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How to Sleep In with a House Full of Morning People

Updated on July 16, 2014

Can you sleep in when you’re in a house full of morning people? It's difficult; even if you make explicit arrangements to grab an extra hour or two, it is not likely to happen. Only entrust the stewardship of these priceless “deep sleep” hours to someone who truly understands a) the depth of your fatigue; b) the lift that those “bonus hours,” properly timed, can give you; c) the emotional attachment you had already formed to the expected slumber; and d) the sheer joy of awakening naturally late, without having been acquainted with that day yet by any means.

Yesterday, I made a deal with my husband and my in-laws to effect at least a modest sleep-in for me. After multiple days of non-stop childcare, including several of my precious little squirrel’s 4:00 am wake-up calls, I was more than ready to hide from the morning sun for just a little while, just to recover—to reboot. Until roughly 8:45, I was to be able to sleep undisturbed. As it turns out, I was awakened by various means today at 6:00, 6:12, 7:00, 7:10, 7:20, 7:30, and 7:59. At 8:01, I gave up, moaning, “Why?”

To be fair, I have a wonderful family. I was unable to maintain an appropriately grumpy disposition after being greeted by my loving husband, kind in-laws, and beautiful son. But I couldn’t help but wonder, still, gently, “Why? Why couldn’t they respect the sanctity of my rare morning sleep?” Especially after I had made careful arrangements to obtain it?

I have learned that morning people can be brought to an understanding, but it usually takes decades of patient explanation. Over the course of a marriage, for example, it might be possible to explain and demonstrate [ad nauseam] that you are, indeed, serious about your preference for staying up late and sleeping in. Ideally, this explanation is repeated by your sweet “evening” self patiently until the message is received. My lark husband is exceptionally bright, and it only took him three or four years to understand. In a related, unfortunate series of events, the message that “coffee must be available immediately upon waking, not an hour after we’ve left the house,” was conveyed to him by my wicked, coffeeless alter ego a couple times in less-than-gentle terms.

How do you explain that you really mean it? How do you tell them that yes, you are quite aware that morning is a splendid time of day? That the birds sing, and the sun shines, and the world is new, but that you can absorb it all just fine while cribbing peacefully in your oh-so-comfy bed? You may need to prove to them that you have actually witnessed the beauty of a morning. This can sometimes be accomplished slyly, by “appreciating” the lovely morning on a day when rising early either couldn’t be avoided or was for some reasonable purpose, like to waterski, hike, or watch a Formula 1 race.

How do you explain that while they open their eyes and spring happily up to greet the day at 6:00 am, your body then finally relaxes and you sink into glorious, truly restful slumber?

How much is it worth to you? The answer is that you may need to think of it as an investment. It could take a couple of years, but it will be worth it if you want the morning sleep. Step one: appreciate the lovely mornings, as described above. Steps two through however-many-it-takes tactically remove the factors that interfere with you sleeping in. You don’t want to remove the family, of course, so let’s strategize for a bit.

 

Culprit 1: family. Strategy: Get on the Same Page.

Tactics:

  1. See “appreciating mornings,” above. Mornings can indeed be very nice, and if occasionally you join your family for the early shift, they will let you enjoy the early shift your way the rest of the time.
  2. Take the night shift. I cut a deal with my husband that meant I would take care of all childcare activities between the kid’s bedtime and 6:00 a.m. Many mornings, I was very glad that he knew his Swiss watch was spot-on accurate when it read 6-oh-something.
  3. Demonstrate. Some morning when you know your spouse could use the extra shut-eye, get up, sneak out of the bedroom, turn off the phone ringers, leave a note, and take the baby out of the house. It is not necessary to wake your partner to let her or him know of your plans. Go somewhere profoundly out of earshot, and don’t come back for several hours. Your partner will adore you for it.
  4. Beg. You might get to this point with your children, in particular.

Culprit 2: The PaperBoy. Strategy: Put Him on Your Team

Tactics:

  1. Some morning when you are up early, greet the paper boy with a crisp $20 bill and inform him sweetly of your admiration for his paper-throwing abilities. After all, he can target that paper expertly, all the way from the end of your driveway. Let him know that it’s fine with you if he rides his bike straight across your lawn, doing a wheelie if he likes. Just make sure he understands that he is to place the paper gently on your step, rather than pelting your screen door with it every day at 5:45 a.m.
  2. Repeat the above ritual every six months.

Culprit 3: Unmanned Noise Sources. Strategy: Discriminate Them.

Tactics:

  1. Identify every potential source of unmanned noise that does or might occur before your desired waking time.
  2. Separate the noisemakers into three groups: essential tool; desired luxury; and scrap. Essential tools may, depending on your family or business role, include your phone, your partner’s alarm clock, and your alarm system(s). These probably have to be left active. The loud fan on the HVAC system on the other hand, may be a luxury can wait another hour before turning on. Your son’s toy alarm clock (buried under some furniture somewhere), you know, the one that’s set for 6:30? Scrap.

Culprit 4: Your Emotions. Strategy: Don’t Let Them Get to You

Tactics:

  1. Recognize that you must compromise in order to enjoy the people around you.
  2. When you are awakened early, but still have the chance for more sleep, don’t waste that time grousing silently about the sleep you lost.
  3. Look at those smiling morning faces and remember that they love you.

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