By Katy Rice

A COUPLE of days ago, I got up at 4am. It wasn’t planned: I had a nightmare that woke me up sweating profusely (luckily, my husband was away so he didn’t have to suffer the consequences) and I just couldn’t get back to sleep again.

I read for a bit but even that failed to make my eyes droop and so I got up, greeted my ecstatic dog, made a cup of tea and settled down in the living room with my laptop.

And I got so much work done in the peace and quiet of the dawning day.

I wrote masses of stuff for a project I’m working on, far more than I would normally get done during the day, when my concentration is constantly interrupted by the phone, by deliveries, by people, just by everyday happenings in our street.

It made me want to rise early every day because I felt on top of the world, capable of anything, experiencing a rush of something that put me on a bit of a high.

There was a feeling of control, of purpose, of achievement.

My mother has always been bright and sparky in the mornings, racing around getting things done hours before I even think about getting up.

So my recent early morning, and there haven’t been many of them during my adult life, has made me envy her that extra time to enjoy watching the sun rise, hearing the dawn chorus and listening to the world outside waking up.

Unfortunately, I don’t take after my mother in that respect, rather my father.

I have always been a night owl.

Ideally, my day would begin mid-morning and I would go to bed around midnight, just like my father did.

Years of sleepless nights with three young children didn’t help and then there has been the little problem of my pituitary gland (the one near the brain that produces all the hormones) failing to produce enough of the “fight or flight” hormone cortisol.

Normal people’s pituitary glands produce a burst of cortisol to wake us up, but mine singularly fails to do so, so without an alarm clock, I would simply sleep on and on and on.

Set the alarm earlier, I hear you say.

Well, I’m going to give it a go. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” said Ben Franklin, and presumably it does the same for a woman too.

If it made me feel more alive once, surely it can do so repeatedly.

Waking up to a new day is lovely.

It holds so much potential, and if you have worries, you have more waking hours to deal with them, rather than trying to bury them under the pillow during a troubled sleep.

Rising early means you have more time for breakfast, for one thing.

One of the joys of spring is that it is often warm enough now to sit in the garden, listening to the silence of a new day and absorbing the greenery, with a more leisurely breakfast, one that you can take more time to think about and prepare, eat and then savour.

When I think about it, waking up at my normal time immediately propels me into a whirlwind of family life.

There’s a race for the bathroom between my sons getting ready for school and college, and my husband, who needs to get to work, the dog is more hyper because of all the activity, and everything is just stressful.

I’m now comparing my regular morning to my more mellow morning, and finding it wanting.

But how do I transition from late night, late morning to early night,early morning?

I love my evenings, even in my fifties.

I still harbour a feeling that staying up late is somehow forbidden, as if I were still a child, and the joy of watching a film till way past midnight hasn’t faded.

From what I’ve read, you do the transition slowly, bit by bit.

You set your alarm clock ten or 15 minutes earlier every few days as you gradually adjust, going to bed earlier by the same amount of time.

And you move the alarm clock further away from your bed so you have to get up to switch it off.

My husband will be absolutely thrilled.

Set yourself goals to achieve during those early hours. It gives you a good reason to get up.

Make getting up early a pleasure, rather than a torture, which is generally how I regard it.

If you work out what you would enjoy most about an early morning, make it a reward to yourself for making the effort.

And most of all, don’t switch the telly on and just veg out aimlessly and pointlessly.

It’s such a waste of time if you, well, waste it.