Confession right up front: I have never been a morning person. Never, ever. I have managed to be reasonably responsible and fairly successful despite this flaw, but there has never been a time when I have not believed that if I had tried harder (or at all) to overcome this shortcoming I would have been a better person. I knew how lazy I really was. How much I loved staying in bed after the alarm went off, preferably sound asleep.
Until now. As of today, thanks to my new hero, Amanda Ruggeri of bbc.com, I realize that I’ve had it all wrong for the past 70 (OK, 71) years. Being a morning person isn’t a sign of virtue after all, it’s just a matter of genetics. Ruggeri’s recent article, Why you shouldn’t try to be a morning person, has me walking with my head held a bit higher.
The message is everywhere. We are told about how people in charge – successful people – get up at obscenely early hours after scandalously few hours of sleep. Typically, these same paragons of virtue hit the gym or the trails before the sun comes up and are busy in their offices before the rest of us leave the house. Knowing this has always made me feel a bit defeated before I even started my day – although not defeated enough to get up earlier.
Having read Amanda Ruggeri’s life-altering article, I now know that being a morning person or a night owl (or in the middle, as is half the population) is genetic, nothing more. It turns out that getting up early every morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, isn’t necessarily a sign of an extremely motivated, self-disciplined person who attacks every aspect of their life with the same steely resolve. Gosh, I wish I had known that many, many decades ago.
I had an inkling that this may be more the case than I had always assumed when a long-time friend of mine, who is a stereotypical morning person – and someone who bakes her own bread (something else that I am not genetically disposed to) – disabused me of the notion that she approached all life tasks with the same sense of commitment that she did those that I noticed the most. She just tackled what she really wants to do with a vengeance, and started very early. So, even before I read this liberating Ruggeri article earlier today, I had slowly started to absolve myself of the sense that because I started doing things (much) later in the day I was somehow less of a human being. I don’t get to the Saturday Market at 7 a.m., in fact more often than that I don’t get there at all, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. I would never thinking of running before 10 a.m., even though some people I know are at the gym or pool before work; surely a lunch hour or after work is just as good? Even better when you’re retired, when any time of day is available. 🙂 But, somehow, despite sticking stubbornly to my own schedule, I’ve always felt a bit slothful about it. I’ve always felt like I had to make an excuse for my dislike of mornings. Until now.
I have absolutely no idea how I got through those years when we had to get kids up and ready for school before going off to work. Being awake is hard enough; talking to people early in the morning is asking a lot; putting breakfast in front of sleepy kids (those genetics) when you don’t want to eat breakfast yourself is a challenge; and, having to make lunches for kids in this state is brutal. Somehow, I got through that time. The good news for those of you in the midst of this routine right now is that one day you will wake up and the kids won’t need you to do this for them anymore. And before you know it, you’ll have forgotten all about it. It’s selective amnesia; that’s how we survive!
A very long time ago – when I was in second year of university – some well-meaning friends convinced me that if I got up early before a final exam and ate a proper residence breakfast, and then spent an hour reviewing notes one final time before a 9 a.m. exam, this would somehow be beneficial. That’s what they always did. Oh my. After the challenge of getting up long before my body and mind were willing, I had to find the breakfast cafeteria, which turned out to be in a different place than where we had lunch and supper. (Yes, this was the first – and last – time I got up for breakfast during my two years in residence!) The hour during which I was meant to be engaged in the highly-touted final exam review before heading off to a gym full of rickety exam tables, I was so groggy that absolutely nothing sunk in. An extra 90 minutes of sleep instead of breakfast and grogginess would have served me much better. Now I realize that it wasn’t simply that I was being lazy, I just shouldn’t have been up so early. It’s my genetics!
I have a number of ways of accommodating my dislike of getting up early. To my credit, I’ve never been late for work. I know exactly how long it takes me to get there and I know exactly how long it takes me to get ready. There is no dawdling. I don’t like eating breakfast anyway, so I’ve always saved 10 minutes by leaving that out of my getting-ready-to-leave-in-the-morning routine. Ten more minutes to sleep. Once granola bars came into being, I actually started eating something before lunch for the first time since my mother started back to work and had to leave the house before I left for school, sparing me from her glaring at me while I pretended to eat my breakfast. Eat one granola bar on the way to work (high in fibre, chocolate-less), eat another halfway through the morning. Perfect for late risers. I have also always been happy to work late and keep working when I get home; just don’t ask me to get there at the crack of dawn.
Things from Amanda’s article to consider:
- “Numerous studies have found that morning people are more persistent, self-directed and agreeable. They set higher goals for themselves, and have a better sense of well-being.” I was hoping not to read this, and I take particular exception with the agreeable part! 😉
- “Although morning types may achieve more academically, night owls tend to perform better on measures of memory, processing speed and cognitive ability, even when they have to perform those tasks in the morning. Night-time people are also more open to new experiences and seek them out more. They may be more creative (although not always). And contrary to the maxim (‘healthy, wealthy and wise’), one study showed that night owls are as healthy and wise as morning types – and a little bit wealthier.” OK, not bad!
- If people are left to their naturally preferred times, they feel much better and consider themselves to be much more productive.
- Remember, not all high achievers are early risers, and not all early risers are successful.
I, for one, intend to wear my badge of “100% not an early riser” with pride. Sorry, folks, that’s just who I am!
I am a morning person and my body shuts down at 10:00 every night. My kids on the other hand are not! I have to start early or I absolutely get NOTHING done!
Lucky girl. Knowing all the things you do, I’m not surprised. Farming activities don’t wait for those of us who’d rather be sleeping late! But we rarely go to bed much before 11:30, partly because we watch a lot of sports and, since we’re a time zone ahead of eastern standard time (an hour later than you), games end very late for us. If we still had animals or small children that wouldn’t be much of an excuse!
I am a severe morning person. It is not unusual to see me up at 4:00 doing all sorts of things. However, don’t ask me to do anything in the evening when I am comatose Sometimes it’s embarrassing when I am visiting someone for a late dinner. I now plan an afternoon nap now that I am retired and can better survive any evening social visits!
Wow, 4 a.m., that IS severely early! At least now you know that it’s not your fault – or your virtue – it’s just genetics! I’ve always been told by early risers that they love the quiet of the early morning, the beauty of the early morning light, and being able to get things done with no-one around to bother them. I hope that’s true for you! The closest I’ve ever gotten to that is enjoying how much work I could get done in the office once everyone else had gone home. Like you, I find time challenges are much more manageable when retired!
I’m definitely better in the morning Jane, sorry! It’s 6.00am here now and I’m just about to get up and start my day – but I always read for a bit first! The other side of that of course is that by around 10.00pm I’m falling asleep. This has always been the case with me so, even in the partying days of my youth I was rubbish at late nights😀
Wow, another early riser! I seem to be in the minority, Jenny. The good news is that I no longer have to apologize for my behaviour… and I’m good until nearly midnight! 🙂
I’m neither really. What I do know is that – maybe obviously – my energy levels are higher in the morning. I struggle with evening runs/races compared with the morning ones. I do need my sleep though whereas a work colleague regularly works from home into the small hours. I have never done, or could do, that.
The good news is that you’re perfectly normal, Roy! According to the article, 50% of the population is as you describe, 25% are early birds, and 25% are night owls. I’m not a night owl either, so I have to pack a lot into a shortened span of time. It’s worth it to be able to start the day with a good lie-in! 😉
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i feel better, now
sleeping in 🙂
Excellent. And the good news is that you’re just answering the call of your genes. It’s your destiny (and mine)! 😉
Here’s what I’ve found on the Voyage…IT CAN ALL CHANGE! I have always been a night owl, too. But as the voyage went along, and I was not constantly exhausted, I found that I would wake up earlier…and it wasn’t HORRIBLE! Or, if I choose to stay up really late, I can do that, too – can take a nap the next day if I choose. Ahhhhhh, voyaging is GOOD! ~ Lynn
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Voyaging is very GOOD indeed! I went back to work for a year after being retired for 5 years. OMG. I’ve been working hard to sleep in every morning I can ever since!! 🙂
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Hi there, Jane. Just found your blog – and thanks for following mine.
I would have to say that I’m an in-between person. Sometimes (most times, actually), I prefer to sleep in, and now that I’m retired I can do so without guilt. Then I have no problem staying up to midnight or so. But there are days when I still find myself unable to go back to sleep after taking the dog out at 6:15 am (that was her usual time when I was working, and I decided to keep her on that schedule). On those days, I tend to bog down early in the evening and wind up asleep by 10:00 pm.
The good news is that no matter what time I rise in the morning, I’m able to do so fully conscious. I’ve never had trouble getting myself going in the morning. Which is especially good ’cause it saves on coffee, and I need to stretch my finances at the moment.
Isn’t retirement grand?! The nicest part is not feeling guilty when you stay up late and get up late, or go to bed early, although it takes awhile to get past feeling guilty, interestingly enough. Having has a cat instead of a dog makes sleeping in easier! 😉 (It’s fun to read about other people’s retirement journeys on their blogs, like yours!)
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It really is about what works for each person – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being one or the other so long as you feel you get enough rest xx
For sure. Maybe what I should do is create a new and catchy saying for those of us who aren’t morning people to rival the virtue implied by “The early bird catches the worm” and “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” 😉