During my high school years, the fountain of youth allowed me to wake up at 5am, attend school from 7am to 3pm and then work a full-time job freelancing until 2 or 3am each night. I am no longer 15 years old. In the following years, I developed multiple chronic health conditions that intimately acquainted me with chronic fatigue. I could sleep 8 hours or 30 and I would still be exhausted. This meant that I needed to choose. I could be a night owl or an early bird but not both.
For a few years, I chose the former - waking up at 11am each morning, going to my full-time job and then working on side projects until 3 or 4am each night. One of my favourite routines was going to the nearby “Mack’s” convenience store to get energy drinks and stale taquitos at 1am. With nobody outside except a few cars and the store attendant, it was super calming and helped me work through tough bugs.
When I met my partner Milo, I transitioned to being an early bird because he worked afternoons and nights and waking up at 11am meant I would only get to see him for a few hours. I took a work trip to Europe and when I came back I reset my schedule using jet leg as a kickstarter. I started waking up at 6:30am and going to bed around 7pm. Despite the nearly 12 hours of sleep each night, I was exhausted. Maybe the early bird lifestyle just wasn’t for me?
Energy buster number one: Celiac Disease (basically my body is scared of bread). Once we figured this out I finally had a source for my nerve pain, constant 💩s, and headaches. I’d take like 800mg of Advil each day, damaging my liver in the process. By removing gluten from my diet, I received a boat load of energy in return. With that said, gluten free bread sucks (top offender, it dissolves like cotton candy) but that’s a topic for another day. I decided to shift my waking hours from 6:30am-7pm to 6am-9pm. This helped me have a few more hours after work to spend with Milo or work on side projects or watch YouTube.
But with success comes failure. I was hospitalized for what we were later informed was a serious respiratory infection that apparently activated hereditary genes from my grandmother that gave me adult asthma (thanks for the trauma and asthma, I guess!). Yay! More chronic fatigue! My doctor prescribed me the wrong medication and for the next two years (2019 and 2020), I was taking inhalers that were actively hurting my lungs and potentially scarring them in the process. My pharmacist actually was the one who noticed this and helped me fix the problem. Thank you to the folks at the local Pharmaprix!
Now that I have more energy and can breathe easy (literally!), I found myself wanting to use my new found stamina for side projects and creative endeavours. I started getting up at 6:30am and going to bed around 11pm. This isn’t as late as some night owls but it’s much later than I was used to and gives me more than enough time to do what I want while still feeling rested each morning.
I have been doing this for about a month now and I’ve learned a few habits that have helped me in my journey.
I started planning proper morning and night routines that helped me know what I need to do each day. I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth and shower in the same order each day. I try to prepare my clothes the night before. I eat the same thing each morning. This is incredibly helpful for me to feel calm and prepared in the mornings.
The next one is part of the night routine but I wanted to separate it out into its own habit. I try to wind down before I go to bed. I stop checking my phone around 30 minutes before I hit the hay. I go for a nice cold shower (well, in the summer), brush my teeth and go to the bathroom, which I just noticed is the inverse of my morning routine which is kind of interesting!
No caffeine after 7pm. I drink coffee and tea for energy but I also drink it because I enjoy it. I should probably drink more water but iced lattes, cold brew, and iced green tea is so delicious! By stopping this indulgence by 7pm, I am not as buzzed going into bed which helps me calm down and fall asleep.
The last one is more sensitive. I hate eating. For me the process of preparing food, eating food, and cleaning up after food is chocked full of trauma from my childhood. I won’t go into the trauma in this blog post but it’s important for context. If I could take a pill that gave me all the nutrients and energy that food did, I probably wouldn’t eat. Healthy right? With this in mind, I need to actively remember to eat. I eat a cookie in the morning to get me out the door, a meal around 11am, a snack at 2pm, dinner at 5 or 6pm and another snack before bed around 10pm. Being both an early bird and a night owl requires energy and remembering to eat is important!
There is privilege involved in my ability to be both an early bird and a night owl. My job lets me decide my schedule and I am lucky enough to have my health conditions recognized and under control. With that being said, these tips have helped me work more effectively and be more happy day-to-day. I guess the takeaway should be, get lucky in your career and annoy doctors until they actually treat you!