Ever since I was a little girl I've been up at dawn. While my family members were sleeping, I would get up and read a book, watch the sunrise, or sit down and pray. I didn't know if God could hear me or not. But I did know that if he was there, he was the only one awake to talk to. So remember that the next time you use the oxymoronic phrase, “ungodly hour.”
As I grew older and my peers started progressively staying up later and sleeping in longer, I still got up somewhere between 4 and 6 in the morning, and was still happiest when I could wrap myself in my down duvet by 9:30 at night.
Which can be a real drag when you like to stay out dancing until 3 but your body still wakes you at the crack of dawn. So, you may have just taken your Tylenol and stumbled into bed two hours ago, but hello, 5 a.m.
For years I tried to change my sleep patterns, thinking, ‘What's wrong with me? Why can't I sleep in? I must have insomnia!' Until I learned about that there was nothing wrong, I was just naturally aligned with an Ayurvedic sleep schedule. So let me stand on my break-of-dawn soap box and proclaim the benefits in following an early-to-bed, early-to-rise, Ayurvedic sleep pattern:
1. You get a heck of lot done before most people even stretch their arms above their head, swing their legs over the edge of the bed, and think, “I need a coffee.”
As in, on my earlier mornings, I've meditated, read something thought-provoking, run up the mountainside, showered, had a latte, responded to my emails, written a draft article, threw a batch of banana muffins in the oven for the kids' breakfast, and brewed you a fresh coffee.
Here you go, sleepy head. Take a mug and a hug. I'm sorry, did that just sound like I was gloating? I may have been. But hey, I also have to make myself feel better about the fact that you stayed out having fun and now you're lapping up a few extra hours of comfy dream time.
Truth is, we both missed something, yes. But only one of us missed the hangover.
2. You take full advantage of a profoundly insightful part of the day. To borrow Rumi's advice, “The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you; don't go back to sleep.”
For whatever reason the best ideas pop into my head somewhere between 4 and 6 a.m. It may be the same for you. But unless you're on the Ayurvedic sleep pattern, you probably fall right back to sleep. So when you wake up it feels something like this, “I'm so excited. I achieved enlightenment at 4 a.m. It was profound. I can't remember what it was.”
When those crazy cool thoughts flow in with the breezes of dawn, I jump out of bed and write them down. And while I'm exaggerating about the enlightenment part (I really have no idea what enlightenment feels like), the clearest thinking of my day is early and I capitalize on that. In fact, my brain works so well in the early hours that I can get five hours worth of work done in just two. Efficiency is a bonus.
And since I've quoted Rumi, how about a little Simon and Garfunkel to add ethos to my case for rising early, casting out, and reeling in the insights:
Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains, within the sound of silence.
Which brings me to my next point.
3. You soak up silence. And not only to fish out the visions sleep has planted in our brains. But also because life is too damn frenetic and loud. Too many people, too many cars, too many messages, too many appointments, too many dogs barking, too many kids yelling. Yes, altogether too much noise and chaos.
So when everyone in the world is sleeping except you and the alley cat, you have the advantage of truly enjoying silence. If you can take a few deep breaths and bottle some of that for the day, you have a recipe for resilience.
4. You stay out of trouble. I remember someone giving me parenting advice along the lines of “make sure kids are in at night because that's the time when sex, drugs, or jail happen.” There's some truth to that for adults too.
Since I'm up so early I'm pretty wiped by 9 or 10, which keeps me soundly out of the stampeding path of the partiers. This was a source of annoyance for my friends for some time. I'm always available for coffee and philosophical chats but far less often for their midnight madness.
So message me all you want from your primo seat at the bar. My phone is off. And I love that you wish I was there and that just an hour before I started my day you left me a voicemail crooning to me in your best Grace Slick voice. Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, all the way baby!
But it's just not for me. Like I mentioned, even if I were to stay up and rock it with the white rabbit I would still be up at five. And it's hard not to be messed up on two hours of sleep. Without enough of that precious REM time, everything goes out of whack: our hormones, our mental health, our immune systems, our entire bodies. Without sleep, we crash.
So stay healthy and out of trouble with this one tip: go to bed early and get up early. And then take life and rock it, Ayurvedic style.