I tried to be an early bird and a night owl at the same time. Here’s what happened

Nov. 8, 2019, 3:26 a.m.

Every day of Week 1, I woke up at 6:30 a.m.

Despite the fact that my first class started at 9:30, I liked the idea of waking up three hours beforehand to the comforting silence of the early morning. You see, at Stanford, 6:30 a.m. is analogous to 5 a.m. in the real world. Time simply runs differently here — the hours, the days, the nights, the weeks seem to pass by so fast and yet are so long. It’s like the Stanford Bubble effect applies to time itself, distorting our perception of it until we head back outside, to true reality. To me, Stanford is still a dream.

During the first week, while roaming the dorm in the morning, I bore witness to barren bathrooms and empty halls. These stood in stark contrast to the busy scenes present later on in the day.

Such was the world of the early bird.

Early morning showers, warm and quiet, truly allowed me to reflect on the hectic nature of this once-foreign place. As an extroverted introvert, I craved this alone time to recharge, away and apart from the hectic and crazy Stanford days. After clearing my mind in the shower, I would walk into the quiet paradise of my room where I’d write in my journal and I’d think to myself, What a wonderful world.  

Then, the rollouts came.

In actuality, they weren’t too bad — surprisingly, I was awake or half-awake for a great deal of them on my floor. Since I was waking up so early, I wasn’t losing too much sleep, and for a couple of rollouts I would hear the upperclassmen coming up the halls, jump out of bed to watch and record the rollout live. For my Stanford Daily rollout, I even heard them coming, recorded them talking at the door and proceeded to greet them as they banged on the door and rolled me out.

Soon, I got greedy. I just didn’t want to wake up early, I wanted to stay up late too, maximizing my time awake at Stanford. I wanted to revel in every second, to mitigate my FOMO as to not miss a waking moment. Still not fully recovered from NSO, I would stay up until the wee hours of the night having those signature late-night discussions and adventures until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

Such was the world of the night owl.

For some time, waking up three hours before class and staying up past quiet hours in the lounge proved extremely nice.

Then, I got sick.

Late nights and early mornings — playing the role of both a night owl and an early bird — slowly started to take its toll on me. It got so bad that I would take naps and then wake up in a brain fog. When I woke up, I’d be utterly confused, walking around aimlessly in a dazed sort of haze until my bearings slowly returned to me. I distinctly remember waking up from a one-hour nap, seeing people playing volleyball from my window, heading down in my pajamas and then coming back up confused, unsure of what was happening or what I was doing. I was constantly disoriented. I took naps in lecture. I exhibited that pseudo-state of drunkenness when one is running very low on sleep.

And on top of all of that, I was sick. Come Monday of Week 2, I woke up with a sore throat and a frog’s croak. Tuesday morning, I attempted to fight off the waves of unstoppable coughs in class; that night, my angel of a roommate made me mint tea while I sniffled in bed. Wednesday morning, I excused myself from class to blow the heck out of my nostrils. The freshman plague had consumed me.  

Such was the plight of the simultaneous night owl and early bird.

So, what did I realize from this whole experience?

1) Sleep is actually essential. Without it, it’s near impossible to function. At Stanford, sleep is a thing we often deprive ourselves of, laughing and joking about it — and, sometimes, you can’t afford to sleep, but at the end of the day, it really matters. Thinking matters. And without sleep, you can’t think properly. 

2) FOMO is real. Part of my desire to wake early and sleep late was because I was afraid of missing out on social bonding while also wanting to have morning time for myself. FOMO is like a disease: it invades your mind and tries to take over. I still have to work on combating it.

3) Early morning showers are nice — occasionally. I admit, I had a little bit of dorm-shower phobia, and so I’d wake up early to avoid the shower rush. So far, I haven’t really noticed that, but I do think it is a refreshing experience to wake up early and mentally breathe and reflect. Of course, you could do this at any hour, but I find early mornings when barely anyone is awake to be especially nice.

4) Late-night discussions are amazing. Although, they are somewhat doable, depending on when you wake up. Everything depends on your sleep schedule. An upperclassman gave me some good advice: “You should aim to do at Stanford what you can’t do anywhere else. And one thing Stanford has a wonderful abundance of is amazing people. Our school is full of the most talented, most interesting, most intelligent people we will probably ever meet. I’m finding that one solid way to get to know the people is to not only talk to them, but also sit down in the lounge until 4 a.m. talking about the deepest and wildest and wackiest things about life and such.”

5) We should aim not to maximize but to satisfy our Stanny experiences. I once read a positive psychology book on this matter. At Stanford, there’s a pressure to do everything you possibly can. But if you aim to be happy by not doing the most but instead by making the most out of what you do, I think you’ll end up more satisfied. And here, that can be hard, but it’s important.

So what does my sleep schedule look like now? I sleep earlier and wake later, maximizing my sleep instead of my time awake. Although I occasionally (or perhaps, a bit more than occasionally) fall asleep in class (the more sleep the better?), I am more awake and more present in the moment than ever before. For the most part, the extra hours of sleep are paying off. I’m curious to see what will happen as I inevitably transform from a night owl and early bird into a Stanford Duck as we fly off into the future.

Contact Ecy King at ecyfemi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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