I truly love the early morning. It’s the most peaceful and beautiful time of day. Early mornings hold so much promise; who knows what I might accomplish today or what possibilities the day might hold?
Problem is – I’ve always despised the actual act of waking up early. Makes it kind of tough to enjoy those calm early morning moments when I can’t stop hitting the snooze button.
I think Glen Cook says it best:
Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.1
And I couldn’t agree more.
Which is frustrating because waking up earlier is one of those keystone habits known for having tons of benefits. Increased productivity, better personal health, and an overall more positive quality of life. Who wouldn’t want that?
I personally want all of those things! But waking up earlier than normal can be a real struggle. Not to mention, it can leave you feeling groggy and cranky.
So, how do you become one of those super-productive early risers and feel refreshed in the mornings? It does some work but with a few simple tips and lifestyle shifts, you can be waking up with the birds! And feeling fresh as a daisy while doing it.
Benefits of Early Rising
Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to waking up earlier. But productivity and success are not the only benefits that early risers are known to reap.
A study done in 2012 found that waking up earlier is the number one habit making older adults far happier in life than younger adults.2 Another study discovered that people who wake up earlier are more proactive. They can often anticipate problems and try to solve them much more efficiently than their late sleeping counterparts.2
Some of the ways that waking up earlier can improve your life are pretty convincing.
1. Maintain a Healthier Weight
People who wake up earlier tend to be in better shape. It makes sense-when you wake up earlier, you have more time in your day for things like exercise.
Another way waking up early affects your waistline – breakfast. If you sleep too late, you’ll likely end up feeling rushed and skipping the most important meal of the day.
Without eating breakfast it’s a lot harder to say no to that plate of doughnuts when you get to the office. Early risers enjoy the ability to make a healthy and nutritious choices in the morning. Starting your day with exercise and a healthy meal are cornerstones for staying fit.
2. Increased Productivity
It’s been shown that people who wake earlier are better at making decisions, setting goals, and planning.
Christopher Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education at Heidelberg, studied 367 university students. He asked them when they felt the most energetic and willing or able to change a situation. Based on his findings, people who woke earlier were more likely to agree with statements like “I feel in charge of making things happen.”3
Not to mention that having those extra early morning hours allows you to plan and organize your life with very few distractions.
Not convinced? Look at some of these uber-successful individuals who swear by waking up early.4
- Apple CEO, Tim Cook – Wakes up at 3:45am every day to email and go to the gym
- (Former) FLOTUS, Michelle Obama – Begins each day with a 4:30am workout
- Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey – Wakes at 5:30am to meditate and jog
- Disney CEO, Bob Iger – Wakes up at 4:30 every morning to exercise and think without interruption
- Virgin Founder, Richard Branson – rises at 5:45 to exercise
All of these individuals are considered experts in their field, and receive a pretty paycheck to boot. Now I’m not saying that waking up early is going to make you rich, but it is definitely a common trait shared by successful people.
3. Better Mental Health
It can be said that the first hour of the day is what sets the tone for the rest of your day…and even your life.
Having a few extra minutes or hours in the morning to focus on yourself can be extremely refreshing mentally. Waking up early also tends to eliminate stressful rushing that often occurs in the morning.
Imagine waking up and having personal quiet time to meditate, read, exercise, or even just sit and watch the sunrise. People who wake up earlier tend to maintain a more positive outlook on life.
Tips to Help You Wake Up Earlier
Now that you understand some of the positive ways that waking up earlier can influence your life…
…how the heck do you start doing it? Especially if you are not a ‘morning person’.
Maybe you’re looking to only wake up earlier on occasion or perhaps you want to start doing it on a regular basis. Either way, employing some of the following ideas can ease the pain of waking up earlier than you’re used to.
1. Sleep Earlier
Waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier go hand in hand. You can’t successfully have one without the other.
Ideally you want to set a bedtime that allows you to sleep for 7-9 hours. And enforcing this is pretty simple. Look at what time you want to wake up and subtract 7-9 hours – that’s your new bedtime.
That doesn’t mean that you should start thinking about bed at that time. It means you should be in bed, relaxed, and on your way to dreamland.
Going to sleep earlier can be super challenging. There’s just so much to get done every night! This has always been my biggest problem. I’ll plan to go to bed at 10pm but then…the laundry, the dogs, that email I have to send, the dishes…there’s always something.
To really be successful at going to sleep earlier, you have to efficiently manage your time. And you also must realize the world won’t end if those dishes wait till morning.
Try getting into a nightly routine to support your earlier bedtime. Personally, I make a cup of sugar-free hot chocolate, get in my pj’s, and paint my nails. (Don’t worry, I use a quick-dry top coat.) For whatever reason, this is my ritual and signals to my brain that it’s bedtime.
What you choose to do as a nightly ritual is up to you, but here’s a possibility to work from:
- 9pm: Turn off cell phone and put computer to sleep
- 9:15pm: Take a shower or a warm bath
- 9:45pm: Meditate or gentle stretching
- 10-10:30pm: Journal or read in bed, then sleep
No matter what you decide to do, make sure it does not involve electronics. The blue-light from the screen can interfere with your sleep schedule. And badly. You can’t be a morning person if you spend your night staring at your Computer, tablet or phone.
You may struggle to fall asleep early for a while, but don’t give up. Find a routine that helps to relax you and become habitual. Sticking to an earlier bedtime is the most important factor in waking up earlier.
2. Be Consistent
It takes approximately 21 days to form a habit. That means 21 days of sticking to something every single day.
If you want to succeed at waking up earlier for the long term, you can’t take the weekends off. No staying up until 2am on Friday and sleeping until 2pm on Saturday. This is often the most challenging aspect of learning to wake up earlier for people. No one wants to miss out on late night weekend fun!
Stick with it for 21 days. Form the habit first. After that, you can ease up a bit and adjust your sleeping by an hour or two on the weekends if necessary.
3. Stay Positive
The power of positive thinking is a popular saying for good reason. Our minds are powerful tools and can help us achieve just about anything. Even waking up earlier.
Tell yourself that you ARE going to get enough sleep to wake up early and feel refreshed, regardless of what time you get into bed. Repeatedly telling yourself this can help embed it into your subconscious. This can have a huge impact on how you feel when you wake up, even if you only slept for 4 hours.
Try to avoid negative nighttime worry. I used to be a master in nighttime anxiety. My thoughts would go something like
- 11:45pm: I have to wake up so early and it’s already so late.
- 12:01am: If I don’t fall asleep RIGHT NOW I will never be able to wake up.
- 12:35am: WHY AM I STILL AWAKE? I’m SCREWED.
- 1:05am: This sucks.
- 1:45am: Maybe I should just wake up now, I’m clearly never sleeping.
The constant negative train of thought in my brain only made it harder to sleep. Try repeating some positive mantras to yourself when you’re having a hard time sleeping like:
- Four hours of sleep will be plenty.
- I will wake up energized and rested, no matter what time I fall asleep.
- My body will sleep when it is ready to.
- I GET to wake up at 5am tomorrow! (instead of I HAVE to)
Changing your thought process can help to change how you feel upon waking up early.
4. Gradually Wake Up Earlier
Changing your sleeping pattern can be very challenging. It takes patience and you will often find more success when you approach it gradually.
This won’t necessarily help if you’re just looking to wake up earlier for the occasional morning meeting or early flight. But if you’re goal is to change your waking habits long term, gradual is the way to go.
Most people advise waking up about 10-15 minutes earlier each day for a week. When you find success with that, wake up another 15 minutes earlier the following week. And so on, and so on.
Let’s say that your usual wake up time is 7:00am and you wanted to wake up at 5:45am:
- Week 1: Wake up each morning at 6:45am
- Week 2: Wake up each morning at 6:30am
- Week 3: Wake up each morning at 6:15am
- Week 4: Wake up each morning at 6:00am
- Week 5: Wake up each morning at 5:45am (GOAL!)
If 15 minutes seems overwhelming, you can start smaller. Try 5 minutes, or even wake up 1 minute earlier each day. This will take you longer to reach your goal, of course. But you will more likely be successful.
Progress can be very encouraging. Shoot for small wins and build on that when you’re forming new waking habits.
5. Be Prepared
As a teacher, I had to wake up at 4:30am on a daily basis. I’m not sure I ever got used to it. But I will say that preparing the night before was the most helpful tip in allowing me to successfully wake up earlier.
Waking up early only to be met with a list of things to do or remember can be discouraging. Prepare the night before to give yourself a more enjoyable morning.
Some things to consider taking care of ahead of time:
- Pick out the clothes you will wear
- Set the timer on the coffee machine so it’s ready
- Keep a robe and slippers by the bed to put on right away
- Make sure your alarm clock is out of arm’s reach
- Make a short list of anything you need to remember to do upon waking up
Preparing a few small things the night before can simply help your early mornings go more smoothly. This may encourage you to continue waking up earlier.
6. Peer Pressure
Set up an early morning gym date, plan to meet your friend at the park for a walk or just spend some extra time with your partner. Planning to meet a friend to exercise, discuss work, or even just grab a coffee in the early morning will keep you accountable to your wake-up time.
Research has also shown that our bodies naturally wake up when we know that we have an obligation to maintain. By making a plan to meet a friend, you’re biologically more likely to wake up earlier.
If the only thing keeping you accountable for waking up early is your alarm clock, you might decide to crawl back into bed. But when you know that your BFF or partner is sitting on the park bench waiting for you, there’s a good chance you will wake right up.
7. Waking Up Refreshed
So, you’ve mastered the art of waking up earlier. Good job! But do you feel refreshed in those early morning hours?
Waking up refreshed is something that we all hope for. And it’s possible!
Getting enough sleep is the number one component to feeling refreshed in the morning. But it’s not the only one. There are several other components that can contribute to achieving that fresh morning mentality.
If you’re getting enough sleep but still feeling groggy, some of these ideas may help refresh your early mornings.
1. Get Excited
Get excited about waking up early to go to the gym and work? No thanks!
Most of us don’t have the luxury of waking up early and doing whatever our heart desires. But you can ease the pain of waking up early and kick that groggy feeling by doing at least one thing that you enjoy.
The night before, think of one way that you will reward yourself for waking up early. Maybe it’s trying a new workout class or adding an extra dash of Pumpkin Creamer to your coffee. It can be something big or small as long as it’s something that gets you a little bit excited.
Having this added motivation for waking up will help to curb your morning crankiness and boost your morning zest for life.
2. DO NOT HIT SNOOZE
“Hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying, I hate getting up in the morning so I do it over and over and over again.5Comedian Dimitri Martin really captured just how detrimental the snooze button can be to feeling good in the morning.
That little snooze button is your biggest enemy when it comes to waking refreshed. The act of being woken up only to kind of fall asleep again and then be woken and then asleep…it’s a cycle that promotes grogginess and crankiness.
Keep your alarm clock across the room from your bed. This way you must physically get up and turn it off. Don’t hit snooze and don’t get back into bed!! Just remember, the snooze button kills morning freshness!
3. Jump Out of Bed
This one sounds kind of silly and your sleeping partner may not appreciate it but…it actually works.
When your alarm goes off, literally jump out of your bed (don’t hurt yourself), and shout something positive.
“I’m so happy to be awake!!” “I am ready for the day!” “Yay for waking up early!”
I know that you’re rolling your eyes, but just try it. It’s really hard to be crabby and sleepy after doing this. I always end up laughing at myself and that’s honestly a great way to start the day feeling refreshed.
4. Drink Up!
Your body dehydrates overnight and that can cause you to feel not so fresh in the morning. If you can stomach it, drink a full 8oz glass of water immediately upon waking up. It will wake up your body from the inside out.
After rehydrating, you can move on to a nice big cup of coffee or tea or whatever caffeinated beverage gets you going. The combination of being hydrated plus caffeine will boost your morning freshness.
5. Don’t Consume Junk
I’m not talking about just junk food here. I also mean mental junk. Opening your eyes and immediately scrolling through Instagram or Facebook is not an ideal way to start your day.
The early morning hours should be spent focusing on yourself, not the pictures of food that your ex-boyfriend posted on Facebook.
Fill your belly and your brain with wholesome and healthy things. Read a book or the newspaper while you munch on some fruit, yogurt, or eggs.
6. Embrace Routine
The same way that having a bedtime routine is helpful, sticking to a morning routine can drastically improve your morning mood.
The things that you do first thing in the morning will help get you mentally prepared for the rest of the day. Fill your morning with at least one thing that you enjoy and form some type of morning ritual that starts you off right.
Everyone’s routine will look different but some ideas might include:
- Writing in a journal
- Sitting on the porch with coffee or tea
- Read a book for a few minutes
- Make a gratitude or positive affirmation list
- Watch a motivational YouTube video
- Play with your pet
- Listen to music or a podcast
Forming a morning ritual can help you enjoy waking up earlier and encourage you to feel refreshed while doing so.
Change of any kind can be difficult. Changing or forming new sleep/wake patterns can be especially challenging.
Remember to not be too hard on yourself, stay dedicated and consistent, and always listen to your body. If you wake up sick or jet-legged, perhaps 5am is not a good idea for that day.
Do you struggle to wake up early? What have you found helps you feel refreshed in the mornings? Share your comments and thoughts here and so that we can help each other develop healthy sleeping and waking habits!