When it comes to early start times, I think I was extremely spoiled my third year due to the preceptors and rotations that were scheduled. The earliest I consistently had to wake up was 6 am for my internal medicine rotation. So, you can probably guess that it was quite the shock when I showed up on my first official day of my audition rotation* at 3:45 am (earlier than usual because I was nervous). I had just completed the previous day at 12:30 am, which left me with 1.5 hours of sleep. I knew very well that this would happen the closer I got to residency but it was definitely rough that first day. I knew I had to develop a routine that would get me out of bed early and be productive as soon as I got into the hospital. After four weeks of waking up at 4 am, I’ve come up with several tips for resetting your internal clock for an early wake-up time!
- The obvious: go to sleep early.
- I personally find this the hardest tip to complete. When you’re working 12+ hours, sometimes fitting in working out, cooking, and studying causes you to stay up later than you should. I’ve been able to work on 5 hours of sleep/night in the last two weeks so I try hard to complete this goal. If you have a Fitbit or any device that tracks sleep, sometimes it helps to track how much you’re sleeping a night and “challenging” yourself to beat the night before.
- Waking up immediately after your alarm goes off.
- My current roommate once told me that it was impressive that I was able to get so much done in the morning despite having the same alarm time. Something I learned early on in medical school was to get up immediately once my alarm went off. When I would lay in bed, I became aware of my exhaustion and this made for a rough morning.
- Avoid naps and exercise instead.
- If you have the opportunity to nap after your rotation is over for the day, choose to exercise instead. I am in no way an expert at exercise physiology but from years of exercising, I feel better throughout the day if I choose to do a workout instead of nap. Plus, we’ve all experienced those post-nap feels that leaves us feeling worse than before we napped.
- Pack your bag, snacks, outfit, and meals the night before.
- Luckily for me, my rotation allowed me to wear scrubs so I knew what I was wearing every day but if you are on a rotation that requires you to dress in business-wear, choosing your outfit the night before can help fix those sleepy-headed decisions in the morning. Same goes for snacks, your bag, and meals. I also love packing at least one snack or drink that I looked forward to on long days (i.e. coffee, dried fruit, etc).
- Pep talk to yourself.
- This may seem a little funny but when I was the most exhausted, I would always wake up and some time in the morning before work, I would tell myself that the “day was going to be great.” Or I would tell myself something I could look forward to and I think that helped me a lot to get through the harder days. Try this tip when you aren’t feeling the greatest or incorporate it into your routine everyday!
I hope that these tips are helpful for those of you who are just starting your first early-morning rotations. Once you develop a routine, it really becomes second nature!
*Audition rotation = a rotation at a prospective residency in the specialty of your choice. This is typically done in the osteopathic world to show residencies your skills and capabilities for 2-4 weeks.