I’ve recently noticed an upswing of “How to Become an Early Riser” articles (although I think it’s a topic that’s recycled more often than the magazines themselves), and I’m wondering if I should adjust my schedule. Getting up early satisfies the competitive achiever in us all — I remember one Saturday in college where I’d been to crew practice on the lake, fed the whole team breakfast, showered/dressed, and started my homework before my roommates even woke up (around 11am). I felt like an Olympian. It’s also said that the early morning hours (2–6am) are the best for meditation, since they’re the most still. Kundalini manuals insist that you should get up at 3:30am to begin your practice. It shows your commitment.
My current schedule usually gets me to my desk by the bright sparkling hour of noon. I read blogs and news for an hour or two, then plan my day, fit in a yoga class, and generally get my best work accomplished after 9pm. Some nights it’s 1 or 2am that I’m really in the zone to work — it’s nice and quiet then, with no neighbors (like the one currently blasting NPR) to distract me. 3 or 4am is not an unusual bedtime. It feels right for me, but I have this nagging feeling that meditating at 3:30am — on the tail end of my day — is not going to get me full credit w/the gurus.
Finally, this month, my guilty conscience was assuaged by the geeks at Wired:
1 // You may need more sleep than you think.
Research by Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center found that people who slept eight hours and then claimed they were “well rested” actually performed better and were more alert if they slept another two hours. That figures. Until the invention of the lightbulb (damn you, Edison!), the average person slumbered 10 hours a night.
2 // Night owls are more creative.
Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, “evening people” almost universally slam-dunked a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.
3 // Rising early is stressful.
The stress hormone cortisol peaks in your blood around 7 am. So if you get up then, you may experience tension. Grab some extra Zs! You’ll wake up feeling less like Bert, more like Ernie.
I think the important thing is a RELATIVE schedule. No matter what time you wake up, you do your meditation and asana practice straight away (or after 15 minutes, or before bed, or whatever). I get lost when I look at the clock and think OH SHIT IT’S LATE and skip my practices because “I need to get to work.” But my efficiency and creativity are down, so the day is less productive than if I’d taken 30 minutes or an hour for yoga. Granted, my brain and body would be more habituated to asana and meditation if I did them at the same time every day. But when I follow my heart, my evenings do NOT end on schedule. So my days just get pushed four hours out of sync with everyone else. Fingers crossed my next job will let me work second shift…