I am not a morning person. Never have been, even in childhood. My mother would glide into my room, singing, and I would pull the pillow over my head, hoping she wouldn’t see me. Yes, this happened the last time I visited her, too (she’s in her late 70s and I’m in my late 50s). Even from the comfort of my own home, if I’m called upon to get up earlier than say, 9:30am, I have to set an alarm and give myself time to emerge from feeling like the walking dead.
The onset of menopause has made me more of a night person, not less. In addition to late night hormonally-induced internal temperature fluctuations, I started having trouble getting to sleep before say, 2 or 3am. That’s pretty darn inconvenient, even for a lucky person like me, who has a flexible work schedule.
The cherry on top of this insomnia sundae has been the pandemic. Since March, my so-called “regular” sleep schedule has shifted to 2am–10am, with occasional nights when I am up until 4am. Aargh.
Whenever I tell people about my unhappiness with my night owlishness and insomnia, they invariably pepper me with questions (which feel a tiny bit accusatory), and suggestions (none of which are remotely unfamiliar to or untried by me). Here’s a list of reasons why people have trouble sleeping, compiled by this slightly irritating article. Note that every item except for one starts with “YOU…” , as in “YOU did this– what were you thinking?” The last one blames the room temperature, but who do they think set the thermostat? YOU.
Just so you know: I’ve tried changing every single one of these things (and sometimes all of them), and still haven’t had long-term success in shifting my sleep hours.
This very-delayed sleep onset schedule has wreaked havoc on my outdoor exercise plans. I just don’t love walking or cycling alone outside after dark, especially in late fall/early winter. And when I start my workday at say, 10:30am, it’s hard to take a significant break to head outside before dusk hits. Yes, taking a brisk stroll after lunch seems like a good idea, and it is a good idea. However, given my work habits, it has maintained its idea status, failing to transition into activity.
So here’s an idea: schedule and do my outdoor walk or cycling in the morning. Well, first thing in MY morning. It would be a big change, as I am not very alert when I wake up, and it takes me a while to get myself together. Actually leaving the house within say, 30 minutes of waking is a radical idea. But, it would do a few things:
- I’d get outside in the light;
- I’d get some exercise earlier in the day, which would be an interesting experiment for my sleep schedule;
- I’d be less stressed about when I was going to get outside, as it would already be done first thing;
- It might help me be more energetic when I settled down to do work.
- It might improve my mood– both exposure to light and exercise upon waking are touted as winter mood enhancers.
I must confess that, on the very rare occasions that I’ve done early morning exercise (generally because someone’s talked me into it– yes, I mean you Samantha and you Janet), I marveled at how lovely it is to be outside in nature in the morning. So there is precedent for this action.
Making this shift won’t be easy. Here’s a list of things I’d have to do in order to make this work:
- Actually try it.
- At least once.
- Maybe a few times even.
- Don’t think about it.
- Just go.
- How about tomorrow?
I mean, how hard can it be? These people seem okay, and they’re outside in the morning.
So there it is, readers. I’ve come out with a one-step plan: go outside first thing in my day. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have any of you tried to and successfully (or non-successfully) shifted your exercise schedules? I’d love to hear about it.