Half my life is the journey from dead-sleeper to insomniac-killer to late-night-junkie to early-morning-amateur. I hide that life in the closet, but let’s peak inside.
We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping. The hour or two before you go to bed and the hour after you wake-up are mostly your routines. Almost half the day and our life is night-routine, sleep, wake-up routine. Overnight seems like the inconsequential half of your day, but I believe it’s the most critical. Mastering the night creates your potential for the day. I didn’t always see it that way. This is the story of how I realized the importance of the night.
As a kid I slept like a hibernating bear each night. Noise didn’t matter. I could sleep through thunderstorms, cranked up TVs, and everything in between except…my parents. As a teenager, they woke me up at 5 am every morning. I didn’t want to wake up until the afternoon. My Dad shook the house with his booming voice, “Ann, did you forget the coffee AGAIN?” Bam! The foundation of the house shifts just a little and I’m wide awake.
If you ever visit my current house in the winter and wonder “Why does anyone need a fan in their bedroom when it’s freezing outside?”, remember my parents. A fan is the cheapest, most effective white noise to drown out your parents on the mean streets of Upper Darby.
Fast forward to my 20s and I can’t sleep. Maybe I am sleeping, but I can’t tell. Month after torturous month passes. Reality becomes harder to distinguish from sleep.
I drive the car on the PA Turnpike to work one day and “…whoa!” My heads snaps back.
Alone in the car, I wonder…
“What just happened?”
“Did I pass out?”
“How long was that?”
“Did anything bad happen?”
Nodding off while driving is heart-jumping-out-of-your-chest scary. Time is distorted. Reality bends. With my mental gas tank running on empty, I trust my gut that nothing bad happened. When those moments of reality are stolen from you, you never know for certain whether or not you’re an insomniac killer.
With a lot of hard work I fixed my hypothyroid issues, cleared out the anxiety, and waved goodbye to insomnia. This period taught me the importance of sleep to function normally.
Late Night Junkie
Throughout the dead-sleeper and insomniac-killer phases, I’ve always been a late night junkie. Growing up my Mom wouldn’t get home until 7 pm or later most nights. We didn’t eat dinner until 8 pm or later. My Mom would pass out with the news on TV and a book in her lap around 11 pm. Before my dead sleep I could easily stay awake for hours contemplating questions like: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Years later I got a laptop. My mind was blinded by the light. I turned to the shiny pages of the Internet for comfort. A sports article here, a new story there, the Internet begged me to browse for “5 more minutes” like a high-schooler responding to their morning wake-up call.
Early Morning Amateur
A combination of learning how my brain works, detoxing from sugar, and journaling helped me see my Late Night Junkie habits more clearly. “Is the phone my tool or am I the phone’s tool?” I finally recognized the little dopamine hits I was getting from my smartphone and the Internet. The Internet Pez dispenser is always open and all your hits are free.
I circled the date on my calendar – Sunday November 1st 2015. The fall-back day for Daylight Savings Time is the easiest day of the year to wake up an hour earlier. You actually wake up at the exact same time. The world just decides that it’s one hour later. Your dog doesn’t know about Daylight Savings Time. He’s just upset that you’re walking him one hour later.
That day jumpstarted waking up between 5 – 6 am for the next year. After a brief cold shower, I meditate outside whenever possible with my dog. After a few minutes of journaling, I crack open a book or make a breakfast of eggs and coffee or banana and almond butter. Then I write. I now have “me” time in the morning to invest in myself.
I replaced wasteful time at night with productive time in the morning. My thinking is sharper. My mind is clearer. I’m an early-morning amateur intent on mastering the practice.
If you want to learn ways to sleep better or wake up earlier, check out this follow-up post.