From as far back as I can remember my husband, Ted, has enjoyed getting up early. In University he would get up at 5 am to study. Early in our marriage he continued this practice. He loves to read and would frequently get up at 5 to devour coffee and books. When I joined him around 7 or 8 he would be the happiest version of himself.
I admired his ability to get up early to have this time to himself. But as a lawyer who read all day for my job, I was not motivated by words on a page to get up. That was the opposite of what I wanted to do with my time during those hours. I slept in until at least 7 during the work week or 9 on the weekends.
Flash forward to last December. To me post-lawyer life as a stay-at-home-mom. To Ted as a busy surgical resident. Ted was taking time to change his habits in order to maximize his self-care. He read Jocko Willink‘s books: Extreme Ownership & Discipline Equals Freedom. Jocko rises at 4:30 am. His Instagram account is simply pictures of his watch showing the time in black and white: 4:30 am. Ted decided as part of his aim to employ the best wellness habits, to make this his wake-up time too.
I supported his choice but I thought he’d lost his mind. 4:30 was still fully night to me. 5 was acceptable but 4:30 was just too early and not right. I was worried he’d be dog-tired on too little sleep.
At this time I was taking part in Vlogmas for my YouTube channel. I was vlogging the day and editing the night away- sometimes until 1 or 2 am. I love editing and it was easy for me to lose myself at my computer in a video edit after the kids went to bed. I’d have to force myself to get off the computer and go to sleep just to be able to function the next day.
We were both getting on average 6 hours of sleep but the time we spent laying in bed together joined in slumber was only 2-3 hours.
I could see that Ted was loving his new crazy wake-up time. On a whim I suggested that we link up sleep schedules. I was feeling guilty for waking him when I came to bed and lonely for more connection with him. We are best friends and very close but I felt we weren’t meshing like we used to. I told him that I would try editing in the morning so that we could have more time together. I cautioned him that if getting up early was impacting my editing time then I would have to re-adjust my schedule. I thought in the very least the gesture of offering to co-ordinate schedules would serve us. As it turned out the offer was powerful and Ted was thrilled that I wanted to try it out. So I set my alarm to a place it’s never been before (except maybe to catch a flight): 4:30 am.
The following unexpected things occurred:
- My energy levels soared.
Getting up at 4:30 means I go to bed earlier. I currently go to bed between 9 and 10. Which means I have 1-2 hours of time for myself (or for Ted and I) at night after the baby goes to bed. She currently sleeps solidly from at least 8-12. My four year old is in bed latest 8 pm. When I hit the pillow I am out like a light. So I get a full 6-7.5 hours of sleep, with the baby waking between 2 and 6 times. She’s teething and going through a sleep regression so her sleep is not the best right now but she never rises before midnight.
At 4:30 I get up to edit videos or work on my other side-things. Like I said, I love these hobbies so without fail I am super jacked to get up to get at them. I rarely hit snooze but if the baby has a bad night I may sleep in until 5:30 latest. The kids are up somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30.
Anyways- energy. I used to survive on coffee. I’d drag myself around during the morning and into the afternoon from coffee to coffee. Insert all the mom jokes about coffee. In fact I’d I’m ashamed to admit I regularly exceed the recommended dose for breast-feeding…but I felt like I had absolutely had to do it. I currently have one coffee at 4:30 and I have more energy than I’ve ever had throughout the entire day. Sometimes I will wake up at midnight with the baby and feel so refreshed that I think it’s time to get up. I have become convinced that it’s not how many hours I sleep but WHEN I sleep those hours that matters most to my energy levels. I’m only sleeping less than 8 (interrupted) hours but I feel fully rested and incredible.
2. My productivity has increased.
I used to edit between 4-6 hours a night. Now 6 hours of editing is easily accomplished in 2 or 3. I don’t fully understand it but it must be due to my general lack of exhaustion during the hours after I wake. I’m more effective, no doubt about it. During the day I can tackle my activities with the house and kids so much more efficiently. And I feel relaxed. I believe this is because I get what I love to do out of the way before the daily grind. When I edited at night I was subconsciously anxious to get the day over with and therefore less patient with all life before that time. I am a more chill mom and a better housekeeper than I’ve ever been on this schedule.
3. Our relationship improved.
I did see this one coming, I suppose, as that was the aim of this wake-up time. But not to this extent. I didn’t expect that Ted would be even more supportive of my YouTube channel hobby (he was already very supportive) simply because we lined up our sleep schedules. I see now that my late-night work was depleting our time together & affecting his sleep, therefore working against his aims. As a result there was an underlying tension there that has now disappeared. Also I am happier and more energetic during the day (as is he) so our partnership has strengthened as a bi-product of our individual well-being. It truly feels like we have amplified our marriage and we both have a sense that we will be able to accomplish all our goals together with our new “team 4:30”. Because we are more supportive of one another and more energetic I see that our individual self-worth has increased as well. It’s been an upwards spiral of sorts.
The results have been so positive that I’m getting up at 4:30 EVEN ON WEEKENDS now. Sometimes we even hop out of bed happily, almost giggly, at 4. Crazy, I know. We are both crazy now, I guess. But we feel crazy good. If you need a boost in your energy levels and marital connection and you give team 4:30 a try, please let me know how it shakes out. For us it has been life-changing.