In Defense of the Dawn

16 January 2013

"I wonder if we're going to keep on waking up at dawn like this for the rest of our lives," said Mona.
"I like it. The day feels so unused."
Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright

I like to think of myself as an early-riser, but its a spirit that must be cultivated and is not natural to me anymore. I used to be one. I used to love early mornings and consider myself either sick or intolerably lazy if I laid in bed past six o' clock. I can't remember ever using an alarm; I rose with the sun, and began my day with a contented mood because of it. The day was a clean, new one, with no mistakes in it, as Anne Shirley would say, and I was present to witness its resurrection each morn.

However, with the increase of age comes a later bedtime, and if I do not get to sleep soon enough, I rise late and begin my day in a rather crumpled mood. I begin with good intentions, of course. I set my alarm and determine to get to sleep on time. But books are such horribly addicting things, and what was begun as fifteen minutes of reading before bed quickly turns into my burning of the proverbial midnight oil. Sleep? What sleep? For goodness' sake, Elizabeth is just learning of Mr. Darcy's involvement in the marriage of Lydia and Wickham! Have you no heart?

I find, though, that a day cannot begin productively unless I rise at an early or at least reasonable hour. Even if it means a shorter night, I am much fresher when I get up early, shower, dress neatly, and begin my day, rather than catching extra hours of sleep. I am more productive with my time, my mood is more pleasant, and the day is much improved all around. Now, if I were a reasonable creature, this knowledge would keep me from ever lying late abed, but alas, that is not the case. (You try reasoning with book characters who insist on revealing their deepest secrets at eleven o' clock at night!)

There are some basic principles to rising early but still getting enough sleep, and they can be boiled down to two very simple rules:

early to bed

You can't escape it. Much as I should like it, I cannot live on fewer than eight hours of sleep each night. I make exceptions when I must, but if I expect to get up at six a.m., I have to be in bed and asleep by ten. Otherwise, it's practically impossible (and quite unreasonable) to try rising early in the morning. When I can, I go up to my room an hour before I plan on going to sleep. This gives me time to go through my nightly routine, stretch, and spend time reading before I fall asleep. My father instituted this principle in me from a young age, and I find it hard to go to sleep if I don't spend some time in the pages of a book beforehand. These thirty minutes or so of reading are one of my favorite parts of the day. That is not to say, however, that I save my heaviest reading for this time. Normally one of my favorite classic or fictional reads suits perfectly.

early to rise

You've made your bed, now you need to get out of it. My alarm is not within reaching distance of my bed, forcing me to get up and go over if I wish to smother its frantic screeching. This is helpful in waking me up when I feel especially drowsy. Do not, under any circumstances, go back to bed. Harbor no excuses such as "allowing myself to wake up a little more". They're lies. Truthfully, if I go back to bed and lay my head down on my pillow, thinking I'll stay still and wake up for a moment, it's nearly impossible to drag myself back out. Groggy though I may feel, the sooner I make my bed and get into the shower, the better. The initial daze that my alarm can never quite crack is effectively shattered by warm water and soap.

Not everyone is an early riser. Some find themselves more productive late at night when the house is still. I often have those days when it seems no amount of will power or brute strength can force me up and out of bed, especially in the winter, when the mornings are cold and colorless. I promise you, though, that you will find your day much improved and much more productive if you begin it while it's still new. In Randy Melendy's words, at dawn, "the day feels so unused." It stands at your fingertips, waiting for you to fill it however you see fit.

9 epistles:

  1. Haha. I agree. Actually, I got up early this morning and hear it is only just past 3, and I feel like it ought to be 5 already. Sing ho for unused hours!

  2. This is definitely true. I am not a morning person. Unlike you, I never naturally woke up early and got out of bed on my own. But I'm actually becoming one now because I get so much more done if I get up early and go to bed at a decent hour. However, there are times when I'm working on a painting and creativity and drive are in high gear, so it's better for me to stay up late and use that energy to get a lot done.

  3. Being perfectly honest here, I am a night person and am rarely in bed before eleven. However, as long as I am in bed before one I can still manage to be up by seven and get my day started before school starts.

    I use the alarm on my phone and named it "sufficient grace" hoping that would be a little incentive to actually get out of bed when it rings but after a few mornings I realized I don't have my contacts in when I wake up and therefore cannot see a thing so forget reading the nifty little inspirational alarm name. Oh well. So much for good intentions :)

    Love ya,

  4. Thank you for this timely reminder... how easy it is to give in to the flesh, yet the joy of rising early and seizing the day is so worth that extra "5 minutes" {which then turns into an hour. ;)

    Thank you for this encouragement.


  5. "The day feels so unused." Oh, Elizabeth, this quote just struck me in a beautiful way. You have now filled me with a longing to witness the sunrise and to be up in the fresh, crisp morning air and to actual feel that bright aliveness that is ever so brilliant when the day is anew, for I truly haven't done that in the longest time. Thank you so much for this post; it has stirred the early-riser desire in my heart that has been asleep for many months. :)

  6. P.s. I do believe I have fallen in love with that picture; 'tis gorgeous! :)

  7. Getting up early and I have a love hate relationship. On some mornings I will wake naturally at 6:30, and other days...well, let's just say that seven o'clock has already passed. ;D But I will keep trying, dear sister, and sing heigh-ho for more sleep! (guess that quote). ;D

    love you Peg!

  8. Unfortunately, I am one of those who tend to do their deep thinking late at night/very early morning, and I don't know that I have ever slept normally. Even as a kid when I had an enforced bedtime, I would delve into the depths of a book with the aid of a flashlight. But rising early is something that is on my to-do list for this year. While I'm not a morning person, and find it a real struggle to make myself get up, when ever I do rise in the mornings, I always feel so much more productive. :)

  9. OUCH. You dear have been God's instrument in convicting me.

    I love getting up at 6 AM...if it's dawn at or just before that time. But it is so much harder getting up when it is dark.

    I've been doing better this winter than most, but still.
    I have no excuses.
    No one really does, anyway.

    Thank you dear for that timely note to me.

    Much love,


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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