October 23: five hours 26 minutes (then back to sleep for another 35. This is new!)

So, I was diddling about on my laptop this morning, procrastinating and time-wasting as per, when my daily email came through from Medium Daily Digest. It’s an American website, big on mental health articles, and I pay my $4 a month in the vain hope there may be some story ideas to nick.

Anyway, at 8.30am, this arrived. I almost spat out my skinny latte (sorry, sleep hygienists, it’s my one-a-day).

For some reason WordPress wouldn’t let me ’embed’ the link so you can have access – shame, it had a cool illustration. So I’ve just pasted the first few paragraphs here. (For reasons unknown, it’s justified centrally, like a menu).

The title of the piece is: How to Wake Up at 5am Every Day. How, Bryan Ye? HOW? You have bloody insomnia, that’s how!

How To Wake Up at 5 A.M. Every Day
An unconventional and compassionate guide to becoming an early bird

Bryan YeFollow
Oct 3 · 15 min read

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
I thought I was destined to be a night owl forever.
I’m no stranger to reading about the benefits of waking up early or having the same sleeping routine — all of us have probably read this at some point in our lives. I’m in my final semester of university, so the past few years of my life have been absolute chaos. I have classes some days, work other days, and have free time on especially rare days. Having a routine seemed impossible.
But a few months ago, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s novels. My favorite is Norwegian Wood. Inspired by Murakami’s fascinating prose, I researched him a little.
I found this gem in a 2004 interview he did:
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4 a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9 p.m.
I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.
There’s something about the way Murakami talks about his routine that moved me. This part, in particular, stood out to me:
The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism.
Mesmerism has been a part of my life since I was a child; it’s the sense I have every time I establish a new habit. I mesmerized myself as a child to brush my teeth every day in the morning. As an adult, I’ve mesmerized myself to be healthy by exercising regularly. I’ve mesmerized myself to reflect on my life by adding a journaling routine.
A surge of motivation struck me, knowing I had done a similar task in the past. I could become an early bird by mesmerizing myself.
For the past 3 months, I’ve successfully transitioned into being an early bird. I go to sleep at 9 p.m. on average 6-7 nights a week. I currently wake up between 5–5:30 a.m. naturally.
I might continue experimenting with waking up even earlier, but I’m happy with my current routine and don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. After all, it’s healthy to get 8 hours of sleep, isn’t it?
I’ve tried to become an early bird many times in my life and this is the first time it has actually worked. Here’s what this process of “mesmerizing” myself looked like—and also a few words about what doesn’t work.
What really worked was more gentle than youhabits. You’d have more compassion for them and help them make those changes over time.
I can barely fix my diet and go to the gym at the same time, and I’d like to consider myself a healthily integrated member of society.
Similarly, you should only change one thing at a time. For now, focus on getting to sleep early. That’s all.
Slowly increase your productivity as you go. If your goal is to get work done in the morning, start by doing 30 minutes of work, then an hour, and so on.
Have fun in the morning (when you start)
If there’s a day you wake up feeling super motivated and ready to do work, then, by all means, do it. But if you don’t feel motivated at the start, just have fun.
I spent around two weeks waking up in the morning and watching TV shows, YouTube or Twitch streams. It was actually fun — watching stuff when nobody else was around.
Eventually, I was ready to do work. Trust me, you’ll eventually be ready to do work. There’s no way you’re going to wake up every morning to mess around for the rest of your life (if your goal is to be productive); it’ll feel like such a waste,.

Here’s the web address if you want to read the whole thing https://medium.com/better-humans/how-to-wake-up-at-5-a-m-every-day-ceb02e29c802

Bryan’s article follows on from some research this summer from the University of California, which said that we are programmed to be a certain ‘chronotype’ – a term given to describe our natural time-preferences for waking, activity and sleep.

Scientists believe our body clocks are set by genetic code, but they are designed to adapt to our environment, and change as we get older.

So, for example, children and the elderly tend to be early birds, whereas teenagers have a delayed clock, which makes it genuinely difficult for them to go to bed early or wake up early in the morning (hmm). Men under the age of 40 have ‘later’ chronotypes than women – which is why they can always stay up til the end of Match of the Day on Saturday nights – but earlier chronotypes in later life.

A further study went on to say that chronotypes are fifty per cent determined by your genes, but there are techniques by which you can change yours. More on it here, below, in my Telegraph Insomnia Diary on the subject.


In the Medium piece, the writer is trying to change his chronotype to become an early bird, because he’s heard early mornings are the best time of day to be creative. It made me snicker because I thought: FINALLY. I am effortlessly good at something.

But, then, I thought about it a bit more. He has a point about those early hours.

Right now, it’s 06.37am, and still pitch black outside. I’ve been awake since around five thirty. I’m sitting in the kitchen with my stuff spread out all over the kitchen table, drinking my One A Day Latte, writing this.

It’s quiet (the rest of the house don’t get up til about 7.3o. I have already asked Alexa to play some of my ‘morning songs’. These include:

* I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash (remember the 80s cinema Nescafé ad where the girl makes a cup of coffee in her car at sunrise, with one of those water-heater things?)

* Here Comes The Sun and Good Day, Sunshine, by The Beatles

* Lovely Day, by Bill Withers

* Good Morning, Good Morning from Singing In The Rain

* Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens’ version)

While I’m listening to these, I start work. And, yes Bryan Ye, without sounding too w*nky, I agree with you. This is a creative time of day. I do my best writing between 5.30 and 8am, and some of my clearest thinking.

In a few minutes (will it EVER get light this morning? It’s ten to seven and still inky out there) I will salute the sun and address the day.

It wasn’t always like this. In the worst period of my insomnia (Summer 2010 – Jan 2019), I HATED the early mornings with a passion. The dawn chorus made me want to commit mass murder because I couldn’t face another day on this diet of exhaustion.

But now I’m a solid five-hour-a-nighter, I increasingly love the pre-dawn hours. My friend, the Contrarian (her word) columnist Julie Burchill, calls her insomnia Extra Life.

At 07.52 this morning – if the morning ever decides to break – I think she has a point.

3 thoughts on “October 23: five hours 26 minutes (then back to sleep for another 35. This is new!)

  1. Funny, I have been setting my alarm for 6am for the past three mornings in the hopes of getting up at said time and being productive. Needless to say it hasn’t (yet) worked. I keep falling back asleep. And then KICKING myself as I hurry to get to work on time. ARGH!



      1. PS) sorry everyone about the multiple postings of the Medium artlcle! It wouldn’t let me do it last night, but as is the way with these things, I kept trying anyway to now avail. And now, this morning, they have all popped up, making me look like a technophobic fool (which is not, let face it, miles from the truth)


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