I am a night owl through and through. I think I always will be deep down—no matter what. No matter how sleepy I am with having a newborn, no matter how early I have to get up the next day, no matter how much my husband
begs politely requests that I go to bed when he goes to bed. I almost can’t fight the allure of the nighttime quiet and always stay up (way) past my bedtime.
But I have been intrigued by the idea of getting up really early in the morning to enjoy the peace and quiet while my brain is fully functioning and not super sleepy (after coffee, of course.)
So I decided to give this whole “waking up early” thing a try. I’d wake up at 5:30 a.m. for seven days in a row to see how it felt. To be honest, I was curious. I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to see if it would make a difference in how I felt.
Secret thoughts: Would I be happier? Feel more productive? Would life be easier? Could I stay awake until bedtime? Would I go to bed earlier now?
But first, I needed some advice on how to do it.
So I turned to our resident intentional living coach, Allie Casazza. Allie said one way to do it would be to go cold turkey, “Start waking up at your goal time right off the bat. Day one (and maybe two) will be super difficult and you will be totally exhausted, but that causes you to go to bed earlier after that first morning, which makes waking earlier the next morning easier. It only gets easier from there!”
There was only one way I was ever going to really find out. I had to give it a go myself.
Here’s how it all went down.
I opened my eyes at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t get out of bed until 6:00 a.m. I scrolled Instagram and Facebook for a half hour before I could force myself to go make some coffee.
I was feeling really tired.
I was up with a sick baby the night before who didn’t want to sleep. At all. I was exhausted alllll day (Allie was correct on that, that’s for sure.) I was really cranky and didn’t have much for patience levels—I snapped and yelled and felt guilty. I literally cried after my three-year-old had a tantrum at a very busy park we went to.
My two kiddos took very short naps and I got the dreaded “I’m so sorry, but I have to take the late train home” text from my husband. How was I going to survive the dinner, bath time, bed time routine by myself? More coffee.
So there I was at 5:30 p.m. sipping a nice hot cup of joe listening to my daughters scream “for fun” during their bath while I edited essays sitting on a very small stool in the bathroom.
Day one wasn’t off to a great start, necessarily, but I was determined...
I snoozed for 14 minutes. ?
My husband brought me a coffee in bed before he left for work and I was awake and sipping by 5:45 a.m.
The main point of wanting to wake up early is to get work done before my kids wake up. I’m a work-from-home/stay-at-home mom hybrid and this time is crucial for me. But I still felt like maybe I should take a shower, or fold some laundry with this precious time.
I decide to stick to work. Secret thoughts: Must. Stay. Focused. Colleen.
I went to bed at 11:15 p.m. last night which was totally unnecessary. I was exhausted, and still went to bed late. Maybe my next article will be trying to force myself to go to bed at a responsible hour (because I seriously have a problem.)
Today was better. Still a little tired, but the girls were listening better, I got a babysitter break in the afternoon to work, had lots of coffee and a much better attitude.
I still went to bed around 11:15 p.m. again though. I will never learn. ?
I got up on time again today. I was feeling pretty proud of myself (not gonna lie). My husband brought me coffee again which was a lifesaver.
My daughter Lucy woke up at about 6:45 a.m. today which is early for my kids, so she kind of put a wrench in my “get lots of concentrated work done” plan. But we made do! I let her watch a little bit of Daniel Tiger while I finished up. Then we got the day started. And somehow I got everyone dressed and fed and out the door on time to my doctor’s appointment. ?
After my appointment, our babysitter came over by 11 a.m. and stayed until 3 p.m. I am not going to lie—today by about 12:15 p.m. I felt like I had been hit by a bus.
Secret thoughts: Why did I sign up for this at 35 weeks pregnant? Should I stop this assignment and quit my job? Can I stab myself with a needle and somehow do a DIY coffee drip into my arm? (Side note: is there a tutorial on Pinterest for that? Is that safe while pregnant?)
I decided instead of quitting or harming myself, I’d take a 40 minute nap because, as they say, I “couldn’t even.”
So I paid a person to watch my children so I could sleep.
Secret thoughts: So, this is what winning feels like?
The rest of the day went fairly smooth and there I was, going to bed at 11:15 p.m. again.
Our fire alarm went off (and wouldn't stop) at 4:30 a.m. Surprisingly it didn’t wake either of our kids up. ? And everything was okay, thankfully! BUT it did wake my husband and I up. And since I was jolted awake by it, I was wide awake (and probably should have stayed awake) and it then took me a little while to fall back to sleep. Once I fell back to sleep, it was basically time to wake up again.
So….I snoozed. Ugh!
I woke up at 5:55 a.m. this morning.
I was tired and out of it. Coffee helped a little, but then both kids were up at 6:30 a.m. which is very early for them. They watched a bit of TV in the morning while they ate their breakfast and I finished some work. We needed to get out of the house so we hung out at the farm with friends for a while.
The girls fell asleep in the car on the way home so I pulled into the driveway and did some work in the cool AC of the car while the girls rested.
Later in the afternoon, by about 3:30 p.m. I was beyond tired. I have a bit of a summer cold so I’m thinking this, plus early mornings, plus being 35 weeks pregnant makes for a very tired combo.
Secret thoughts: Do early risers wake up super early even when they aren’t feeling top notch?
I was laying on the couch while the girls played and then when I realized I was basically nodding off, I decided it was time to get up and wake up so I made a cup of coffee at about 4:00 p.m. I don’t want to do that anymore! But, alas…I needed to stay up until my husband got home.
Secret thoughts: I NEED to go to bed by 10 the latest tonight. Then maybe I’ll have some more energy tomorrow morning?
No coffee today from the husband. He was rushing to catch his train. So, I had to lug myself out of bed and get it myself. That was harder, BUT, it also did help me wake up a bit more. ?
I was up and at ‘em by 5:45 a.m. today.
I went to bed by 10:45 p.m. last night which is a huge improvement for me. I only had one coffee throughout the day which is surprising. I didn’t feel like I needed more. I guess there is something to going to bed early (go figure!).
I actually did wake up at 5 a.m. on my own.
Secret thoughts: Do early risers actually do this on the weekend, too?
...And then I fell back to sleep and woke up at 7:30 a.m. Sorry, peeps, it’s the weekend and I ain’t got time for waking up before the sun.
My in-laws stayed over because my husband and I went to a concert on Saturday night, so I am going to be honest with you because I cherish honesty—I slept in until about 9:00 a.m. It was glorious and since I don’t get too many mornings like this, I let myself enjoy it. (Granparents, FTW! ?)
It’s all about balance, right?
So what did I learn during this experiment?
1. Enlist your partner as your early bird buddy.
It definitely helped me that my husband woke up around the same time, so that I wasn’t alone in this. (Plus, the bringing me coffee thing was very sweet of him.)
2. Choose a morning ritual.
Coffee—to me—is delicious, it helps wake me up a bit and it’s comforting. Decide on a “ritual” that works for you that you can look forward to enjoying once you wake up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be coffee—it could be tea, or hot water with lemon, or something totally different like five minutes of prayer or meditation or stretching.
3. Let yourself ease into the morning.
Looking at something on my phone—the news or social media—for about 15 minutes before I get cracking on work, does help me wake up. (I don’t know that this is sound advice, but it did help me.)
4. Go to bed early.
Going to bed at a reasonable time (my goal is between 10:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.) is really worthwhile when you’re waking up before the sun. When you go to bed late, and still wake up early, it’s tough to keep your energy levels up throughout the day (even with coffee!).
5. Sit at a designated work space.
It definitely helps to work at a desk vs sitting up in my bed to work. I have a small work space in my room, so moving over to that area helps me feel more focused.
6. Make a list the night before.
The night before, I would think through my most important items I wanted to tackle the next day and jot them down quick (on an actual note pad or on the notes app in my phone) so I wouldn’t forget. Then I knew what I wanted to start with first when I woke up without having to think much about it.
7. Set realistic expectations.
Getting up super early, when your husband does too (to leave for work outside of the house), to do work while your children are quietly sleeping—can only work out so perfectly so many times. You’re kiddo is going to wake up early on random days, they’re not going to feel well, you’re not going to feel well, etc. Things happen in life, and we have to roll with it. So, setting the expectations of “this is not going to be perfect every single day” was very helpful.
8. Be proud of yourself!
I was really proud of myself for giving this a go. And look at me—here I am writing this article at 6:00 a.m. while my kids are sleeping, two weeks after my experiment. I have woken up early most days since and it actually has been life-changing in a way. I’m used to it now, so it makes it easier to just get up and get to it. And while not every morning is perfect (because...kids) it feels SO nice to have checked a few things off my to-do list before my girls even wake up.
Now, to work on the going to bed earlier part...