Maybe Rip Was Onto Something

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The idea of drinking some Dutch alcohol and sleeping 20 years away – or at least the year 2020 away – has probably never seemed more appealing.

I remember the first time I read the Rip Van Winkle story as a kid – the horror of sleeping through 20 years! My imagination turned to missing out on all those years of birthday presents, trips to the beach, and Christmases. 

But there was an upside…I could sleep through years of school and wake up an adult!

Like adulthood itself, sleep is a bit more complicated and complex than we would like.  In a world notorious for its chronic sleep-deprivation, we could do a lot worse with the restrictions to normal life than to spend a little of that time getting some extra sleep to help our bodies heal and our minds cope.

We crave simple solutions that fit everyone, but unfortunately, reality rarely presents them to us. As H.L. Mencken said, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.

For years we have all been assaulted with the awful expression “the early bird gets the worm,” to present the more moral, productive, and go-getter time of day to get up as early. Everyone else is a slacker.

And now have immensely popular and immensely stupid programs like the “5 AM Club” which teaches you how to get up at 5 AM and be productive because, you know, we found a few successful people that did that and decided that was THE time of day everyone should wake up. And the idea is simple enough to sell an irresponsible book and program around a bogus idea.

Sleep is important in many ways for brain and body health.  Some ways we already know and some we are just discovering.  To push back against this “everyone must get up early” nonsense, it is more helpful to figure out your chronotype – the best time of day to get up for YOU and for your biology. 

This info is from the book The Power of When. There is Lion (morning/early bird), Bear (mid-morning), Wolf (late morning/night owl), and the Dolphin (disordered sleeper.)  When you build your day around your chronotype your day goes better, your sleep is more efficient and restful, and you are happier. 

I am a bear, which I figured out early in my fitness career.  In fitness, there is this assumption that everyone must get up and workout before dawn. Well…in my first year or two of working full-time in fitness, I had clients at 6 and 7 AM and I was Miserable (yes, with a capital ‘M’).  After a couple of years of that, I knew that getting up at 4:45 to start a day at 6 AM was not going to work for me.  I never adapted. 

Ignore the dogma of getting up early (unless it fits your chronotype!) If possible, organize your day around waking up a time that fits your chronotype, and plan your workouts and most important mental work of the day accordingly.  With more people working from home than ever, there has perhaps never been a better time to reorder your day around the optimal time to sleep, wake-up, and exercise. 

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