I stopped waking up to alarms about a year ago. It’s a luxury few can afford, but one that I implore more people take (if they can).
It sounds obvious, and there’s a lot of people out there who, if they have no reason to be up in the morning, do not set an alarm either. Equally, there are lots of people out there who, despite not having a particular morning commitment, have a daily alarm to wake up to, whether in the name of routine, productivity, or habit.
I used to be one of these people. I used to wake up to an alarm every morning at 8 AM regardless of whether I needed to be awake for anything or not – in the name of productivity, but also in the name of a weird pressure I’d imposed on myself: I need to be doing more.
As an English student with very few 9 AM lectures and/or actual academic commitments in the morning, I used to treat the morning as a race to the library. I was only pleased if I made it before 9 AM – that meant a productive day was on the horizon. If I somehow managed to be the first person in the library, I would rejoice: I was winning.
However, with an alarm comes disrupted sleep cycles. The body is woken suddenly, raising the heart rate and releasing adrenaline. Humans aren’t supposed to be shaken from sleep – we have evolved to wake with the sun. If your alarm goes off during a deep sleep phase, it’ll make you feel groggy.
Personally, I noticed that waking up to an alarm would cause a lot of nausea. I would indeed feel groggy, but I’d also have a stomach ache, and I wouldn’t be able to physically stomach any food. I would make it to the library before 9 AM everyday having merely rolled out of bed, into lounge wear (comfortable and suitable enough for the library but not something I would wear to lectures), and having not eaten anything. In short, I was barely awake, and I certainly wasn’t ready to start working, let alone face an entire day.
I had an unhealthy attitude to morning routines, and it’s something I’m starting to rectify. On the one hand, I stopped setting alarms about a year ago. On the other, I only started sitting myself down and eating breakfast properly in the past couple of months. Feeling nauseated with my alarm, sometimes I would take a morning snack to the library, but most of the time I wouldn’t eat until lunchtime, my body still shaken up from being woken unexpectedly.
Forcing productivity down your throat isn’t the way to achieve it. Turning everything into a competition can be motivational, but it can be equally (if not more) de-motivational when you don’t make it to the library by 9 AM, or you’re not even within the first 10 people there.
Now, I take a morning pause:
- I wake up
- Like every young person today, I then check my phone
- I check my calendar to see what the day has in store
- I get up when I feel ready to, usually after 10 minutes or so, and a nice stretch
- I make myself breakfast: iced coffee and a smoothie bowl (this is a very fancy name for granola, fruit and smoothie)
- I sit in bed and watch YouTube videos as I eat, usually with my SAD lamp
- I check in with my mind, how I’m feeling, and what mood I’ve woken up in
- I move when I’m ready to start the day, and proceed to get dressed, etc.
This is pretty basic. It’s a skeleton of a ‘morning routine.’ However, it’s an opportunity for me to wake up slowly, to feed myself, and to nurture my thoughts and feelings, uninterrupted by a blaring alarm tone or an urge to race people to the library. Without this pause, I feel groggy, ragged and rushed. I like my mornings to go at my own pace.
If you can wake up without an alarm – especially in work-from-home times such as these – please do. Your body will, after a few days, most likely start waking you up around about the right time, anyway. If it’s not imperative you wake up, let your body get the final bits of rest that it needs.