You know how they say that the secret to figuring out what you love is going back to your childhood and thinking about what your uninhibited self did?
For me, that’s falling asleep nice and early.
As a young person, I would often fall asleep on tables at restaurants when I went out to dinner with my parents. I’m not kidding. At most dinners, eventually there would come a time where I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so we’d clear all of the plates from in front of me and I’d rest my arms on the table, using them as a pillow to fall asleep on.
When we had parties at the house, I would very happily retreat upstairs at bedtime to be tucked into bed while the party continued on the floor below me. Hell, a few years ago, we even had a party where my friend Stephanie stayed and chatted with my parents after I went up to go to bed.
There have also been countless times where my friends would be over and I would fall asleep on the couch while we watched TV. At this point, it’s a pretty regular joke with my friend group. One time when she got back to her house after spending time over at mine, my friend Rachel texted me, “I made it home, thanks for letting me watch you sleep!”
I am just one of those people who falls asleep at a certain time, no matter what’s going on around me. I’ve slept through more rock concerts than I can name.
Now that I’m older and exhausted from the heavy weight of the world, the idea of “morning lark” or “night owl” has become more nebulous. I know that I’m not the only one who can relate to the meme below.
I studied Neuroscience in college (and actually did an independent study on sleep!), but it doesn’t take a fancy degree to know that humans naturally fall into two camps: morning larks and night owls. While it is scientifically proven that humans’ circadian rhythms naturally favor one or the other, our fast-paced society riddled with anxiety leaves many of us in the permanently-exhausted-pigeon state. From here, it can be challenging to see which camp you fall into. But for me, as always, it comes down to looking at my past patterns.
I’ve also seen similar patterns with myself and yoga. In case you’ve never been to a yoga class before, most yoga classes end with several minutes in shavasana or “corpse pose,” where you rest after doing all of the fun yoga and before getting up to pack up your mat. If I’m going to yoga in the morning, I just fully enjoy shavasana. Maybe I’ll think a bit about my to-do list or the latte that I’m about to go and get, but my mind is fully awake. If I’m doing a yoga class at night, there’s always a chance that I will completely fall asleep. I have woken myself up by snoring more than once in a nighttime yoga class, but that would never happen to my morning lark self during a morning yoga class.
As a morning lark, I find my eyes closing fairly early in the evening. Once my brain even just starts feeling the pull of sleep, suddenly my eyes won’t stay open. One time, Stephanie and I were driving home from a party, and in an endeavor to stay awake with her while she drove, I sang along with the radio. Alas, this didn’t actually help, because I would just fall asleep while singing and wake up still singing. It was literally impossible for me to stay awake.
On the other side of this is waking up in the morning. Unfortunately, when my brain decides that it’s time to get up, there’s no telling it no. Most mornings, I wake up ready to start the day at 6:30. Sometimes, I can eek out another hour or so, but anything after that 6:30 mark is a crapshoot. When I was abroad in Spain and stayed out all night with my friends, I was able to get home and sleep from about 8am to 12pm, but I just couldn’t rest anymore. My brain refuses to stay asleep once that sun comes up.
I find this to also be a funny comparison to night owls. In college, I’d watch my night owl roommate struggle to get up every morning. She would not only snooze her alarm several times, but she’d also get up in stages. First snooze, rollover for another 10 minutes. Second snooze, sit up in bed. Third snooze, stand up but rest her head on the bed for a few more minutes. After that snooze was done, she could begin to get ready for the day ahead.
Now, I’m not saying that I never hit the snooze button, but I’ve never struggled to wake up in the morning that badly. Struggled to stay awake at night? Sure. But once I’m awake, it’s pretty easy for me to get moving. I didn’t even get into coffee until after college, and even then, I pretty much only drink lattes because I enjoy them. I may be a bit tired throughout the day, but there’s no way that I’m going to fall asleep again until nighttime.
Even when I get no sleep at all, I’m still an early riser. For the years that I was on hormonal BC and not getting quality sleep, I couldn’t help but wake up and get moving early. Of course, I had a job that necessitated me getting up and out of the house, but I was able to do that without much difficulty.
In my perpetually-tired adult life, it can be hard to tell the difference between morning lark and night owl. But realistically, it’s hard to refute that I’m a morning lark while getting out of bed and getting dressed at 6:30am is easy and staying awake at a nighttime Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert is impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some late night (read as: 9pm) antics, just don’t expect me to be fully awake for them. You can find me asleep at the dinner table…or in the passenger seat…or on a particularly comfortable carpet…or…well, you get the idea.