I’ve experienced a lot of big changes in my life over the past two years, but one of the biggest changes is one that I am not sure most people outside my immediate circle would even notice, but it’s there: I’ve lost my morning person personality.
I have been a morning person for several years. When I was younger, it was more of a “once I’m up, I’m up” sort of thing. I didn’t go out of my way to get up early if I didn’t have to, but if I did have to, I wasn’t hating life the whole time. I liked mornings. I love breakfast food, the early-morning smells, the soft light. I also felt like many of the times I had to be up extra-early, it was for something extra-special (like a trip or a flight), so I started to associate mornings with fun and special occasions.
The summer I interned at ELLE, I had to get up early if I wanted to work out. My days were so long and hectic, I knew waiting until the end of the day to work out was just a bad idea. So I started setting my alarm for 6 AM and getting up and doing pilates, running, or using the elliptical. One of the fastest ways to become a morning person, I’ve found, is to not feel like you have a choice. The dorm where I stayed that summer overlooked Central Park and I had an amazing view during my morning workouts. I liked the quiet of the mornings; though I was in the city that never sleeps, the summer mornings were surprisingly quiet. I loved my time alone when I could soak up all the sunlight streaming into the fitness center before spending another crazy day in the windowless office. Even on weekends, I still woke up early without an alarm, and I loved walking around the Upper West Side as the city was just beginning to stir.
Because I was getting up so early, I knew I had to go to bed early; by the end of the summer, my whole day had shifted forward by a couple hours. I was a morning person through and through.
This turned out to be both a blessing and a curse during my senior year of college, which followed that summer. On the one hand, I was super productive most days. I could get up and go to the gym and get work done before my 9:10 class in the mornings. When my sorority sisters were just dragging themselves into the dining room for breakfast, I was bounding in, wide-awake and extra chipper because I’d already accomplished three things on my to do list. On the other hand, it meant that I started nodding off around 10:00 at night…not exactly convenient for the side of me that still liked to party. And even if I did push through it, and stay till last call, I’d still wake up at 6 AM. So if I went to bed after 2 AM…well, you can see how that would make for a really shitty morning after. Being a morning person when you were just a night owl a few hours before is the worst.
I kept getting up at 6 AM over the next couple years, usually rolling out of bed and going straight to work out. After I moved home from NYC, I discovered that 7 AM to 11 AM was my most productive time of day, so rather than waste it on a workout, I’d get up and get to work. I’d write and do work from 7:00 until about 3:00 in the afternoon, when I’d go work out. I feel like that’s my body’s favorite way to get things done.
As my life has gotten busier over the past few months, I’ve realized that I need to reclaim my mornings as my best time of day and start getting up early to get something done. Whether it’s grocery shopping, writing, reading e-mails, working out, or hanging out with Eric, that’s a time of day I can’t afford to waste. But unfortunately, my mornings are not coming back to me as easily as I had hoped.
At some point over the past year or so, my natural wake-up time went from 6 AM to 7 AM. I know it’s a small difference and 7 AM is still pretty early, but to me, who relished all the things I could get done in that first hour, it’s huge. And while I can still physically get up at 6:00, my ability to be productive has all but vanished. I mean, I’m wide awake as I watch the morning news, but that doesn’t mean I can go knock out a workout or write 5,000 words. Not only am I later to rise, but I just feel slower too.
A couple weeks ago, determined to get my morning person personality back, I decided I was going to start going to the 6 AM yoga class at my studio. Now, even on my best and brightest mornings a couple years, being in the gym at 6:00 is still pushing it for me, so I shouldn’t have had such high expectations. But it was bad. The two mornings (out of six attempts) that I actually made it to the studio, I was so cranky, I nearly cried. The second time, I was certain if I stayed in child’s pose for more than three seconds, I’d just fall asleep on my mat. I actually ended up coming home from class that day and getting back in bed for another 30 minutes, which helped a lot. I felt amazing for the rest of the day, but I’m not sure if the awful first hour was worth it.
I don’t know what happened. I mean, to me, being a morning person has always started at night. If you go to bed early and give yourself enough time to get your 6-8 hours in (I’m a 7-hour girl myself), you should be fine to get up early, right? Well, that’s always how it was for me. But now it’s not anymore. All I can think is that the quality and quantity of my sleep has changed dramatically in the past year. I mean, I’m still doing a lot of things that I’ve seen experts recommend — I don’t watch TV in bed, I turn off the technology before bed, I only use the bed for sleep and sex, I keep the room cool, and I wear a sleep mask — but I’m fairly certain the quality of my sleep just isn’t what it used to be, even if I’m technically in bed for seven hours a night.
A few weeks ago, pissed off at myself for letting another morning slip away, I made a list of all the things that I think may be getting in the way of a good night’s sleep.
My new bedfellow. There’s also the fact that I now have a bedfellow. While I bought him an alarm for Christmas in 2010 that wakes him up gradually with natural light before emitting a calming bell sound as the actual alarm and he’s stopped hitting the snooze for the most part (don’t even get me started on the snooze button, there have been a few days recently where he’s reset his alarm three times. He’s also had to go in to work a few times at a truly obscene hour. After I spent one day extremely tired because his alarm woke me up 3:45 AM, we agreed that next time, he’d sleep in the spare bedroom. Call me unromantic, but sometimes having a warm body next to you is really overrated.
My amazing mattress. Eric used to jokingly accuse me of “becoming a human blanket” in the middle of the night because we’d wake up and I’d basically be sleeping on top of him. I tried to explain to him that this was because the mattress dipped in the middle and gravity was pulling me toward him. The few nights when I tried to prevent this, he slept great and I slept like shit because I basically clung to the side of the bed the whole night. After moved in together and moved the bed to a different room, we unintentionally flipped his mattress…and then he became the human blanket. After about three nights of this, he announced it was time for a new mattress. We did a little shopping and I convinced him that buying a $1200 memory foam mattress at this point was not the best idea — especially because this was beginning to go in a “But then I’d probably want to get a King, so maybe I should just get a whole new bedroom set…” direction — we ended up putting a $140 memory foam mattress topper from Kohl’s on a $250 IKEA mattress. It was the best decision we’ve ever made; that bed is insanely comfortable now. The only problem? It’s nearly impossible to get out of it in the morning. It totally sucks you in, making getting up ten times harder, no matter how much sleep you got the night before.
The puppies. At first, this made sense, but as they got older, it started to get better. Chuck had all but stopped crying in the mornings …but for the past month or so, he’s been going through a phase where he wakes up around 5 AM screeching like the house is on fire. I got earplugs but they haven’t been staying in my ears, so I think it’s time to upgrade.
Stress. Like I said, my life has gotten busier, and I have had more things on my mind to keep me up at night. Yoga is great for helping me shut my brain off, but when I shut my brain off for 90 minutes a day…well, those were 90 minutes my brain may have needed to be on. I’m not sure what the solution is to that yet.
While all this makes sense, I didn’t expect it to make me so…sad. Seeing all the reasons spelled out like that, I realized why I’d been so frustrated with myself for not being able to get back to my old routine. It’s because all of those things are a direct result of living in sin.
With all the obvious sacrifices that came with of moving in with Eric and getting puppies, I didn’t expect to take a change to my sleeping habits so hard. Every morning that I can’t get myself up for a workout or that I spend taking my sweet time getting my day started, I feel really guilty, like I’m letting my younger self down. It’s so weird because I didn’t think that being a morning person was that special, but now that it’s slipping away, it feels like it was the basis of my whole single-girl identity. It made me productive, successful, and confident, which, I suppose, were pretty big parts of my identity. Without it, I feel less productive and therefore less successful and confident. And I feel like I totally sold out the sisterhood or something. Every time I hit re-set my alarm for a half-hour later, I worry, on some level, that I’m settling down and giving up.
There are a lot of things I expected to miss about being single, but I never expected this to be the thing I’d take the hardest when I began this new (and, in fairness, wonderful and exciting!) chapter in my life. At this point, I’m not sure if I should just accept the change and just hope I’ll eventually find a way to make up for the lost hours, or keep fighting to hold onto the seemingly-small thing that, apparently, means a hell of a lot more to me than I realized.