"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
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.