Sleeping In: The Best Way to be More Productive!

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Yup, you read that right. I sleep in… until I have to get up for an appointment, or to help a child, or until I naturally wake up and can’t sleep any more. 

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Image by Katniss12 from Pixabay

This is the story of how a morning person learned to be okay with waking up later than 6 AM, and still manages to be productive.

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The Early Bird Gets…Stressed?

When I was a teen, my family served as missionaries in Jamaica. At about 11 years old my mom gave me an alarm clock and expected me to get up in time to get ready for school and be out the door by 7 AM.

@dinkumtribe The Common Entrance Exam was a life-altering test administered to 6th graders (ages 10 and 11, usually). It determined whether you could attend the best schools, or even whether you could continue your education. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #missionarykidproblems #missionarykids #missionarykidtrauma #missionarykidlife #jamaicanamerican🇯🇲🇺🇸 #missionarykidthings #jamericantiktok🇯🇲 #childhoodmemories #childhoodtrauma #nopressureatall #highacheiver ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

School was about 30 minutes away, as long as there wasn’t an accident blocking the road, or a slow truck going uphill, or cows sitting on the asphalt…

Image by sandid from Pixabay

Being late meant I might miss important instruction that I needed in order to pass exams, in order to get into the best schools, so that I could re-enter American society at some point with an equivalent education. Pressure, anyone?

@dinkumtribe Getting the results for Jamaica’s Common Entrance exam in 1993 wasn’t unlike receiving college acceptance letters. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #missionarykidproblems #missionarykids #missionarykidtrauma #missionarykidlife #jamaicanamerican🇯🇲🇺🇸 #jamaicastorytime #missionarykidthings #jamericantiktok🇯🇲 #childhoodmemories #commonentranceexam #nopressureatall ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

I was up at 5 AM for years, because I needed that time to: iron my uniform; clean my shoes (dirty shoes might earn detention); eat breakfast; pack a lunch; care for my pets (including moving my goat to a new feeding spot); and hopefully have twenty minutes of Bible time. Both of my parents were up no later than 6 AM, busy with getting us out the door or having devotional time.

The only day we slept in later was Saturday,—but I was usually awake by 6:30 with the Caribbean sunrise coming in my curtainless windows. Did we get stuff done? Absolutely! Did it mean that my day started calmly and with reduced stress? Not a chance.

Hampton School Jamaica
Hampton School, Jamaica. I attended here for 7 years.

For over a year I had anxiety every night at bedtime and could not get to sleep in time to get enough sleep to be well-rested for school the next day—but that did not matter.

School was the priority, and I had to be up for it unless I was actually ill. School cost a lot of money if you were at one of the better schools, and the cultural pressure to perform and justify the expense your parents were putting out was huge. 

@dinkumtribe New to the country, learning a new language, new culture, skipping a year of school- any of these is a challenge for an adult. As a 10 year old, I was navigating ALL of them at once! @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #missionarykidproblems #missionarykids #missionarykidtrauma #missionarykidlife #jamaicanamerican🇯🇲🇺🇸 #jamaicastorytime #missionarykidthings #jamericantiktok🇯🇲 #childhoodmemories #commonentranceexam ♬ original sound – DinkumTribe ADHD family travel

Early bird meets night owl

When I moved back to the US for my freshman year of college, I continued to get up around 5 or 6 AM. That way I would have time to have a devotional time and catch a ride with my Grandma out to my college classes (since I didn’t have a driver’s license yet).

This was fine with me, because I was used to it. Then I met Brian, and after a few months we started to date.

This threw a wrench into my tidy little system, because Brian has always been a night owl. His undiagnosed ADHD made him as alert at 11 PM as I was at 5 AM.

He did not have to hold down a job during college (as I did), so he had very little motivation to go to bed early, particularly when there was “a beautiful woman to spend time with” (yes, he really says that).

Somehow I managed on less sleep than usual for the 4 years before we married (passion and romance provides an extra burst of energy, LOL!).

Newlyweds

Working together

After we married, one of the areas we struggled in  (read: lots of fights and arguments) was when to go to bed and when to get up. Brian wanted to get up early, because that was what all the productivity gurus said was the magic trick.

Also the Bible said that Jesus got up early, so most people we knew considered it “more spiritual” to get up early.

I had no trouble getting up early… unless I was going to bed at 11 PM or later. Less than six hours of sleep guaranteed a migraine for me—Brian had no such limitations.

ADHD creates this uneven energy where a person has gobs of energy as though they just consumed five shots of espresso, but then at some point it wears off and there is a crash. We just hadn’t figured out the cycle yet, so Brian could seemingly survive on minimal sleep. 

And baby makes 3…minutes of sleep, maybe?

Mom and baby
Me and our second daughter – I was SO tired!

Enter pregnancy and childbirth. SLEEP? What’s that?!

Our first baby struggled with breastfeeding, and this new mama didn’t know how to do it either, so none of us slept for over 24 hours.

I also believed that to be a good wife and mom, you should get up in time to see your husband off and make his breakfast and lunch for him, so I tried to do that for the first few weeks.

The amount of guilt and shame I felt for not doing my job (since I was staying home with our baby, this was my job) was tremendous. It simply never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t considering the reality of our new life.

Many times in subsequent years, we have tried to get up early consistently. All the resources I read about managing your home made it clear that the key to success was to get up before the rest of the house, no matter how well you slept.

A few authors acknowledged that when you have a newborn, you might go a few weeks without getting up early, but then you should get right back to it.

Not one discussed the possibility of simply not getting enough sleep, or of long-term sleep issues. And none of them even mentioned ADHD issues, because most of the resources were written before 2000 (when research on ADHD in adults was minimal).

Evidence that my kids DID sleep on occasion, even if sleeping in was rare.

I found myself drowning in sleep deprivation and struggling with postpartum depression. Even when our none of our 6 babies was still breastfeeding, they were consistently up at night with night terrors, or teething, or illness, or eczema, or acid reflux.

I think I got an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep once in my first 10 years of parenthood. When I slept more than 4 hours at a shot, I would wake up in a panic that the baby had not awoken me! 🤦‍♀️

The health connection

Three years ago, we got an ADHD diagnosis for one of our children. I started to research ADHD so I could help her. Within a few months, half of our household had received an ADHD diagnosis, including my husband.

One of the things I learned is that ADHD causes sleep issues – getting enough quality sleep is a primary way to mitigate the effects of distractibility with ADHD.

A few months before this, we also had to figure out how to help one of our daughters, who had ongoing migraines for over a year. The specialist we saw highly recommended that we allow her to wake up naturally, since we homeschool and do not have to get her to school at a particular time.

I was starting to see a pattern. Our family needed to prioritize good sleep in order to help with our health.

a child with a headache lying on the rug
Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

How we do things differently now

We do not set an alarm unless we have somewhere to be. We allow the kids to get up and watch something on Prime Video or Disney Plus until we get up and put breakfast on, usually between 8-10 am. By 10:30 am, we are getting started on chores and school work.

We put boys in bed around 8-9 pm, girls by 10 pm, and Brian and I between 11 pm and midnight.

Why it works

1. Neither of us have jobs that require us to be up at a specific time. We can work with our natural rhythms and do our work when it best suits us.

2. If we have trouble sleeping, or have a lot of interruptions, we sleep in. I have less migraines, and Brian is more balanced.

3. School does not have to start at a specific time. Our morning begins slowly, and with a minimum of stress. 

ADHDers tend to struggle with transitions. Waking up is a big transition, and trying to go somewhere outside the house is also a big transition. On days where we have to do these two things in short order, you can cut the tension in our house with a knife, and someone nearly always ends up in tears. We are thankful we have the flexibility to go slow. 

cheerful mother and daughter resting in bed
Sleeping in! Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Those of us with migraines are free to get the sleep we need without having to worry about holding up the rest of the family.

This is huge, especially for days where we wake up with a migraine, or did not sleep well because of migraine pain. We end up with less migraines by following this protocol.

Brian is free to work later in the day, when he is most productive. I am free to have quiet downtime, with no kids, in the evenings, which helps my introverted self recharge. We are as productive as ever, and our relationships and stress level are better for it.

Brian and I at the beach – happier because we prioritize sleep!

Some final thoughts on sleeping in

As I thought about this, I realized that a lot of the reason getting up early became associated with productivity was simply a result of farming communities and a lack of electricity.

If you were farming, you needed to do the work before it got too hot to do it. You could not work as well after dark because the lighting was poor. Neither of these are issues for most of our society anymore.

In the Bible, I note that the Proverbs 31 woman’s lamp didn’t go out at night – her productivity was not limited by the time of day. She also got up early sometimes to provide food for her household.

I believe that there is freedom to choose the schedule that works best for your family. For us, that means a slow start and a later routine. 

What works for your family? Share with us in the comments!

© Copyright 2021 Jennifer D. Warren

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About the author

I’m Jenn Warren, Co-Founder and Content Creator for Dinkum Tribe. I'm a Third Culture Kid (TCK) from Jamaica and California, married to my college sweetheart. I've been a missionary kid, pastor’s kid and (former) pastor’s wife. My husband and I traveled as pastors for 12 years throughout the United States and Canada before becoming travel content creators.

I love living in Oregon and exploring new places with my family. We’ve road tripped over 30,000 miles across the United States and Western Canada with our six children since their infancy. Prior to our marriage, I also lived in Spain for a summer and spent another summer in Mexico.

I’ve homeschooled our six children for over 10 years, and served on the board of a homeschool co-op for 4 years. Several members of our family are neurodivergent (gifted, ADHD, cPTSD), and I’ve spent 5+ years learning how to accommodate neurodivergent needs as well as supporting the resultant mental health challenges (anxiety, depression).

I’ve also served as a support group leader and co-director of Pure Life Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports families struggling with sexual addiction.

I write about family travel and road trips, millennial marriage, general parenting, homeschooling, parenting neurodivergent children, grief, and abuse recovery.

Comments

  1. We are all over the place in our house! Our child’s bedtime routine starts at 6:30, but she is not asleep until 7:30-8PM. I go to bed by 10PM as I have to teach early morning and have to be up at 5:30 AM. My husband doesn’t go to bed until 11PM though.

    1. Right there with you! With eight people in our house, several who struggle with anxiety in the evenings, it seems like someone is always awake! Sound machines have been a lifesaver.

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