I have to confess something to y’all: I love sleep. I love it so much. Sometimes when I’m getting ready for bed I’ll wiggle out a little happy dance because I know I’ll get to go to sleep soon. It’s relaxing, it’s recharging, it’s easy, it’s just all good things. But I’ve slowly been learning something over the past few years: like all good things, sleep has to be approached correctly to get the most out of it. In the same way that water is a good thing unless you overfill yourself, sleep is great as a way to recharge our batteries, but not as a way to just fill up time. When we oversleep we usually find that it doesn’t actually make us feel more awake and the time we spent sleeping we could have spent doing something more fulfilling.
This is where we tend to misunderstand the difference between rest and laziness. We know it’s a good thing to rest while we’ve got the free time that summer offers, but we don’t know how to do this so we wind up sleeping as much as possible. Thankfully rest is so much more than just sleeping. Rest is finding the things that recharge us and making time for them. Spending time in prayer, going on walks, talking with friends, reading a book (or the Book), playing sports: all of these things and more can be restful. Carving out deliberate time to do them brings us life and refreshment, and that time is harder to find when we sleep until noon. When you set an alarm for the mornings you’re taking an active step to make the most of the time you have and pursue rest and fulfillment instead of laziness. Of course, getting up earlier than we’re used to isn’t an easy task, so to provide some motivation and instruction, here are 3 benefits and 3 pro-tips for getting up to an earlier alarm.
Benefits of setting an alarm:
-Setting an alarm gives you more time in your day.
We all have interests. We all have callings. There are things that spark our interest and make us come alive when we engage in them. Getting up early allows us to make more time for the things that are important; both work and play. If you get up at 8:00 instead of 11:30 all of a sudden you can have quiet time, get coffee with a friend who’s in a tough spot, play 5 games of volleyball, and still have time to practice for your competitive yodeling team. When I look back on my life I want to know I made the most of the time I had. As a friend of mine once said: how you spend your days is how you spend your life.
-Getting up to your alarm teaches you discipline.
I don’t think anybody would disagree that discipline is a useful virtue. Being able to persist when things are tough has been a mark of most of the great people in history. Just think of Paul or the other church fathers and mothers. Getting up to your alarm can be a practice field for when the going gets tough. Setting a schedule and sticking to it is a life skill that will benefit you for the rest of your life. Especially in 3-5 years when you’ve got a full time job and have to be at work at 8AM anyways.
-Getting up with your alarm sets you on a regular sleep schedule.
When you’re getting up a little earlier you're also going to go to sleep a little sooner. Studies show that setting your body on a regular sleep schedule has incredible health benefits, improving everything from concentration and memory to weight control and immunity. Going to bed and getting up at consistent times also means we’ll wake up feeling more refreshed because it resets and maintains our circadian rhythms (sleep cycles). Imagine that; waking up alert and invigorated instead of sluggish and groggy. If you want to learn more about healthy sleep habits, read this: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-a-regular-sleep-schedule-benefits-your-health.html
Pro-tips for getting up earlier:
-Have something to do in the mornings.
The most difficult question to answer when that alarm goes off is “why?” As in “Why in the world did I want to get up this early?” Have something to do when you get up in the morning. Go on a walk, read scripture, watch the news, make coffee; whatever is going to get your brain spinning and waking up. If you have that kind of on-ramp you’ll find it much easier to get out of bed and into the adventures of the day.
-Set your alarm for a manageable hour.
All good things in good measure. I read an article the other day about a business mogul who would wake up at 3AM to exercise before work. That sounds miserable. You don’t need to wake up at 4 to spend 3 hours in prayer (unless you want to, in which case go with my blessing) but if you set your alarm for 8 instead of sleeping in until 11:00 you’re still getting an extra 3 hours out of the day. Figure out what’s manageable for you and stick to that.
-Don’t stay up super late the night before.
My freshman year of college my new friends, for whatever reason, loved staying up until 5 or 6 in the morning. I loved the time I spent with them in those hours, but the time would have been just as sweet if we hung out from noon to 6:00 instead of midnight to 6:00, and I would have had healthier sleep habits to boot. This goes along with the theme of practicing discipline and choosing what’s restful instead of just what’s easy. Making the most of your days means knowing which hours are the best ones to be conscious for.
God created the world with SO MUCH in it. There are countless things to learn about, conversations to have, experiences to engage in, and problems to solve. We weren’t made to just stay unconscious as much as possible; we were made to really live. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”. Paul is specifically talking there about filling up our days with things pleasing to the Lord, and as John 10:10 tells us, it was part of Jesus’ goal that we would have “life, and have it abundantly”. This includes things like evangelism and discipleship for sure, but it also means recharging with the things that make us come alive. Setting an alarm and sticking to it helps us make time to do those things that bring fulfillment; instead of just entertainment. Which is what I think we’d all prefer anyways.
Ian Burkes, media