For most of my life, answering the question, “What time should I wake up?” was a struggle. On countless evenings, it came up as I set my alarm while considering my plans for the following day.
And it returned if I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling back to sleep. Then the annoying refrain of “What time should I wake up? Should I reset my alarm?” kept running through my mind.
Mornings were no better. Faced with the split-second decision of whether to hit the snooze button, there it was again: “What time should I wake up?”
In my late teens, I roomed with a morning lark and a night owl. Although I often stayed up late and slept in, I was somewhere in the middle.
We all had to wake up at about the same time, but the morning lark was always up first. Springing out of bed as if he couldn’t wait to start the day, he’d sing out, “Good morning!”
Then he’d grab the curtains and fling them open. As sunlight filled the room, I watched in amusement while the morning lark annoyed the heck out of the night owl with his cheeriness. The routine never changed.
During our morning exercise sessions, the morning lark behaved like the Energizer bunny. The night owl, however, slept through situps!
I’d hold his feet and watch him nod off in the down position and again in the up position. I’d have to give him a little shake and urge him to wake up.
Twenty-five years later, I can’t stop laughing when I remember him sleeping through morning exercise.
But in the evenings, the script flipped. He became the life of the party, and where was the morning lark? Already in bed!
During those years, some days had a required wake-up time. But whenever setting the alarm was my choice, what did I do?
Most of the time, and especially on weekends, I slept in!
We all have different propensities. Still, yesterday’s post reviewed the research supporting the health benefits of getting to bed early and waking up early despite our natural inclinations.
Chronic Stress and Asking “What Time Should I Wake Up?”
By the age of 39 in December of 2017, chronic work stress finally drove me to a breaking point. Sleeping through the night became impossible.
The stress and insomnia persisted for nearly two years. I’d get to bed at around 11:30, awaken about 2 am, and fall asleep only when the sun rose at 5:30 or 6:00.
Depending on that day’s work schedule, I’d get anywhere from another 20 minutes to two hours of morning sleep when the sun was up.
Until the fall of 2019, this routine played out seven nights a week. Not until I found the help I needed to deal with my chronic stress did I return to sleeping all night.
Yet even in the aftermath of insomnia, I continued asking myself, “What time should I wake up?” on too many nights. The answer was far from consistent.
Finally, I’d had enough.
2021: Deciding What Time I Should Wake Up
Six months ago, I decided that 2021 would be the year I’d commit to waking at the same time every morning. Other than some time-zone adjustments and a couple sick days, my wake-up time has been consistent.
Over the past few months, my answer to “What time should I wake up?” has been “At 4:30 am.” I try to get to bed around 8:30 or 9:30, so I get the recommended seven or eight hours of nightly sleep.
Am I a morning lark who jumps out of bed and flings the curtains wide? Not exactly, but now that my internal clock knows what to expect, my mind and body are more regulated, balanced, and clear.
I’m getting the best sleep I’ve gotten since my youth, and having experienced the benefits of a consistent answer to “What time should I wake up,” I’ll never go back to sleeping in on the weekends, or any other day if I can help it.