For the past five days, I’ve been going to bed between 10:30pm and 11:00pm and waking up between 6:30am and 7:00am.
One might ask, what’s so special about that? Don’t most people go to bed by 11:00pm and wake up around 7:00am? Maybe… But not me!
I’ve been a night owl all my life. As a kid, getting up early to go to school was a hassle — fortunately, growing up in Brazil I had the option of going to school in the afternoon. As an adult, I struggled to get to work by 9:00am like everybody else, often failing miserably. Luckily, bosses and colleagues eventually adjusted to my schedule, mostly because I worked long hours and always managed to be in the office earlier when needed.
Thanks to these enabling factors, I became one of those people who can function perfectly well with just a few hours of sleep per night. Like most nocturnals, I was my most productive in the late afternoons and evenings. I dreaded 9:00am meetings and rarely agreed to any, except those called by my bosses. Sometimes I’d work at home until late at night and send e-mails to people I knew would not read them until early in the morning.
This crazy lifestyle worked well for me for many years. I may have looked tired, but I felt fine and enjoyed my life.
Last fall I moved from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, and while my life changed quite a bit, I kept the same sleeping habits because, well, I didn’t know how to do otherwise!
This summer, I went on my first trip to Brazil since moving to the West Coast. I was used to the insignificant one-hour time difference between D.C. and Brazil and didn’t think much about the fact that I’d be dealing with a four-hour time difference now. I had handled bigger time differences successfully, so no big deal!
While in Brazil, the time difference played to my advantage. I felt rested and was able to keep my late hours, going to bed around 2:00am almost every night for three weeks. But back in L.A., after a 24-hour trip –that involved three flights and a sleepless night– and a poorly slept first night at home, I developed a serious case of jet lag that changed my sleeping habits and led this night owl to this current stint as an early bird.
And much to my surprise, I love being an early bird!
I had forgotten –or never knew– the joys of being up early. For starters, the day feels so much longer. I used to have just a couple of productive hours before noon so my mornings were basically useless. Getting up at 7:00 I can do a million things and there’s still time to spare!
I’ve also been able to sleep faster. While before I’d be tossing and turning –fighting sleep– for at least an hour, it takes me less than fifteen minutes to doze off now. And the quality of my sleep has also improved significantly.
Surprisingly, I don’t miss my lonely late night activities, as I interact more often with “regular” people. And I can finally agree to 9:00am meetings and appointments without feeling aggravated.
The big question is, how long will this last? Will I be able to keep this up, or will I eventually revert to my nocturnal self? Any tips on how to avoid that are very welcome!