Not Heavy Early

Personable CBC Radio host Matthew Rainnie and I, both fans of WKRP in Cincinnati, are fond of reminding each other of the episode where Howard Hesseman’s “Dr. Johnny Fever” character returns to the station after a hiatus and is given the overnight slot, taking on the nom de guerre “Heavy Early.”

Matt has more than passing familiarity with the heavy early, having been up before the dawn for many years as host of Island Morning.

I have never been a morning person: left to my own devices, free from school runs and other exigencies, my natural tendency has been to sleep in as late as possible. A decade ago, once the walk to school was over for summer, it wasn’t unusual for me to get up at 11:00 a.m.

This has all changed of late: L. and her daughter are an up-with-the-sun family. Religiously. And, on the other end, asleep-well-before-10.

There was simply no way my languid hours were going to work in this coupling, and so I changed. In the end it wasn’t that hard: I simply cut out the 2-3 hours of television watching every night that took me to the edge of midnight, and started going to bed at the same time as Olivia, around about 9.

On the other end, I have been using the Sleep Cycle app to both track my sleep and to wake me up at the theoretically-optimal time in a given half hour window, generally between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.

It was a struggle at first, but I’ve managed to exorcise the Heavy and it’s now almost second nature.

The effect has been dramatic: I’ve traded in 3 dead late nite hours for 3 bright early morning hours. I’m not running marathons or cooking griddle cakes with this new time, but I am having much less rushed and frantic mornings, enjoying my coffee, doing some reading, heading into the day rested and ready.

And, on occasion, I’ll be up and out the door earlier than I ever thought possible: we’re amidst week one of an experiment renting out L’s car on Turo, and so are sharing my car for the week. This morning it was at her house and I was at mine, and I needed to run Olivia to her day program, so I walked over to L’s for breakfast at 6:15 a.m., and was back home, car in hand, for 7:45 a.m., ready to parent.

Beyond the new spring in my morning step, this re-engineering job gives me a tremendous sense of agency, a realization that being a “nite owl” and not a “morning person” was as much a story I chose to tell myself as it was a natural truth. That realization is a gateway drug to discovering what other inexorable aspects of my life are similarly so.


James's picture
James on June 21, 2022 - 20:42 Permalink

Oh wow, seriously well done. As a die-hard night owl who occasionally fantasizes about becoming a morning person, this is tremendously inspiring. And I dig the framing of this change as a "narrative shift" (even if it still sounds downright heroic to me).

Martin Cathrae's picture
Martin Cathrae on June 22, 2022 - 18:31 Permalink

Through somewhat of requirement, I have also become more of a morning person than I was in my 20's and 30's. My current struggle is filling my extra time in the morning with productive things. It's still too easy to mindlessly surf the morning away.

Bruce MacNaughton's picture
Bruce MacNaughton on June 25, 2022 - 05:59 Permalink

Congratulations. Welcome to the early risers club. The best part of the day!