Confessions of a Not-a-Morning Person

I love snoozing. That is, tapping my phone 10–15 times until my body finally decides to release me from slumber. Actually, I hate snoozing. I wish that I could rise with the sun, full of energy and ready to launch my day.

Instead, I’m cursed with the tendency to oversleep, then drag myself out of bed and chug coffee in order to be functional. On occasion, my alarm even becomes part of my dreams as my brain does its darnedest to keep me asleep.

In case you can’t tell, I am not a morning person.

The Reluctant Bear

For a while, I was a night owl, full of creative energy with no desire to sleep. This was especially true when I was a teen, and indeed, many teens’ circadian rhythms keep them up later at night — and asleep later in the morn.

As I got older, I started to feel sleepier early in the evening. No more 4 a.m. rounds of Guitar Hero for me. And yet I haven’t swung to the other side of the pendulum: I’m still not-a-morning-person.

Sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus came up with a name for us losers who are neither early birds nor night owls: The bear, which sounds more awesome than it is. Bears like to sleep (duh) and tend to feel much more energetic in the afternoon.

Being a bear has presented problems throughout my professional life. I struggled with tardiness at my 9-to-5 jobs, which somehow always started at 8 a.m. I felt jealous of my coworkers who came in at 7:45 a.m., sans coffee yet raring to start their day. The bosses loved those people and treated them as though they were better, more passionate employees. I resented my body for dragging me down in the morning. Why couldn’t I be an early bird, too?

Am I Lazy?

It seems like every “habits of successful people” article that plagues the Internet has “get up early” as its number-one tip. The author, apparently a hyper-productive early bird, always seems to believe that squeezing a workout, shower, breakfast, and a round of Twitter into the span of a couple of hours is not only possible, but essential to your inevitable success. It’s quite unfair to those of us whose bodies still act like whiny teenagers clinging to their pillows.

What bugs me most is that these early birds, whose pre-10 a.m lives don’t entail the need to insert a coffee IV, often act like “sleeping in” is a sign of laziness. Or at least a lack of motivation.

Am I lazy? I work hard — once I get out of bed. Believe me, I wish that I could get up sooner. The thought of rising at 5 a.m. and doing early morning yoga and a bit of writing sounds wonderful. Until I think about it. Then I hit the snooze button again.

What if I can still “start my day off right” even if I rise at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., or (gasp!) 11 a.m.? What does it matter when I start, as long as I still achieve my goals for the day?

Flexible Schedules for All

Since I began freelancing full-time, I’ve actually gotten better sleep and been more successful in my life and career. As it turns out, my body just isn’t made to get up at 5 or 6 a.m. Once I was able to set my own schedule, I started feeling more productive, even if I got out of bed at 10 a.m. Of course, the lack of a commute helps, but more than that, I’m better able to suit my schedule to my body’s natural rhythms. I typically end up doing low-energy tasks such as checking email or tidying up in the morning, then I end up working from about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Which got me thinking: Why don’t we rethink the 9-to-5 format? As more companies embrace remote work and collaborate with people in other time zones, we end up adjusting our schedules anyway. Why not let the early birds come in at 7:45 a.m. and leave early, and the bears come in at 10 a.m. and stay later? There would be enough hours of overlap for meetings. It would also boost productivity.

It’s time to stop forcing an arbitrary schedule on workers and give them the flexibility to do their best work, without having to chug 40 ounces of coffee. It’s time to stop shaming people for “sleeping in” and just call it “sleeping.” It’s time to abandon the fallacy that an early start equals lasting success.

As a not-a-morning person, I believe it’s time to rethink our mornings. Pass the coffee.

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Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP

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