Reclaiming My Mornings

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

This morning, I overslept. I actually woke up with my first alarm at 6 a.m. and went back to bed. I had another alarm at 6:25 a.m., and I vaguely remember it going off, but I must’ve turned it off. I woke up after 7:30 a.m. and could hardly move. I decided to take an hour morningsannual leave to give me some time to wake up and get to work, and it was annual leave that I really shouldn’t have used. I drained my sick time and annual leave with the aneurysm rupture recovery and rehab, and it’s been quite slow to build back up.

This morning, I also decided to change my ways and do what it takes to get up and out in the morning…without stressing and/or rushing. Since coming home from rehab in Atlanta, I feel like my time is not my own. After forming some good habits during rehab, they’ve slowly made their way back to not-so-good. I’m staying up later. I’m on my electronics too late into the evening. And I’m living by the seat of my pants again, especially in the mornings.

To prepare, I read 19 Ways to Trick Yourself to Become a Morning Person from Daily Burn. None of the ideas are rocket science, but these spoke to me in particular: 

Practice good sleep hygiene. “Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting quality, restful sleep,” says Dr. Watson. If you need to shift your schedule earlier, start moving your bedtime forward by just 15 minutes at a time. Adjustments more drastic than that will keep you rebounding between early and late bedtimes rather than creating lasting change. In Atlanta, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. like clockwork. And while it sometimes took a while to fall asleep, I was in bed. I can do this again.

Take your time. Balancing your own well-being against other personal and professional responsibilities is tough. Often, finding the right work-life equilibrium starts with saying “No,” and so does getting enough sleep. Pare down your evening commitments so that you’ve got an hour completely blocked off to wind down before bed. Next week, I plan to start back at the gym after work; this will be an additional two evening events each week. My church is starting new small groups this month. While I really want to do a small group, I’m going to wait until I have a better hold on things to add yet another evening commitment. It’s hard to say no, but I know that I have to do so for my sanity and health.

Power down. Any kind of light can shift circadian rhythms, making it harder to sleep at night. And if you’re constantly plugged in, you’re even less likely to hit the hay right away. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by electronics like laptops and cell phones disturbs sleep even more than natural light. Turn off those electronic screens at least an hour before bed to make dozing easier. I’m torn to do everything I want to do in the time I have, so I started pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to electronics. Someone just gave me a new book; I think I’ll start it now so I can wean myself from my cell phone and laptop. I gave up evening TV in Atlanta, largely because I didn’t have a TV for the bedroom in the apartment. I’ve been able to keep this habit, thankfully, with only a few exceptions.

Prep before bed. Wondering what to do with that electronic-free hour? Use the time to get together anything you’ll need in the a.m. Shortening your morning to-do list just might make it easier to roll out of bed. My big time kill in the morning is deciding what to wear. I could do this in my electronic-free hour.

Get cozy. Temperature, noise, light and comfort can all impact your ability to sleep well. A cool, quiet room (around 65 degrees) has been shown to be an effective sleep environment. Since the aneurysm, it seems like I’m always cold, so I’ve been setting the thermostat up. Instead, perhaps I should just crawl in bed. I know that would make my sister roommate happier since she likes it cooler than I’ve been keeping it.

Play a mind game. The alarm goes off, and the immediate temptation is to hit snooze. Go ahead, do it — but then stay out of bed for those next nine minutes. The idea of the so-called “inverted snooze” is to ease the pain of waking up by telling yourself you only have to stick it out for nine minutes. Move around, stretch, start brewing coffee — anything to keep yourself awake. By the time the alarm goes off again you should be awake and alert enough to start your day rather than still grumpy in bed and (likely) hitting snooze again. I love the idea of the inverted snooze. This will give me time to bump up the heat and get a head start on breakfast.

Bite the bullet. If you naturally wake within minutes of your alarm, it can be tempting to close your eyes and relish in a few more minutes of rest. But you’re better off just getting out of bed. When you wake spontaneously, you’re likely in a light sleep stage, explains Dr. Watson. Going back to sleep could send you into a deeper sleep stage, making it harder to wake up and start your day. Enough said. I can go ahead and get up.

Now that I have a plan, I’m much more excited about trying to become a morning person again. I’m hoping my next post will be about how great my mornings are going. Are you a morning person and/or have you learned to be out of necessity? Do you have any tips and tricks that work well for you?

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