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One of the consolation prizes the pandemic gave me was more sleep: 9.5 hours a night, to be precise.
It’s been a big change. Before Covid I woke up every day at 6.30am, scraping in with around seven hours of shut-eye. After hitting snooze a couple of times and looking at Twitter until my you-absolutely-must-get-up-now deadline had passed, I would eventually hobble to F45. Then, arriving late to class, I’d be sentenced to 10 burpees as punishment for my tardiness. This was my morning routine.
I have never been a morning person. Since I was a teenager, waking up to the sound of an alarm has been torturous; the first half of the day stumbled through in a haze. When I started full-time work at age 21, early starts became standard but they never stopped feeling terrible. Fatigue, I thought, was just the cost of entry to adulthood.
It was also a message I’d intuited. A lot of millennial culture focuses on the idea of maximising your mornings: one popular self-help book advises finding time to meditate, “visualise”, write affirmations, read, journal and exercise before 8am. There are headlines about how Mark Wahlberg wakes up at 2.30am, or the groups of entrepreneurs who meet at 5.30am to devote time to their side project before work. The message is that by getting up early, we can reclaim and improve our lives.
Because capitalism is a sickness and I’m infected, I’ve long believed in the virtue of the hustle and, I am only somewhat ashamed to say, I love to work. So when I eventually left the office behind to go freelance, I stuck with my 6.30am alarm, afraid of what would become of me without the structure of a morning gym class.
Perpetually tired, I then deployed a range of tactics to push through the fog that followed – I’d drink two large coffees a day, I would eat lunch as late as possible because a square meal made me sleepy, I even avoided showering until bedtime in case the sedative effect of hot water would render me unable to work. In my hierarchy of needs, basic hygiene came below productivity.
Then Covid happened. Along with every other non-essential service, F45 shut down, taking my reason to wake up with it. I deleted my alarm and began exercising by myself in the park in the late afternoons. Radically, I started waking up when my body wanted me to. And it felt wonderful.
In lockdown and without any schedule to keep, I started clocking 9.5 hours each night – a figure dutifully recorded by a sleep app on my iPhone – which pushed my wake-up time back to around 9am. When F45 eventually reopened I went back, but only to evening classes. My stint as an early riser was over.
Now if for some ungodly reason I fall short of my magic number, I immediately notice the consequences: I lose focus, my writing is worse, I have less to give my workouts and I eat more, as I reach for extra kilojoules to substitute the energy I didn’t get at night. If I have more than a couple of days in a row of bad sleep, my brain starts to turn on me, as any stresses or anxieties quickly magnify and my ability to cope with them diminishes. And then I remember this is how I used to feel all the time.
Today I guard my 9.5 hours above all else. I recognise sleep for the foundation upon which everything else is built and I see how without it, the rest quickly starts to crumble. In the parlance of Silicon Valley, it’s sleeping in that optimises my day.
Of course, luck and lifestyle choices allow me to stay in bed for as long as I want – I work for myself, I am child-free, I don’t have a partner disturbing the perfect stillness of my bedroom. It feels almost decadently privileged to be able to boast something as simple as getting enough sleep. I know those conditions might not last forever, but I also can’t imagine voluntarily returning to the life of constant, low key exhaustion I once thought unavoidable. I’ve seen the light and now I will never wake up to catch the sunrise again.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: I stopped getting up early during the pandemic – and have never felt better | Sleep