Are you like me? Do you often say to yourself, “How can I get even less sleep?”
If you find that you are spending far too much time in your bed when you could be giving a dead-eyed stare to your emails or clumsily stepping in the dog’s water bowl, then I have suggestions for you.
This all started two years ago upon earning my summer break after a grueling May when I graded more than 500 essays entirely online. For whatever reason, I had created an essay assignment for my 11th graders and required 4 drafts of it – and I did it all on GoogleDrive, thinking that this would be the most efficient means possible. This paper-free assignment took a toll on my shoulders and neck as I found myself hunched over my laptop to read and offer comments on 125 students’ work. That, along with a full school year of feeling sleep deprived and over-worked, I looked forward to simple relaxation.
Break started in early June, and I relished the idea of sleeping in until about 7 or 7:30. The first few days are always tough to readjust – after a year of teaching, my internal clock wants to wake up at 5:30. I figured I’d have a few early days before slowly settling into a comfortable sleeping existence where 8 hours meant at least 8 hours.
That was my dream. What actually happened was reality. Rufus allowed me approximately 15 minutes of leisure before deciding that he was fully awake at 5:45 am. That was about when the sun was coming up, and he was excited to greet the day. Or at least, he was excited to go pee and eat his breakfast. He did this all summer long.
I tried resisting. The resistance was squashed.
Now, two years later, I have finally attempted to remedy this annoyance. I learned that I’ve basically enabled my dogs’ early rising behavior – no surprise there. As for breaking this habit, I’m sincerely hoping that it will not be an uphill climb.
I am not looking to sleep in until 9:30 or later – I stopped being able to do that decades ago. (My all time record in college for sleeping late without a hangover was 2 pm. With a hangover it was 5 pm.) I can still wake up early. In fact, I will need to get up well before the day temps hit the 70’s. One of my spring-summer projects has been to tackle my yard issue: I am determined to vanquish the weeds that have taken over. In order to do this effectively I have to get up early before it gets hot. At the same time, it would be nice if I could be the one determining when to get out of bed in the morning, and not, say, a 2-year-old Rotty-Boxer-SharPei mix.
But if you have decided that you are the tail your dog wags, here are the steps for making your dog the boss of your morning and determining your get-out-of-bed time. (If you want to establish yourself as the rule-setter, then it’s best to do the opposite of what I list here.)
- Get out of bed as soon as you hear them stir. Sunlight means it’s time to work, slackers! That dog has to jump off the bed to check stuff out and look out the window, waking you up. As long as you’re awake, you might as well pull the sheets back and get up too. (If you do not want this you can a) play possum and don’t move, and b) cover your windows with something heavier that more effectively blocks out light.)
- Set an early last call time. 8 or 9pm for the final trip to pee should be the latest, if you want to wake up early. (Conversely, having a later final pee break means that the bladder can last a little bit longer.)
- Fall for their bullying. Rufus likes to stick a cold nose in my face. Sometimes he’ll throw a whine or two. One time in his adolescent phase, I ignored him and he literally peed on the carpet next to the bed. THAT got me up quickly. Of course I can recognize that the night before he drank more water than usual before going to bed, but why do the obvious? I got bullied once, and now I let him make the rules. (If this seems unappealing to you, make sure that late night drinks are followed an hour later by a trip outside. Also, positive reactions to obnoxious behavior does not stop the obnoxious behavior, strangely enough. Giving their whines attention lets them know they’re pushing your buttons.)
- Feed them as soon as you are up. Nothing reinforces behavior like a bowl full of food. Getting a tasty breakfast early in the morning will ensure that this will be one of their favorite hours of the day. Why even risk sleeping though it? (Find this to be seriously not fun? If you feed your dog more than once per day, you can shift those times to suit your needs and your schedule. They will not starve by waiting a few hours. Not that they’d ever let you know that.)
- Lather, rinse, repeat. The more used to this behavior they get, the more they’ll know that this is what is expected of them. (Nipping it in the bud seems like a logical way to deal with it, even if it has happened a couple of times.)
It’s only summertime when we really have this issue. A bright sun is hard to say no to, especially when we get so much sunlight – Colorado has 300 days of sunshine a year. I just wish my dogs knew the joy of waking up to an already-risen sun rather than peeking-in-the-window sun.
Or I could just invest in a coffee drip…