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Let’s get one thing straight: I’ve never done any DNA testing but I’m about 99.9% sure that I have the night owl gene. (Google it. It’s a real thing). Many of my friends believe that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. I believe that that’s when the magic happens. After the entire world (ok, Eastern hemisphere) has gone to sleep, I’m able to meditatively wash dishes, craft the next great American novel, have a-ha moment text convos with my friends in other countries or just bingewatch Netflix like they’re paying me for it. And it feels glorious. . . until the morning.
So last year when I stumbled across a possible solution to my time troubles, I decided to give it a try. Just for a month. I read a blog post where a busy mom explained that she started waking up at 4 a.m. to make more time for her passions in the day. The trick was that she also went to bed at 9 p.m. Solid seven hours of sleep. Solid three hours of personal time before anyone else needed her. Sounded good. But could I pull it off? Turns out, it was way easier than I thought. Here’s what happened when I started going to bed the same time my god kids do.
1. My mornings went from crazed to calm.
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Yes. You read that right. Calm. The frantic rush to get out of the door disappeared. I used to struggle with meditating every morning—sometimes forgetting to do it altogether because I was making a mad dash for the door to get to work. At 4 a.m., I struggled with meditating because I was thinking about all of the things I could do before peacefully walking out the door and strolling to work. My commute wasn’t stressful because I took an earlier train. I couldn’t care less how long it stopped in between stations.
2. Forget being on time. I was early for work.
Everyone knows that feeling of hauling it through the door and trying to get into their seat only to find it’s 9:04 a.m. Well, I got to forget that sinking sentiment for a month. An earlier commute meant walking through the door of my job earlier. And that meant a less stressful day.
3. I finally valued my own time.
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What passed for relaxation at 9 p.m. (binge-watching Law & Order reruns with one eye, while scrolling my Instagram feed with the other, while mindlessly eating chips) was absolutely unthinkable at 4 a.m. “You didn’t wake up for this!” I’d tell myself if I even thought about opening up Facebook. Meanwhile, before the sun even rose, laundry was done, meals and snacks were prepped for the day and I had sent an actual, handwritten, “thinking of you” card to a loved one in the mail. (Just call me Anna Log).
4. I started planning my meals better.
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Speaking of meals, late night snacking vanished. In fact, late night eating ended entirely. One night, I was having a conversation with a friend on the phone at 9 p.m. before getting into bed. While I was in my jammies about to call it a night, he was about to head out for dinner. I’ve done the same thing millions of times. But on the 4 a.m. plan, it was actually impossible. . . and I didn’t mind that at all. Yes, I missed socializing. That was a struggle. But it was a temporary struggle. One month wasn’t the end of the world.
5. I stopped watching so much television.
When you only have an hour to catch something before calling it a night, you choose wisely. There’s no scrolling through channels or blowing your 52 minutes on The Bachelor. (No offense). When I did watch television, I chose things that were important to me, like the news or the Surviving R. Kelly documentary. When that got way too heavy before bed, I just left television for the weekends. I actually called my cable company because I was considering cutting the cord entirely and saving, oh, $100 per month.
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6. My body totally loved it.
The first week I started doing this, I naturally woke up at 3:59 a.m. or right at 4 a.m.—no clock required. Totally feeling well-rested. “Are you doing this on the weekends too?” a friend of mine asked me at one point. I certainly was. Going back and forth seemed like it would just confuse my body. So even on Saturday and Sunday, I’d wake far before the crack of dawn. Most of the time it was effortless. And most of the time it was great. But my experiment ended three weeks in when I had two friends visiting me from out of town. It didn’t seem fair to impose my sleep schedule on them and I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. So, the million-dollar question is: Would I do it again? The answer: I’m already planning a Take 2.