In praise of the 6am wake-up call

green and white mug with a stylized owl

I am writing this at 6am. For most of my life, this was an ungodly hour, a time I would spend awake only if I carried on through the night or if I had picked one of those cheap flights with a low-cost airline.

I knew of the existence of people who woke up this early and I had always been somewhat fascinated by it, a sort of badge of honour I couldn’t bring myself to wear no matter how much I tried. My father, for example, has always been an early riser – he gets up to drink his first coffee undisturbed, but also – I suspect – to enjoy the only moments in which our home city of Naples is relatively quiet. There are also plenty of characters in US TV shows that make it look so natural, jumping out of bed before dawn without a single complaint, exercising before their children’s breakfast and their jobs, like the character Reese Witherspoon plays in the TV miniseries Little Fires Everywhere. (I am making sure I check the Celeste Ng book in which the show is based before writing more about it, but I will come back to it soon.)

When I moved to Ecuador, I was surprised by how early life started. Neighbours would be in full action at 5am – something I noticed with a lot of spite from my bed, trying to block out the noise from under my pillow. I thought that waking up so early was easier if you were born in such proximity to the equatorial line. An early routine could be the best way to make the most out of daylight in a place where it gets dark at 6pm all year round, I thought, hopeful that I would be naturally inclined to do it there. But whenever I tried to wake up at 7am to go running before traffic got bad in Quito, it was a struggle.

So how did I end up here, on this page, so early in the day? When I became a mother, I realised that the early hours could turn out to be my most precious ones. The time before Lorenzo wakes up bursting with energy and an urge to run everywhere, when my mind is still fresh and possibly rested, promised to become a great time for writing, running, doing yoga and simply breathing before I need to take care of…

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6 thoughts on “In praise of the 6am wake-up call

  1. It’s me, the early riser! I have never been able to stay up late to study or work, in fact even in the afternoon I am much less productive than in the early morning. I’d rather wake up (than go to sleep) at 4 in the morning to meet a deadline. Of course, that doesn’t mean I used to hit the sack at 10pm … Until I had a baby who still (15 months) spends the night sleeping on me, literally. When (when?) she sleeps alone, my days will definitely be longer and plenty of activities! However, I somehow enjoy my nights with her too.

    Curious about “Little Fires Everywhere”: is it available on streaming?

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts about Atwood. “The handmaid’s tale” quite disappointed me, but probably I had too high expectations

    1. Hey V!
      So, Little Fires Everywhere is on Prime, that’s where I watched it (a kind friend provided a password!). As for Atwood, I have loved her books, but I guess I wasn’t expecting much, except the little I knew from watching the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. I will write about it and then I’d love an exchange about what you weren’t impressed by!
      As for the long nights shared with a baby, I think those are part of the reason I enjoy some alone time first thing in the morning now – but also what make it hard for me to sleep more deeply and get up.

  2. Somehow your story made me think of a book I’ve finished reading this past weekend: Stories of the Sahara by Sanmao. (highly recommend for those who love traveling, travel journals, to transport to a different reality which is as real as ours).
    It made me think about how the environment we’re in shape our perception, behaviours, sleep patterns…

    It feels surreal to me now that I used to arrive at school everyday at 7am in Brazil (or often 7:15am before the gates were closed and I’d have to wait till the next class to be allowed in). Barely managing to keep my eyes open during my teenage years, even though I considered myself an early riser compared to my siblings.

    I’ve decided to abandon the alarm clock a few years ago. The feeling of waking up on my own time has been a true privilege & act of rebellion.

    When my son was born, he became my clock. But now, after 3 years, I’m waking up before him (curiously, at the same time he’d wake me up around 6am). So as he wakes up later, I can enjoy the silence of the morning as you’ve mentioned. Sometimes I even wake up at 3am. Fully awake, I enjoy my time on my own dancing & maybe have an extra nap till the rest of the house is awake. 😊

    1. Wow, Marina! I’ve been wanting to totally ditch my alarm clock as well, but 6am has not become a habitual time for my body yet. In a way when I tried to synch with Lorenzo’s sleep I really enjoyed the freedom of no alarm clock. But now unless I do 3-4 weeks of the same waking time, I don’t naturally wake up at 6. I love the thought of you dancing in the middle of the night!

  3. I love the early mornings!
    Waking up before the kids do. Having some me time in the early houres.
    In the lockdown I woke up at 6 am to have some extra houres of working time. Nowdays I go for a early morning workout.

    I prefer to start my day outside with a cup of coffee, watching the sunrise and listening to the birds waking up in my garden. An ultimate moment of relaxation before working or workingout.

    1. Hanny, you paint such a beautiful picture, and totally get to the chore of my feeling too: that extra moment of waking relaxation, and sometimes a needed time to focus too, before everything else gets moving. Do you go to bed early too, or is that a struggle? (I sometimes struggle with that.)

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