A Brief Complaint From a Salty Triathlete: In Defense of Late Sleepers

Here’s a dirty secret: It doesn’t matter what time you wake up—the number of hours in the day doesn’t change.

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Every weekend, some friend texts me wanting to meet at 7 a.m. (or, God forbid, earlier) for a ride. No, just no. It is Sunday. I am sleeping and riding at a reasonable hour. Like 10 a.m.

You’re laughing. You’re thinking, “10 a.m. is ridiculous, lazy, everyone knows you have to ride earlier than that. Who does this girl think she is?” I know you’re thinking that because everyone thinks that, because we’ve all been conditioned to believe earlier is better.

We think of early risers as go-getters, hard workers. We cajole people not to waste their days, and we wrap it up in a sense of moral superiority. Studies have found those who arrive at offices earlier are perceived as better employees—even if they’re working the same total number of hours at the late risers. Built into our society is the adage: “The early bird gets the worm.” There’s no saying like, “The worm would probably be better off sleeping in.”

But here’s a dirty secret: It doesn’t matter what time you wake up—the number of hours in the day doesn’t change. And if you think you’ve found a way around that fact, you’re probably just not sleeping enough. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest people’s circadian rhythms are simply different. Some of us wake up naturally at 5 a.m. and some of us wake up naturally at 9 a.m., and neither one is better than the other.

Sure, triathlon races start early, and it’s worth making sure you can function at your best at that hour. But there’s not really a reason—performance-based or otherwise— that earlier is better. Spending your whole day exhausted and napping after you got up early on a Saturday to ride so you could have “the rest of your day free” is not a real reason. In fact, scientists think power, speed, and endurance peak with your body temperature between 4 and 8 p.m. Maybe “sleep now, ride later” should be your new mantra. (Sorry, parents forced against your will into early rising!)

So stop being a judgy Judy. Who cares what time you wake up? Who cares if you work out at 6 a.m. or 6 p.m., as long as you get it done? Who cares if people think you’re lazy or ridiculous? They won’t think that when you beat them because you’re so well rested.

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