Rise and shine

Early to bed, early to rise can make a Villager…


Get up in the dark. Although the old cliché says going to bed early and rising early makes a man “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” there’s absolutely no proof of that. These three benefits don’t necessarily result from your sleep habits.

Hard work can make you feel tired enough to turn in early, but nearly everyone in The Villages is retired. So, it isn’t the effects of work that make us creep into bed right after watching the 7pm news.

But it could be boredom that makes us sleepy early. Some of us just don’t have enough to do in retirement to stay alert and keep busy until late. They’ve neglected to plan for full and active golden years.

Early birds do rule the roost here in The Villages. Social and entertainment events begin early and end when younger folks are just stepping out for a night on the town. This is best because nothing good ever happens after midnight, as your mother used to say.

When my wife and I first moved to The Villages, a neighbor who got up at 4:30 every morning spent his time until dawn propping up everyone’s newspaper against their front door so when opened, the paper fell right in at their feet. It was a kindness his circadian rhythm allowed him to do for us.

What makes people night owls or early birds is their circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle. It runs in your brain like a 24-hour internal clock, cycling between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s set according to the period of the day when you’re most active and expend the most energy.

If you rise early, you’ll expend most of your energy earlier in the day, and you’ll want to retire early. If your most active time is later in the day, you’ll likely be awake until late at night. Our circadian rhythm is set by how we’ve always lived our lives.

Light and darkness also tend to influence our circadian rhythm, and for most people, their sleep/wake cycle usually coincides with the cycle of daytime and nighttime.

But you’re not a prisoner of your circadian rhythm. It’s possible to change it, for example, when your work schedule moves from days to the night shift.

Your circadian rhythm often changes when you get older. Aging and the various health problems that come with it can make you less able to sleep for long periods. And so, even night owls find themselves waking before sunrise, after only a few hours of sleep. 

Are you a night owl or an early bird? There’s no right or wrong in either. Your circadian rhythm makes that decision for you.

Should you care that the “early bird catches the worm?” I’d rather sleep in and catch a big plate of bacon and eggs after the sun comes up.