Free Running Sleep: The Best Way to Sleep?

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What is Free Running Sleep?

Don’t worry, contrary to what the name might make you think, we are not about to tell you to run until you pass out. Free running sleep is simply sleeping in the absence of control. That means no strict sleep schedules, sleep aids (caffeine, marijuana, alcohol, adaptogens), alarm clocks, etc. Begone!

At night, you feel yourself growing naturally tired in a darkening environment, and in the morning you awake at the tail end of a dream without the blaring alarm. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I know, I know. It may sound like a pipe dream, but it is possible! How? Why? Well, let’s explore what sleep actually is and why you should learn to sleep in this way.

The first half of your sleep cycle contains more slow-wave sleep (SWS) than REM (dreaming), while the second half has more REM than SWS. During SWS, you are taking short-term storage from the day and putting it into long-term storage. During REM, you’re assimilating the new information and making sense of it in the context of what you already know. Basically, you’re defragmenting the new information with the old.

sleep stages
Illustration from

Interrupting this process abruptly now and then isn’t a big deal, and it was certain to have happened randomly throughout the lives of our ancestors. But using an alarm clock to rip you out of a REM cycle every single day is not a healthy practice. This also leaves you slightly sleep-deprived every morning.

Not everyone will be able to sleep this way, I’m just asking that you try it. You might find yourself having an easier time in life. If you’re not used to it, a few days without using an alarm can have a noticeable impact on your energy levels throughout the day, so give it a shot!

Who Can Free Run Their Sleep?

Most healthy people can adopt some of the most important aspects of free running into their lifestyles. However, if you have a diagnosed sleeping disorder it may be wise to exercise caution with free running, and on the other hand, it may be the only true way for such people to get real, restful sleep.

With that in mind, if you’re able to create a work lifestyle free from structured start and wake times, you are living the dream. This will allow you to sleep and wake without alarm clocks or additional stress. Farming, freelancing, or financial independence are all routes to this heavenly sleep-friendly place.

How to Free Run Your Sleep

The idea here is to simply give your body the quality time it needs to self-regulate. Most of us live a modern 9-5 lifestyle, and in the real world, sleep is almost always at the mercy of life’s demands.

Let’s go over a few steps to make your sleep freer. And yes freer is a word, I looked up.

1. Schedule More Time for Sleep

If you work at 8 am, try allotting for 8 hours of sleep by 6 am, this way you have plenty of time to wake up naturally. Stressing over the thought of oversleeping before you go to bed is a pretty obvious foul here, so you need to avoid that. In this case, you’d want to go to bed at around 9 pm.

Find yourself waking up at 5:30 am every morning? Congrats, now you know your body naturally strives for about 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep. And you could transition your new bedtime to 9:30 pm if you’d like to wake up a bit later. Play with this idea.

2. Slowly Transition Your Schedule

In regard to the above scenario, if you currently lay down for bed so late that you need an alarm clock to wake up, slowly step it back, going to bed 10-20 minutes earlier every few days may work well. Moving too fast can create complications like insomnia. Use blue blockers to help shift your phase.

3. Try to Go to Bed When You’re Actually Tired

Create a calm-down routine at night that works for you, and hit the hay once you’ve grown too tired to keep doing whatever it is that you were doing. When the thought of doing anything but laying down and shutting your eyes becomes a chore, go to bed. If you don’t think you’ll fall asleep within 10-20 minutes, you’re probably not ready to sleep, keep reading or stop if it’s too exciting, and wait to be tired. It should feel as though once you close your eyes, opening them back up again is uncomfortable.

These are all good signs that your body is ready for sleep. Don’t stress about it, just know that this is what it’s like to feel sufficiently tired.

4. Pay Attention to Day Time Sleepiness

Adopting a new sleep routine can be confusing to the senses at first, so try to pay attention to how you feel throughout the day.

Just listen to your body, you’ll probably need around 8 hours of sleep, give or take. And keep in mind that certain things like sickness or busy days will likely increase your need for good quality sleep!

5. No Alarm Clocks Allowed!

Now the alarm clock thing… don’t worry! You’ll wake up without it! I promise. Try starting this on a Friday night/Saturday morning. When you wake up, if your room is very dark, and it’s unclear as to the time, put on your blue blockers and check your phone. 3 hours before your normal bedtime? Go back to bed. Did you go a half-hour over? No biggie.

6. Checking the Time

Instead of slapping on your blue blockers to check your phone, or worrying about a bright screen jarring you out of your slumber, consider buying a red LED battery-powered alarm clock, these can be set to a low dim level and placed face down at night.

Once you wake up, simply flip it over, check the time, and choose to either close your eyes again or wake up. This is a lifesaver, honestly.

7. You May Be Sleep-Deprived

You may find that you sleep longer without an alarm clock, if this happens, it will likely stop soon after. This is an indication of sleep deprivation of some kind prior to free-running and will likely resolve itself.

8. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

It should be noted that you should be falling asleep and waking up at around the same time every day. Constantly staying up far past your usual bedtime is called “social jet lag” and will negatively impact your sleep quality. Every once in a while, it’s okay to stay up a bit later than usual, but I wouldn’t make it a habit if you take your health seriously.

So that’s all there is to it! Is an alarm-free lifestyle something you’ve ever thought of implementing? How did it affect your day?

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