I seem to have a certain peculiar ability to awaken well before my alarm clock. I do this most of the time, regardless of what time it is set to bring me to consciousness with rudely elevated decibels. Some of you will feel me on this. You wake up and with bleary eyes roll over to look at the timepiece that is likely somewhere in the vicinity of your bed. It registers not yet time to get up (but likely too close to said time to allow for return to blissful somnolence). My response to this mechanism that I have named my “internal torturous awakening function” is “Why the @#$% am I awake?!?” Sadly, no one seems able to give me a cogent answer to this question. The process appears to have no relationship to the actual hour. If I need to be up at 6:00AM, my body will wake me at 5:47AM. If I need to be up at 8:00AM, it seems I will awaken at somewhere between 6:30AM and 7:45AM. Trying to sleep the full planned time appears to be an impossibility.
Associated with the phenomenon of pre-alarm wakefulness is the sad fact that when this occurs on days when I do need to be awake and alert and productive by a certain hour, I feel as if I could actually return to the land of Nod and sleep for a week (I know it is patently untrue, but it does feel that way). However, on days when I have no alarm set and no need of one because I am at my leisure… I will awake with the dawn and be unable to return to slumber without the assistance of a sleep aid (like maybe a sledge hammer or iron frying pan to the cranium). It seems that I have lost the gift of being able to sleep in. What makes it baffling is that it seems to matter not one jot how much sleep I’ve actually had. I have been known to lay my head upon the pillow at 3:00AM only to come to a full roused wakefulness at 5:30AM when I needn’t be awake until 8:00AM (if at all). Unless I am actually ill, I seem to be doomed to being an early riser now. Oh the shame of it!
There are some benefits to the curse of early waking. I get things done while most of the population is still slumbering peacefully. I can take this time to get in workouts before the gym is populated, run in the dawns early light on a deserted beach, greet the day on summer mornings before humidity and temperature closely resemble the surface of the sun… It fails to make me truly more productive however. Just because I’m awake, does not mean that I am willing to deal with people or make noise. So, many of the tasks that I don’t have time to do during the day generally don’t get done in the early hours of said day (like running the vacuum or mowing the yard… neighbors get cranky about that stuff too early). I do get a jump on things like bills, filing, running reports, organizing, and planning.
I suppose there are worse things in life than having a natural clock that kicks in (especially during power outages). However, I still occasionally miss the days when I could anticipate sleeping late and being lazy. I will still continue to wonder as I wake at 5:30AM on my vacation, “Why the @#$% am I awake?!?”