Thursday, May 3, 2012

When I get up in the morning

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
Often I can predict what kind of a day I’m going to have by the way I get up in the morning.  I’m not always accurate, but I use my “getting up” as an indicator.  When I showed one of my granddaughters my daily log, she asked me why I begin each day with the time I get up?  What she was really asking was, What difference does that make?  I explained that the time I get up each morning is just one of the indicators I use for what kind of a day I’m likely to have.  When my log indicates that I woke up just before the alarm clock, that is a signal to me that I’m likely to have a very productive day.  (Remember what I said above, “I’m not always accurate.”)
When I allow the alarm clock to get me out of bed, I feel I’m a victim.  That is, I’m being controlled, regimented, restricted, or managed by forces outside of myself.  When there is an external locus of control (like the alarm clock), I feel I’m at the mercy of forces over which I have little (or less) influence.
You have to understand something here that helps make sense of this.  I seldom have an unproductive day no matter whether I awake before or with the alarm clock.  What I have described thus far has more to do with an attitude or a way of framing my day — as I begin it.  My behavior and actions throughout the day are likely to, and often do, take shape in many different ways that have no bearing whatever (or some bearing, but minimal) on the way I get up.  
Something that has often intrigued me is that on the days when I get up early to exercise (3:00 a.m.), then take a 2-hour nap after exercising, showering, and having breakfast, to make up for the lost time, I often find that I engage in far more physical exercise (in addition to my morning exercise routine) than on the days when I do not get up early to exercise.
I need about six-and-one-half to seven hours of sleep each night.  I can do with less, but too much less will make me feel groggy during the day, and sometimes during the late afternoon, I may even fall asleep briefly as I sit in the chair at my computer or at my desk.  Since I hate that feeling of grogginess, I try to get my full quota of sleep every night.
On all of the days during the week when I do not exercise (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday), I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., and when the alarm goes off, I get up immediately.  I know the saying, “If people were made to pop out of bed, they’d all sleep in toasters,” but I am a creature of habit, and I have found that my sleep habits have some effect on my daily work habits.  Besides, I feel comfortable in my toaster!  Since I am always trying to cram more work into my days than hours allow, I try desperately not to do anything that negatively affects my work.
There are a number of things I do (part of my daily routine) to minimize any negative effects on my sleep.  The first major thing I do is avoid having coffee after 3:00 p.m.  Now, occasionally when I’m away from home, I may have to extend that to 4:00 p.m.; however, I know that I will disturb my sleep in doing so.  I drink just about a cup-and-a-half for breakfast and, for lunch, I have coffee in a large mug poured over ice with a lot of skim milk added.  I try to have my lunch from 1:00-2:00 during which time I always have something to read.
Between 9:00 and 10:00 at night, I have my single beer along with fresh pop corn or pretzels.  I have found this has no significant effect on my sleep.  (I do not drink red wine, and I eat little chocolate; however, I know that coffee, red wine, and chocolate — especially when taken before bedtime — can disturb your sleep.)
Another thing that has a major effect on my sleep is the mood I’m in when I go to bed.  Having a happy marriage and having few disagreements or arguments helps.  I have found that I sleep best when I’ve had a period of calm and relaxation just before retiring.  I try to avoid intense work (thinking!) at the computer, writing an essay or book review, or even reading a book from 9:00 p.m. until bedtime.  These efforts so engage my mind that I find it difficult to calm it down before going to bed, and when I go to bed, my mind is still racing, and sleep escapes me.
My wife and I eat dinner around 5:30 p.m.; in this way, dinner in no way affects my sleep.
Another thing that, for me, promotes sleep, is a cool room.  Even during the coldest nights during the winter, I sleep with the bedroom window slightly cracked.  In that way, I can sleep with a number of blankets over me.  For some wonderful reason, the weight of the blankets and comforter provide a great deal of coziness and contentment.  With the window slightly cracked, too, it allows the carbon dioxide I exhale to escape the room.
There are other things over which I have control, too, that promote sleep.  For example, I keep a consistent schedule.  I go to bed and wake up at the same time.  We live in a quiet neighborhood; thus, there is no noise (and I mean no noise) at night.  I drink a glass of water when I take my calcium, niacin, multivitamin, and fish-oil pills in the morning.  This kick-starts my metabolism and causes me to wake up and be more alert.  I exercise only in the early morning, and I have discovered on a regular basis, that exercising actually gives me more energy on the day after I exercise; however, the health benefits I receive from regular exercise are noticeable, appreciated, accepted, and certainly worthwhile.  (I have been exercising regularly for over 30 years.)
There are several things I do when I get up in the morning that directly contribute to the way I feel throughout the day.  After taking my pills and shaving, I take a short, hot shower.  I have the same thing for breakfast everyday: Cheerios, oat bran blended with Mixed Gerber Baby Cereal and half a banana, orange juice, and coffee.  While eating breakfast, I read two daily newspapers thoroughly.
When I wake up in the morning, I am always grateful for the day I have ahead of me. I never (and have never) seen any day as a burden that I just have to “get through.”  I see each day as an opportunity to do something meaningful, beneficial, and satisfying.  What is important, especially for the purposes of this essay, is that what I do during the day has a direct and immediate effect on what happens every night and what it will be like when I get up in the morning.  I love the quotation attributed to J.M. Powers, “If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.”
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Michael Harrison has a great essay, “10 Geeky Tricks for Getting Out of Bed in the Morning,” (February 25, 2009), at Wired: GeekDad, and what I like about this essay is what Harrison writes in his opening paragraph: “A little confession: I am not a morning person. In fact, I hate getting up before 9 a.m., and I’d probably sleep until 10 a.m. if I could.”  The ten tips he offers are worth reading.

At, the essay there, “How to wake up with ENERGY in the morning” (June 21, 2002), by Jim Smith is full of interesting and useful advice.

At The Body Ecology Diet web site, the essay by Donna Gates, “How to Wake Up in the Morning: 5 Key Steps to a Healthy Morning Ritual,” is another one that is packed full of worthwhile information and advice.  When you Google, how to wake up in the morning, there are millions of available web sites and a plethora of advice.
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Copyright May, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.


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