Early Bird Gets the Worm

I’ve never been good at getting up early. My inner thoughts are way too easily persuaded by the warmth of my sheets. What is that? How do I so easily forget what’s it like to be up walking around and living? Or if not my forgetfulness, why is it that after a full night of sleep I can wake up, and then choose to continue to have incoherent dreams about nothing? The fact of the matter is that if I’m aware that I’m dreaming, I’m half up already anyway. I would suggest that between the hours of 6-7 AM is when I am most likely won over.

In the winter, I get it. The darkness and cold outside the bed sheets is just too big of an opportunity cost. But now its spring, and the sun is getting up early, and the warmth is adequate enough that when I do make it outside, I think to myself (like clock work everyday) “this isn’t so bad.”

In addition to considering that living “isn’t so bad” there are multitudes of other things that make getting up early an attractive option. For instance, it’s nice to not have to rush to get ready for work. That’s an obvious one. Further to this, I like how its quieter (I know this to be the case on the rare occasion that something forces me out of bed before I comfortably get up on my own.) There is just a stillness and a calmness in the air. In the summer it’s actually cooler – which makes a big difference to the alternative (waking up late, rushing to work and arriving sweaty and out of breath).

This guy knew what he was doing with his day light hours.

Then there’s the saying, (which I would offer stems from the inherent belief of the human race as some sayings have to originate somewhere) which dictates that those who get up early are more likely to succeed. I mean they tell me Ben Franklin got stuff done (he helped found a world hegemonic power or some such nonsense).
Well he’s dead and somehow he manages to make me feel inadequate, by pointing out that it’s the early riser who is “healthy, wealthy and wise.”… and also he invented electricity to get even more out of his day, and here I am wasting actual precious daylight.

You've got questions, he's got answers

And then of course the Dalai Lama has picked up on this early worm business, albeit he’s more existential and less bureaucratic than our friend Ben. He went out of his way to make the point that “Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

So now, not only am I a pushover to my REM cycle, it’s also more unlikely that I will reach my goals. Fantastic. Its 7:20 and I’ve got one dead ghost wagging his finger at me and another guy staring down his nose over his spectacles (with judgment) for not holding up my end of the “human race bargain” to achieve enlightenment. Boys, I just woke up! Give me a chance to rub the sleep out of my eyes!

So motivated by these thoughts, I Googled “How do I wake up earlier” (yes, on occasion I will turn to the new all-powerful and “all knowing” – hey I listen to ghosts and I am influenced by monks, do you actually think I would question the ability of Google?)

The result: there are MANY different forums and posts out there, with insight on how to ignore your inner snooze and greet the day. In fact, most would offer formula for waking up at an hour I would consider to be not day at all, but night. My favourite suggested that you have to teach yourself the habit of getting up early by donning your pyjamas, setting your alarm crawling into bed and then repeatedly “practicing” getting up when your alarm goes off.

Because I could never quite bring myself to do the whole “pavolovian” sleep drill, I did some further research…. well first I played this game to see if I was “sleep deprived.” Then I did some more research on how to make the most of my night, which it turns out was necessary because I only scored “Bobbing Bobcat” (you’ll have to check out the link to get what I mean.)

It turns out that a) cutting back on sleep beyond 7 hours a night is risking sleep deprivation and over time it actually does make me less likely to invent something like say, electricity. Also, to my dismay it turns out that you can’t catch up on sleep during the weekend. Basic sleep architecture tells us that we sleep in 90 minute cycles which jut through light sleep, deep sleep and REM patterns within this time frame. Because of this, waking yourself up during a deep sleep cycle can cause more grogginess than if you were to wake yourself up during a lighter sleep cycle….. The best practice would be to sleep in intervals of 90 minutes, i.e. going to bed at 10 PM warrants waking up at 5:30 and not 6 or 6:30.

And so I guess I answered my own question from the outset. I’ve always relished waking up an hour before the alarm and then knowing there’s more time to sleep.
I’ve swallowed a hard lesson today: if you wake up, don’t go back to sleep – whether you like it or not, its time to get the worm.

Ask me how I’m doing in a week…….


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