When my son turned 6 weeks old, I was hit with intense sleep deprivation. I had stayed up endless nights trying to build up my milk supply. Everyone told me newborns slept all the time. I was foolish enough to believe them. My son rarely slept more than two hours straight.
This meant that in those first few weeks, I rarely slept more than two hours in a row. I was in such a manic state that I rarely took off my pajamas and was constantly on the verge of tears, as many new moms are.
As the weeks rolled on, things got better. My son slept through the night at about 3 months old. However, no one told me that a baby sleeping through the night meant that he would still wake up in the wee hours of the morning. I thought sleeping through the night would mean I could finally sleep past 8 a.m.
Long ago, I told myself that I was not a "morning person" that I was, in fact, a "night owl," which means my body's natural rhythm is to go to bed early and wake up late. Before I had a baby, I was able to do many things by staying up past midnight on a regular basis. So I would hit snooze most mornings and rise with just enough time to be ready for the day.
Of course, no one gave my son that memo. He rarely sleeps past 7:45 a.m. I used to simply wake up along with him, usually in a groggy state that looked something like this:
I then realized waking up at the same time as a toddler was stressful. It was too hard for all of us to get ready while simultaneously trying to get the little one ready, too. Have you ever tried drinking your morning coffee with a toddler on the loose? Rather than relaxing, it's more like an episode of "Survivor"—a version where the toddler always wins.
Waking up when the baby does is stressful, and leaves me little time to organize my day.
Meanwhile my toddler's energy level look more like this:
The evenings didn't help much either. After putting my son to bed, there are about two hours left for me and my partner to spend time together and catch up before it's time for us to go to bed.
Something needed to change.
I started noticing that lots of articles talk about morning rituals and how they are essential to happiness and productivity. Many CEOs and leaders wake up in the wee hours of the morning to workout, think and plan. Michelle Obama apparently wakes up at 4:30 a.m., while Anna Wintour hits the alarm at 5:45 a.m. This early a.m. approach has spawned many books, among them, "The Miracle Morning."
I wanted to find out if it is realistic for me, a mortal mom with a full-time job and part-time writing gig, to sacrifice precious sleep time for the promise of becoming a more productive and happier version of myself. I decided to try the rituals recommended in the book.
The six rituals are: Silence (meditation or prayer), Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (setting goals for the day or journaling your dreams). I would do each of these for 10 minutes a day. Which meant I would need to be up one hour earlier than normal, 6 a.m. on weekdays and about 7:15 a.m. on weekends.
I started as soon as I finished reading the book. I was pumped and ready to go!
Oh my, it was rough. That moment when you first hear the alarm presents us with a choice. While sleeping longer is tempting, it also sends a message to your day that you aren't excited about your life. While not every day will be exciting, there's always something to look forward to.
As someone who has struggled with depression, I related to this so much. My thoughts tend to veer to the negative, but waking up early and not hitting snooze five times sends the universe a message that I am excited about my day. I think about that every morning when I hear the alarm. I also found that while those first few moments were rough, after I brushed my teeth and got the morning started, it wasn't so bad. It also forced me to go to sleep early instead of staying up late to watch television, or worse, scroll through social media.
After a few months of this, I have adjusted to the reality that waking up early does wonders for my productivity. I find that I start my days calmer and more centered. I use that time to read or work on projects related to my writing. I drink my coffee in the quiet of the morning.
For the most part, I know wake up at least an hour before my son does. I must confess that it doesn't take much for me to try to fall back into my old habits. But the habitual stress and anxiety that is sure to follow is a big deterrent.