When I was younger I had a deal worked out with the mornings. You see, we didn’t like each other very much. And so our deal was we would avoid each other.
As long as morning would pass while I wasn’t there, everything would be a lot better for us.
Yup, I was a real night owl – going to sleep when the sun was just getting up. But then my biology started to change and suddenly, while I was able to
sleep through everything before (and I mean everything. People had painted on me and I hadn’t woken), suddenly even a little bit of light woke me. I swear.
I was like superman, who comes back from the dead when touched by sunlight.
Except, of course, that I didn’t feel like superman, because just like everybody else I still needed sleep. And so, I realized I could no longer be a night
owl any longer I had to become something else. An early bird, maybe. Because if I didn’t become that, then I would be one of those permanently tired
pigeons – you know the ones, with the horrible feathers.
And so, I began a mission.
How to get tired when you’re used to not going to sleep
The first step on my mission towards a more regular rhythm was figuring out how to get to sleep earlier. For those of you not familiar with how hard it can
be to change a rhythm that has been carved into stone by long decades of living in a particular way, that is a lot harder than you might think.
I tried a lot of different things. Obviously, I started off with the warm milk and all that kind of jazz. It didn’t help any. I started exercising. That
didn’t do that much either for me. Sure, it tired me out, but then after about two hours asleep I’d wake up anyway and spend the next six hours staring at
I even tried changing time zones. Yeah, that’s right. I moved to another country – got a job, a
house, a life, everything. Getting more sleep was that important to me. It didn’t work either. Or rather, it did for the first couple of days, but the
moment my body had re-adjusted to the new time-zone, poof, I was once again one of those people who had to stay awake all night.
And so I turned to alcohol. Initially a glass of wine, then two (you adjust pretty quickly) and before I knew it I was hanging out at the bar every
evening. Not that I was getting any more sleep – well a little bit – but more because I’d basically turned into a full-fledged alcoholic.
Turns out that isn’t a very good way to get to sleep either. I found that
out the hard way. Sure, you might knock yourself out, but that isn’t actually high quality sleep. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get somebody to
hit over the head with a brick and see if that makes you sleep well.
What’s more, I became dependent on the alcohol for my sleep. Yup, that’s right. I’d gone from the flame into the fire, from the drop into the sea, and from
the disturbing into a full-fledged nightmare.
Eventually I simply moved back home. This living in another country and trying to drink all of their liquor wasn’t going to do me any good.
I realized that perhaps I had to learn how to live without any sleep.
Why don’t you just wake up early?
That’s when a friend told me I should just wake up early. I told him he was an idiot. He agreed with me – he was accommodating that way – but he also asked
me what I had to lose. You’re not sleeping well, come with me. I’ll teach you how to sleep well. All you have to do is get up early and come with me.
What the hell, I thought. Why not?
And so we agreed to meet at the crack of dawn. I must have looked like a zombie dressed in slacks when we met – with big ass shadows under my eyes large
enough for some kind of fantasy monster to step out of.
I complained and whined and told him I wanted to go back to bed. He agreed with me, told me it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it? And then he took me on a
trek to a mountain top.
And there he taught me how to meditate.
Then it all began to change
I’d like to say it was immediate. It would be a lot better for my story if it was. But that would be dishonest. That’s not how it happened. IT was a
gradual process, but my mate just kept dragging me out and for some crazy reason I kept coming.
And my sleep kept getting better. What’s more, I came to realize I really enjoyed these morning. They were a fantastic time, before everybody was awake,
when the sun was just coming into her own, when the world was still stretching like my cat always does after a long nap.
Somehow manage to take some of that energy, when you sit there and you meditate like that. I have no idea how that happens. There are these things called circadian rhythms that might have played a role.
But I don’t believe it’s just that. I think I found peace on that mountain top, with that friend of mine, meditating as the sun came up. I think what I
hadn’t realized all that time while I was struggling to get to bed was that you can’t just quiet the world, you have to quiet your mind as well. And I hadn’t managed that until he took me to that mountain top.
That was ten years ago. I still meditate. Not with that friend, however. He’s moved on to help other people. We still talk, but more about how we can help
others, rather than how he can help me. That’s an important thing, I’ve realized. You can sleep a lot better if you take the time to stop focusing on
helping yourself and instead work on helping other people. You get a heck of a lot of peace of mind that way.
For that reason I now teach my own meditation classes. I use them to help other insomniacs find their way into a good night sleep. And you’d be surprised
how much it can help you.
It doesn’t just help you with sleep either. It helps you with a whole host of other things as
- It helps you regulate your emotions
- It helps you focus
- Helps you fight depression
- It makes you happier
- It lets you live longer
- Improves your immune system
- Makes you feel accepted
It is, in fact, one of the healthiest things that anybody can do. And the crazy thing is, you only need to do it for 10 minutes a day to already get most
of these benefits. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve got 10 minutes a day to spend on these kinds of things to make me feel better.
It didn’t just change my life
Waking up early and meditating turned my life from something I was trying to survive, into something I came to deeply enjoy again. I came back full circle
and came to enjoy those mornings just as much as I previously had when I had slept through them.
Except in this case I’m fully conscious of my time. And that means I don’t just enjoy the feelings inside of me and behind my eyelids, but also the thing
that happen around me, in the world, in other people, in my life.
I don’t know about you, but I find the morning in many ways the most magical parts of the day. I think that’s when many of the best people in the world are
around. The people that care, the people that want to do good, the people that want to take the world and make it better.
I think there’s something to this ‘early bird’ idea. To the notion that the people that wake up early are willing to do what it takes to actually make
something of their lives. Yeah, I’ve read the studies that people that go to sleep later are more intelligent than the people
that wake up early. There are some good habits before sleep,
that you should acquire! But then I’m convinced that being intelligent isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Intelligence isn’t enough. It’s what you do
with it that really matters.
And those people that are choosing to wake up early are choosing to do something with their lives. Intelligence doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do
anything with it. And those people that get up early are showing they’ve got the motivation to make something happen. Now that has to be more valuable than
just having the capacity to make something happen and then not doing anything with it, don’t you think?