You know what I love?
Getting up whenever the hell I want.
You know what I hate?
Consistently having to get up super early.
So why on earth would my version of success involve me having to get up at the crack of dawn every day?
Back when we were cave people, it made sense to rise with the sunrise and go to bed as it got dark. We probably didn’t have curtains, so might as well maximise daylight hours, and we certainly didn’t have electricity to keep the lights on in the dark, so there wasn’t much point to stay up when we couldn’t see anything.
Well, we’re not Cave People anymore. We have the luxury of staying up later due to our lightbulbs (hooray for lightbulbs), and most of us do stay up long after it goes dark outside.
So where is this persistent idea of early rising being what we all should aspire to coming from?
Many people seem to think that getting up early is something that you have to do in order to have a successful life. There are loads of posts on medium about it, let alone on the rest of the interwebs.
The idea seems to be that getting up early means that you’ll have more hours in the day to get everything done.
Another idea is that getting up early shows you are dedicated and disciplined toward achieving your goal, caring for your family, or whatever the hell your reasoning is for getting up before even the dog wants to get out of bed.
Hustle culture has a lot to answer for about having people work until they drop, and thankfully now the world is starting to embrace the idea that we all work in different ways.
Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, famously worked herself to the point where she collapsed at her desk hitting her face against it and breaking her cheekbone on the way down! Arguably this woman is successful, but is that really the life you’d want to lead? Arianna now talks often about the need to slow down and prioritise mental health (here is one of her more recent interviews).
Typical Office/School Work Life
The rush hour. So-called because it’s when everyone is trying to get to work for around a 9 am start, and leaving to go home at around a 5 pm finish. This is when all the office-based industries operate. A lot of people work in offices, especially before the time of the internet, so many things revolve around this structure of working.
Also, school is like this. From 6 we spend the next decade having a similar work pattern to that of an office worker, so we’re all kinda moulded into this idea of work-life from the beginning.
Rising early is drilled into us as simply the done thing from around 6 years old
Now, of course, there are people who genuinely do love getting up early. It’s totally their jam and good for them. Their version of success probably does look like getting up at the crack of dawn, and that’s fine.
But different people have different circadian rhythms.
Me for example. My ideal working day would look something like this:
10/11 AM: Wake up
11AM — 2/3PM: Get chores, exercises, errands etc done
2/3PM — 11PM/12 Midnight: My most creative & productive working time
12 Midnight — 1/2AM: Downtime then bed
I have a day job sadly so I don’t get to do that, I have to adhere to the expected circadian rhythm of:
7AM — 9AM: Exercises/travel to work
9AM — 5PM: Productive worktime
5PM — 10PM: Chores, errands, downtime & bed
I suffer from migraines, and I find that I mostly suffer from them when I have to consistently adhere to the above, expected, circadian rhythm, even when I’ve gone to bed at 10/11PM the previous night. It also doesn’t matter how much sleep I’ve had, I am often groggy and unhappy if I have to get up before 9AM. Are the migraines my body protesting something that is actually not right for me? Yeah probably.
It’s a Syndrome!
Yes apparently having a different circadian rhythm is considered a “syndrome” or a “disorder” and it’s called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder/Syndrome (DSPD). It is more common in teenagers, and is VERY common for the neurodiverse in both autism and especially ADHD.
DSPD is characterised as having a sleep pattern of 2 hours or more outside of the expected circadian rhythm, so sleeping late and rising late, but sleep quality is otherwise normal.
Actually, speaking of teenagers it has been proven that they generally have this DSPD naturally which changes as they get into adulthood, (it’s to do with the release of melatonin). If you have ADHD your brain just doesn’t develop away from this and the same for many with Autism too.
It does make me wonder why, in that case, this is considered a “disorder” if it’s natural for teens, the neurodiverse, and probably a fair few adult neurotypical people too?
Could it just be because this is annoying for a society that wants a one size fits all approach without having to cater to the clear individualization of our entire species? I’m sure that’s just wild speculation…
I fail to see how people preferring lie-ins is really a problem. Why are we forcing people to get up before they want to?
It wouldn’t be a problem at all if it wasn’t for the shame that is imposed upon people for the crime of wanting to stay up and get up late.
How many times have you been called that my fellow late risers?
For the record, I don’t believe in the term lazy. Laziness is a symptom of something bigger in my opinion, be it a medical problem or a motivational one. But all that aside, am I really lazy for just using the 24 hours of my day differently from those who get up early? They all went to sleep hours before I did, you don’t see me calling them lazy.
The number of people I see getting up early, looking like death, feeling super groggy, “I can’t function until I’ve had my morning coffee,” like, guys if you’re not enjoying it that much, why are you doing it? Obviously, there are those of us that have to do it for work & kiddos, etc, but those who are voluntarily getting up at that time just to act like zombies for the first 20 minutes of the day? You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourselves!
When I get out of bed I get straight up and into it; no need for coffee or anything like that, I’ve gotten up when my body has wanted to without an alarm and I feel ready to start my day.
There are times of course when I have to get up super early for things, life is varied of course, but what I’m talking about here are consistent wake-up times.
Well, I do love to throw in my “how would ancient humans have handled this?” question.
Aas I said earlier, there was less point for us staying up late when we only had fire light to see, however, people having at least slightly different circadian rhythms would have made sense, having some members of the tribe awake around different times throughout the day would have been good for safety reasons.
People being good at different things is what enabled us to be such a successful species so they probably embraced it.
What Does Success Really Look Like?
Your success looks like whatever you want, and if getting up very early to start your day is enjoyable for you, then you go right ahead. But if you’re only wanting to get up super early in the morning because that’s what being successful looks like, that’s not doing it for you is it? That’s doing it to appear successful to someone else.
Success for me will never look like having to turn on a CONSISTENT alarm clock before 9AM. The only way I can see it happening is if I’m doing it for a reason that excites me for some reason, maybe I’ll get into challenging myself to do things I don’t normally like? But considering I lose interest in things that don’t serve me pretty dam quickly, I doubt that’ll ever happen.
You have 24 hours in a day, same as every single person. Where you fit your sleep into that 24 hours is completely up to you.
Moral of this story: If you don’t like getting up in the morning, factor not having to do that into your success story; trust me, you’ll be so much happier for it.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Михаил Калегин on Unsplash