I can be laid back when it’s time to relax but I also like to get things done. And I’ll tell you, there is something a little magical about the early morning hours for me. When I get up at 4:30AM—my usual wake up time—I feel motivated, energized, and I can get more done.
But when I start my day later, it nearly feels like I wasted a whole day. Everything seems off. I’m not as productive. My mood is even different.
Now, 4:30AM may not be early to you. Maybe 3:30 is, or maybe it’s 6. But I hear from a lot of my readers that they have had the same experience with getting up early and they want to know how to make it a habit. So whatever early means to you, here’s what I’ve seen work for a lot of people and discovered myself.
Do It in Increments
We have internal clocks that try to keep rhythm. So a sudden 4AM wake up when you’ve been sleeping to 7AM will just leave you sluggish and wanting to take a nap.
I suggest 15 minute increments each day until you get where you want to be.
Let Yourself Go to Sleep Early
I say “let” because we do a whole lot of things to sabotage our sleep. Of course try to go to bed earlier in the same 15 minute increments. But I also know about activities that destroy sleep like:
- Drinking/Eating caffeine too late in the day (and everyone’s different).
- Alcohol before bed
- Not listening to your body when you’re tired. If you’re tired and it’s within an hour of bedtime, go to bed. Otherwise you’ll get a second wind which can last for 2-4 hours.
- Viewing digital media within 30 minutes of bed, including your phone on night mode.
- Taking sleeping pills. They can be effective on occasion, but regular use creates dependency and tolerance.
- Not getting any exercise early in the day
- Not getting any sunshine early in the day
- Having a poor diet
- Living with unmanaged stress
“But what do I do if I’m not watching YouTube videos or checking my feed before bed?”
Okay. Don’t panic. We can fix this.
- Reading a physical book
- Taking a hot bath
- Massaging diluted essential oils into your skin (Lavender: a good choice for most)
- Listening to very relaxing music
- Writing in a gratefulness journal (On paper. No devices)
- Journalling about your day
- Reading a physical book to your child
Create a bedtime routine so that these activities signal to the brain that it’s time to sleep.
Forget That Snooze Exists
Worst invention ever! When you hit snooze and go back to sleep, you start another sleep cycle, which may mean going back into deep sleep. So you wake feeling groggy even though you had plenty of sleep.
That’s the enemy of becoming an early riser.
Some people probably think they’re not morning people just because of their snooze habit.
Put the Clock Over There
First of all: Don’t point the clock toward you. Not only can it be anxiety-inducing to see the time in the middle of the night. The light can wake you up.
Also: putting the clock over there makes it harder to hit the snooze.
Go Ahead and Get Up
If you wake up within an hour of time to get up (I guess you’d have to look at the time to know that, but anyway), go ahead and get up. You’ll usually feel better, and it will be easier to go to bed tonight.
Don’t Rationalize Yourself Back to Sleep
If you don’t “have” to get up for something, it’s so easy to think, “oh, I didn’t get very good sleep or it took forever to fall asleep, so just one more hour”.
This makes sense logically. But it disrupts your natural sleep rhythm, so I’m all for listening to your body most of the time, but get up.
Don’t Run for Coffee First Thing
If you drink a caffeinated beverage first thing to clear the fog, let’s rethink that. It’s actually counter-productive.
Here’s what’s happening in your body:
When you wake up in the morning the body releases a little cortisol, the stress hormone to help you not fall back asleep. Caffeine all raises cortisol—more in some people. So that’s cortisol on top of cortisol.
Not only can this cause jitters and anxiousness in people prone to anxiety. It can also increase your cortisol tolerance and cortisol resistance, so the body needs more cortisol to get you out of bed in the morning.
I know I don’t want to be producing more stress hormones than I need. If you must, wait 1 hour before any caffeinated tea, coffee, or chocolate.
Start a Morning Routine & Stick with It
Starting a routine of 2-5 things that you do every morning in the same order, at right about the same time can help solidify your new early to rise habit.