In case you didn't read my entry on becoming an "early riser" (i.e. someone that gets up every day at the same (early) hour), I started a 30 day experiment to see what would happen to me both physically and mentally if I did. These are the conclusions.
Let me start by giving some background: I've always been one of those people that said they require - at least - 9 hours of sleep every night. The reason for this, for me, was that I always felt sleepy during my work days, so another purpose of the experiment was to try to refute this myth of mine.
During the 30 days there was only one when I broke the "always get up at the same time without hitting the snooze button" rule. And it was a Saturday, so don't hold it against me :). Just kidding. The reason why I did it was to demonstrate to myself how hard it is to give up on the infamous snooze button in the morning. I know it happens to everyone: "just 5 more minutes". And then you just do the same 5 minutes later. Let me tell you: It's bad!!! It's evil!!! It will help crush your motivation for pretty much everything else.
But I digress, let's go back. During the experiment the minimum amount of hours I slept in any given night was 5. It did, however, happen in one of the first nights so I will ignore it and assume the next value as the minimum: 6 hours and 30 minutes. The longest I slept was 9.30 (also in the first days, probably to recover from the previous 5). My average sleep time, all nights considered, was 7:35.
There are a couple of interesting small conclusions that I can take from a look at the complete sleep data:
As you move along in the experiment, you body starts to regulate itself: Since you basically control your waking up time, your body will start asking to sleep when it's actually really tired. This makes, in my opinion, a better way of regulating your sleep pattern (1). As a side effect, it seems that you will indeed start to get low sleeping time deviations. I.e., there are no "freak" sleep occurrences, like sleeping 20 hours, or 2 hours (2);
My actual sleep needs are actually less than what I had expected. And physically I don't feel any more tired than before. If anything, I feel more awake and energized.
Data apart, I am sure that you will:
Feel more energized every morning after waking up instantly;
Usually wake up 1-2 minutes before the alarm clock triggers;
Experience a greater motivation, especially to work on personal stuff (pet projects, for instance);
Have a lot more time on your hands. Your weekends will feel like an entire week, with everything you can accomplish instead of being asleep for 4 more hours like I used to;
I also read in the post that motivated this that, generally, your mind would slowly start to give you a broader picture on your problems, instead of focusing so much on the details. I cannot say I have experienced this shift, but I do agree that a little more motivation goes a long way to make you think harder about the problems and their solutions, and that might have been what Steve referred to when he wrote that.
I hope you found the article interesting and I would definitely like to hear about your experiences on the subject :)
(1) If you think about it the other way around you can understand it better. Imagine that you always go to bed at the same time. The problem with this is that you usually have a schedule of some sort to keep. Which forces you do one of two things: Either you don't sleep enough or you go to bed when you still are not sleepy enough (and basically stay in bed wasting time). This approach makes it much harder for your body to regulate the sleep pattern. On the other hand, if you always wake up at the same time, you will never have problems with being on time for your appointments and you still make sure that you sleep enough (and only the required amount) because your body will be the one to tell you when it needs to sleep.
(2) Provided, of course, you don't stay up getting hammered with friends at the local bar. But fear not, your body will ask to recover the next night, by making you sleep a lot earlier. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should never break the getting up rule.