“Rise and shine, sleepy Joe, you have places to go…” sang the Herman’s Hermits way back in the sixties. There’s more to those lyrics than their lilting melody, for waking up early is a practice that affects our lives in more ways than you’d imagine. If you’re a night owl and desperate to sing a morning tune, we have some doable tips on how to wake up early.
Before getting started on a new routine, do remember that genetics plays a significant role in determining if you are a “lark” or an “owl.” You can’t fight nature, but take heart – with a little hard work and determination, it’s still possible to shift your body clock to some extent.1 Even small, steady steps can help you reap the benefits of early rising. Here are some ideas on how to get there!
1. Get Your Circadian Rhythm On Track
Start by waking up at the same time every day. In fact, setting your wake time is considered to be the anchor of your circadian sleep pattern. Your bedtime should be about 6–8 hours before your wake time, depending on your sleep requirements. Regular timings will help your body “learn” a consistent routine.
Don’t go to bed before your bedtime unless you are very sleepy. Getting into bed and trying hard to fall asleep will only keep you awake for longer.2 If sleep escapes you for more than 20 minutes, get up and go to another room and read something quietly. Don’t switch on the television since the TV light will only make you more alert. Go back to bed when you are sleepy. Don’t change your wake-up time even though you may have lost some sleep.3 And don’t cheat on weekends!
2. Understand Why You Want To Be An Early Bird
Aside from the health benefits, try to find your own reason for waking up early. It may be to exercise, to get a headstart on your workday, to enjoy the early morning peace, or to watch the sunrise. Something motivating enough for you to make the effort. Go on, find your reason.
3. Start With Baby Steps
If you normally wake up at 8 am, switching suddenly to a wake-up time of 5 am may be daunting for your body and mind. Start with small changes, instead. Wake up at 7:30 am first and give yourself a few days to get used to the change. Then set your wake time to 7 am, and so on. Soon enough you’ll reach your wake-time goal.
4. Go Shopping – For An Alarm Clock
If you need some prodding in the morning, make the alarm clock your ally. If you sleep right through your alarm, get a clock that’s louder than usual. There are graduated light-emitting alarms that simulate the sun – a cool way to reset your biological clock and get you up and about. There’s also an alarm that will leap off your bedside table, beeping away until you’re forced to get out and chase it!4 Alternatively, simply place your plain vanilla alarm clock at the other end of your room (or another room) to prevent yourself from hitting the snooze button.
5. Wake Up And Step Outside
The sunlight will rejig your body clock and help orient you toward becoming a morning person. The opposite is also true; if you stay indoors all morning and step out only in the evening, you will be more inclined toward being an evening person. Alternatively, open your curtains first thing in the morning and allow light into your room.5 6
6. Energize Yourself With Morning Rituals
Along with early waking, establish morning rituals that will energize your body, strengthen your digestive system, and fill you with lightness and positivity. Take some deep breaths and chant a mantra or prayer as soon as you get up. Follow up with yoga, meditation, or mindful breathing. Soon enough, these rituals will keep you motivated to wake up early.7 8
7. Eat An Apple, Skip The Morning Coffee
The natural sugars in an apple work like caffeine to wake you up. Unlike the energy jolt that your central nervous system gets from caffeine, the glucose and vitamins in an apple deliver energy to the body gradually, leaving you feeling alert and relaxed over a longer period without the energy drop that comes with caffeine withdrawal.9 You could also swap the early morning coffee with warm water infused with lemon and ginger, ayurveda’s favored detox drink.
8. Use Peer Pressure To Your Benefit
Set a morning meeting with other early risers, say for a session of meditation or yoga. Naturally, you won’t want to let them down. You will be surprised how your body clock will wake you up before the alarm does. In fact, studies show that our bodies use biological signals to wake us up at the right time – especially when there is something at stake. Don’t ignore those signals.10
9. Understand What Makes You Wake Up Late
Check if there are any underlying reasons that are stopping you from waking up early. Perhaps it’s your long work day or maybe you’re doing high-intensity exercise too late in the evening or gulping down too much coffee. Work on making the necessary changes so you are not overexcited in the night. Stimulating work or exercise does not give your body enough time to wind down and get ready for sleep.
10. Streamline Your Sleep Routine
Sleep hygiene is a bunch of practices and habit alterations that will ensure you get quality sleep. This way, you fall asleep in time and wake up early feeling alert and refreshed.
Say No To Stimulants
Caffeine, found in tea, coffee, colas, chocolates, and some pain relievers is a known wake-me-up. Avoid caffeine 4–6 hours before your bedtime.11 Studies recommend staying away from strong doses of caffeine 6 hours before bedtime if you want to enjoy sound sleep.12
Don’t Smoke Before Bedtime
Like caffeine, keep off tobacco products well ahead of bedtime. Smokers typically have difficulty falling asleep because of the stimulating effects of nicotine, and once they fall asleep, the sleep is often disturbed. Further, when the nicotine levels in their bodies drop during the night, they tend to wake up.13 While you may wake up (too) early, it impairs the quality of your wakefulness during the day.
Skip Boozy Nightcaps
Alcohol may initially induce drowsiness but it hampers sleep and wakes you up after some time, leaving you sleep deprived. If you must drink, limit yourself to a couple of drinks per day and don’t drink at all during the 3 hours leading up to your bedtime.14
Create A Restful Ambiance
Make sure your bedroom is quiet and comfortably cool, conducive to relaxation and calmness. If there are outside sounds that disturb your sleep, devise ways to keep them down.15
Light is a strong signal to your brain to wake up. So keep it out – cover your windows with heavy curtains or blinds, or use an eye mask while you sleep.16
Follow A Bedtime Routine
Create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you wind down. A warm shower, some light reading, or relaxing stretches are all conducive to falling asleep effortlessly. Avoid discussing worrying or emotional topics just before you sleep – stressful thoughts and actions can trigger off cortisol, the stress hormone that jerks your body into a state of alertness.17
Switch Off Those Gadgets At Night
Exposure to blue light disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. To ensure restful sleep and waking up early, stop looking at your mobile, laptop, or other gadgets with screens about 2–3 hours before bedtime. If you need a night lamp, opt for red light which least affects your biological clock and melatonin production.18.
Skip The Afternoon Nap
An afternoon siesta is a daily indulgence for many people. However, if sleep eludes you at night, put a stop to this. Afternoon naps could decrease your sleep drive. You should also avoid power naps beyond 5 pm or so.19
11. Don’t Give Up!
Don’t lose heart if waking up early is initially difficult. Some experts claim that it takes 66 days of consistent attempts before your body adjusts to a new habit. In this case, to a new waking up time!20
12. Track Your Progress
Track your progress each day. You will be surprised how motivated you will feel when you see an actual count of the days you have successfully woken up early. And don’t forget to change your belief from “I’m not a morning person” to “I’m an early riser!”
Waking Up Early Is Worth It
Ancient Ayurvedic treatises claim that there is a huge shift in the earth’s energies as the planet moves from darkness to light. Rising with the sun, therefore, is the best way to sync one’s body with nature’s rhythms. According to ayurveda, early rising
Science now confirms that waking up early has many benefits for us. Here are some interesting findings:
Rise early and shine: Going to bed early and waking up early means higher levels of energy all through the day. The reason: exposure to morning light syncs our body’s biological clock with the earth’s 24-hour cycle.23
Study better and boost your career: Early risers are more likely to succeed in business than late sleepers and reach an energy peak in the evening. If you are a student, waking up early ups your chances of higher school grades and therefore getting into better universities and finding better work opportunities.24
Wake up early and fight addictions: Early risers pick healthier breakfast options and consume less caffeinated drinks and fast food than late risers. Why so? Because our self-control is higher early in the day and decreases as the hours go by. Besides food, “evening people” may be more inclined to alcohol and smoking addiction. There also seems to be a strong link between sleeping late and weight gain.25 26
Reasons enough, wouldn’t you think, to ditch those lazy mornings and get an early start?
|↑1, ↑5, ↑24||Defend Your Research:The Early Bird Really Does Get The Worm. Harvard Business Review.|
|↑2||Restructure your day to get a better night’s sleep. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑3||Late to bed, early to rise: a recipe for diabetes. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑4||Alarm Clocks That May Help You Rise And Shine. Sleep.org.|
|↑6, ↑11, ↑14, ↑16, ↑17, ↑19||Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. Healthy Sleep.|
|↑7, ↑21||The Glory Of Waking Up. The Art Of Living.|
|↑8, ↑22||How To Become An Early Riser. The Chopra Center.|
|↑9||Are Apples Better Than Coffee. Cornell University.|
|↑10||“Alarm clock” gene explains wake-up function of biological clock. Salk Institute.|
|↑12||Drake, Christopher, Timothy Roehrs, John Shambroom, and Thomas Roth. “Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 9, no. 11 (2013): 1195.|
|↑13||Jaehne, Andreas, Barbara Loessl, Zsuzsanna Bárkai, Dieter Riemann, and Magdolna Hornyak. “Effects of nicotine on sleep during consumption, withdrawal and replacement therapy.” Sleep medicine reviews 13, no. 5 (2009): 363-377.|
|↑15||Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. Healthy Sleep.|
|↑18||Blue light has a dark side. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑20||How long does it take to form a habit? University College London.|
|↑23||Kohyama, Jun. “Early rising children are more active than late risers.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment 2007 (2007): 959.|
|↑25||Randler, Christoph. “The concept of chronotype in eating behaviors.” In Handbook of Behavior, Food and Nutrition, pp. 771-782. Springer New York, 2011.|
|↑26||Maukonen, Mirkka, Noora Kanerva, Timo Partonen, Erkki Kronholm, Heli Tapanainen, Jukka Kontto, and Satu Männistö. “Chronotype differences in timing of energy and macronutrient intakes: A population‐based study in adults.” Obesity 25, no. 3 (2017): 608-615.|