If you have to be up in the morning to do something or get somewhere - a typical office worker with a 9 to 5 job, a college student with early morning classes, or a homemaker that needs to take their children to school - you probably share the same morning routine as many others.
Most people who have to be up early in the morning are suddenly woken up in the loudest, agitated way possible: by a loud alarm clock. It could be the loud bell of a traditional alarm clock, the annoying buzzer of a digital clock, or one of the many chimes from your cell phone. Regardless of the equipment used, the result is the same - you're suddenly disturbed from a calm night of sleep.
More often than not, you'll be awakened in the middle of a sleep cycle, making you feel groggy as if you haven't slept a wink. If you're lucky, you'll probably have just enough time for an extra ten minutes of sleep, so you hit the snooze button on your alarm. However, just as you feel like you're drifting off to a peaceful slumber once again, the same blaring signal goes off. This causes you to wake up in a foul mood because you'll probably be even sleepier than before.
Since you hit the snooze button, you'll stare at the clock to see that you barely have enough time to get ready for your day. Anxious and rushed, you begin to prepare, having just enough time taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed. You might need to spend time taking care of other people's needs, like preparing breakfast for your kids before leaving home. Some might even take time to glance at their emails and schedule to see what the day ahead has in store, which can add stress and worry.
If you're lucky, you'll probably have some time to eat something before heading out, although it will often be something quick and unhealthy. If you don't have time, you'll stop by someplace to grab something equally unhealthy on the way to where you need to be.
The scenarios described above happen in the matter of an hour or two, usually before 9:00 AM. As you can imagine, starting your day off in a stressed-out, anxiety-riddled way like this will get you in a miserable mood before your day begins. This mood often lingers throughout the day, permeating into everything you do. Your work won't be the best it can be. Your relationships with everyone around you will suffer. Your physical and emotional health will deteriorate every single day.
Carrying this emotional state all day long will also go on long after your day is done. Subconsciously, your brain will hold on to these feelings, leading to interrupted sleep in the evening as it knows that you'll go through the same routine over again the next day. The cycle continues getting worse as time goes on, causing physical and mental ailments to surface when your body and mind have had enough.
If you can associate with this pattern of waking up in the morning, you need to break this cycle and start the day off better. The best way of getting free of the stress, anxiety, and worry of having to rush through your morning is simple: wake up earlier than you're doing now.
Why waking up early helps relieve your stress
I'm sure many of you reading this are thinking "Well, of course, I have to wake up earlier!" Many people I've spoken to who always seem to be rushed in the morning know that they need to wake up earlier than they do now, but almost no one actually does.
I believe it's because they don't fully realize the benefits of waking up earlier. Most people just see the perceived negatives, like thinking they will be more tired because they have to sleep less. Instead, they should be encouraged to look at some of the benefits of waking up early and determine if the good outweighs the bad. Here are a few great benefits of waking up early:
- No stress or anxiety because there's no rush. You can avoid all the issues caused by barely having enough time to get prepared for your day by having extra time in the morning. You can prepare at your own pace without worrying that you'll be late for anything. Not carrying that worry will stay with you throughout the day.
- Silence at home and the outside world. If you live with others, you probably rarely have any moments where you experience calm and stillness in your home. Even if you live alone, there's a good chance that the outside world is trying to grab your attention via texts, emails and instant messages. If you wake up earlier than most, you'll have time to be undisturbed and relish in the peacefulness of the morning, leading to a relaxed day.
- Time to do anything you want without distraction or judgement. We all have interests or hobbies that we can't seem to find enough time to do. There might also be certain activities you feel uncomfortable doing around others for fear of judgement. Waking up early will give you that time to fully immerse yourself to whatever you want to do without any interruptions from anyone.
How to get yourself out of bed earlier
Even when knowing the benefits an early wake-up can provide, some just can't seem to drag themselves out of bed before a specific time. Although it's often not even attempted, even those who try experience incredible difficulty to start their morning early. It's completely understandable, as the body needs to get accustomed to waking up at a different time. It'll take a bit of conditioning to get an early wake-up.
Just to be clear, when I mention "early", it can be at any time you want, as long as it's earlier than you're used to waking up. It doesn't have to be at an unreasonable hour. If you do a quick Google search for waking up early, you'll find hundreds of articles saying that you "must" wake up at 5:00 AM or even earlier. If you're the type of person who rarely wakes up before 9:00 AM, you can't expect yourself to wake up at those times without feeling horrible throughout the day. The point is to give yourself enough time to avoid rushing through your morning, no matter what time that is for you.
So, knowing that you need to train yourself to wake up earlier, how can you get there? Most people focus on the morning and getting up early. However, you need to begin by focusing on the night instead, just before going to sleep. That's where it all starts:
- Prepare everything you need in the morning. Before your bedtime, spend time preparing everything you need for the next morning - clothes, work/school equipment, even food if possible. Have all the things you need accessible the night before so that you have a few less things to worry about in the morning.
- Set your intention for the next morning. What will you do with the extra time you've given yourself? It can merely be just to avoid feeling anxious and rushed in the morning, or it can be that you want to use that extra time to indulge in a hobby. Whatever it is, set that intention in your head the night before so that it's fresh in your mind when you wake up and you can get to it.
- Go to bed just a few minutes earlier at first. As mentioned previously, you can't expect to be able to wake up hours earlier than usual without feeling thoroughly exhausted. The smart step is to take a small action at the beginning and go to sleep about 10 or 15 minutes earlier than usual. It may not seem like a big difference, but the key is to get your body used to the change so you can condition yourself better.
- Prepare yourself for restful sleep. One of the main arguments that others have for not wanting to wake up early is because they feel like they barely have enough rest as it is currently. My counter is that they aren't setting themselves up for a good night's sleep. Tips like avoiding excess exposure of blue light by limiting using your electronic devices, reading a paper book, and avoiding alcohol late at night will help you not only fall asleep faster, but give you quality sleep so you don't feel drained the next morning.
The road won't be easy at first
Despite preparing very well the night before, I admit that it will be rough when starting. Just like any new endeavor, your body will still go through a bit of shock the first few mornings because it's something different. Even though it'll just be 10 or 15 minutes at first, you will go through an adjustment period. It might take a day or it might take a few weeks, but please stick with it as it will subside. There are a few things you can do to minimize these difficulties during the initial stages:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including days off. One of the reasons why some people feel so groggy when waking up during the week is because they sleep in during the weekend when they can. It's good to catch up on sleep, but this disrupts the body's natural clock, or the Circadian Rhythm. When your body can't tell what's the ideal time to wake up, it will affect your state of wakefulness, leading to that tired feeling in the morning. You can deal with this by going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day of the week. When you set your internal clock, it'll make going to sleep and waking up much more comfortable.
- Minimize stimulants like caffeine first thing in the morning. Many people are so dependent on caffeine that they feel like they literally cannot function without drinking a few cups of coffee as soon as they wake up. Studies have shown that drinking coffee first thing in the morning affects your circadian clock, so if you want to drink that coffee, it's best to do it later in the morning when your body is ready to accept the boost.
- Note how you feel after waking up and during the day by writing it down. During the first few weeks of beginning this habit, keep track of how you feel by measuring your energy levels. This way, you can manage your sleeping routine by checking how you're doing. If you feel tired during the day after a week or two, figure out if you have to change your nightly routine, if you have to go to bed earlier or just need extra time to sleep.
Build up your tolerance and reap the rewards
Once you feel great after getting out of bed at your new wake-up time, think about what you want to do next. Are you good with the amount of additional time you have in the morning? If so, great! Keep on reaping the rewards. But if you've seen the positive benefits of having extra time for yourself and wanted more, just repeat the cycle of going to bed earlier.
Before you know it, you'll be waking up much earlier than you ever imagined, feeling calmer and happier and more productive not just during the morning but throughout the entire day.
Small steps for your Practical Good
Let's begin to build a habit of waking up earlier by following a few simple steps to get you moving to a relaxed morning:
- Think about what you would do if you had at least 30 extra minutes in the morning. You should have a strong-enough "why" to help motivate and inspire you to get an early start in the day. Think of a few things you want to get out of waking up early. You might want to avoid the usual rush of getting ready for work, or you want to spend some time working on a side project. Whatever it is, make sure it's something that will benefit you positively.
- Spend the next five days waking up 10-15 minutes earlier than usual. It's a small step but you have to begin somewhere. Ten or fifteen minutes doesn't seem like a lot of time at first, but it will have an impact on your morning and will serve as the base to continue working towards waking up earlier.
- Plan to wake up at the same time during your next days off. It's tempting to sleep until late on the days you're off and don't have responsibilities like work or school to deal with, but as we've discussed it's not the best for your body. Plan to go to sleep and wake up at the same time as your usual work / school days during the days your off to get your body's internal clock synced up properly.
- Visit Practical Good next week to read about the things you can do with your extra time. Sometimes we have extra time and we don't know what to do with it. Next week we'll discuss ways to take advantage of the additional time you get in the morning, so you can plan your day to start off just like you want.