Early Birds, and All That

I have this genius plan, whereby I get up super early every morning this semester, do the requisite teeth-brushing and contact-lens-in-putting, and then plop myself down in front of the computer for at least one hour, and conceivably two, of working on my own writing — and nothing else — between the hours of 6 and 8. This is to be followed, many days, by running or some other exercise form, and then by getting ready and toddling off to the office.

It is, as I say, a genius plan. Except for the fact that, as of yet, I have been unable post-Hawaii to drag myself out of bed before 7. And the plopping down in front of the computer happens precariously close to 8. And what I accomplish at the computer at that time is mostly blog-oriented. And by the time I stop, there’s no time left to run.

But other than that, it’s going well.

So here’s the issue: I need to shift my internal clock such that getting up at 5.30 isn’t agony. The problem isn’t a natural aversion to that hour — I love few things more than being up before the rest of the folks around me, able to sit and collect my thoughts in the dark and quiet. The problem is that, at that hour, I’m sleeping incredibly well. And I put a high premium on good sleep, as it’s not that easy to come by, for me. And usually, as I’ve only gotten to sleep around 11.30, an extra hour of sleep is really appealing. So it’s much too easy to justify turning off the alarm and getting just a bit more rest.

How do I go about forcing the issue? Do I just need to do what it takes to make myself get up earlier, such that being tired from getting that bit less sleep will result in my going to bed/falling asleep earlier as well?

I’m determined to make this schedule work, and am a bit surprised by the level of will-power it’s requiring of me, at least to get started.

12 thoughts on “Early Birds, and All That

  1. Shifting can be successfully done in a graduated fashion. If wake up time is now 7 A.M and you want to get up say at 5:50 A.M. you could adjust your schedule by increments of 15 minutes every three days or so… by the end of amonth you will could be rising just before 6.

    O and hydration works wonders for shifting sleep schedules… a glass of water enlists the assistance of your bladder in springing from the bed.

  2. Yeah, I’m thinking that something on the order of what you’re suggesting is the way to go, Francois; a gradual shift seems more feasible than just forcing the issue.

    On the bladder thing, though: you’d be amazed at the numerous means that my unconscious has developed of incorporating a full bladder into my dreamscape, such that I stay asleep as long as possible…

  3. Ah, but Meg — you may be one of those blessed souls for whom there is no difference between “going to bed” and “going to sleep.” I can “go to bed” whenever I like, but my body is damn well not “going to sleep” before it’s ready. Ask R., alas, who has had to nurse me through many a night of being totally unable to fall asleep.

    The good news is that I invariably handle it with grace and aplomb.

    [I almost stuck a smiley-face here, but that didn’t seem quite right. Nor did a winky-face. Is there an emoticon that can be used to indicate the kind of irony characterized by the hope that one’s S.O doesn’t show up to blow one’s cover?]

  4. Re sleep: I *am* one of those blessed souls who can go to sleep. What I am is one of those cursed souls who wakes up at 3:15 every night for years and can’t go back to sleep for an hour and a half. So don’t be too quick with the envy.

    Re emoticons: What *I’ve* always wanted is an emoticon for rolling one’s eyes. Which must say an enormous amount about me. As for your needs, Usenet provides — there’s always ;-/

  5. I totally grant you that. I went through a weird wave of waking-up insomnia (as opposed to falling-asleep insomnia) during the year I was finishing my dissertation. It was extremely demoralizing and anxiety-exacerbating. But — perhaps it’s just narrow-minded prejudice on my part — but I’ll stand by my claims (not made yet, but here they come) that there’s a particular kind of agony experienced by the morning person with falling-asleep insomnia. I want nothing more than to go to bed early enough to wake up at zero-dark-thirty, because that’s when I know I’m most productive, but the inability to fall asleep makes it impossible to wake up and be productive. I don’t envy, but I do participate in a comparative economy of misery.

    An emoticon for eye-rolling, though. This is a good one. If Charlie Brown could roll his eyes, surely ASCII can…

  6. 5:30 is the magic time for me, too, but I haven’t managed that schedule since I broke my ankle in February. I am determined to resume for this semester, though, and the graduated re-setting always works best for me. I usually do 30 minute increments per day. It feels brutal during the process, but it gets me where I want to go.

    I do the waking-up-to-fret thing too during semesters (I’m a Ph.D. student). It started two nights ago this time. Exercise usually helps me — I should follow your lead and exercise in the morning!

  7. Woe unto us, the continually sleep-deprived crowd!! We have such problems…I’ve been whining about the same thing lately, and someone snapped me out of it by reminding me that we have the luxury of worrying about such things (I hate these people).

    My own feeling is that serious self ass-kicking is the only way to restart getting up early. It’s the drill seargeant-masochist in me speaking up here, but I really think that the only way to get back into early-morning-shape is to FORCE yourself to do it one day and let the rest fall into place. By 9 pm you’ll be dying to sleep, and you should let it happen. Turn off the phones (and computers) and drift away…

    Good luck!

  8. I applaud you for your tenacity! During the academic year I wake up early because I can’t sleep thinking about getting everything ready for classes. But during the summer I regress back into sleep mode. This morning I woke up at 10:15.

    I’ve been dreaming about doing my own work first thing in the morning when I have my best energy. Invariably, I get on the computer and see a dozen emails from students, and feel compelled to answer them all. This is stupid. I need to think about this more, and put me first at the beginning of the day.

    Keep us posted on how it works out!

  9. I couple of years ago I had to get up at 5:15 am, and I’m a very, very late night person. I usually don’t get sleepy until about 4:00 am, so getting up at 5:15 was a problem.

    I used melatonin.

    And fwiw, I’m considering doing something exactly like what you’re describing.

  10. It’s quite good to know that I’m not alone out there, both with the sleep issues and the general whining about them. The need to protect that morning time is becoming increasingly clear to me — especially, as you point out WitchyProf, given the daily onslaught of email. I was having this conversation with my dean the other day, who was asking — not challenging me; just asking — whether two hours devoted to writing at any time of day wouldn’t do the trick. I told him that my experience suggests that my brain need to be as empty as possible when I sit down to write, and that if I can move quickly from sleep to writing, I can maintain certain kinds of discipline: if all that I’ve allowed into my consciousness thus far is my project, it’s much easier to focus. As soon as the rest of the day starts crowding its way in — the news on the radio, the email in the inbox, the items on my calendar, the stuff on the web — it becomes almost impossible to force it all back out again…

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