Night owls should honor natural rhythms

Try as I might, I can't quite convince my body's natural night-owl rhythms to shift to early-bird mode. When my daughters were born I was, for a time, a somewhat reformed night owl, having no choice but to surrender to a baby's and toddler's own rhythms and the fact that, to them, Saturday was no different than Monday. But as my girls have gotten older and have themselves become fonder of sleeping in on weekends, I've easily reverted to my night owl ways.

Summer is the closest I ever come to being an early-bird, when the bright morning sun and the threat of stifling afternoon temperatures conspire to convince me that rising early for a run is better than postponing until the peak heat of the day. But this is short-lived at best.


Like most people, I am up early during the week to greet the school and work day. If it is warm and bright, I will take advantage of the early hour to check my workout off the list. But already — and it is only the first week of October — daylight is weaker at my usual waking hour, and temperatures are dipping into the upper forties and low fifties, conditions that leave me groggy and unmotivated to slip on shoes or a helmet for a run or ride.

I'd rather have my coffee first. And despite having to rise with the sun during the week, I am usually unable to call it a day until well after midnight.

What this means is that, during the week, I am routinely operating in sleep-deprivation mode and the weekends are my only chance to make up for it. The price of this extra snooze time on weekend mornings is that I sometimes miss my window of exercise opportunity.

For example, last weekend the gray clouds hung heavy in the sky until the moment I woke up. Then the rain came down, leaving me with the knowledge that had I gotten up even an hour earlier I would have been able to squeeze in a bike ride before the rain. And I know the hard core riders out there are mocking my wimpiness. Of course I know I can ride in the rain if I want to.

Fact is, I don't want to. And, truth is, I don't have to. Did I regret missing my window to ride? A little. But I made up for it with a run later in the afternoon. What I didn't regret was the much-needed extra hours of sleep I logged that served to restore my humanity, erase the fogginess from my brain, and had me feeling like a million bucks by the time I awoke, rested and refreshed.

I had planned to make up for my lost ride the next morning. But then I saw the forecast: winds approaching 20 miles per hour with temperatures in the upper forties. Brrrr.

At two o'clock in the morning I turned off my alarm clock and snuggled under the covers with a smile, knowing I would be waking up on my own — leisurely, and with respect to my own rhythms — rather than being yanked from a deep, pleasant slumber by the rude bleating of an alarm.