As someone who writes about health for a living and has interviewed a dozen or so sleep experts, I’m well aware of the rules I should be following when it comes to getting a better night’s rest. You know, things like: Turn off those melatonin-blocking iPhones an hour before bed, go easy on the REM sleep-disrupting alcohol, don’t rely on the snooze button, and, of course: maintain a consistent schedule by going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same time, seven days a week.
While I understood its scientific logic, this last one always seemed so needlessly cruel. I mean, isn’t sleeping in on the weekends one of life’s greatest pleasures?!
Real talk: I’ve never been a morning person (like, even as a baby, according to my mom) or remotely identified as one. Frankly, I never wanted to become one either—despite the fact that we had a whole #MyPersonalBest month at Shape dedicated to the endeavor. I’m aware of the benefits of waking up early—science does say waking up earlier can change your life—but I’m also aware of how much I love sleeping as much as physically possible whenever my schedule allows. (Seriously, most of my friends and family know not to bother me before noon on the weekends.)
Then, I traveled to Asia. Since I wasn't on a jet lag-preventing plane, the 24 hours of travel and 12-hour time difference meant I came back with a seriously confused internal clock. I found myself going to bed at 9 p.m. and waking up bright-eyed at 7 a.m.—even on weekend mornings. I was finally doing the thing all the doctors told me about! Not by choice, of course, but once I found that my body willed me to wake up so early on a weekend morning without a flight to catch or a half-marathon to run, I figured I'd just try to embrace all the extra time to myself.
The first time it happened, I went for a leisurely walk with a cup of coffee (the jet lag and recovering from a cold meant I wasn’t quite ready to jump back into training runs quite yet), cleaned by room, talked to my mom, beat the long line at my favorite bagel shop, and was the *first person* in line to make my returns when the stores opened at 9. While this might sound like a boring morning for anyone else in the world, to me it was truly revolutionary. For the first time, I actually understood all those annoying morning people who wake up so much earlier than they absolutely need to.
While I'm realistic about my ability to stick to a 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday wake up time consistently, my first experience with clocking in a great night’s sleep and having hours of productivity before 10 a.m. on a weekend has truly changed my stance on mornings. Instead of basking in the joy of sleeping in as late as possible, I've found that reclaiming hours of lost time to focus on things that normally would fall by the wayside (like Marie Kondo-ing my beauty products) can be super satisfying.
No, my new approach to the mornings hasn’t eliminated Sunday scaries altogether, but not sleeping away my Sunday (and then staying up past midnight, making getting up on Monday morning feel next to impossible) means I’ve been heading into the workweek way more relaxed than I ever had been before. Instead of frantically running out the door without an extra minute to spare, I've had time to sit and drink my coffee while watching the morning news (!), put my produce to use and make a smoothie instead of dropping $11 on one, or work out first thing, which means it ends up happening way more than when I save exercising until after work. (P.S. Here are 8 Health Benefits of Morning Workouts.)
We'll see how long my new jet lag-induced habits last. But for now, I'm appreciating my new morning routine, workout completed and fresh-made breakfast smoothie in hand by 9 a.m.—yes, seven days a week.