Featured Image: Winter Sunrise, by Heather Lee (Creative Commons License)
After my post on routines, a few people asked me how I managed to go from sleeping 14 hours a day to watching the sun rise every morning. The short answer is time, obstacle removal, and orky help. The long answer is below.
My parents say I was a happy baby, always up with the sun and smiling at them from my bed. By the time I hit elementary school, 7:30 a.m. felt like the middle of the night and I wasn’t smiling at anybody in the morning. That phase lasted until I was, oh… 41.
So, when I made the decision to stop wasting half or more of every morning, I knew it wasn’t going to be an overnight change. Over several months I set a series of alarms and started training my brain to wake up earlier. For example:
- Week 1: Set alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual. Laugh at it and get up at usual time.
- Week 2: Set alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual. Actually think about getting up.
- Week 3: Set alarm for 15 minutes earlier than usual. OMG, I got up! New usual time!
- Week 4: Set alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual. Laugh at it and get up at usual time.
You get the picture. Eventually, 6:00 a.m. became the usual time.
While this was going on I thought hard about why I tended to sleep so much. Those reasons were obstacles to happy productive mornings, and I got to work on removing them.
My narcoleptic feline behavior probably had a lot of sources, but the main ones were staying up too late, viewing sleep as a hobby, and ignoring health problems.
When I commuted to a corporate office we often stayed up entirely too late every night trying to capitalize on the free time we had in the evenings. This habit led to a lot of crappy mornings and a general sense of bleh, like I was missing out on something good. After I started working from home, the free time didn’t feel so constrained (because chores can be worked into braining) and it was easier to decide on going to bed early. Since we started going to bed at the same time every night, I’ve been happier, sleep better, and wake up easier.
Viewing sleep as a leisure activity was a difficult mental hurdle. I’ve been that way since childhood because I spend so much time in my own head. Sleep is fun! It feels nice, you don’t have to think, and nobody is bugging you. I suspect being a massive introvert has a lot to do with this obstacle. Removing it meant retraining my brain to see sleep for what it is: pleasant and necessary, not a pursuit. I’m still working on this and getting better every day.
My ignoring health problems stopped dead in 2011, but was such a huge problem before it’s worth mentioning here. I knew I felt like a tired sack of crap all the time and loathed getting out of bed, but I refused to address why until my doctor slapped me into reality. Most of my problem was caused by weight and related illnesses, so I immediately started doing what I was told. Brian helped me balance our diet, and after we had that down we started exercising. Now that my health is better, I sleep 100% better and am able to wake up when I want.
Unless you live with us, you won’t get orky help. He’s mine. MINE! But you’re free to enlist other sorts of help, like parental or spousal or roommate-al. Brian helps me by getting up first and turning the light on, talking to me, and making my first cup of coffee. He reminds me of what I’m looking forward to for the day, which gets my brain firing on more than one cylinder.
The Next Step
Now that I’ve learned to wake up, I’m starting to work on actually getting up. Laugh if you want, but this is the truth: I don’t like to get out of bed because it is warm. I’m all moasty-toasty in my blanket burrito and have zero interest in enduring the blast of cold air that awaits in the morning. Bed time is the only time I’m not freezing. When I figure out how to regulate my cracked internal thermostat, I’ll let you know.
Getting up early can be a difficult change to make, regardless of your reasons for wanting to sleep more. Just think of all the pretty sunrises and unhurried cups of coffee! Think of all the stuff you’ll get done and the stressors you’ll reduce! Everyone has different obstacles (family needs, weird schedules, etc.), but I believe overcoming them is very much worth the effort.
By the way, I did wake up early this morning and get on the bike. Progress rocks.