Thirty years ago I was an unrepentant late sleeper and resolute night owl; most of my activities didn’t even start until I got off from work at 9 pm, or later. I told myself for many years that my schedule was based on my own natural rhythms and my brain just functioned better at midnight. Looking back with more mature eyes, I think it probably had very little to do with my circadian clock, but was more likely a justification for how I chose to stay up and sleep late during that period of time. Either way I’ve evolved into one of those exuberant morning people that I used to despise.
I eventually had to join the real world where I’ve worked in hospitals most of my career and twenty-four hour staffing is a must in the department I work in. Morning shifts often require a start time of 6 am, or earlier, and those first few years of rolling into the laboratory that early were pure torment. It didn’t help that, traditionally, this is the busiest part of the workday. There was always an encounter or two with these cheerful morning types who I was certain wore this upbeat demeanor in an attempt to annoy me. Honestly, who could possibly be that happy and alert in the bowels of the day? I loathed them, at least until 10 am or so, when the reasonable part of my personality would finally wake up and join the rest of me. It’s probably out of respect for the cranky grouch I used to be that I keep my morning bliss very low key.
Surprisingly, it was during my years on the night shift that my view of early mornings began to change. There are many drawbacks to the graveyard shift, but the biggest one for me was managing my time off. I adapted a hybrid sleep pattern on those days that allowed me to have a few extra hours to enjoy myself without becoming totally exhausted. I usually slept in two bursts- once during the afternoon and then again when my husband went to bed. I would wake up at 3 am or so, still partially tethered to the schedule I adhered to on workdays. It was during this period that I fell in love with that blossoming part of the day, when the sun just begins to peek over the horizon and reach tentatively across the sky. The new day, in those moments, just seems to overflow with unlimited potential.
It took several more years and some employment changes before I got to a place where I could enjoy being up early on a regular basis. I still love that time when the rest of the day sits unfurled before me. I have to admit that many times the plans I make in that quiet calm have gone unrealized as I rush through the rest of the day, derailed by distractions, and out of steam long before bedtime. However, I know after a restful sleep, I’ll be able to try again tomorrow, in the freshness of another new day.