I have always wanted to be a morning person, but unfortunately, I love to sleep. A lot. I've spent so much time thinking about how to wake up earlier so that I can be that person who is productive before 8 a.m., but I've never actually been that person. So this year, when it came time to make New Year's resolutions, I resolved to start waking up an hour earlier every day. To motivate myself further, I decided to spend my first week writing about the experience, hoping that holding myself accountable would keep me from mumbling, "Forget this" when my alarm went off, rolling over, and going back to sleep (which honestly is what usually happens).
Maybe you're wondering why I would sacrifice an hour of sleep in order to be a morning person. Valid question! Sleep is wonderful and mornings are hard. Who wants to wake up earlier than they have to? My ultimate goal here isn't to lose sleep — it's to make my mornings less hectic. I am the person who hits the snooze button a minimum of three times before actually responding to my alarm. I am the person who gets dressed like a zombie, until she suddenly realizes she only has 10 minutes left before she misses her train, and then runs around her house like a crazy person trying to get everything done, only to inevitably forget something.
I'm sick of literally running to make the train, huffing and puffing as I sit down. I'm tired of feeling stressed every single morning. I live on Long Island and commute into Manhattan four days a week via the LIRR — my commute is stressful enough as it is. I want to have a morning that is more relaxing, productive, and helpful.
Now, I know the correct way to change a sleeping schedule is to do it gradually. The best way to make waking up earlier feel more natural is to do it slowly — start by waking up five minutes earlier one day, 10 minutes the next, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, the week before this experiment, I got sick with a relentless sinus infection, and couldn't force myself to get up any earlier than I had to. I didn't want to put this off for one more week, so I just dove right in.
So, it was decided: I would force myself to wake up an hour earlier than I normally do for a week. I started on a Monday, because as any working person knows, this feels like the real first day of the week (as opposed to Sunday). On the weekdays when I have to go into my office (four days a week), I wake up any time between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m. This week, I would be waking up at 5:45. Yes, 5:45 a.m.
How did it go? Let's discuss.
Day One: Monday
My timing could not have been worse for this challenge — not only was I just feeling better, but I also started the morning after the Golden Globes. I was up until a little after midnight that Sunday night (I had to watch it for my job), so I didn't get the rest I had wanted to get in preparation for the morning. Alas, my alarm went off anyway, promptly at 5:30. I do this little thing to try to combat my snooze button habit: I set my first alarm earlier than I need to wake up to let myself hit snooze once. To be honest, it isn't very effective. This morning was no different. I hit snooze, and then my real alarm went off at 5:45... and I hit snooze again. So, that first morning, I didn't get out of bed until 6:05. A 20 minute fail.
Before I got out of bed, I laid there in the darkness under my covers, feeling like Kim Kardashian:
I finally dragged myself out of bed at 6:07 a.m. to take a shower. I normally take my showers before bed to give myself as much sleeping time as possible for the morning, but I thought the water might help wake me up. It did, and knowing I had extra time, I didn't have to rush as much, which was nice. I got out of the shower at the time I normally go into it. Success!
Or not. Knowing I had extra time seemed to be a bad thing. I lazily looked for an outfit, I lazily did my hair, I lazily put on my makeup... until I realized I had 10 minutes to make the train, and wasn't ready. So, right back to my old routine. This first day was turning out to be kind of a fail.
The only good news was that I didn't feel markedly different throughout the day. I thought I would be more exhausted, but I wasn't. My train nap during my hour commute certainly helped, as did my morning coffee and 3 p.m. pick-me-up caffeinated tea. Not bad!
Day Two: Tuesday
This time, I forced myself to wake up when my second alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. Once again, I laid under the covers without moving for a few minutes, staring at the ceiling, wondering if this would be easier if it weren't pitch black or freezing outside (probably). I had showered the night before, so eliminating that step gave me an entire extra hour to do things. The possibilities were endless! I could work out. I would get a little work done. I could make breakfast. Did I do any of those things? Nah, I cuddled with my cat.
Once I stopped feeling like a zombie, I decided to try to do something productive. I finally opened a teeth whitening kit that had been sitting in my bedroom for months, and I used it. I had wanted to do yoga, but the cat cuddle time took more time than I thought it would. I had also wanted to try to make breakfast, but I found that I had no appetite that early. Instead I decided to settle for putting on my favorite eye masks so that I wouldn't look as exhausted as I felt:
With whiter teeth and less puffy eyes, I lazily looked for an outfit. Again, my extra time backfired. I was so slow that I once again ended up rushing around like a maniac to my train. Less like a maniac than before, granted, but a maniac nonetheless. This wasn't working out the way I wanted it to. Clearly, something needed to change.
Day Three: Wednesday
I was worried about this third morning being tough, because I felt more tired than usual Tuesday night, but it was surprisingly fine. I actually woke up when my alarm went off at 5:45! Instead of being lazy with my cat and social media, I decided to do something productive with my morning: a little yoga session. I found a great yoga video on YouTube, and set out my mat.
I then had an uninterrupted 30 minute yoga "class," which felt amazing. This time last year, I was waking up earlier than normal to do similar yoga videos. It felt great, but I eventually stopped doing it when a few weeks were particularly busy for me. This session reminded me of how awesome morning yoga is. My session woke me up, gave me energy, and just generally made me feel more relaxed and less stressed. It was the first morning I wasn't running around trying to make my train, which was really quite nice.
I will say, though, that I started feeling the exhaustion of this experiment later on. It was the first night in a very, very long time that I fell asleep at 11 p.m. I feel like I missed out on a whole hour of Instagram stalking and Tumblr browsing. Can't say I'm a big fan.
Day Four: Thursday
Considering the fact that I was four days in, I was kind of hoping that my body was already adjusting to this new sleep schedule and that I would effortlessly wake up at 5:45 a.m. As I'm sure you can imagine, this did not happen. Although I did manage to get out of bed five minutes after my alarm went off, I felt groggy and exhausted for a good 20 minutes — so, just as tired as I felt the first day. But I'll admit that, by the end of the morning, the exhaustion had paid off. Even though I had to leave for work 10 minutes earlier than usual, I was able to do a 40 minute yoga session, shower, get dressed, do my makeup, and make my train without running for it.
Today was the day I finally really felt the impact of my new sleep schedule. By 2:30 p.m., my eyelids were heavy, and it was taking all I had not to fall asleep in front of my computer. Even a caffeinated green tea didn't pick me up. I felt pretty tired most of the afternoon, and by 7:30 p.m., I was seriously considering starting a new, much earlier bedtime. But I stayed awake until after 11, mainly because I can't stop watching The Affair, even though, oh my god, Noah and Alison are quite possibly the worst fictional characters in existence. What did I learn from today? I love having the time to do a relaxing yoga session in the morning that doesn't leave me rushing for the train, but I do not love feeling tired and run-down all day long. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
Day Five: Friday
I was still hoping that I would magically wake up on Friday feeling refreshed and wide awake. On Fridays I work from home, and normally wake up at 7:30, so I woke up at 6:30 this morning instead of 5:45. Maybe it was because I had a long, cranky week, or maybe it was because I stayed up until midnight the night before, but waking up was hard, y'all. If my boyfriend wasn't getting ready for work, I think I would have fallen back asleep — no, I know I would have. I forced myself to stay awake, and then did an intense yoga session that left me even more exhausted. And then, obviously, cuddled with my cat, which is now a daily activity for me.
The nice thing about being up earlier was that even after my yoga sesh, I had time to make myself a pot of coffee and breakfast before I had to get to work — and I still started work an hour earlier than I was supposed to. It was awesome to be ahead of things, but by 3 p.m. I was so exhausted that I honestly don't know how I made it through the rest of the day without taking a nap. After a sleepy dinner with a friend, I was in bed by 11 p.m. ready to fall asleep — not my favorite way to spend a Friday night.
Day Six: Saturday
As much as I did not want to attempt to wake up early on the weekend, I felt like I had to. Why? For one thing, it's easier to establish an earlier morning routine when you keep up with it every single day, not just working days. For another thing, my initial goal was to wake up an hour earlier for a week, not five days, so I just felt like I had an obligation to do it. Being moral is exhausting. Literally.
Surprise, surprise — waking up at 6:30 on a cold Saturday morning was laughable. I barely remember groggily turning my alarm off and falling back asleep. I woke up at 8:30 feeling slightly more rested, but also disappointed in myself, and although I wanted to fall back asleep, I forced myself to get up. So, I guess I kind of woke up earlier than normal?
As it turns out, waking up early on the weekends is kind of nice. I wasn't rushing to get ready to go anywhere, and I was surprised to see it was still relatively early even when I was done with my coffee and breakfast. I got some things done, but by 3:30 p.m., I needed a nap — and so I took one.
Day Seven: Sunday
My last day! Strangely, it was easier to wake up around 8 a.m. this Sunday morning. By 11 a.m., I felt like I had been up for hours. I got some errands done, but by 4 p.m., I was once again so tired that I had no choice but to take another nap — something I had to remember is a luxury I can't afford on work days.
So, am I going to continue waking up an hour earlier every day? Honestly, I'm going to try. As much as I hated feeling exhausted throughout the day and falling asleep earlier at night, I also really enjoyed and appreciated the extra time I had in the morning. I loved being able to do yoga without stressing over the time. I really liked waking up and having time to myself before the work day. I also feel like a week isn't enough time for my body to adjust to the difference. Maybe after a few weeks, I won't feel as tired all the time.
The interesting thing I found was this: I need to work on my time management skills. Even waking up a full hour earlier than normal didn't always ensure that I wasn't rushing to leave my house on time. I assumed that making my mornings less stressful only required me to be awake for longer, but that's clearly not true. It doesn't matter how early you get up, if you don't know how to manage your time, you'll still be running late. Well, that's true for me at least. As someone who never enjoys confronting her organizational issues, this was kind of a slap in the face, to be honest.
Will I be up at 5:45 every morning this coming week? I may make it 6 a.m. The extra 15 minutes doesn't seem like a lot, but it is, and it also still gives me time to do yoga and relax a bit before walking out the door. In the end, even though I kind of hated this experiment, I also liked it. Watch out for a zombie version of myself until my body adjusts to getting up earlier, though. Should be fun for everyone!
Images: Jessica Booth