Mornings: Awful, but Good for You

For the UAS Whalesong

I think it is safe to suggest that you as a reader are aware that “bedtime” is not necessarily a thing that happens among college students. At least, not in the way where it is the same every night, and it’s certainly not something pressed upon you by external sources (i.e., parents). And I am definitely a night owl over being an early bird any day of the week – which is why I decided to write an article on the subject of getting up early. It’s for my fellow night owls out there, who feel far more at ease staying up until 4 AM than you do getting up at 4 AM – which is only healthy, and natural, and the way that it should be, but is not always the most effective way to get things done.

I, for one, tend to associate darkness and nighttime with fun time. After 6 PM is for video games and movie nights, not homework – and maybe you, too, like to tell yourself that it’s fine and you’ll definitely start to work on that paper after just a few more episodes, but then it’s midnight and you’re abruptly overwhelmed with a sudden wave of exhaustion and all you can think about is how nice bed sounds and how tired you’ll be the following morning if you don’t go to bed immediately. Getting up early eliminates this problem because once you’re up and dressed, it’s slightly more difficult to talk yourself into getting back into bed. It also helps that when you stay up late, it’s easy to convince yourself that you have all the time in the world – after all, the entire night stretches before you! But when you get up early, productivity levels are at least slightly increased, because now you have a deadline to meet (your first class, work, a meeting, etc.).

But, of course, this all begins with actually rolling out of bed. These days, I know a lot of people (and I think most college students) probably use their phones as their alarm clocks. This is fine – I do it too – but it’s also inherently problematic. I had an alarm clock during high school, and I would never get up in the morning and cross the room to shut it off, only to yank it off its cord and bring it back to bed with me for 30 more minutes of snooze time. And then, once your phone is in bed with you – well, a lot of your life is on that thing, and even if you don’t go back to sleep, it’s easy to spend the next hour checking your various social media feeds, making posts and writing texts about how awful it is to be up so early, and so on. You know how it goes – but you can make it go differently!

I’m not sure it really qualifies as an “old adage,” but we’ve all heard the advice that the “trick” to getting up is that once you’re up, you’ve got to stay up. Thanks a lot, Morning Person Sages, but how do we accomplish that? For people whose schedule is normally the exact inverse of what this article is trying to help you accomplish, this is not helpful to hear. Now, you’re not going to like what I have to tell you, but it worked for me: try to get up an hour earlier than you need to. I know, I know, it sounds awful, but bear with me. Getting up an hour earlier means that you can use that hour to slog around and be a groggy not-morning person, as opposed to getting up exactly when you need to and having to throw yourself immediately into your homework. After all, that’s no fun.

One of my primary problems with getting up early, or even on time, is that when I am half-asleep I live for the snooze button. And I am not a casual 5-minute snoozer – I want to know that I can get more actual sleep, not just doze off, so I have my alarm set for 30-minute snoozes. This is something that you can also accomplish, if you do the following:

• Set your alarm for an hour earlier than you want to be up. Yes, even when you’re planning to be up an hour earlier than you need to be – set your alarm for even earlier than that. This way, you can hit snooze at least twice if you need and want to, so you can kind of trick your body into thinking it got to sleep in (because theoretically, that’s what the snooze button is for).

• Develop “once you’re up, stay up” hacks. Take a shower, splash cold water on your face, do some jumping jacks! If you’re not into exercise or getting wet in the morning, though – first of all, never do the Polar Plunge. Second, there are other options available to you. I have heard that drinking a glass of cold water first thing in the morning will wake you up (supposedly better than coffee, though I doubt the truth of this), and also hydrate you, which is important. Water aside, I find that the process of making coffee or tea also wakes me up – after all, if you don’t make it, you can’t drink it, and while the realization has been slow and painful, it’s simply not doable on a college budget to purchase coffee every day.

• Sort out your stuff the night before. You know what you have to do the next day, so go ahead and get ready for it ahead of time! It’ll save you 5-10 minutes in the morning, and is especially useful if you’re one of those people who thinks you know where everything is until it’s time to walk out the door and it turns out your keys went on a journey to goodness knows where. Getting at least mostly packed up the night before clues you in to things that are missing, ensures that you pack the stuff you might forget to pack in the morning (how many times have you failed to pack an important textbook or folder due to oversight?), and means you can either sleep or work on getting stuff done for that extra amount of time. Also, if you lay out an outfit the night before, you can spend your morning working in your pajamas instead of trying to decide what to wear! Sounds like a win to me.

• Develop a backup system. If you can’t seem to get up in the morning despite your best efforts, it never hurts to clue in your friends and have them help you out. If you guys have a class together in the morning, plan to walk down with them – that means you have to be ready and out the door on time. Or, more simply, have them text or call you when you’re supposed to be awake. This works best when you feel accountable to the person, whether it’s your early bird friend who refuses to listen to your excuses or your dad back home who’s awake at 4 AM every day and won’t let you complain (but will let you respond to his “good morning!” texts with a string of incoherent keysmashing).

• Set different alarms. You know that song you loved, so you set it as your alarm, and now you cringe away every time it plays on the radio or your iPod? Yeah, so do I. There are a few ways to fix this; I suggest just using the default alarms on your phone, because you’re going to listen to it for a grand total of 10 seconds anyway before you find your phone in the dark and shut the alarm off. Setting a different alarm for each day adds variety to your life; you can also just set a series of different alarms for each morning routine. I like my first alarm to be a song I like, and will continue to like because I know it means I can hit snooze and go back to sleep; then the alarms get increasingly loud and rude, depending on how urgent it is that I be conscious ASAP.

From one night owl to another, I hope those were some helpful ideas about how to (occasionally) get up early and be productive! And if you’re an early riser, I hope they helped you too – even if you do enjoy being up in the early morning, and are therefore already miles ahead of me. Good job. You keep doing you.

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