OK friends, enough is enough. If I see another social media post or book or online article condoning the ‘get up early’ movement, I’m going to tear my hair out. It seems to be a real trend at the moment—get up earlier and be more productive, balanced, mindful, etc.
But there’s something you need to know if you’re thinking of jumping on this bandwagon (or already trying to):
You can’t just ‘become’ a morning person. That’s like trying to ‘become’ a blue-eyed person when you have green eyes.
You see, there’s these things called ‘chronotypes’ that mean that getting up early is not best for everyone. And so, I hereby nominate myself as President of the Anti-get-up-early movement.
First things first. Sleep is important. Sleep is vital. I won’t get into the stats and science of how sleep affects just about every physical, mental and emotional function we have, but if sleep is not one of your top priorities in life, you need to reassess. Getting enough quality sleep is important, and so is having a regular sleep routine.
But I want to talk about chronotypes.
A chronotype is a person’s natural tendency to feel sleepy or alert at a particular time of day. You may have heard of ‘circadian rhythms’, and chronotypes are a way of categorising people based on their circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are often misunderstood and thought to be triggered by darkness and light. While levels of light have an effect on circadian rhythms, they are more of an internal system that monitors and adjusts your level of wakefulness.
Most of us have heard of the term night owl, along with morning larks. These are the two opposite ends of the chronotype spectrum. There’s also a name for those in the middle: eagles. We all fall somewhere along the spectrum and are somewhat stuck with what we get.
Chronotypes are heavily genetic.
If you try to change your sleep pattern to fit a different chronotype than your inbuilt one, you are fighting against every cell in your body.
You can make small shifts, but only within a certain margin without it affecting your energy and alertness.
Your chronotype determines your energy levels at different times of the day. Larks do their best work in the morning. Eagles hit their peak in the middle of the day, while owls are energised in the evening or even late at night.
The best way to find your true chronotype is to go camping. Get away from artificial light and you’ll find out what time you naturally go to sleep and get up. If you can’t do this, you can start to understand yourself better by observing your energy levels and alertness at various stages of the day and evening.
The current trend I’m seeing around the place is one that encourages people to get up earlier so that they can have their ideal morning routine done and dusted before they have to start work or get kids ready for school, etc. Get up early to do yoga, read, work on a project, go for a run, meditate, learn to knit, write a book, or all of the above! I’m totally supportive of an individualised routine that allows you to focus on the things that are important to you. I’m just saying that if you are a night owl, you’re wasting your time trying to do that routine early in the morning.
You’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
You’re trying to do all these things at a time where your energy is naturally low. Even if you go to bed earlier in an attempt to get a full night’s sleep before getting up earlier, you are just making both night and morning difficult if you’re a night owl.
In an ideal world, our lives would be structured to fit our chronotypes, rather than us trying to fit ourselves into a predominantly ‘9 to 5’ society. If you are in complete control of your own daily timetable, I recommend learning your chronotype and working with it. For everyone else, I still recommend learning your chronotype and working with it, albeit within the constraints of work, school, family, or other commitments.
Just don’t buy into the hype that getting up earlier will make us all happier. Stop trying to fight nature.