Sunday, January 14, 2007

How to get up in the morning

Bailey asleep. As those of you who read my blog regularly will know, I'm something of a night owl by nature. I just can't get up in the morning. I generally manage to stagger into work at some time after 10am, feeling very sheepish, and I think I'm very fortunate to be working with such understanding colleagues, who (thus far) haven't given me a hard time about it. Brian did give me an alarm clock as his Secret Santa present, though... Hmmmm. :)

During the holidays it got really extreme, because I also love to sleep. If I don't have to get up, I'm more than happy to sleep for 10-12 hours (with much snoozing going on in the latter part of that time).

Problem is, I then need to stay awake for a normal day's length of 16 hours or so before I feel tired enough to go to sleep again. 16+10=26 - which means that when I do sleep for that long, my bedtime gets later and later and later as the days go on. By the end of the holidays I was going to bed at 5am and getting up sometime after 3pm. Not good, when you have to get back into something of a sensible routine for work!

This also happens at weekends on a regular basis, even when it's not the holidays. I sleep in until about 2.30pm, and by the time I get up, most of the day is gone. Wasted.

Today (Sunday) I got up at 7.45am. I had a shower, made myself a coffee and sat down at my computer. By 9.30 I had read and recommended a dozen Daily Kos diaries, checked the CH and thought about what else I needed to do for The Gathering website.

Then I spent an hour or two writing this morning's blog post, and a couple more hours figuring out how to make a Google Map of The Gathering's Canaan Downs site, complete with map, satellite and hybrid views, an overview insert, a fully zoomable interface, and a whole bunch of little clickable info windows - with working line breaks. Go me!

By the time I usually start thinking I really should get up, I was in the garden de-mossing and weeding the terrace. It's now more than half-finished. After a few hours in the garden (and another half hour taking photos of all the pretty flowers in my garden) I settled down to watch Survivor: Cook Islands (today we reached the episode where the self-centred Candice got booted out - hooray!). Then I watched Whale Rider and cried all the way through, and now I'm back at my computer writing my second blog of the day.

Anyone who knows me in real life will have fallen from their chair in shock at the bit where I wrote "Today (Sunday) I got up at 7.45am" and they'll still be on the floor as they read this.

How did this self-confessed night owl do it? And will she continue to do it? Read on, gentle reader, read on...

Winnie asleep. Last Monday was our first day back at work after the holidays. I had had about 4 hours' sleep, and when the alarm clock went off, it was such a shock to the system I sat bolt upright in bed - and then got out of bed, took off my PJs and got into the shower. By the time I realised what I'd managed to do I was halfway through my shower and was feeling really quite awake. Amazing!

Later that day I was having a bit of a surf around the internets and I noticed a link entitled How to Build a High-Traffic Web Site (or Blog) by a guy called Steve Pavlina. Being a bit of a blogger myself (really? I bet you never knew that...), I thought I'd take a quick look, just out of interest. Very sensible stuff, which basically boiled down to "write interesting and original stuff that is of value and which people will want to read".

I didn't end up reading the whole thing, because the headline How to Become an Early Riser in Steve's Best of... list caught my eye. Hmmm. "Well, I have been feeling guilty about letting the team down by being continually late for work, and Brian did get me that alarm clock, and I do feel remarkably good today, which is amazing considering I only had 4 hours' sleep and got straight out of bed when the alarm went off this morning.... can't hurt to take a look, can it?"

So I did.

Steve reckons there are two schools of thought on how to get up early. The first is that you must live your life by the clock. Go to bed at the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning, using an alarm clock if you need to. Bleagh! A free spirit like me (read: rebellious grownup stuck at age 12 when it comes to getting up), live by the clock? No way!

The second school of thought is that you do what your body tells you. Go to sleep when you're tired, get up when you wake up. Which is basically what I've been doing - and it doesn't work too well when you like to sleep (and snooze) as much as I do. Nor does it work well when you actually do, you know, have to get up and go to work every day.

Steve's idea was to combine the two methods. The deal is that you can go to bed whenever you like, but you must get up at the same time every morning (using an alarm clock if you need it), regardless of the time you went to bed. So you get into bed when you are tired, and you don't actually try to sleep until you are ready to sleep (which is when it feels like you'll drop off within 5 minutes). He recommends reading in bed until you get sleepy, which is something I love to do, and have always done.

Then when the alarm clock goes off the next morning, you must get up straight away (no snoozing!). After a few days your body will adjust, so that if you went to bed late the night before, you'll feel tired earlier and will go to bed earlier the following night.

Now - the tricky bit - How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off. Oh my God. I am SO the worst in the world at this. I just can't do it! In fact I'm so good at not doing it that I actually switch off the alarm in my sleep, and carry on sleeping for another hour or two - which is why I'm always late for work. I should say was always late for work - because for the whole of this past week I've been arriving at work before 9am. It's a miracle! How did I do it? Well funnily enough, Steve has another blog post on that very subject. Brilliant!

Steve reckons that your 10-o'clock-last-night brain - the one that said "hmmm I would really like to get up at 7.45 tomorrow morning - I'll set my alarm..." is much more reliable than your 7.45am "oh my god I'm so TIRED - do I have to get up? Just 5 more minutes I promiszzzzzzzzz..." brain. Makes sense to me! So what you've gotta do is train your muscle memory to do the getting up for you, so as to stop your 7.45am brain interfering and stopping you getting out of bed.

Same principle as Pavlov's Dog. Pavlov did some research where he rang a bell whenever the dog was fed. After a while, the sound of the bell (with no accompanying food) caused the dog's mouth to water. In the same way, you have to train your body to get up automatically at the sound of the bell, so that by the time you realise what's happening, you're out of bed and in the shower.

He actually recommends practising getting up, so as to train yourself to do it automatically. You set the scene for going to bed (although it's actually daytime). Close your curtains, brush your teeth, put your PJs on, get into bed, set the alarm to go off in 2 minutes' time, and pretend to sleep. When the alarm goes off, do some deep breaths, big stretches, get out of bed... and than do it all again.

I didn't actually have to do that. For the past 6 days out of 7 I have got out of bed the moment the alarm goes off. It's miraculous.

I think for me it was a culmination of a buildup of guilt about always being late to work, plus feeling that I was wasting the days by sleeping through them, and my body clock getting extremely out of whack during these holidays - and a method that came along at exactly the right time, which appealed to me because it still allows me to be a rebellious teenager at night, as long as I agree to be a sensible grownup in the morning. I think that's key, actually.

The whole thing was crystallised for me yesterday (Saturday) when I failed the first it's-the-weekend-but-I'm-still going-to-get-up-early test, and ended up snoozing until about 2.30pm. I woke up every few hours after 7.45am (when I actually felt pretty good!), and each time I woke up I felt more and more tired, and more and more like crap. By the time I finally got out of bed I was feeling like a zombie with a big bad headache and a grumpy mood. Yup - well that just about sells it for me!

It feels as though this weekend (and especially today) has gone on for ever because I've got so much done and I feel so awake and alive - it's wonderful! I'm planning to keep this up now, because it feels great, and it also makes me a better team player. Everyone at work has been astonished this week. "Why are you here so early, webweaver?" they ask me at 9.30am. "I'm practising getting up," I say.

Thanks Steve!

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missdeuxmont said...

oh how FUNNY. i thought that you must have builders or painters in the house and that's why you were in early all last week. haha!!


webweaver said...

hahaha! See what I mean? It's a miracle!

sallyt said...

You're right - I am on the floor!

Well done chick :D

Anonymous said...

Yep, since having the sprogs we get sooooo much stuff done in a day though we fall into bed by 10pm completely exhausted.

Does this mean you can do brunch on our deck one day?

webweaver said...

heehee - 2 more RL friends on the floor with shock!

I'd love to do brunch on your new deck my sweeties - now all we have to do is find a nice sunny day harhar!

Gregg Scott GWEGGY said...

SInce it is Summer for you this is much easier with all the daylight, no?

I am 'Up Over' in Vancouver, Canada and have been staying up all night and sleeping in the day and I am completely backwards. Blogging in bed with a laptop can't be helping.

I don't know that springing out of bed at 7:45am will work if I haven't goen to sleep until 6am or worse 9am!

So tell us, how goes the springing out of bed. Are you still doing it?


webweaver said...

I am still doing the springing out of bed thing, greg. I figure it'll take at least a month to get myself fully "automated", and that it'll be a challenge some mornings, but it's really not too bad.

I empathise with the back-to-front nature of your life at the mo'. That's pretty much where I was. I tried doing an all-nighter a few days before I went back to work, to try and force myself back into the right body clock, but it didn't work. 2 days later I was back to going to bed at 4am.

I think having to get up for work (and therefore having a strong motivation to get up at a reasonable hour) helped a lot. As did the residual and growing guilt about letting the team down at work by being continually late.

The first morning I got up at 7.45am I had only gone to sleep at around 4am, so I hadn't had nearly enough sleep, but I figure 4 hours of sleep is just about OK if you only do it once or twice.

From there on it's a matter of willpower I think. I've realised that a) I have to get up the instant the alarm goes off. If I wait even a few seconds, it's fatal - I will go back to sleep.

And b) when I slept in last weekend (and dozed for 4 hours after my alarm went off) I took note of how I was feeling each time I woke up - and I realised that I felt worse after each dozing session. That was an important lesson to learn, and it's keeping me motivated.

Other motivators are that I'm getting so much more done at weekends, which is great, and also that I'm feeling much better (more awake) at work. Plus I feel good because I'm no longer letting down my workmates.

Yes I'm sure it is easier in the summer than it will be in the winter. I hope I'll be able to handle the clocks changing over at the end of summer!

I think the secret for me has been to find some motivators to start getting up early (being a better team player, and making the most of the day), to have a reason to get up (going to work), and to find a technique which seems to work psychologically for me - because although there is discipline required in the morning, I'm still free to do what I like (go to bed whenever I like) in the evening.

How about if you try going to bed at 4am one night, and make yourself get up at 8am to break the cycle? Then that night go to bed when you're tired (and don't ride it out until you get your second wind at 3am!) and get up again at 8am?

It doesn't actually take that many days/nights to get into it - you just have to keep going. Oh - and no blogging in bed! tee hee.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to do it!

Gregg Scott said...

(re-submitted with typo correct)

Well thank you for extrapolating. Although I am blogging in bed right now. Bad boy. I know.

I had this kooky idea. I am going to carry my alarm clock around when I'm socializing with the guys. Whenever we laugh or I am feeling particularly 'up' I am going to set off the beeping. We'll see how long that lasts.

And at home if I have a joyful moment - whatver the hell that could be - then I will likewise ring the bell.

The goal is to associate the sound of the shrill electronic beep with the good feelings. Ingenious isn't it. I think it's a form of 'anchoring' or 'seeding' the NLP/Hyypnois people might say.

Although I may go into a hypermanic state the next time I am in line at McDonald's and the french fry alarms all chime together.


webweaver said...

Heh. If you're going to try Pavlov's Dogging yourself just watch out you don't start salivating uncontrollably instead :)

Now go to sleep! It's 4.36am over there!

mccormicky said...

I have an even worse reason to not go to bed: I work from home so I can set my own hours which have always been the nightowl kind,job or no job.My boyfriend is a very early riser and kind of thinks I'm crazy because sometimes I go to bed when he's getting up.
Anyway without any sort of coaching I am able to flip my body clock if I want to.But soon enough I'll slip back into my old ways.And usually in just a day.So it's one day without any sleep at all if I need to wake up early.I've just never been able to go to bed at a good hour.I also love work late late at night when everyone else is asleep and I can concentrate in rare quiet.
Having 3 roommates makes one grab at silence:no effin sports racket on the TV.

Anonymous said...

Here I am on the other side of the world and probably twice the age of most of you, trying not only to get myself up in the morning but also trying to figure out how to thank the writer of this blog for suggesting methods which one would have thought I would have learned years ago. Anyways: thanks.

Bill Banks said...

Just curious, after three years, if you're still able to get up early like this. I have the same issue, snoozing until 2-3:00, easy.

webweaver said...

Hi Bill

Sadly, I don't think I even lasted a month. I just don't think my internal clock is made that way. I'm self-employed these days and my personal schedule (when I don't have to get up to go to a job every morning) is even more extreme than it was 3 years ago.

Now I naturally go to bed between 4 and 5am, and get up sometime between 2 and 3pm. It's a nightmare!

Especially on the odd days when I'm contracting somewhere where I actually do have to work in their office environment - because it means I have to shift my internal clock by about 6 hours in order to get to work at a somewhat reasonable hour.

The snoozing's what does it for me too. I can snooze for 2 hours, easy - and all of a sudden I've lost 2 more hours of civilised work time. Crazy!

I think I may actually have Delayed sleep-phase syndrome - I read that Wikipedia article and went "OMG! That's me to a tee!"

So there you go. Possibly there's no hope for me to ever become a "normal" riser, let alone an early bird :)