Americans are waking up earlier than ever


Published: Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 31, 2006 at 10:37 p.m.
As daylight-saving time moves everyone's schedule an hour ahead this weekend, sleep patterns in the United States are experiencing more of a sweeping sort of shift.
The Wall Street Journal last week reported that indicators from electricity usage to water consumption to rescheduling of morning television programs show that Americans are waking up earlier than ever.
The trend is readily apparent in Alachua County, where several high-profile officials and executives said they've started setting their alarms earlier to squeeze more out of their days, and managers at Gainesville Health and Fitness Center said the morning rush seems to start earlier all the time.
"Just over the past few years, our early-morning traffic has steadily increased," said Tom Tanis, who supervises the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. shift at Gainesville Health and Fitness. "We are actually starting to see increased traffic closer to 5 a.m. Looking at the trends over the past few years, people's jobs are starting a lot earlier and maybe ending later. It's no longer 9 to 5 for most people, and I think that contributes to a little of it."
Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida, is among the early exercisers. Machen said he usually wakes up at about 5 a.m. to read e-mails, then hits the gym at 6 a.m.
Tanis said he's seen several high-profile residents working out on the early side of the gym's morning rush, and said that crowd often seems to be in a different mind-set than the more social gym-goers in the evening.
"It might be the only time of day these people can get some time alone, because they're so bombarded the rest of the day," Tanis said. "I think many of them see this as maybe a time to just do their own thing and not be bothered by the rest of the world."
It's not just a trend among academics. Jon Gruden, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a well-documented wake-up time of 3:17 a.m.
Billy Donovan, UF's basketball coach, told The Gainesville Sun earlier this year he barely sleeps at all.
"I have so much in my head I have a hard time sleeping anyway," Donovan said. "My sleep patterns are always changing. They aren't good. I wake up every two hours."
In a media luncheon last Tuesday, he said those spotty sleep patterns haven't improved since the Gators started advancing in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"Did I sleep last night?" Donovan said. "I don't sleep, period. I wish I would sleep. I haven't slept in months. It's usually a couple hours up, a couple hours asleep. I drive my wife nuts. Sleep deprivation is something I deal with all the time."
Alachua County Manager Randall Reid doesn't get much sleep, either, but he's not complaining.
Reid said he wakes up at 4 a.m. without an alarm. He reads a book a week, and said he usually spends about an hour each morning reading something spiritual or inspirational.
Reid then eats breakfast with his family, which he said has supplanted dinner as the best time to bond with his son, who's a tennis player at Buchholz High School.
He gets to work no later than 7:30 a.m., he said.
"It's my favorite time of day," Reid said. "It's the only time I can fit in personal things, spiritual things and time with my family."
Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said between her city duties and her new baby's schedule, the only part of her daily schedule she can give up a few minutes from is sleep.
"In general, I'm a real late-night person," Hanrahan said. "But Evy is like an alarm clock. She's up at 7:20 every morning. I wake up earlier than I used to, but I go to bed just as late - maybe even later."
Ken McGurn of McGurn Investment Corporation doesn't exactly sleep late. He wakes up by 8 a.m. most mornings after staying at the office until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. the night before.
But McGurn, who developed Union Street Station and the Sun Center downtown, said his days as part of the 5 a.m. club are done.
"I do not get up early," McGurn said. "I spent seven years in the Army, and we got up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning to go out and do physical training. I don't do that anymore. I get up at 7:30 or 8, and I have a quick, small breakfast before I walk across the street to go to work. It's much better this way."
Amy Reinink can be reached at 352-374-5088 or reinina@ gvillesun.com

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