How Mindfulness Helps Me When I Wake Up too Early

As I’ve mentioned on this site before, my circadian rhythm is strongly affected by how many hours of daylight we have in Ontario. I can’t help but to wake up when the sun rises no matter what part of the year it is.

This process begins at about 5 a.m. in June and July, so I’m up very early indeed in mid to late summer. Since the sun doesn’t set until about 9 p.m. now, I also don’t get tired until fairly late at night as well.

That means that I don’t get as much sleep at this time of the year as I get in November or December when there are 14 to 15 hours of darkness at night.

On a positive note, I’ve experienced so many of these summers full of early mornings of that I’m now pretty used to them. It’s a cycle that will slowly begin to change now that the days are growing shorter again.

I also occasionally get to sleep in past 5:30 or 6 a.m. if the sky is overcast. The rest of the time, I do the following things to stay mindful and wait to see what will happen next.

Staying in Bed

Unless there’s a pressing need to get out of bed, I stay in it for as long as possible.

I won’t lie to you. There have been a few times when the sun woke up me so early that I deeply wanted to go back to sleep for a few more hours.

This isn’t something you can force your body to do, though, and I’ve found that the best way to encourage a mind to fall back asleep is to avoid giving it too much stimulation. I may read a book to pass the time if I truly can’t fall asleep again, but even that can be too much for my mind depending on what I’m reading.

The important thing is to stay quiet and still while I wait to see how my body reacts.

Living in the Moment

Early mornings are such a peaceful time of the day. I often hear trucks rumbling, cars honking, and all kinds of other urban sounds in the afternoon and evening, but even someplace as enormous and busy as Toronto grows quiet as night turns into morning.

5 a.m. is the perfect time to clear your mind of any thoughts of the past or the future. The only things I focus on are the ones that are happening right now:

  • The feel of the cool sheets against my skin.
  • The sound of my husband breathing as he sleeps.
  • The occasional call of a bird or other nature sound that even the city can’t erase.

Of course, this isn’t always an easy thing to do. There are times when I have to gently remind myself to stay mindful if my mind begins to jump all over the place.

Having No Expectations of Going Back to Sleep

Here’s a riddle for you: why is it so much easier to fall asleep when you’re not trying to do so?

I remember tossing and turning for a huge chunk of the night once years ago because I was so excited about a vacation to visit my parents and siblings that was beginning the next day. Some of that sleep had to made up the next night after I’d had the chance to give everyone a hug and settled into our visit.

The mornings during the summer when I close my eyes and attempt to will myself into dreamland are almost always the ones where I’m up for good at the crack of dawn.

If I can lay down quietly and neither try to stay awake or fall asleep, my mind will often settle down again and let me catch another hour of rest before the day begins for good. Even if it doesn’t happen, that quiet time is a nice way to adjust to daytime.

Putting It All Together

I’ve actually kind of come to enjoy my silent mornings now that I do my best not to expect anything from them. This is a part of the year that passes by all too quickly. By the winter holidays I’ll be sleeping like a log every night, but in the meantime….

Maybe I’ll fall back asleep in five minutes.

Maybe I’ll drift in and out of sleep so peacefully that it will all feel the same to me.

Maybe I’ll have some time to truly live in the moment before beginning my day.

Any of these options are acceptable, and only time will tell which one I’ll receive on any given day. I’d love to know how practicing mindfulness has had an effect on your daily life. Come tell me all about it on Twitter.

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