What’s wrong with enjoying sleep?
It really is almost a transcendent joy—that moment when you know that you can safely roll back over and go back to sleep. Even those mornings when I wake up, look at the time, shuffle to the bathroom, then hurry back to the bed to collapse back in it and fall asleep for just eight or nine more minutes is so profoundly delightful as to leave me grinning an hour later.
Years ago, as I alluded to above, I happened to mention my enjoyment of such moments during a conversation with a friend, and her reaction was less than accepting. She could not understand why in the world I would roll over and go back to sleep. “If you get up, you have more time to get ready. You could have a fun, leisurely start to the morning instead of rushing around in a panic.” I pointed out that when I get out of bed when the alarm goes off, I don’t rush around in a panic. Going back to sleep until the alarm sounds is not the same thing as oversleeping. The bliss I was describing is that moment of knowing that I’ve still go time to sleep.
She also expressed a lot of skepticism about whether I actually slept during those few minutes. “You’re just laying there awake with your eyes closed! What’s the point?”
I knew, then, that the chasm between morning people and non-morning people is truly vast, and possibly insurmountable.
She was by no means the last person I found myself in this argument with. And it is an argument. She wasn’t just perplexed at the difference in our perception, she got more than a bit irritated. It really seemed to anger her that I would want to sleep for a bit longer, that I would go back to sleep for as little as a few minutes, that I would enjoy it, and that I would describe it as a wonderful thing. I think she felt that I ought to be ashamed of myself for not leaping out of bed the moment I realized that I had woken up before the alarm went off.
Since finding myself in this particular discrepancy of viewpoint on a number of occasions over the years with various people, I’ve developed my own definition of a true morning person which includes that intense belief that a proper response to waking up early is to embrace the wakefulness and leap into action.
When I say that I fall back to sleep for a few minutes, I mean it. I don’t always fall all the way back to sleep, of course. Sometimes I do lay there with my eyes closed, just enjoying the feel of the blankets. Other mornings I sort of doze, drifting along the edge of wakefulness, not really asleep, but definitely not awake either. But many mornings I do fall back into sleep. I’ve looked at the clock, saw that I had less than four minutes before the alarm goes off, and then fell back into sleep deeply enough that I started dreaming again before the alarm sounds.
Now, not everyone who doesn’t feel as I do about enjoying every last second of my allotted sleep time is a morning person. I’ve met plenty of people who don’t get that same thrill of satisfaction from falling back into bed for a bit longer in the morning who also don’t insist that the only normal or natural reaction to waking up a few minutes before the alarm goes off is to jump up and get an early start on the day.
So I know that there aren’t merely two kinds of people in the world on this particular topic. As with most things, people fall on a spectrum, and we probably all slide up and down that spectrum over time. While there is some science out there about chronotypes (a technical term for classifying people based on their natural circadian rhythm), it’s a mixed bag. A lot of the articles one finds talking about the “science” of morning people vs night owls are simply citing surveys, which isn’t very rigorous. Most of the more scientifically rigorous information is actually from studies of people with insomnia and sleep apnea and the like, which yields a lot of information that may be useful for treating sleep disorders, but doesn’t actually tell us much about healthy sleep patterns. All we can reliably infer from the science we do have is that people do have natural sleep patterns that vary from person to person.
It’s just as natural to be a night owl as not. And it isn’t productive to try to talk someone into being the other sort of person.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not claiming that I’m physically incapable of getting up early. Some mornings I wake up before the alarm goes off, and I decide to get up rather than roll over and get a little more sleep. Some mornings I sleep like a log right up until the alarm goes off. And yes, some mornings I hit the snooze alarm a time or two (snooze alarms are another source of bewilderment to a True Morning Person).
I like sleep. Even more, I like it when I get enough sleep that I feel rested and ready to work in the morning. As part of my taking-care-of-myself routine for some years, I keep track of bed times and make efforts to keep my sleep schedule from getting too far out of whack on weekends or on vacations. And part of that routine is letting myself enjoy, from time to time, those moments of voluntary sleep before the alarm.