Friday, April 11, 2014

A Month of Mornings

I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but I'm not exactly a morning person.

OK, that might be a tad bit of an understatement. To be honest, getting my little self in and out of bed at a reasonable hour has been something I've struggled with my entire life.

I have tried to reform about a million times, but generally it lasts about a week at most before I fall off the wagon, and very quickly I'm back to staying up past 4am and sleeping well past noon.

While I have pretty much accepted that being a night owl is just part of my essential nature, I also really, REALLY miss the daylight. Especially now that the weather is getting nicer I find myself longing for more hours when I can be outside.

So I decided to give it another shot and this time I decided to approach it differently.

In the past I'd always tried to reform by attempting to slowly move my bedtime and waking times a little bit earlier every day. This always seemed like the best approach to me, but the truth is it just never worked.

Then I remembered something I'd heard once about how circadian rhythms work. I heard that melatonin levels actually peak twice throughout the day, once at bedtime, and once again about an hour or two before you awaken. The theory was that the body needed a little extra dose of drowsiness to keep itself asleep as it becomes more rested throughout the night. 

Now, I cannot remember where I heard this, and I have no idea whether this is actually true or not. I'm starting to suspect that it might not be, because when I went to find something to link to for this post I couldn't find anything that even remotely supported this theory. 

But, the veracity of this melatonin theory notwithstanding, I decided that this time I was gonna try the cold turkey approach rather than the gradual one that had failed so many times before.

I figured if I could get up before the extra surge of drowsiness came on, I might be able to physically withstand it.

To give it an extra push in the same direction, I decided to time my experiment with the time shift to daylight saving time so that the net effect would be going to bed and getting up approximately 4 hours earlier than I had been.

Now, if you've ever tried to go to bed 4 hours early, you probably know that it ain't as easy as it might sound. Seriously... how can you go to sleep when you're just not tired? 

Well, I decided this time to give myself a little boost in the drowsiness department and started taking both a low dose melatonin supplement as well as a bit of magnesium (which promotes relaxation) at bedtime.

I also had heard that a vital component of resetting the circadian rhythms is to expose yourself to a lot of light in the mornings. So my plan was to set the alarm, get up and have some coffee and get as much light as possible.

Now, I've gotta say that the first few days were pretty horrible. I'd wake up OK and manage to get out of bed alright, but then an hour or two later the intense sleepiness would hit and I'd feel my typical morning nausea, shakiness and general purpose yuck.

But... I stuck with it, and after about a week or so it actually started to get a bit better. And after a month of this I'm starting to think I might be able to live with it.

It's still not what I would call easy. It takes enormous discipline to make myself go to bed instead of launching into a movie or project after midnight.

But once I get the melatonin and magnesium into my system I do start to feel sleepy so I'm able to fall asleep by around 1:30 most nights.

And while I'm sure the morning people out there are incredulous that I would consider getting up at around 10:30am to be early, I do have to point out that there is an AM after that 10:30, so it is technically morning, which is a significant improvement over my previous habits!

I've gotta say that it's really, REALLY nice to feel like I'm getting out of vampire mode.

I'm soooo hopeful that I'll be able to maintain it this time.

So are there any other hopeless night owls out there who have ever tried to reform? I'd love to hear what has or hasn't worked for you!