After a recent conversation, some introspection and reading articles like this about using the early hours to get stuff done I decided that I would become a morning person. Rise with the birds, use the quiet of morning to write, get a head start on the day, you know the kind of thing.
I mentioned this to my sister who laughed and stated with confidence, 'We are not a morning family. No-one in our family gets up early.'
She's right. Growing up in our four person household the only family member who ever rose before 7am was dad who did so under sufferance when his alarm announced a cold, dark trip to the airport for an early business flight.
These days in my own home with hubby and our two boys all is still and silent until at least 7am on most mornings. At the moment, in the depths of winter, it can be 7.30am before anyone stirs, and that includes the cat who can be found curled up on the top bunk with Mr 7.
Despite this and the warmth of the doona, reports of those who awake early and enjoy the peace and quiet of work in solitude with a morning cuppa speak to me. I want to leap out of bed in the morning, get a couple of hours' work done and be organised and ready to greet the family enthusiastically on waking. (Anyone who knows me well may need to pick themselves up off the floor and stop laughing at this point.)
Recent efforts to become a morning person have not been successful. I've enacted advice to get to bed early, adjusting the whole family's routine to allow me to be in bed at an hour that would afford eight hour's sleep and still have me up and working by 6am.
Day one of this regime and I was asleep by 9.30pm. I didn't set an alarm, confident that I would wake refreshed and ready to go after eight hours or so. I woke up at 7.40am. That's over ten hours later (apologies to the currently and chronically sleep deprived. I did have to attend to children a couple of times in the early hours if that makes you feel any better.)
As I was soon to discover we were all sick. The kids and I descended into ten days of a nasty flu-type bug that rendered us all pretty useless. That explains the hibernation.
Fully recovered, I tried again. Off to bed early with a view to an early start and I still slept til almost 7am. It didn't help that we had the coldest morning on record that morning with a very frosty minus 6 degrees.
I now find myself sliding back into my 11pm to 7am night time norm. This is a bedtime-wake pattern that has been deeply consistent since I was a teenager (at least 23 years ago and counting).
It's got me wondering.... is this just a hard habit to break (with thanks to Chicago for those old enough to remember) or is there more to it?
Most living things, including animals, plants and even microbes, operate according to a circadian rhythm; a roughly 24 hour cycle of physical, mental and behavioural changes that are regulated by light and darkness in the environment. These rhythms drive hormone release, body temperature and your sleep cycle among other things.
Mess with your circadian rhythm by jetting through different time zones or undertaking long periods of night shift and you mess with your mind and body in a whole raft of unpleasant ways.
While the 24-hour cycle is consistent for all of us, there are degrees of individual variation. Some people are morning people, some are not. That's not myth and self-belief, that's science. Researchers have been looking into how well different people function at different times of day for over 40 years.
There's even a questionnaire that you can take - the Morning Eveningness Questionnaire - that has been in use since 1976. The questionnaire is revealing because it shows the range of different types of 'morningness' and 'eveningness' and how we all fit somewhere along the spectrum. (It's also got some interesting stuff in there about depression and light therapy for treatment).
I did the questionnaire and it turns out that I'm an 'intermediate' - I'm not a morning person but I'm not a night owl either. That's not terribly helpful but it absolutely rings true. I have friends who have consistently throughout their lifetimes worked late into the evening while I'm rather cactus after 9pm.
Others get up early every day while I'm still snoozing away (children-dependent) or in my hazy, 'I can't talk to anyone yet. Don't expect anything sensible from me in word or deed' phase that usually lasts til at least 9am. It seems that I operate best during business hours.
So my goal of early morning activity is a little dashed but I can still see opportunities to tweak my daily routine to be in bed a little earlier and up to do the more mindless morning activities like lunchbox prep to get a jump start on the day. I'll save the tasks that require a buzzing brain and insightful ideas for a little later in the day. Maybe with my morning coffee?
How about you? Are you a morning type? A late night person? Or somewhere in between? Have you tried the questionnaire?