Getting up early each morning is a popular topic, especially among the minimalist and simple living community. Do a quick search on Youtube for “5 AM Morning Routine” and the content is endless. Why is it so popular?
Getting up earlier is a strategy for a lot of people to get productive tasks done at the start of the day. For some it helps bring time into their life to focus on things they might otherwise not be able to focus on, like time for meditation or a workout.
Waking up early does not work for everyone and that’s okay. However, most of us in today’s fast-paced world could benefit a lot of from the simple act of going to sleep earlier even if we don’t intend to wake up at 5 AM.
Why you should go to sleep earlier
I can’t say that everyone should go to sleep earlier, since it’s largely dependent on a few factors that vary per person. However, I think it’s safe to say most of us could use more shut-eye. If you’ve made it to this article you probably already have a good reason for thinking this might be a good idea:
- To get more hours of sleep in.
- To respect your sleep cycle.
- To feel less tired throughout the course of the day.
I personally realized a few things that encouraged me to take this step — I was tired at different hours of the day every day, especially around 3 PM when I felt like I was running on empty. I also work a job that requires me to be at work during different times each day. Sometimes I got up at 5:30 AM to to go work and sometimes I didn’t have to go in to work until noon. This varied week is my full-time schedule. (Retail and service industry workers, do you feel me?!)
How do you function on such a varied schedule? The routine I personally ended up putting in place for myself was this: go to bed and wake up whenever I want if I worked at noon, try to go to bed early otherwise. Doesn’t that make sense? It did to me at the time. This might be a similar routine if you work a good ol’ 9-5 — you probably try to go to bed early on weekdays but sometimes find yourself not tired enough so it’s hit or miss. Then the weekend is a free-for-all. Treating weekends like this probably makes your Mondays fun, right?
Unfortunately, this varied bed time routine doesn’t work for most people and they might not even realize it’s a problem. You have to respect your sleep cycle. That’s the situation I was in. I didn’t even realize how my inconsistent sleep schedule was hurting me and causing me to feel tired all day until my partner told me to try it. As corny as it is to say, it changed my life.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it rings true, you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day no matter what you have going on that day. This consistent schedule will help you body finally obtain a rhythm and the benefits of that will cause you to sleep better, feel well rested throughout the day, stop desperately and endlessly sleeping in on weekends, and be less likely to crash mid afternoon.
You might feel the way I did before I finally gave it a shot: “That’s horrible, why on earth would I want to go to bed super early on the weekend and wake up early for no reason?! I don’t have anywhere to be and I deserve to have fun and sleep in!”
It’s actually quite simple. You have to give yourself a reason to do it. Is there something you can do in the mornings that would make it worth your while? My positive spin on it ended up being a few things — I enjoyed how quiet it was outside (living in LA, it was weird to hear absolutely no one walking around or driving outside of my apartment and I loved it), I got my me-time (as much as I love my partner, I appreciate my alone time), and it finally allowed me to to work on things I really enjoyed but ended up never putting time towards like writing and drawing.
Getting an early start on my day also made me feel like my days were much longer, despite going to bed early. When I started going to bed early I woke up at 5 AM to make sure I got a respectable 8 hours of sleep. By the time noon rolled around I had been awake for 7 hours and it blew my mind that there was still so much time left in my day.
Strategies you can try to get to bed earlier
- Stop drinking so much coffee. I’m not suggesting to cut it out completely. (Caffeine dependent person here, that’s madness! If you’re not hooked on coffee I envy you.) But at one point in order to get through my late afternoons at work I would go into the break room and make a pot. Don’t do that. Limit caffeine to morning only. Give yourself a cut off time in the morning if you have to. And don’t go crazy with it, keep it to a cup or two.
- Make sure you’re getting enough time outside. Maybe it means you have to take a walk once the sun is up. Maybe you can start eating a meal on a patio or outside space. Try to make sure you’re outside during the day at least for a little while. If you’re going from your house into your car into your office job and then back again… How much time are you actually outside each day? Boost your mood and make it easier for your body to regulate what time it is, don’t forget to be outside in the sun once in a while or even try taking supplements to help with this.
- Move your body. This isn’t a problem I have because in retail management I rarely have a second just to sit down. But it’s something I experienced back in the day during my office job. If you’re working a sit-down job full-time, you need to move your body or else it might be hard for you to fall and stay asleep. I don’t really like the word “exercising” for this one, because it doesn’t need to be crazy and some people give up at the very suggestion of the word. You don’t have to wake up at 5 AM and go for a jog, get a gym membership, or start forcing yourself to do push ups every morning. I mean sure, doing these things are highly beneficial for your health, but you can start even smaller if you dread exercise. Especially if you’re already making a big change with your sleep cycle — don’t make multiple huge habit changes in your life all at the same time! Maybe do some good stretching before and after work and look into some easy yoga poses that make you feel good. Pick a time before or after work to go for a nice walk and listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook while you walk. You can even just try setting a timer while you’re at work as a reminder you’ve been sitting too long and need to get up and walk somewhere for a bit.
- Create an evening and morning routine. This is a big part of being successful in this. You can experiment the first few days on what routine works best for you, but try to stick to it after that. Your evening routine should be a process of winding down. Make it work for you, everyone is different. In the morning you need to have a reason for getting up. Make it good! For me it was coffee, quiet outdoor space, and getting to work on anything I wanted like drawing, reading, or writing. Knowing I was waking up to things that make me happy helped so much.
Why Going to Bed Earlier Doesn’t Work for Everyone
As I mentioned, this doesn’t work for everyone. In fact I doubt everyone who uses a sleep routine can perfectly execute it every week. For example, last night I attended a going away party for a few coworkers. The party started at the time I would normally go to bed — 9:30 pm. I did want to go and show my support, but oh man…did I dread the lack of sleep I was going to get! I ended up coming home and going to sleep at 11:45. I still woke up at 5 AM the next day and it was harder than usual to get out of bed (I had to continually promise myself that I could nap later), but after about 30 minutes of being awake I actually felt like my normal self. Having days with exceptions like my example aren’t the end of the world and they certainly aren’t worth me throwing this entire concept out of the window. It might be a little harder to wake up those mornings, but it’s worth it. Don’t snooze, don’t sit there and promise you’ll get up after laying in bed and scrolling through social media, just do whatever it takes to just get out of your bed!
This might not work for you if you have a varied work schedule, a more extreme varied schedule than what I go through. For others, it might be that you’re experiencing a time in your life where you are very social — you go out with friends or spend time with a partner at night. You would be sacrificing sleep at least once a week. You would be making a huge sacrifice in the evening, spending less time with your family/partner or risk sleep deprivation.
Rarely, you might not actually be a morning person. Be be careful with this one. I can guarantee you the first few days of doing a consistent schedule 7 days a week most people will not feel like a morning person. You might question everything in your life. You might think you’ve lost your mind. But give it one week. If that feeling of dread and absolute exhaustion you may have experienced the first few days doesn’t go away, you might just not be a morning person. For most people (believe it or not) that feeling goes away around day 3 or 4.
The only way to see if this will work for you is to give it a shot. Create your morning and evening routine. Make small, positive changes to set yourself up for success. Try it for one week and make adjustments if needed, self reflect on any failures and ask yourself how you can prevent it next time. Then decide.
Going to Bed Early vs Waking Up Early
You might notice this article focused on how to go to bed early versus how and why you should wake up early. I honestly believe going to bed early is the focus here, not waking up early. The focus is your sleep, the quality of sleep you get, and the benefits of respecting your sleep cycle. Try it!