I have always been a night owl. I would stay up late, often getting my “second wind” around midnight, and then sleep in as late as possible in the morning (afternoon, when a teenager).
I remember when I would spend a week or two with my cousin Liz in the summertime, she would awaken by 8 am and patiently wait for me until I rolled out of bed a few hours later. I just couldn’t understand why someone would get up so early when they didn’t have to!
Why I’m Not A Doctor
In college, I designed my class schedule such that no class began before 9 am. Who knows … my major might have been affected by class schedule rather than subject matter!
When I began my career with General Motors after graduating from college, my new job required me to be in the office by 7:15 am!! It’s a good thing they didn’t tell me, when they offered me the job, that I would have to wake up by 5 am in the morning, or my career path might have taken a different turn. Contrary to what studies tell us, I felt like sleeping in on the weekends was my best way to counteract those early morning weekday demands.
Lies, Lies and More Lies
Things I would tell myself and others:
- I’m a night owl and can’t get to sleep earlier than 11 pm
- I can’t read first thing in the morning, because I’ll just fall asleep
- I can’t exercise first thing in the am – I have no energy at that hour
- My brain is foggy in the morning; my most productive hours are late in the day/evening
Tools Are Important
Every time the thought occurred to me that I might try an earlier morning routine, I struggled with HOW to get up earlier. My snooze alarm habit was strong; I would always set my alarm earlier than I actually needed to awaken, since I LOVED hitting the snooze and going back to sleep. It just felt like I was getting away with something, and snuggling back into my pillow felt SO GOOD! Sometimes when I would set my alarm earlier than usual, the result was just MORE snoozes … and I would just get up at the same later time, more tired than before. I toyed with the idea of a different type of alarm clock… maybe one with the a continuously brighter light that simulates the sun rising? Or maybe the kind that is on wheels that evades your reach and causes you to get up and chase it across the room? I think it would just make me wake up angry!
Now you may be wondering how did my husband Dave cope with my snooze alarm habit? Not well. I needed to break that habit. I also, needed to find time in my schedule to exercise (that’s a whole other story for another time), and if I planned to do it later in the day/evening, there was always a reason (excuse) to put it off, so I needed to give mornings a try.
Dave had been using the Sleep Cycle app on his iPhone for years, so I decided to give it a try. You set the alarm for what time you need to get up, and it assesses your movement to determine the optimum wake-up time within a 20-30 minute window; the idea is that, if you are already stirring and restless, it may as well get you up earlier … if you’re deep in sleep, it’ll let you sleep a little longer. I hoped for the latter. What I did not realize (and what actually became the key to success) is that this app is not designed to indulge “snoozing.” In fact, the snooze is sometimes less than a minute! It is persistent and relentless! AND, if you turn it off and then try to reset an alarm for that “just a little bit more” nap, it basically says, “nope, just get up.” The Sleep Cycle app makes anything less than just popping out of bed too much trouble.
Getting the Worm
Since beginning this new routine of getting up earlier to work out in the morning (eight months now), I have learned that I CAN get up in the morning. I have also learned that…
- I can go to bed earlier than 11 pm
- Once I get up, I can be AWAKE and have energy
- Once I accepted that this would be my routine, I actually ENJOYED being awake early in the morning. All those things people told me about wonderful quiet, uninterrupted time were true.
Some other things I did to make it easier to get up early and exercise included:
- laying out my workout clothes the night before
- laying out my work clothes the night before, as well
- setting out my water bottle and headphones for my workout
- selecting some podcasts ahead of time that I look forward to listening to
How I’ve Progressed
Now that I have developed this new morning routine, I find that I am so determined not to break my winning streak. Yes, there are days that I am tempted to just turn off the alarm and go back to bed, but if I “grease the skids” enough by setting myself up for success, I can just mindlessly follow the new habits. Habit Stacking is a key strategy. For example, I have always wanted to incorporate a habit of reading my Bible on a daily basis. Since I listen to podcasts while working out, I have begun “listening” my way through the Bible via a reading plan that sections out daily passages. I make that the first thing I listen to before any other podcast. I also add a hydrating mix to the water I drink while on the treadmill, to nurture my body. At night, when I lay out my clothes and my water, I make sure my headphones are charged. I know by now that all it would take is for one thing to make my morning difficult before I begin to think that it’s too hard to sustain.
Eight Hours of Sleep per Night?
I always assumed that I needed eight hours of sleep every night, and that if I did not get my eight hours in, I would be tired and not as able to concentrate during the day. I have learned now that my body may not require eight hours of sleep, but seven seems like the optimal amount for me. Everyone is different, and I am experimenting to see where my sweet spot is.
I have spoken with expert Craig Kulyk, and he shares 127 morning rituals on his website. He tells me that he has reduced the time he sleeps to about 4-5 hours / night. I will not reduce it that much!
I am also gradually working in more productivity during my mornings, even if it means getting up even earlier. For example, I would often find that I had things I needed to accomplish when I got home from work, but would be resentful that I could not relax and enjoy my evening. I have realized that, not only am I less sharp after a full day at work, but I can change things up by addressing some of these tasks in the morning before heading out to work. I actually AM sharp in the morning!
One of the podcasts I listen to is by Brendon Burchard called The Brendon Show, and one of his episodes is entitled Three Worst Morning Routines. You may find this helpful. In fact, I am very interested to hear your perspective on your morning routine! Please comment. 🙂