It is a rare day when I sleep past 8:00 AM, and most of the time, I am up before my clock says 6. Even though it may seem like a tiring time schedule, I always feel more energized when I wake up early. Despite what people may initially think, I don’t believe being a “night owl” or an “early bird” is out of our control. I actually used to be on the opposite side of the spectrum – the summer after freshman year I would go to bed at 2:00 AM and wake up close to noon. My internal clock has made a complete switch, and I believe it has led to some tremendous benefits (physical and mental) in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and analyzing how I can make waking up early easier, and that’s why I’m writing this post! If you so desire to give early rising a try or want to feel more energized in the morning, keep reading for some tips and tools to help you tackle morning drowsiness and start waking up with more energy. 🙂
First, let’s start with the why.
- Wake up by controlling your day and not let it control you.
I personally love waking up when I have predetermined to. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up to an alarm. Whenever I wake up without one, I feel slightly groggy and I start this internal debate of whether it is an optimal time for me to get up or not. Consequently, I stay in my bed longer than I need. On the other hand, when I have an alarm I just spring out of bed.
If you decide to not wake up with a buzzing alarm next to you, this is my advice: when you wake up, get up. If you fall back into a deep sleep after you wake up you start another sleep cycle that you surely won’t be able to finish. Thus, when you wake up you feel like you received an insufficient amount of sleep.1 With an alarm, you won’t have this problem because the alarm will make sure you don’t fall back asleep. However, if you aren’t an alarm type of person, the bottom line is: if you know you got an adequate amount of sleep (probably 8+ hours), just get up!
2. Peace and quiet.
In the outside world, it is incredibly calm in the morning. Most people’s households aren’t buzzing yet, and the sky is still a deep black. However, besides the physical peace, I feel that the internal benefit is greater. When I wake up in early, I don’t feel like I am immediately in a rush. I have time to get ready, to think, to process, and to set my day up for the most success. If I wake up late and have to jump into things immediately, I don’t have time to thoroughly think through my plans and set intentions. Leo Babauta writes in his post on zenhabits.net that the quietude of the morning lets him “truly enjoy that time of peace, that time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe.”2 I could not agree more.
3. You have the opportunity to set your day.
I like to use my mornings to set my day. This is where I focus on my goals and intentions, and I find that it makes my day immensely more productive. The same article written by Leo Babauta says “there’s no better time to review [your goals] and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing.”2 When you wake up late and you’re already in a rush, you don’t have a chance to deliberately focus on what you are going to accomplish today. This leads to less productivity, and who wants that? If you want more productivity – wake up earlier and set your day!
4. Increase your willpower.
Jocko Willink says in his podcast Discipline Equals Freedom3 that “discipline and willpower do not go down as they are called in the action, they actually get stronger. This is obvious if you actually try the experiment yourself.” The experiment he is talking about is accomplishing things bright and early in the morning. He specifically mentions exercise (I love to workout in the morning) but this can be applied to simply checking things off your to-do list, too. He says simply: “When the alarm clock goes off, get up.” After crushing your workout (if you choose to do so) and slaying your to-do list, he challenges you to examine what you think about at breakfast. You won’t want to eat the non-nourishing, unhelpful junk food. You’re feeling good, and you want to fuel yourself with the things that will continue to make your body feel good.
“When you are on the path, you want to stay on the path.”
Unfortunately, the opposite is true, too. He says, “Once you’re off the path. You tend to stray far.” If you start on the path of good decisions, you will want to continue on this path and this will lead to a great day, a great week, a great month… a great life! However, if you don’t instantly set yourself on the right path when you wake up, it will be hard to get on it later. You will be more tempted to make bad decisions.
If you strengthen your willpower in the morning, it will accompany you throughout the rest of the day. In the article Why You Should Wake Up at 5 A.M. Every Day by The Muse, it explains it this way: “just by waking up, I know I’m taking control of my day. Just by waking up, I know I’ve done something right.”4
5. Get with the world.
The world works for morning people. Think about it – you will probably be waking up “early” for something for the rest of your life. What if waking up “early” wasn’t so early after all? If you naturally wake up at 5:30 A.M., school starting at 8:00 doesn’t sound so bad. If you rise every day after 4:30, you have so much time before you have to leave for work at 7:00. Renee Biss, a graduate student at the University of Toronto says, “Evening people may be more prone to social jet lag; this means that their biological clock is out of sync with the social clock. Society’s expectations are far more organized around a morning-type person’s schedule.’
However, if you don’t consider yourself an early bird, don’t worry! Apparently, our internal clocks shift as we get older. Most people consider themselves a morning person by age 60, so if you’re not a morning person yet – you probably will be in the future.5
6. Conquer sleep inertia
Sleep inertia is defined as the “period where you transition from sleep to full wakefulness. During this time, there is reduced alertness and lower performance.” Some of the things that are inhibited are memory, reaction speed, ability to do math, alertness, and attention. Sleep inertia can last between 2-4 hours, and by waking up earlier, you will have a sufficient amount of time to be fully awake and at your optimal performance for school and work.6
So, I’ve made my case that waking up earlier can have some incredible benefits, but talking about waking up earlier and doing it are two completely different things. The real question is: how can you wake up earlier?
1. Spring out of bed.
I alluded to this in my intro, but yes, I literally jump out of bed. As soon as my alarm goes off, I catapult myself off my bed and do another jump once my feet hit the ground. This is my version of instantly stimulating myself in the morning. I came up with this idea after reading that Tony Robbins starts his morning every day by plunging into a cold pool.7 I don’t have a cold pool, and I prefer not to get super wet in the morning by taking a cold shower, so I decided I was going to jumpstart myself in a different way: by jumping! And this way, I ensure that I won’t slowly and drearily roll out of bed. I start my day off with a burst of energy, and it helps me keep that aflame throughout the day.
2. Get some light (at the right time)!
Studies show that getting an adequate amount of light after you wake up can lead to overall improved sleep. This is because morning light exposure helps calibrate the body’s internal clock, but there’s a catch to receiving the benefits – you need to make sure are eliminating unnecessary light when it is time to go to bed. This light can come from the sun, indoor lights, and technology. Making sure you snap on the lights when you wake up and put away your phone when you go to bed can have tremendous effects on the quality of your sleep. According to this same study, people who receive more light in the morning are less likely to feel depressed or stressed.
And it is important to note that getting light rays isn’t just impactful at the beginning of the day, but it stays important throughout your whole time at work! Office workers who were exposed to high levels of light between 8:00AM and 5:00PM reported lower levels of sleep disturbances. So, whenever you get a chance, go for a walk, turn on the lights, get some sun rays… because it might just help you fall asleep at night.8
3. Go to bed EARLY.
Jocko Willink says in his podcast on the Tim Ferriss Show “One of the most important things to allow you to get up earlier in the morning… is to go to bed earlier.” Makes sense, right? Your body is going to crave the correct amount of sleep for optimal function, so if you go to bed at 1:00AM, waking up at 5 isn’t going to sound too appealing. But, what if you went to bed at 9?
I understand that going to bed early can be a challenge, and so does Jocko Willink. Two tips that he recommends for falling asleep earlier is:
- Be tired.
- Turn off the internet.
But, how do you get tired? Wake up early! If you consistently wake up earlier, your body will start to be exhausted at earlier times, which will allow you to go to sleep earlier, which will allow you to wake up earlier, etc… It’s a circular pattern! In short, the best way to change your sleep cycle is by pure force and dedication. Wake up early, sleep early, repeat.
Second, turn off the internet. Or social media. Or Netflix. All these things are begging you to “watch one more” or “like one more” or “click one more.”3 Before you know it, one harmless episode turns into four hours of binge-watching Gossip Girl in the middle of the night. If you want to do something – read. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading for only six minutes at night reduced stress by 68%, which relaxes the body and ultimately allows for an easier time falling asleep.9
Other than pure relaxation, reading can have another benefit, too – it establishes a nightly routine. According to PsychCentral, it is very beneficial to have a pre-sleep routine. Dr. Epstein, co-author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, says “our body craves routine and likes to know what’s coming.” Reading a book every night before you go to bed will remind your body that is time to sleep, and this will lead to a shorter amount of time needed before dozing off.10
Well, there you have it! These are some reasons why I think waking up early is incredibly beneficial, and some tips for helping you start. However, I think the amount of sleep you receive is way more important than how early you wake up, so if the only plausible way for you to wake up at 5:30 results in four hours of sleep, then maybe this isn’t for you. If you can adjust your lifestyle to accommodate for it, though, I suggest you give it a try! Wake up early for two weeks and see how you feel. If it’s positive, keep it going. 🙂
P.S. I discovered how to do FOOTNOTES! This blogging stuff is forcing me to be more tech-savvy. If you click on any of the little numbers it should send you straight to my footnotes, and there you can find all the sources I gathered information from. If you are an aspiring blogger or want to learn a little more about HTML – comment below or send me a message in the “Contact” section! I’d be happy to help! 🙂
1. 7 things not to do when you first wake up
2. 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It
3. Discipline Equals Freedom – Jocko Willink
4. Why You Should Wake Up at 5 A.M. Every Day
5. Why Early Birds Are Happier Than Night Owls
6. 16 Benefits of Waking Up Early, According to Science
7. THE POWER OF (COLD) WATER
8. Morning daylight exposure tied to a good night’s sleep
9. The surprising benefits of reading before bed
10.12 Ways to Shut Off Your Brain Before Bedtime