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How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

By Julian Lewis May 3, 2024

How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

Introduction: The Power of Rising Early

Discover the benefits of an early start

Waking up early is heralded as a secret of the highly successful and the perennially energetic. From CEOs to fitness gurus, the early risers—or "morning people"—often report that this single habit contributes significantly to their productivity and mental well-being. But what if you're not a morning person? Can you still harness the power of the early hours?

Embracing the morning has benefits that go beyond the extra hours gained. It sets a tone of discipline and control, enhances your chances of maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and improves sleep quality by aligning with your body's natural circadian rhythms. Rising early also exposes you to more natural light, which helps regulate your sleep cycle, boosts mood, and increases feelings of alertness and refreshment.

In this introduction, we'll explore why and how shifting your wake-up time earlier can transform more than just your morning routine—it can enhance your entire lifestyle, making you feel more refreshed and prepared for the day ahead. Whether you aim to enjoy quiet mornings, achieve better sleep, or simply beat the rush, the journey to becoming an early riser could be just what you need to reset your sleep schedule and improve your health.

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Why Wake Up Early?

The benefits of waking up at 5am

Rising at 5am offers a serene start when the world is still quiet, providing uninterrupted time for personal growth, exercise, or planning the day ahead. This early start synchronizes with our circadian rhythms, promoting deeper, more restorative sleep cycles and enabling you to wake up feeling refreshed. Studies suggest that early risers often experience less sleep inertia, which is the grogginess felt upon waking, and they are less susceptible to mood disorders associated with poor sleep quality.

How waking up early can enhance your productivity and wellbeing

Waking up early extends your productive hours, not just by adding time but by enhancing the quality of those hours with higher alertness and lower stress levels. Morning light boosts your mood and energy, setting a positive tone for the day. It also strengthens discipline and improves mental health by establishing a routine that includes consistent sleep schedules and healthier lifestyle choices like a balanced breakfast and time for morning exercises. Furthermore, aligning your wake schedule with natural light can help regulate melatonin production, essential for a night of good sleep and waking up early the next day.

These habits not only improve your physical health by stabilizing your internal clock and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as sleep apnea and acid reflux but also bolster your mental health by providing more time for mindfulness practices and reducing the rush that can lead to daily stress. Ultimately, becoming an early bird allows you to take control of your day from the start, enhancing your overall life satisfaction and effectiveness.

The Science Behind Waking Up Early

Use external cues to optimize your body clock. And be consistent

The human body thrives on regularity and the body clock, or circadian rhythm, prefers consistency. Utilizing external cues such as natural light, meal times, and exercise can significantly enhance the synchronization of your body's internal clock. Exposure to natural light in the morning helps suppress melatonin production, signaling your body to wake up. Consistently waking at the same time each day—even on weekends—strengthens your circadian rhythm, which can lead to better sleep quality and easier mornings.

How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

Learn why waking up at 5am and getting up earlier could improve your morning routine and wellbeing

Adopting a routine of waking up at 5am exposes you to peaceful early hours, providing time for exercise, planning, or solitude, which can improve mental health and daily productivity. This habit aligns with the optimal times our bodies are programmed for wakefulness and activity due to evolutionary biology. Early risers often benefit from deeper, more synchronized sleep phases, which promote restorative sleep and reduce sleep inertia—the sluggishness felt upon waking. This adjustment not only enhances your ability to fall asleep and wake up early but also stabilizes mood and improves cognitive function throughout the day.

Embracing an early wake-up time can also mitigate issues related to disrupted sleep, such as sleep apnea and acid reflux, by encouraging a healthier lifestyle and proper sleep hygiene. Regularly waking early helps set a consistent sleep schedule, crucial for mental and physical health, and primes you for a day of enhanced productivity and enriched personal wellbeing. This disciplined start can significantly impact your sleep quality, mood, and overall lifestyle by realigning your internal clock with nature's clock.

Preparing the Night Before

Prepare the night before and make a plan with clear goals

Setting clear goals for the next day before going to bed can significantly influence your sleep quality and morning effectiveness. By reviewing and planning your tasks the night before, you not only prime your mind for the activities of the coming day but also alleviate the stress of morning decision-making. This mental preparation allows for a more relaxed sleep, reducing sleep inertia and helping you wake up with a purpose. This practice also facilitates a quicker and more decisive start to your day, as your tasks and objectives are already laid out.

Create a relaxing evening routine

A calming evening routine is pivotal in signaling your body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Activities might include reading, deep breathing, or meditation, all under dim lighting to encourage melatonin production. Limiting caffeine intake and heavy meals in the hours before bedtime can prevent disruptions in your sleep cycle and enhance the quality of your deep sleep phases. Moreover, setting a consistent bedtime that syncs with your circadian rhythms can help stabilize your sleep schedule, making it easier to wake up early feeling refreshed.

These preparations not only improve the quality of your sleep but also condition your body to a routine, reinforcing your internal clock's setting for sleep and wake times. The use of relaxation techniques and creating an optimal sleep environment—cool, dark, and quiet—can further enhance your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, ensuring that you wake up on the right side of the bed, ready to tackle your well-planned day.

How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

Optimizing Your Sleep Environment

Get the best sleep you can by optimizing your sleep environment

Creating the ideal sleep environment is crucial for both falling asleep quickly and ensuring that your sleep is deep and restorative. This involves several adjustments to your bedroom to make it a sanctuary for sleep:

  • Temperature: Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature, ideally between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, as studies suggest this range facilitates the best sleep conditions.
  • Light: Eliminate blue light exposure from electronic devices at least an hour before bed since blue light inhibits melatonin production and disrupts sleep cycles. Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block out external light sources.
  • Noise: Reduce noise pollution with earplugs or white noise machines to maintain a quiet sleep environment.
  • Comfort: Invest in a quality mattress and pillows that support your body's preferred sleeping position, and use breathable, natural fiber bedding to enhance comfort.

Limit caffeine and heavy meals before bed

To improve your sleep quality and make it easier to wake up early, consider your diet's impact on sleep:

  • Caffeine: Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can delay the timing of your body clock and prolong the time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Heavy Meals: Eating heavy or large meals late in the evening can lead to discomfort and indigestion, which disrupt sleep. If you need to eat late, opt for a light, easily digestible snack instead.
  • Alcohol: Limit alcohol consumption as it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and affects the restorative phases of sleep.

These strategies are designed to optimize your sleep environment and dietary habits, contributing to improved sleep quality and making it easier to adopt an early rising routine. By controlling these aspects of your night, you set the stage for a better morning and a more productive day.

Establishing a Morning Routine

How to wake up at 5am: 8 ways to become more of an early bird

Waking up early consistently not only improves your productivity but also stabilizes your circadian rhythms, leading to better overall health. Here are eight practical steps to help you become an early riser:

  1. Set a Specific Reason: Align waking up early with a specific goal or task—whether it’s exercising, reading, or having quiet time to plan your day.
  2. Gradual Adjustment: Shift your wake-up time gradually—start by waking up just 15 minutes earlier than usual and adjust incrementally.
  3. Use Natural Light: Expose yourself to natural light as soon as you wake up. This reduces melatonin production and wakes up your body naturally.
  4. Morning Hydration: Drink a glass of water first thing after waking to hydrate and kickstart your metabolism.
  5. Engage in Physical Activity: Light exercise like yoga or a brisk walk can energize you and boost your mood.
  6. Avoid the Snooze Button: Hitting snooze can disrupt your sleep cycle and leave you feeling groggier. Place your alarm clock across the room to force yourself to get up.
  7. Prepare the Night Before: Lay out your morning essentials—from clothes to breakfast supplies—to minimize decision-making in the morning.
  8. Consistent Bedtimes: Go to bed at the same time every night to help regulate your body's clock and ensure you get enough sleep.

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

Consistency is key in any sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body’s internal clock to expect rest at a certain hour, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally:

  • Sleep Environment: Optimize your bedroom environment—consider temperature, light, and noise levels to promote uninterrupted sleep.
  • Evening Routine: Establish a calming pre-sleep routine that may include reading, stretching, or meditation to signal to your body that it's time to wind down.
  • Limit Stimulants: Avoid caffeine and heavy meals in the hours leading up to bedtime to prevent sleep disturbances.

Adopting these practices will not only help you in waking up at 5am but also in achieving a more restful and productive morning routine. Consistent sleep schedules reinforce your natural circadian rhythms, improve your sleep quality, and enhance your ability to wake early, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and energetic day.

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Leveraging Diet and Exercise

Movement and meals

Integrating regular exercise and thoughtful dietary choices plays a critical role in establishing a healthy morning routine and enhancing your ability to wake up early. Start your day with some form of physical activity—be it jogging, yoga, or stretching— to invigorate your body and stimulate your mind. This not only clears mental fog but also strengthens your circadian rhythm, helping you wake up more naturally at your desired time.

For breakfast, opt for nutritious foods that fuel your body without weighing it down. A balanced meal that includes proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains can stabilize blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy. Consider foods rich in vitamins and minerals that promote alertness and cognitive function, such as blueberries, nuts, eggs, and avocados.

Naps, caffeine and melatonin can help, but be cautious with how you use them

Naps are a useful tool to help manage sleep debt, but timing is crucial. A short nap (20-30 minutes) early in the afternoon can enhance brain function without affecting nighttime sleep. On caffeine, while it can be an effective stimulant to help you start your day, it should be consumed with care—limit caffeine intake after midday to ensure it doesn't interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

Melatonin supplements might be beneficial if you're trying to adjust your sleep cycle to an earlier schedule. However, they should be used under medical advice, particularly concerning dosage and timing, to effectively reset your internal clock without causing dependency or disrupting your natural sleep-wake rhythms.

By carefully balancing these elements, you can significantly improve your sleep quality and morning alertness, making it easier to wake up early and feel refreshed. This holistic approach to diet and exercise not only helps in waking up early but also in maintaining high energy levels throughout the day.

How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

Psychological Strategies to Wake Up Early

Reward yourself for small wins, but remember to be patient with yourself too

Adopting a new habit, especially one such as waking up early, can be challenging. It's important to celebrate small victories along the way to keep your motivation high. For instance, if you successfully wake up at your target time, reward yourself with a favorite morning treat, an extra few minutes of meditation, or a leisurely walk. These rewards not only make the process more enjoyable but also reinforce the behavior you want to establish.

However, it's equally important to be patient with yourself. Some days will be harder than others, and you might not always meet your goals. Recognize that setbacks are part of the journey and maintain a compassionate mindset. Remind yourself that progress is incremental and consistent effort is key to long-term success.

Listen to the full audio on Calm, the #1 app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation

Integrating relaxation techniques into your evening routine can significantly enhance your ability to wake up feeling refreshed. Apps like Calm provide guided meditations, sleep stories, and soothing soundscapes that prepare your mind and body for rest. Listening to these audios as part of your bedtime ritual can help mitigate anxiety and promote deep sleep, making morning awakenings less jarring and more revitalizing.

These strategies leverage both psychological rewards and technological aids to create a supportive environment for change. Emphasizing mental health through patient, self-compassionate practices and using tools like meditation apps not only improve your immediate sleep quality but also build resilience against the stressors that can disrupt sleep and morning routines.

Tips and Tricks for Becoming an Early Riser

8 tips to help you become a morning person

Transforming into a morning person is achievable with strategic adjustments to your lifestyle and mindset. Here are eight effective tips to help you embrace the early hours:

  1. Set an Intentional Wake-up Time: Decide on a wake-up time and stick to it every day. Consistency is key to adjusting your internal clock.
  2. Maximize Natural Light: Upon waking, expose yourself to natural light to help cease melatonin production and stimulate wakefulness. Open the blinds or spend a few minutes outside.
  3. Create Morning Rituals: Establish a morning routine that includes activities you enjoy, like reading, stretching, or brewing a fresh cup of coffee. This makes the prospect of waking up early something to look forward to.
  4. Optimize Your Bedroom Environment: Ensure your bedroom promotes sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in blackout curtains and consider using white noise to drown out disruptive sounds.
  5. Avoid Electronics Before Bed: Limit exposure to screens and electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime to reduce blue light interference with your sleep cycle.
  6. Regulate Your Sleep Schedule: Go to bed at the same time each night to help your body find a natural rhythm. Consistent sleep and wake times support a healthy circadian rhythm.
  7. Mind Your Diet: Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. These can disrupt sleep and make it harder to wake up early.
  8. Prepare the Night Before: Lay out your clothes, prep your breakfast, and organize your work materials before going to bed. Reducing morning stress can make waking up early less daunting.

By integrating these tips into your daily routine, you can transform from a night owl to an early bird, enjoying the quiet and productivity of the early morning. Waking up early can be a delightful experience when you feel refreshed and ready to take on the day with vigor.

How to Wake Up Early: Even If You're Not a Morning Person

Conclusion: Embracing the Morning

Recap of strategies and encouragement to start tomorrow

We've explored a comprehensive set of strategies to help you transform into an early riser, even if you're naturally a night owl. By optimizing your sleep environment, adjusting your diet and exercise routines, and employing psychological tactics, you can significantly improve your ability to wake up early and enjoy the myriad benefits that come with rising at dawn. Remember, consistency is key—stick to a regular sleep schedule to synchronize your internal clock, and utilize natural light to reinforce your body's circadian rhythms.

Start tomorrow: set your alarm, prepare your morning gear tonight, and remember to reward yourself for each early morning you achieve. Over time, these mornings will become a natural part of your routine, improving not only your productivity but also your overall health and wellbeing. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the peace and satisfaction of becoming a morning person.

Read more about: Well-being, Productivity, Life Coaching

About Julian Lewis

Julian Lewis is a driven and accomplished professional with a passion for driving positive change in the business world. He is the co-founder and COO at Zella Life.

His own experience as a professional of color in a Fortune 500 company led him to discover the limitations for advancement that many professionals like himself face. Determined to reach his full potential, Julian became an established business coach and entrepreneur, committed to supporting others in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Today, Julian is a recognized corporate trainer, coach, and leader, known for his ability to leverage real-life experiences and evidence-based methodologies to affect positive change within individuals and organizations. As the leader of Zella Life's coaching division, he is dedicated to empowering individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential.