Why early birds are doing it right (from a former late riser)

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The beam of light shining through my window at 12:30 p.m. has historically been my trusted alarm on weekends, forcing me to roll out of bed and fight to squint my eyes open. I’m naturally a night owl, watching Netflix ’til 2 a.m. and sleeping in ’til noon. However, recently I have become an early riser, and I can’t believe I have been doing it wrong all these years. Now that I’ve seen the light, I will no longer let myself miss out on peaceful mornings, happier moods and an abundance of time to get things done during the day. 

During the beginning of quarantine, all my days seemed to melt together — not just because I slept in and stayed up late, but also because with a new way of life, I struggled to efficiently manage my time. Now that I’ve become more accustomed to life during a pandemic, I’ve been able to reflect more on how I want to spend my time, and a big part of that is changing my sleep schedule.

Now believe me, before quarantine, I never thought I’d be writing this. I’m the kind of person that sets six alarms before my first class because I sleep through the first four. I’m the kind of person that was dragged out of bed by my parents every day of high school and would actually chuckle at Delta’s ‘Early Riser’ ad. So I promise, I’m no imposter. 

My big realization occurred just one month ago when my brother offered to teach me how to surf. I could barely contain my excitement … until he told me that we would be leaving for the beach at 6:30 a.m. I tuned him out as he patiently explained how the tide works and why waves are better at specific times. I nodded along and wearily set my alarm for the next morning. My desire to learn how to surf far outweighed any sleep benefits.  

I woke up to my blaring alarm, pulled myself out of bed, got my swim suit on and drank a cup of coffee (even as an early riser now, I still need caffeine). As we got into the car, we rolled down the windows, opened the sunroof and started on the highway to the closest beach. The sun was peeking just above the trees, and the only sound came from the chirping birds. Everything outside was peaceful, and inside, that made me feel at ease. I wasn’t in a time crunch; waking up early had gifted me bonus time to focus on the present. With no worries and a smile on my face, I felt like I was living the opening scene of some Hollywood film.

When we returned from surfing, I was shocked to find out that it was only 9 a.m. I almost panicked, at a loss for activities I could do this early in the morning. But after the initial shock, I found something to do and for the rest of the day, I was able to be more productive than ever. I worked out, ate breakfast, read and played guitar all before lunch. I was able to fit so much more in the day, and because of that, I felt much more accomplished. 

Even though my day was great, that night I felt the repercussions of waking up early without a good night’s sleep the previous day. I couldn’t muster enough energy to watch a late night movie with my family or call my friend before bed. Being an early riser has its benefits, but I learned that it does come at a cost. 

Although it was a difficult choice to make, I decided to adjust my sleep schedule and started going to bed a little earlier. I still occasionally treat myself to a late start by sleeping in, but ever since that first early surf, I have officially become a morning person. 

Contact Jesse Perlmutter at jesseperl24 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Jesse Perlmutter is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop.