One thing I’m not looking forward to, and that was my biggest challenge in my previous Americorps stint, was getting up early.
I am a night owl, which is to say that my body’s natural circadian rhythm has me rising comfortably somewhere between 9am and 10:30am, taking anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to reach full high-functioning consciousness (although I can do simple tasks like answer email, fix a limited menu of breakfast items and dress myself with reasonable reliability), then moving into on my first active, creative wave of peak energy and awareness until lunch at about 3pm-ish, slumping into a braindead coma from 4-7pm, then getting my second, somewhat mellower wind from that point until I get sleepy, which is usually somewhere between midnight and 2am. It’s a nice, comfy cycle and has served me well for most of my adult life.
Of course, for the next year, me and my circadian rhythm aren’t going to be seeing much of each other, except maybe on the weekends. Which really sucks, because I never seem to be able to adjust to getting up earlier, no matter how long I do it and what tricks I employ – despite the exhortations and assurances by
blathering morons who have no idea what they’re talking about well-meaning experts who insist that anyone can do it if they just try hard enough. Bah. Humbug.
That entire year I tried anything and everything those experts assured me would work – going to bed earlier and not going to be until I was sleepy, reading and not reading, taking hot showers, drinking warm milk, taking mild herbal (and not so mild or herbal) sedatives, not watching tv, making the room dark and quiet and so on. But up to and including the very last day, I never got any sleepier any earlier and it was still a horrifically difficult and physically painful battle to dredge myself up through the cement-like layers of sleep to get up and out of bed at the hour I had to in order to get myself to the site on time (and even then, I was given some leeway to arrive late, since I lived an hour away, so I wasn’t getting up as early as I really should have been). And no, that’s not an exaggeration. It really does actually hurt, badly, and it really is that hard for me to do it.
The real problem here is that first 45 min or so that I’m only semi-conscious, at best. I’ve never found a way to shorten that. Even in emergency situations, when my body is flung awake and into action, it’s still like watching a caffeinated but brainless zombie flailing about after the heroes have jammed a bucket on its head. I’m up, but I’m not much help and I usually end up stumbling around blindly and making a mess of things.
That first daze-time is never a good time to do things that I often have to do when I’m getting up early, like driving and dealing with problems that require real brain power to handle. When I did my HFH service, I had to drive an hour on main artery interstates from my home to the site, and I well recall many a trip where I sorta dazed out and woke up a lot closer to my destination than I remember being a few seconds ago. *shudder*
The reality is, no matter what time you get me out of bed, I don’t really “wake up” until my normal time. The rest of my crew on site learned early on to give me the can’t-screw-it-up grunt work for the first hour or so, since even if I completed a complex task before I really woke up, it would just have to be redone over anyway. And recent research has shown that I’m not just imagining it, as I noted in my personal blog earlier this year. I feel vaguely vindicated. Not that that will help me any this go around.
I’m hoping that this time, since I’ll be living either right in town or damn close to it, this will be less of an issue. Either way, though, I’ll still be getting up far earlier than my body is good at handling and doing things like driving or riding a bike in morning traffic and
warping enriching the minds of young children. So, if you’re in the Asheville area you might want to plan your morning route or your kid’s placements accordingly.
Edit – just got back from 4th of July holiday trip and had to mention that such disturbances in the routine can affect my morning functionality as well, as was clearly demonstrated by the fact that one of those holiday mornings I had the following realization while preparing my standard morning tea and yogurt/granola breakfast, recreated here at approximately the same speed of thought I exhibited at the time: Hmmm…that’s odd…less cereal than normal fits in my bowl today…oh, that’s because I’m pouring my cereal into my mug of tea instead of onto my yogurt…hey, wait a minute…
D’oh! Oh well. I fished most of it out, redirected the box over to the waiting yogurt and all was well. Well, except for the slightly grainy scent of that morning’s libation.
americorp, sleep, circadian cycle, volunteer