I’m proud to be an early bird!

Published June 8, 2015   Posted in Having some fun

I have often heard, “Damnit Steve, quit living like you’re old”.

I will admit it – I keep a schedule that is much more typical of someone who is, shall we say, “advanced” in the years department.  I am the kind of person whose body clock is well-honed to the patterns of the sun, and I’ve never really fought against that pattern.

Even as a child, my parents admitted to me one day that I never really had a bed time because they knew that I’d go to bed on my own once I felt tired.  They had always set an arbitrary “bed time” of 10pm, but I was in bed a little after 9pm most nights.  Contrary to how my brother operated, I never forced myself to stay up simply because it wasn’t my predetermined bed time.

Just like the majority of our ancient ancestors, I tend to rise with the sun in the morning and begin getting tired once the sun goes down.  Typically, both my wife and I are in bed by around 9pm every night and we’re up by 5:30am during the week.  Our idea of sleeping in on the weekends is maaayyyybe staying in bed until 6:30 or 7am, at the very latest.

And even then, I still find that I force myself to stay in bed under the guise of “extra sleep”.  Naturally, I just want to get up and start my day.

I really began to see the benefits of this sleep scheduled after I graduated college.  Commuting into an office for a living, the last thing that I wanted to do is drive home in the dark.  When the sun goes down, my body clock is telling me that the day is almost over.  But alas, I just got off of work!  The day is almost over?  What a waste.

And so, I have always gotten up early – at the butt crack of dawn, to get my day started and my job-related duties over with as early in the day as I possibly can, leaving a good majority of the day ready for the tackling…sun and all!  Seriously, my body clock is damn accurate, and steadfastly determined to get my ass out of bed nearly at sunrise every day, whether weekday or weekend, and regardless of where I happen to be in the world.  In a way, this is both good and bad, but I believe it’s more on the good side.

On our honeymoon in Hawaii, both my wife and I were ready to escape the sheets soon after sunrise each day – and not just because, well, we were in Hawaii and wanted to enjoy the beach.  It was much more basic than that.  Simply, we just were no longer tired.  The sun was up, and so should we.

Is there any science behind this?

The more I looked into my sleeping patterns, the more interesting things became.  What this whole topic comes down to is your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s tendencies to sleep, and how much rest and relaxation you truly need from day to day.  Some people just don’t need the neatly-packaged 8 to 10 straight hours of sleep every night, a theory that has been drilled into us for decades.  Some need less sleep, while others need more.

Research has found some interesting differences between early birds and night owls, though I don’t know how useful all this really is.  For example, this study found that night owls, or those who hit the sheets much later at night, tend to report higher levels of stress.  Or how about this one, which found that evening types tended to be more neurotic, while morning people tend to be more conscientious.  This study claims that night owls appear to be more narcissistic and Machiavellianism than early birds.

This Forbes.com article talks about various studies that appear to suggest that early birds get better grades in school, are more proactive and optimistic and even enjoy less hectic commutes into (and away from) work, effectively beating the more heavily congested hours of the day.

Note: Try this Google search for “early bird vs. night owl” for some interesting reading.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how much of this that I truly believe.  I certainly did not base my early birdness on any study.  Instead, it is what worked for me over the course of many years.  I never really felt the need to stay up until the wee hours of the morning.

Interestingly, a very small percentage of people are true early birds according to a LifeScience.com report.  And granted, changes in people’s hormonal levels, and the need to fit into society, tend to have significant effects on people’s sleep patterns especially during high school and college.  I suppose my refusal to let social norms get in the way of my preferred sleep pattern is why I did not have all that many friends when I was younger.  They all wanted to go out and do stuff at 10pm.  Screw that.

Which one is better?

Is it “better” to hit the sheets early and get up early?  Hell no!  Personally, I do not believe that there’s any right or wrong way to manage your sleep pattern.  Everybody is different.  We all maintain our own special little lives in this world, and what works for some may not work so well for others.

I would say it is better for me. I really enjoy getting my day started as early as I can and getting right to work.  By noon, my work day is almost over and I have the entire afternoon to truly make the day my own.  To me, there is something satisfying about putting in a good day’s work by 2pm.  I feel like my productive working hours are far and away maximized to the fullest with this schedule.

The real problem is after the sun goes down, I am much too dependent on technology for my entertainment.  I can’t go outside and frolic around in the street (or, rather, I “shouldn’t”) — though, the photography sure can be pretty darn cool.  I tend not to swim in the pool due to both the quality of light and the temperature of the water at that point.  I certainly won’t pick weeds, trim the hedges, clean the gutters either.  At night, I feel like I am stuck inside, leaving me to depend on stuff like computers and the television for my entertainment.

That’s the last thing that I want.

Instead, I need to get as much as I possibly can done during the day when the sun is brightly shining.  Then, once the sun goes down, I can truly wind down and relax knowing that my day has been productive and filling.  Once the sun is gone, it’s my time to just chill.  The day is done.  Responsibilities are over.  Now, let’s just enjoy some relaxation before bed.

What about you?  Are you naturally an early bird or a night owl?

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14 responses to “I’m proud to be an early bird!”

  1. Wow — rising with the sun. That’s intense! Okay, that probably outs us as NOT super early risers. Which makes us, according to those studies, stressed out, neurotic, narcissistic, and not conscientious. 🙂 In truth, we’re a split duo — one night owl/late sleeper, one middle of the road (bed by 10/10:30, up by 6:30/7). But since we’ve always had external forces (namely school and jobs) telling us when we can and can’t sleep, we actually feel like we have no clue what our natural inclinations are. We hope to figure that out when we retire, along with other big questions like what we want to do when we grow up. We think it will take us a few months before we catch up on sleep and get into what feels like a natural rhythm with sleep, but hope to find out, in our new life with no alarm clocks — how much sleep we really need, what our natural schedules are, etc.

    • Steve says:

      I will be very interested to find out if our sleep schedules will change after retirement as well. Will we still rise with the sun? Maybe, maybe not. I would be surprised if we kept getting up at 5:30am, though…perhaps something closer to 6am instead. 🙂

  2. Currently I wake up around 730am. Mostly it’s because of my sourroundings. NYC is not an early riser what so ever. I get the the office around 845 or 9am and many more trickle in after me. Also I chose to go to the gym at night instead of the morning as I don’t have enough energy when I wake up to lift weights. If I move out to the suburbs and can keep my own schedule once I reach FI I will probably change my habits to be more in line with yourself.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Fervent,

      Like you, my wife and I go to the gym in the evenings because neither of us get nearly as good of a workout early in the morning. Even though we’re early risers, we still get much, much better workouts later on in the day, just like you.

      I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that NYC is not an early rising city. People stay out pretty late there, giving reason to why it’s called the City that Never Sleeps. 🙂

  3. I am right there with you my friend.

    I have always been an early to bed and early to rise kind of guy. Many of the most successful people I know all believe in being an early riser.

    I am up between 5am and 6am everyday naturally. I can’t tell you the last time I set an alarm clock. Every once in a while (like maybe every 6 months) I am able to sleep until 8am when I am just exhausted.

    My wife on the other hand is not an early bird. And to be honest it works great that way. Because I have 4 hours to get a ton of things done on the weekends before she ever wakes up.

    You know what they say, “early bird gets the worm.”


    • Steve says:

      Hey Dominic! Like you, I never set an alarm clock either. My body clock keeps track of the time for me. I am usually lying in bed and waiting for 5:20-ish to roll around. I can’t remember the last time that I have overslept. 🙂

      Mmm, worms…

  4. Nello says:

    It’s like I wrote this post myself. I operate exactly the same way and find myself to be extremely optimistic and at my happiest as a very early riser. In my 20’s I often tried to keep up with social functions, which threw me off track. These days I listen to my circadian rhythm and am also proud to be an early bird. Funny how few people understand why I get up so early when I don’t have to – especially on weekends. My mornings are sacred. Nice to know I’m not alone. 😀

    • Steve says:

      Hey Nello,

      Yeah, I don’t fight against my circadian rhythm either. I roll with the punches, and I love having the majority of the day’s daylight hours to me…to be as productive as I want to be for that day. Up early, done early. 🙂

  5. weenie says:

    Thanks for the interesting post and links.

    There’s only one 5.30 time in my book and that’s the time (in the evening) I leave work to go home – the other one doesn’t exist because I am always asleep then!

    I’ve always been a night owl, including all through school and university and my grades didn’t suffer.

    It’s very rare for me to go to bed before midnight – if I do, it means I’m probably unwell! My alarm goes off at 7am and no, I don’t suffer from fatigue or tiredness, nor would my friends/colleagues describe me as stressed out, neurotic, narcissistic, or not conscientious!

    My gym sessions are in the evenings after work – there’s no way I have the energy to work out in the morning.

    I go out with friends and the early birds are yawning just as the night owls are ready to party some more! We usually compromise and don’t stay out too late!

    My folks were night owls when they worked and in retirement, they are still night owls, even though most of their friends are early birds. I think I’ll probably be the same as I guess you can only go with what is natural to you and your body.

    • Steve says:

      Hi Weenie!

      Ah, you work nights – yeah, that pretty much demands that you become a night owl, eh? 🙂

      Definitely agree on following what is natural to you. Some people just operate better with a nighttime schedule. Others, like me, prefer the mornings to get things done.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Mrs. FI says:

    That’s crazy you’ve always been a “morning person.” I’ve actually switched over the years. From a young age, all the way until 1/2 way through college, I was a night owl. Nights were so much more fun and mysterious and mornings were THE WORST. In high school and college it felt weird for me to go to bed before 10 pm. 11 pm-midnight was the “sweet spot” for me on week nights whereas 1am – 2am was my usual on the weekends. During that time I easily slept 10-12 hrs a night on the weekends, waking up in the late mornings/early afternoons the next day, while averaging 5 hrs during the week due to homework and social activities. Looking back I don’t know how I did that – I can barely stay up til 11 now! However, that’s probably because my body, for the past few years, has been waking up before my alarm on most days. Anywhere from 530-730 is normal waking hours for the hubs and I now, and bedtime is 9-1030 almost every night – no matter if its the weekend or weekday. Not sure if our jobs caused the change, or if age has something to do with it. Either way, I’m happy with the change but see the fun/benefits of both choices.

    • Steve says:

      I think high school and college tends to be the time in most of our lives that is more amenable to the night owl sleep schedule. Not sure why I never fell into that myself…

      My parents never would have let me sleep through the morning and into the afternoons anyway, so even if I wanted to change my schedule so I stayed up late and slept in late, there was a limit to how long I could sleep on the weekends.

      I think with full time jobs, it’s just much easier for MOST people to maintain at least somewhat of an early bird schedule, like you’re doing, to adhere to people’s basic circadian rhythms and such. I’m sure as heck more productive that way.

  7. Chris Muller says:

    I can’t say I rise with the sun, but definitely an early bird. I think of sleeping in as wasting the day, similar to what you described. Since I started working full time, my schedule forces me to get up early, and thus I can’t sleep late on weekends. I enjoy it though, because you have the whole day ahead of you. I never thought about your point with technology – it’s true that once the sun is down and you can’t do anything outside you rely on things like TV, phones, computers, etc. I have been really trying to force myself to get up even earlier during the week so I can get a start on some other things I want to accomplish like running. My father in law is a night owl and has been that way his whole life. He owned a painting business so he never had to be at “work” until the afternoon, but he’d work late into the night. He typically wakes up at 11:30 and goes to bed around 2am… I could never do this, but it seems to work for him.

  8. […] of my goals recently has been to wake up early (check out a great blog post here from my friend Steve on this) to get a head start on some of my daily goals, such as running, […]

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