family · fitness · sleep

Children and Changing Sleep Patterns, or Confessions of a Former Morning Person

I used to be a morning person.

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When I was riding and racing my bike in an organized fashion, I even had alarms that began with 4. Why? Because I rode to the start of training, which started at 6 am, and it was 20 km away, and I had to have breakfast first. Ditto when I swam with the triathlon club at the university. I had to be on the pool deck at 6 am ready to go. But again I was riding my bike to campus first and then there’s breakfast and so the need for an alarm before 5 am.

And while some days that involved snoozing the alarm clock, or hoping for rain, most days I was okay with it.

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When your life is like that you go to bed at 9 and you’re asleep, for sure, by 10 pm.

Now part of the reason that worked was that years of parenting small children had me wired for early rising. There’s no sleeping in with toddlers. And even slightly older children have morning activities that require parents getting out of bed quite early. I’m still the person in the house who wakes up first, makes coffee, and who yells at, pokes, and prods others to get them to work and school on time.

There was a golden period of parental sleep. That was when the kids first started sleeping in and my partner and I were still on the early rising schedule. We could get up, ride our bikes and be home before they were even awake. That felt like stolen time. Of course the reason it worked is that they weren’t going out at night. The teens stayed up late but they stayed up late playing games or watching movies at home. That didn’t last and it was followed by the years of night time worrying.

If you’re a regular reader you know I don’t have small children any more. There are large dependent adults sharing my house, all over the age of 18. And this fall for the first time, just one them.The other two are off at college, setting their own alarms, and making their own coffee.

The remaining teenager at home is 18. He’s out late a lot. He works late too. He goes to the gym in the evenings. And I don’t sleep very well these days. Partly because I worry. I’m practically a professional worrier. But also because there’s lots going on in my life and in the world that’s affecting my sleep.

So I’m now an evening exerciser. Like him. It’s a bit of an adjustment.

My emerging schedule seems to be in bed by eleven, alarm set for 7. My day begins with coffee and dog walking. More formal sorts of exercise happens at night. I’m going to the gym to lift weights tonight at 7 pm.

I’m not sure where I’ll land once there aren’t any kids living at home. My schedule so far has been driven by other people. I’m curious whether I’ll revert to my preference for very early morning exercise. For now though, I’m going with the flow and working out at night.

You? When’s your best time of day to fit fitness in?

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9 thoughts on “Children and Changing Sleep Patterns, or Confessions of a Former Morning Person

  1. My main exercise is commuting by bike so it happens naturally morning and evening. But where I work is very relaxed about the hours people keep (as long as the work gets done), so I tend, when appointments allow, to ride in after the morning rush hour at the local schools (parents doing the school run have no time/patience left for looking out for the rare cyclists). This means I worked later and am usually riding home between 7 and 8 pm. This suits me well – in summer I usually extend the ride home but, in the mornings, I’m already thinking about the day at work, so riding other than direct to work just makes me anxious to get started.
    I’ve recently started thinking about fitting in some gym sessions – back to the weights for an old(ish) woman – so I guess I have the choice of a much earlier start (e.g. getting to the gym before 8 would mean a 7am rise, even without factoring in breakfast which I usually forego until I get to the office), a long lunch ‘hour’, or a very late arrival home.
    When I was a serious cyclist, I used to train on the bike for endurance in the mornings (and weekends), sprint intervals or track sessions in the evenings, with weights at lunchtime (not every day, of course). This seemed to be a naturally amenable routine as I never seemed to ‘warm up’ enough in the mornings for any sort of power work, and it’s the same with knobs on now. So I’m thinking the early morning gym sessions are a punishment too far

  2. For ages I couldn’t find the time or the way to exercise. I have teens at home too, but one of them is autistic and feels that my being at work during the day is enough for him to have to cope with. But in the last couple of years, he’s been sleeping more soundly in the mornings, and is less clingy when he wakes up, so that means I can get up at 6 am and exercise on an elliptical machine we bought. I love it. It also gives me the chance to listen to an audio book, that way, even if I don’t have time to read later in the day, I still haven’t missed out on my dose of fiction. I’ve always been a morning person, so I’m really happy that I’ve managed to reclaim them.

  3. Morning and partially because I commute by bike. That carries over into weekends.

    I always feel psychologically better to do all my cycling in morning and early afternoon. Then it feels like the rest of the day is “free” /open.

    This started when I had to wake up very early to go cycling when living in Toronto and the summer humidity would start up very early. So earlier I cycled, the more I enjoyed the ride. By 10:00 am or so, I was done on a weekend day. Meaning sometimes I would cycle starting shortly after 6:30 am.

    Now it’s more like 7:30 – 8:00 am start or so on weekend day…in spring/summer or fall . Not in winter! Unless it’s heading for work..

  4. Such a relief to know I’m not the only one who went through this with kids! My exercise routine is a bit of both. I started swimming early because I could be home before they were awake. Dance classes are in the evening because I could match them up with the daughter’s dance lessons. I think I prefer mornings though because it wakes me up for the day, while late night exercise just wakes me up at bedtime.

    1. It’s true, the getting home before your kids even awake thing. Loved that. That was true for lots of us with early morning swims and bikes. Ditto my 6 am cross fit classes.

  5. Reading your post, it occurs to me that our schedules are converging; I used to be a complete night owl, but my work schedule and need for more sleep time these days (menopause wakes me up in the middle of the night some) have made me go to bed earlier. This means my light is off by 11pm (vs. 12:30am formerly). And I’m up between 7 and 8, depending on how much I slept through the night. I always preferred evening exercise, but lately it hasn’t been happening because I’ve been tired by the end of my work day (which is also later than it used to be). What I’m going to try out now is some structured classes in the evening– mostly yoga but will look for some spin classes as well for the winter. Signing up and paying for evening classes will provide more of an incentive to go. And I found some folks who go to a tuesday evening yoga class, so joining them will be fun. WIll let you know how it goes.

    I still reserve riding outside for afternoon or evening– with colder temps it’s not my way to venture out early. XC skiing is another matter, though– early morning plus fresh snow is exhilarating!

  6. I have a teen, a tween and a toddler(thank you sweet remarriage). It is an exercise schedule balance, or nightmare at times. I want to be up with the teen/tween and am a night owl by preference. But the toddler is a mostly early riser. Some nights it is the gym after the little one goes to bed at 8pm. Other mornings it is 4am because life during the day sucks up so much of my time. Balancing full time work, a household of 5 and everything else. Not to mention trying to have a quality relationship with my husband….I have decided I will just be tired at times.

  7. I pr fear right after work, before dinner.
    I am very stiff in the morning. I do stretching, breathing and massage. But when I try to practice yoga it hurts and I am so inflexible.
    By 6 pm I’m much better and have a second wind.

    After that I eat, have a hot bath, read an go to bed. I love a simple life!

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