Sleep is that one thing everyone seems willing to let slip when things get hectic. Obviously, if you go to sleep after midnight, it is kind of hard to wake up early and set the ball rolling before everyone else the next day. Perhaps if you knew more about the benefits of a healthy sleep, you would be more determined to become an early bird?
Naw… If you’re a lazy guy or gal (like I am), knowing what a complex and tremendously beneficial process sleep is won’t help you get your ass out of bed. You know better than anyone else how much you want this to happen – but somehow, a magical force drags you back to sleep every time the alarm rings before the sun is up on the sky.
Scratch that, the magical force is actually the one abusing your snooze button… You can’t help but let yourself be subdued by its overwhelming magical power. Right? I’ve been there, done that. Nevertheless, that’s precisely why I know that even the laziest person on earth can pull through, with the right motivation and an effective step-by-step plan.
To all the lazy readers hovering around this article right now – if you are too lazy to read up until the end, I have a shortened version of what you need to do, right here:
Step 1: Make an achievable goal to wake up early (like an exact hour and make sure it’s not 5.00 am if you usually wake up at 10.00 am)
Step 2: Pick the first small step that will make you the happiest if you start your morning with it (obviously, it can’t be waking up late)
Step 3: Make it hard to renege on your plan by sharing it with someone dear or by creating a contract
Step 4: Create a go-to-sleep routine that will tell your brain it’s nighttime already, so you can start going to sleep and falling asleep faster
Step 5: Ply your home with morning triggers that will alert your senses (an alarm clock away from your bed and close to your window, an automatic coffee machine, a programmed radio on the hall etc.)
Step 6: Commit to remembering why you want to wake up early and do it every morning, instead of hitting the snooze button
To everyone else out there, who would really like to know the in depths of gaining a few extra hours a day, I will explain these steps in a bit more detail.
The Sleep Fascination – Having Enough Good Sleep Matters
Understanding why sleep matters will not necessarily help you wake up earlier, but it could help you gain back your motivation, in times of weakness. Despite the general perception, sleep is neither a restful nor a passive activity for your brain. While you think you’re putting your body and brain at rest, in fact, it’s your brain the one who puts you at rest, just so it can cleanse itself of toxic buildup.
As you enter into a world of dreams, your gray matter hums even more intensively than when you are awake. Of course, the brain activity depends on which stage of sleep you’re in, but the point is that many essential things happen throughout those stages:
- Your brain gets rid of all the clutter and unnecessary information gathered throughout the day
- The memory is strengthened and the ability to learn is significantly improved by sleep (by the way, did you know that there are quite a few theories out there claiming you could learn while you sleep?)
- The whole body enters a process of restoration – body parts are being “repaired”, your muscles and bones grow, your skin sheds and the growth of new cells accelerates, your immune system strengthens, and so on.
Needless to say, having enough sleep is very important to the way your body functions, but also to the way you feel and think. However, if you want to wake up early, having enough good sleep is crucial and that’s where sleep hygiene interferes.
How to Go to Bed in Order to Wake up Early in the Morning
Just to stress the obvious, becoming an early bird will not help you unless you have enough rest at night and you wake up energized in the morning. So it is not just when you get out of bed, but also when you go to bed, that matters.
When you sleep, your five sense are more active than you think. Whatever stimuli those senses receive, it will have a huge impact on your sleep quality. For instance:
- Vision can be impacted by how dark your bedroom is and how many sources of light you have around the house
- Hearing can be affected by the noises around your bedroom
- Smell can be affected by any odor
- Taste can be affected by the foods you eat before sleep and even throughout the day
- Touch can be affected by the tactile stimuli you get from the mattress and the linens you sleep on
Taking all these into account is good news for a lazy person because it is not just a bunch of things you need to do before you go to sleep. On the contrary, we are talking about some minor aspects that, if you take into account throughout the day, will ensure you a better rest. And when you rest more, you wake up early much easier.
Long story short, here is how to take care of your senses:
- Close the curtains when you go to bed and nix any source of artificial light in the bedroom, including your laptop, phone or TV
- When you wake up, however, try to expose yourself to natural light as fast as possible
- No blue light sources for your eyes for at least an hour before you go to sleep
- When you find time, try to decorate your bedroom in colors that help you relax – avoid strong shades of red, yellow or orange
- Choose an alarm sound loud enough to wake you up, yet quiet enough not to scare or irritate you in the morning
- Make sure you set up any kind of relaxing white noise in your bedroom so that any other noise that will occur during the night won’t be perceived as loud
- Let the fresh air in both when you go to sleep and when you wake up
- Change your bed linens weekly and wash it with a gentle, slightly-fragrant balsam
- Avoid heavy meals at dinner
- Set up a relaxing, nighttime routine that will let your brain know you are preparing to go to sleep
- Refrain from using the bedroom for anything else but sleep and sex
What Kept You From Succeeding and What is Going to Change
In order to succeed with your wake up early goal, you must be specific above all. It’s not enough to say you want to become an early bird. You must know exactly what that is supposed to mean: at what hour are you planning to wake up? what do you want to do with that extra time?
Unfortunately, being specific but not realistic won’t get you far either. If you are planning to start waking up at 5.00 am, 7-days a week, starting tomorrow, when you normally wake up at 10.00 am, chances are you won’t get far.
The problem with setting unclear and unrealistic goals is that once you fail – and you will inevitably fail – you will have to deal with the consequences. You will feel disappointed again, you will lose your confidence, and you will even lose that last drop of enthusiasm to try again, the right way.
By now, you must have a picture in mind of how your ideal morning should look like. If you are sure that the picture is specific and realistic, you can go on and develop that picture. Add as many details as you can. Then, try to identify the one thing that would make you happiest, even when you wake up early. Ideally, it should be something easy to achieve – something that, taken alone, would worth the pain of waking so early.
To me, it was a 30-minutes run on my treadmill. I paid a small fortune to buy it, but I was never able to find time to use it throughout the day. The idea of getting extra time to do my workout before anything else was so powerful that it helped me set up my wake up early routine.
How about you? Make a list in your head with the things that could motivate you:
- Sipping a hot cup of coffee in the chilly morning
- Reading a few pages from your favorite novel
- Prepping up a launch casserole
- Cooking breakfast for the loved ones
- Checking up your piles of emails
- Checking some job ads
- Making an action plan for the new day
- Taking your dog out?
Regardless how insignificant it seems, if it matters to you, it’s more than enough.
Keeping in mind all of the above should help you stick to the plan. But if you want to increase your motivation, you can share your bold plan with a friend; or with someone whose opinion truly matters to you. That someone will most likely ask you periodically how you’re doing, and chances are it will motivate you even more. You wouldn’t want to disappoint that special someone, would you?
Furthermore, try and make it a visible statement. Take it out of your head; write it down on a piece of paper, and glue that paper somewhere you will always see in the morning. Be it on your wardrobe door, on your bedroom door, on your mirror, on your bedside lamp – you get the point. Make it visible, so it will be harder to overlook.
6 things to Do Early at Dawn
1. Remember why your alarm rings so early.
When the alarm goes off, before you hit the snooze, force yourself to remember your goal. Have you written it somewhere around your bed? Have a look at it. Take 30 seconds to remember that one thing that makes you happy and helps you wanna wake up early.
2. Move before you get to fall back asleep.
Your alarm clock shouldn’t be around your bed. How about you put it as far from your bed as possible? This way, you will get out of bed, move a little bit, stretch some muscles, and get into a more alert state.
3. Let the fresh air and bright light give you a slap or two.
It sounds more brutal than it actually is, but if you place your alarm clock near, let’s say, the window, you can open it. The chilly air will freshen up your senses and the natural light will activate the hormones that tell your brain it’s a beautiful day.
4. Let the fresh smell of coffee drag you out of bed
Right now you might object that you live alone and your dog can’t make you coffee. Haven’t you heard of programmable coffeemakers? What, you are not drinking coffee? Rest assured, there are also programmable tea steepers on the market. Give it a go.
5. Let your favorite music flood your ears and make you feel good
Besides your alarm clock, you could also schedule a radio to turn on automatically. Ideally, it should be in another room, or even on the hall. Some good music will, again, alert your senses and if you get into a radio show or news program, you’ll remember that many other people are alive and awake at that time.
6. Make your trip to the bathroom a bit more exciting
This one is, again, to help you become active and receptive much easier. As you head towards your bathroom, try to stretch your muscles so you become aware of all the main body parts. Take a few deep breaths and then splash your face with cold water. Now hurry up, your coffee is waiting!
And you know what else is waiting for you? A new day and your favorite reason to wake up early!
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.