignoring the signals of my body.
Over the next six months, I learned to hold myself accountable. It was not an easy transition to following a tight but strict schedule, but it gave me more control over my life. I am able to leave every day and know that I have given everything. Not only do I survive day after day; I build a life that is worth living through healthy thinking.
Now I wake up mostly … happy. I feel livelier than I've been for a long time. As Shonda Rhimes writes in her 2014 memoir, Year of Yes : "Happiness arises when you need as you want to be your inner voice that tells you that Luck comes from being who you really are instead of what you think you should be. "
If you want to change something, you have to change it. I started a new life over six months ago and did not look back. This is how my schedule now looks like:
5 o'clock wake up . Still in front of the sun.
5-6 am Coffee and Meditation When the weather is warm, I can sit on my porch listening to the birds wake up. Even in cold weather, it's still a happy hour for caffeine and my thoughts for the day.
6-6: 50 Exercise. I start my practice routine with a few simple stretches, jumps and yoga poses, followed by a few dozen loops in the neighborhood.
6: 50-7: 30 Reading. For the longest time I sucked so hard on reading, and it was not what I wanted it to be. I never seemed to find the time to break up the books that collected dust on my shelf. But getting up very early made me dive into one of my favorite pastimes again. One book a week seemed a daunting task, but now I find it fairly easy to complete.
7.30am – 8.15pm Dress and have breakfast. I often cook scrambled egg tofu on a spinach bed along with a toast with raspberry jam and / or peanut butter. I feel like a warrior who wants to kill the day.
8:15 am – noon. Work and projects. Gastric and mental health in check, I can whip projects precisely. My focus is clearer and stronger, and what used to be a discouraging to-do list has become a game. And now I'm taking a water break between the projects.
Lunch-1 o'clock lunch. Ever since I started eating at predictable intervals, my body has never been happier. And if you do not feel busy with the next task, you get an extra sense of accomplishment.
1-5 p.m. Work and projects. Time is less stressful when you get up early. When 5 pm I am proud that no second of my day was wasted. I can finally breathe.
5-7 o'clock decompress, make dinner and cat time. After I had assured myself to log out of work immediately at 5 pm, I had more time for refresher and self-care in the evening. Here are my three cats Jake, Olivia and Fitz in the picture (also Orange is the new black ).
19.00 Please do not disturb. To relieve insomnia and stress from today, I put up a strict 19 o'clock. "Curfew." I either turn the phone off completely or put the rest of the evening on Do Not Disturb.
7-8: 30 o'clock. Tea time. Honey vanilla camomile tea is my jam. I also like to take time to meditate and listen to records just before going to bed.
Bed by 9pm
Look, waking up at 5am is not for everyone. Even if you swear to get up 15 or 20 minutes earlier than you usually do, you'll be shocked at what you can achieve, and you can start your day with a calm, determined resolve to live your best life. Try switching off a few hours before bedtime – I mean, completely, to release the body and mind from the tragedy of the world and what's happening online. Eliminate the confusion, remember that every day is a new beginning, and get ready to make someone better. You can.
Jason Scott is a writer who lives in West Virginia. He itched for creative freedom and founded his own music discovery site called B-Sides & Badlands, which specializes in long-term writing and cultural criticism. If you like kitty pictures and wake up, follow him on Twitter .