“You don’t know if they exist… it could be a coordinated prank,” my friend Henry responded when I asked him what his thoughts were on the concept of morning people.
I am currently conducting a self experiment to answer the question: can I become a morning person? This is partially out of necessity, since some weekdays I start work at 7:30 a.m. However, I also just find the concept of waking up before 8 a.m. and functioning as a proper human appealing.
One of the ways I force myself to get up is by leaving assignments till the morning, specifically assignments due that morning, which then absolutely forces me to sit up, pull out my laptop and finish the assignment. This worked on three mornings last week, where I rose between 6 to 6:30 a.m., and stayed awake the rest of the day. Problem was, my afternoon classes were fifty times more brutal, and I still couldn’t sleep well at night.
To gain some advice, I interviewed three of my morning-people friends. As a matter of fact, I currently know only three morning people on campus. So either other morning persons do not reveal their true superpower identities as easily, or this concept is truly just a hoax. (Or maybe I need more friends).
Henry Park once randomly brought up the fact he consistently sleeps from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. I began our interview by asking, “As a self-proclaimed morning-person, what do you have to say about your lifestyle?” This is my type-up of his response, which he requested that I use because it represents him well:
Looking out the window. “Sorry I just got distracted by the rain… what do I have to say about my lifestyle? Are you writing down what I’m saying right now? Omg you are!”
He facepalms, then comments on the rain outside. He asks if I am writing down everything he’s doing. “What do I have to say about my lifestyle? I think that it’s not actually that important to me. Like, I don’t have to consistently wake up at 6 a.m. to feel fulfilled. But socially, people seem to think you are more perfect than I am. Like I could stay up till midnight if I wanted to one day. I could wake up at 8 if I wanted to. There’s just this image of morning people being hyper-productive and on top of it, but honestly that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like, I don’t know why I wake up so early. I don’t really do anything. I watch YouTube; sometimes I stretch.”
Speaks gibberish. Comments on the weather outside. “It’s just a force of habit, you know. I’ve always gone to bed early, always gotten up early. It’s just my life.”
My main takeaway from our conversation: the fact that Henry considers going to bed at midnight “staying up” and waking at 8 a.m. “sleeping in” highly suggests that I cannot learn much from him. Henry is a different breed entirely.
The next morning-person/ otherworldly-being I spoke with was Mackenzie Warren. She is used to waking early after getting up at 5:30 a.m. in high school every day. She gets up between 6 or 6:30 a.m., stops working around 6 or 7 p.m. and is usually in bed by 11 p.m., depending on her variety of club activities. From our conversation, I realized that she is exactly that “image of a morning person” Henry had claimed did not exist.
“[Waking up early] makes me feel productive, and nothing about going to bed at a late time appeals to me,” Mackenzie explains. “I want to feel like I maximize my time, and waking up early lets me feel like that…It’s not a hoax, it just definitely takes training.” When I requested a training regimen, she offered a variety of answers: “My mom is a morning person too, so I learned by example.” “Understand that it does take time for your body to develop that system.” “Have a mantra to repeat to yourself in the moment [when you get up]: ‘Hey, you know what? You get up and make this momentary sacrifice.’ Think about that short term pain for long term gain.”
She ends with the encouraging quote: “It’s a mental battle.” Sufficiently intimidated yet simultaneously inspired, I thanked Mackenzie for her time and subsequently took a nap to avoid “maximizing my time.” (In my defense, I had slept at 4 a.m. the night before, and called her at 10:30 a.m.).
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Lastly, I spoke with Katherine Wright about her morning-person habits. Her responses landed her on the middle of the Henry-Mackenzie scale. She rises every day at 7:40 a.m. by alarm, and usually sleeps before midnight. She eats breakfast sometimes (a bottle of Bolthouse Farms vanilla chai tea) and runs errands. When asked why she makes the conscious decision every day to wake up early, she replied, “I like to operate in accordance with the sun. You know, in "Frozen," when Anna goes ‘the sky’s awake so I’m awake!’... I think about that a lot.”
Her initial response gave me hope, since it appeared that becoming a morning person is, in fact, a choice made by the sleeper. Yet the more we talked, the more it became clear that Katherine is also ~built different~ like Henry and Mackenzie. “I cannot do work past eleven or twelve,” she tells me, “so I can't be one of those people who stays up to 2, 3 or 4. I’m not built that way.” She then referenced the weekend she walked back to her dorm past 2 a.m. and went to bed at 3:30. “I still woke up at 8:30 the next morning. It’s how my body is programmed. I often wish I could go back to sleep, but I simply cannot... I can’t really help people. I can’t seriously nap. If I nap, I'm constantly thinking about waking up and doing other things.”
Daunted by my own ability to “work past eleven or twelve” and “seriously nap,” I began to fear that my goal of achieving morning-person status is truly a Sisyphean task. With the help of Katherine, I consulted the internet and learned a fact that confirmed my fear: our chronotype is mostly biological; up to 47% of our internal clock is inherited from our parents.
As I sat in my seat, wishing I knew this before I tried to force myself to wake up every morning at six, I realized that though Henry, Mackenzie, and Katherine are blessed with morning-person genes, they still wake up early simply out of habit. There’s still at least 53% of my internal clock that I can alter with, in Mackenzie’s words, “momentary sacrifice.” Henry may be less aware of his own productivity, and Katherine may be a bit less consistent with her sleep schedule, but all three of these students are peers that I look up to immensely, who show me that being a morning person is truly not a hoax. It’s an idealized lifestyle that I genuinely want to partake of.
So, let us end with a bit of inspiration. You may know the quote, often misattributed to Aristotle, that reads, “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Taking Mackenzie’s advice, I’ve created myself a mantra: “Becoming a morning-person, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Wish me luck.
Jocelyn Chin is a Trinity first-year. Her column usually runs on alternate Wednesdays.