Updated: Apr 7, 2021
So here's the deal. Recently my life literally turned a totally different direction, if you read "Taking the Path Less Traveled By" you would know what I mean. But with this significant change in my career, I've needed to make quite the lifestyle change as well. One MASSIVE change that I've encountered was that I need to fix my sleep schedule. I've always been a night owl- going to bed between the hours of 2-4am, and waking up between 10-11am... sometimes 12pm... This is partially due to the fact that working at In-N-Out I had shifts that go from 8pm-2am, so I had kind of shifted my entire life to those hours.
But now that I am a Real Estate Agent, I need to start transitioning to being a morning person. Work starts at 8am for me, and ends around 6pm on average. But even though work now starts at 8am, the accountability factor has kind of gone away. I don't need to clock in anymore, I just need to start making phone calls. Similar to everyone going to school right now, you don't need to get up and drive there you just need to hop on camera. So I can technically wake up right AT 8 and start going. But what I've realized with that is my production is TERRIBLE when I do so. I wake up, I'm groggy, I'm a mess, and I start working. Confidence is out the window. And that's at 8am... if I want to be productive, confident, and have a positive start to my day I've realized I seriously need to wake up even earlier.
High school was the earliest I've ever had to wake up, and even then I was constantly late to first period, and that was almost two years ago! College and In-N-Out have definitely thrown me for a loop with my sleep schedule, so fixing this is not easy. Its been a couple of months and I'm still struggling. Just this week I have woken up at 9 or 10 everyday... WHAT IS MY PROBLEM! That's one to two hours of productivity that I am sleeping through and I fully blame my sleep schedule. And before you come at me, no, I don't drink coffee. Or anything caffeinated. I know, I'm weird. I like to stick to my hot chocolate, teas, and blended drinks when I go to Starbucks. So that's not really a solution in my book. But you know what is...? Exercise and devotionals. There was this one day a few months ago specifically that sticks in my head rent free.
So, story time!! I met this girl named Kelly. It's a long story but long story short, our parents set us up as friends LOL. The first time we hung out I invited her via instagram DM to come to my church group. She agreed and we ended up going, and on the way we shared some life details and I found out that she works at a spin studio. She offered to take me to a free class that week. A few days later, she texted me that classes were at 8,9, and 5:30am. I reallyyyy wanted to go to one, but I couldn't do an 8 or 9am because I had calls during those hours. I stared at the 5:30am time slot for a moment but laughed because, how would I EVER wake up on time for that??? But it could be fun and a spontaneous change of scenery... So I suggested we take it. She was super down because she wakes up early all the time! So there we have it, that's how I got signed up for a 5:30am spin class...
I remember hearing my alarm go off at 4:45am that day and thinking "what on earth have I gotten myself into." I jumped out of bed, texted Kelly that I was up and on my way, and rushed out the door to pick her up by 5. We got to the studio around 5:10 and it was PITCH BLACK outside. I seriously have never woke up this early except maybe once for a flight or something. We went inside and took the class, and it definitely woke me up to say the least. The class itself was super fun and unique, but it is how I took on the rest of the day after the class that really showed me the benefits of being an early riser.
I dropped Kelly back at home at around 6:30am and was finally starting to see the sun pop out from hiding. I went home, made myself a breakfast of eggs and toast, and sat by my pool to watch the sun rise while I ate. I don't think I've ever watched the sun rise... it was so gorgeous and reminded me of how grateful I should be for the earth that God has created.
Psalm 113:3 ESV / "From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!"
Another thing that I have been struggling to do is take enough time out of the day to read the Bible and do devotionals. Since I had some time, I prayed and thanked the Lord for his creation, because that's something we can never do enough of! It is so easy to pray out of desperation and need, but praying out of thanks is something that we forget to do! After that prayer, it really encouraged me to get out my Bible and a book I was going through at the time called "The Cross Centered Life" by C.J. Mahaney. I read for a bit and spent time doing devotionals until around 7:15am. After I closed my book, I went and took a shower while listening to a podcast about finance in your early 20's by Anthony O'neal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwdNfBJ0zvs) I then made a few phone calls to some of my real estate leads, got ready for the day, and ran some errands. Then, I took a class for real estate, and went to college group for church.
Overall, 10/10 great day. I felt so productive, I made time for the things I tend to skip over like exercise and devotionals, I actually ATE BREAKFAST which I normally sleep through. Literally my productivity levels were increased and it was only a few hours earlier than normal. So WHY CAN'T I DO THAT EVERYDAY??
So I did a little bit of research and here are 3 facts that stuck out to me about the benefits of waking up early:
As the Harvard Business Review previously reported, biologist Christoph Randler discovered that "people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success, because they're more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening."
Fragmented sleep happens when you wake up and then hit the snooze button and drift back to dreamland. That ends up messing with your sleep cycles, causing drowsiness. One 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fragmented sleep causes exhaustion throughout the day.
Those along with many more discoveries I found within just a few physiological studies on the internet. So with all of these benefits, again, WHY AM I STRUGGLING TO FIX MY SLEEP SCHEDULE STILL??? Well, just like most things, there is a psychological answer to that, too.
So, all of our bodies have a natural Circadian Rhythm- a 24-hour cycle that is part of the body’s internal clock. Circadian rhythm is crucial to managing the balance between sleep and wakefulness, helping us be alert or drowsy at the appropriate time. But there are many habits that can throw off or alter our circadian rhythm, causing us to struggle with waking up earlier or later than we want to. Some of which we may be unable to control, like work schedules, jet lag, or stressful/emotional circumstances. But many of these habits we actually can control, so looking at those we have:
Artificial light exposure: Biologically, the circadian rhythm developed to correspond to sunlight long before electricity was invented. However, the brain responds to artificial light as well, which means that constant exposure to indoor lighting as well as electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, televisions, and computers can interfere with typical signals that convey whether it’s day or night.
Behavior choices: Deciding to stay up late or wake up early to study, play sports, or take part in social activities can throw off normal sleep routines.
Caffeine and energy drinks: Stimulants may help you feel alert, but they can upset the body’s ability to naturally balance sleep and wakefulness, making it more difficult to sleep when you need to.
For me, reading these facts kind of hit me with the "ohhhh" factor. Ohhhh I have been doing all of that. Cell phone usage for sure is throwing me off, because even on the days where I have been able to get into bed at night at a reasonable hour, I tend to stay on my phone for another hour or two scrolling away and then wondering why I slept through my alarm again... I didn't realize though that the light on my cell phone was actually affecting me biologically, by changing my circadian rhythm.
All of that to say, the benefits of waking up early seem pretty worth it to make some sacrifices at night and put in the work to alter my sleep schedule. Starting by making consistency a priority. Habits and routines are powerful precisely because they are repeated over and over again in order to create a pattern. From sleepfoundation.org "a key first step is to reset your sleep schedule. Pick a bedtime and wake-up time that you can stick with and that offer ample time for the sleep you need. Follow this schedule every day, even on weekends. At first, you may find it hard to adjust to this new sleep schedule, and that’s normal. A new routine won’t feel normal immediately; it takes time to get used to. In order to gradually adjust to a new sleep schedule, you can make adjustments in 15 or 30 minute increments over a series of days. You can also focus first on the wake-up time, creating one fixed part of your schedule, and then use the tips described below to modify your sleep habits so that you can incrementally get used to falling asleep at your scheduled bedtime."
So, what now? Well, I personally am going to take the facts and use them to beat the culture and flip my sleep schedule. The early bird gets the worm!! Let me know if you guys find this convincing enough to change your sleep habits and if not, what are your current sleep habits and why?