Most of us are conditioned to believe that early risers, those larks, get more out of their day and are to be commended. If we are larks ourselves and our body clocks have us up at the crack of dawn, we pat ourselves on our backs and preen a bit and feel sorry for the late risers who “miss out on so much”.
In our family, three of us were larks. Big Brother and I usually woke up early, like Father, and the thrill of being with him and participating in his adventures made us hop out of bed and tiptoe around the house, determined not to awaken Mother and Big Sister.
The first item on the agenda was a few stretches. Father had actually learnt yoga under the renowned B.K.S. Iyengar but we didn’t know that. We just thought he was having a bit of fun and standing on his head and we tried to emulate him — without much success of course, but without any accidents given that we were blessed with the natural flexibility and agility of youth.
After that, it was straight into the kitchen because Father, like the two of us, could not function well on an empty stomach, and what he produced as an early morning “snack” or mini-breakfast was something to look forward to. Father had “large hands” when it came to using ingredients and thus those treats we got before the others were awake were something we two greedy young things really looked forward to.
When I read that perhaps some of us larks suffer from sleep deprivation but do not worry about it because we are up and about and alert and full of life before the sun comes up.
Next on the agenda was an “outing”. It was never a staid morning walk, although we would probably have enjoyed that well enough, especially if we had ventured far enough away from home to qualify our trip as “into the wilderness”.
But, no, we stayed close to home and instead, wandered around our enormous garden. We visited all the animals and birds Father had collected in his menagerie, chased down a few strays to put them back in their pens, spent time with the ones we preferred, and played with them and wrestled with each other.
Outside, we didn’t worry about keeping our voices down — but when we returned to the house to get breakfast from a mother who was now awake and at work, we realised that we should have been less boisterous. “Your noise woke me up,” Mother would say, a trifle grumpily. “You really ought to get enough sleep — and let others get enough sleep too!”
Father would laugh it off. He was sure that he woke up early only because he had had enough sleep and he was confident that he could say the same for the other two early birds in the family. “You should try our way,” he would say. “Then you won’t be so grumpy when you wake up!”
We too thought he was right and believed for the longest time that we were the lucky ones who got more out of our day. In later years, even when we fell asleep on the sofa in the middle of a party or snored through the entire episode of a television serial we had been looking forward to watching, we were convinced that we had missed nothing …
So now, when I read that perhaps some of us larks suffer from sleep deprivation but do not worry about it because we are up and about and alert and full of life before the sun comes up, I realise that there could be something to it.
Maybe that is why I find myself clueless about so many things that I could not possibly have missed had I been wide awake.
Maybe I was just catching up on sleep that I didn’t even know was much-needed!
— Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.