College is a place for night owls. From study sessions that tend to run late, to parties that don’t die until the early morning, to the temptations of scheduling classes that make it easy to sleep until 10 AM or later Monday through Friday. Coming into college I thought getting up for classes would be the simplest thing in the world. I woke up at 6:30 every morning in high school with no trouble, how could college 8 AMs be any more difficult.
They were so much worse.
I had an 8 AM two days a week during my first semester and it was torture getting up so early. With my friends right down the hall, and coffee and tea on the first floor of the library to aid my studying I was getting much less sleep than in high school even when I could sleep a little later. While I’ve been avoiding 8 AMs like the plague since that first semester, I’ve recently found myself making an effort to look for more classes around 9:30 or 10:00. At the moment my schedule consists mostly of post-noon classes. It’s a nice arrangement, but then my days don’t usually end until late afternoon – sometimes not until 5. One of my majors is Theatre, and when we are working on a show rehearsals generally happen in the evening, beginning at 6 or 7. If you’re a part of stage management, as I was, you have to come in 30-45 minutes early to get ready. Having late classes meant much less time to properly get work done and to eat. I lived off of enough protein bars to feed an army. Not to mention all of my work had to be put off until late at night, when I was most ready to crash on my bed rather than try to pound out a reasonable essay.
Some friends of mine had a habit of going to the coffee shop in our library on weekday mornings to socialize and work. Not wanting to be left out, and knowing I had more time in the morning than at night, I decided at the beginning of this semester to start forcing myself out of bed a couple of hours earlier to join them. Suddenly my work was getting done much faster, and with higher quality. When rehearsal ended I could go on back to my dorm and get a full night’s sleep. Sure, the second my alarm went off I wanted to go right back to sleep, but after a few minutes with my eyes open I was wide awake and ready to face the day. When I woke up early with enough time to get some food and caffeine in my system I find myself much more alert in my classes, too. While I had been struggling to keep from dozing off in my 3:00 Lit class before, when I started my day earlier I was better able to contribute to conversation – and thank goodness because participation was 20% of the grade.
My trouble is that my majors, both small at my school, have a limited number of classes available each semester so I don’t often have a wide variety of options for how I form my schedule. On top of that, most of the classes that are available are long and in the afternoon. Not a lot of opportunity for my to shift my days to early times to open up my afternoons. For that reason I plan to continue waking up and marching myself to the library, because even if there is not big essay due soon or a test to study for I probably have something I can get done that will be better done at 9 AM than at 1 AM.
Of course, college will forever remain a place where staying up late is more common than waking up early. If you are intent to try to get up early, make an effort to also get a full night’s sleep, or else sacrificing an extra couple of hours will not be worth it. Sleep is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, and being fully rested can be what stands between you and a dreadful two week long cold that kills all motivation and ability to function. Get it while you can.