How to wake up early and not be a zombie!

How to wake up early and not be a zombie!

Have you ever said this to yourself, “I’m just not a morning person”, or it’s equal but opposite “I’m just a night owl?” Yes, so have I but those things don’t really exist. They’re just excuses to watch YouTube and Netflix at night while delaying having to get up the next day. In this article, I’m going to run you through some straightforward strategies on how to wake up early and what I did to get over the hurdles. Strap yourself in! This is the ultimate guide for how to wake up early!

female lion

“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

-Christopher McDougall in Born to Run

How to Wake up early: Rework your thinking/General Tips

Find your WHY

If you only get one thing out of this how to wake up early article I want it to be this: without a good enough reason, it won’t happen.

This is really true for anything in our life. Why do we go to work? To be able to afford a house and food. Why do we exercise? To be healthy and spend time with friends and family.

spend time with kids

Everything in life boils down to motivation and your reason WHY. If you don’t have a good enough WHY, then whatever it is you’re trying to do, won’t last for long.

My WHY for waking up early is because I don’t want to have to work in the afternoons. I spend quality time with loved ones in the afternoon, and that’s more than enough motivation for me to wake up early. Honestly, most people, myself included, don’t get much done after 10 pm anyway.

Change the goal

For many of us, the question “how to wake up early” is answered by the goal of “wake up early”. However, according to Atomic Habit writer James Clear, your goal should be much simpler. It should only be the first two minutes of any goal. So, for example, your goal shouldn’t be “wake up early” it should actually be something along the lines of:

slippers

  • Put on slippers at 6 am
  • Go to the bathroom and wash face at 6 am
  • Drink a glass of water in the kitchen at 6 am
  • Put the coffee on at 6 am

None of these goals explicitly say wake up early or wake up at 6. Rather they say exactly what you’ll do when you get up, and the by-product is waking up early.

This strategy works for most goals

One more small example that doesn’t have to do with how to wake up early. I write articles and have this blog. I would like to write a certain amount every day. Instead of creating a lofty goal like “write one chapter every day” I have the goal of “write one sentence every day”.

That goal sounds easy enough, and it is. But the thing is that when I get started, it’s actually easier to keep going than to stop. I need to open my computer, click on Chrome, go into WordPress and write a sentence. In my mind what I say to myself is, “C’mon, it’s only 1 sentence.”

I started this “change the goal” section you’re now reading with the idea of only writing one sentence, and now I’ve written over 250 words, and I feel great about it! My goal is accomplished, and I used that positive momentum to do even more.

That’s what I mean by “change the goal”. “Wake up early” sounds awful, but put the coffee on at 6 am sounds pretty nice actually. Change your goal to change your mindset, and you might be surprised at how far that can take you.

Make waking up early a reward

journaling wake up early

Is there something you love to do but can’t find for the time for it? If you want to know how to wake up early, make that your WHY. Something you love.

Waking up early should be a reward, and you should do things that you love doing. For me, that’s meditating, journaling and planning my day when the house is quiet.

I love doing all of these things, but if I wait until the craziness of my day starts, then I won’t get around to them. Do something you love in the morning, and waking up early should become much easier for you.

Be realistic (4-5 days)

plane ride

The way I think about it is when you travel overseas, how many days does it take for you to get rid of jet lag? 3? 4? Sometimes more depending on the time difference.

We’re talking 12 hours difference, completely switching up from night to day and back and forth. Everyone can seem to do it on vacation, but you can’t wake up two hours earlier at home?

Do you see what I’m getting at?

Waking up early can be done, and done willingly if you have the right motivation (like seeing the Vatican).  One study took a group of people out into the woods to see how long it would take for their bodies to fall into the cycle of waking up with the sun and going to bed with the sun. They weren’t allowed any ambient light. All in all, it took about 7 days for their bodies to return to the sun’s cycle naturally.

Our bodies are incredibly adaptable if we’re in the right circumstance. You just need to find a reason strong enough to get your butt out of bed!

No caffeine after 2 pm

We all love our coffee (or tea), and I’m no exception. Ever since college I’ve had my cup of black coffee every morning to start my day. It’s my ritual, and I look forward to it. It’s actually part of my reward for waking up. Sitting on the couch relaxing with a steaming cup of coffee.

steaming coffee wake up early

That said, caffeine after a certain time of the day can really mess with your sleep. This article from Psychology Today states that drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime reduced overall sleep time by an average of more than 1 hour. The author goes on to say,

“If you do have a midday cup of coffee, make sure to drink it before 2 p.m.”

This will give your body enough time to eliminate it.

Remember! There is caffeine in tea, soda, and energy drinks, not just coffee!

Get a friend/pet

We all need a buddy or two in our lives. There’s a ton of evidence showing that accountability is a big factor in either sticking to a habit or falling off the bandwagon.

Maybe you set something up with a friend who wants to wake up around the same time and text each other. If one of you doesn’t text the other that person buys dinner. Or whatever it may be.

cute dog walk early morning

Another great way is teaching your cat that feeding time is at 6 am sharp. There is zero chance of you sleeping past that time once your cat decides mom or dad is late for breakfast.

Lastly, if a dog goes for a walk every day at the same time, they’ll definitely give you an earful if you get some extra Z’s. Having social accountability is one of the best waste of how to wake up early. Sometimes we just need a little push (or cat paws in your face).

Learn your sleep cycles

3 am wake up

According to Psychology Today, average sleep cycles last about 90 minutes. That means you come out of deep sleep (REM) at 90 min, 3 hrs, 4.5 hrs, 6 hrs, 7.5 hrs, 9 hrs, approximately.

So if you’re sleeping for anything other than those times you’re waking yourself up in the middle of a sleep cycle, which causes grogginess and tired related consequences. It’s obviously not as straightforward as 90 minutes as our sleep cycles change throughout the night and everyone’s different.

That means you need to find out how much sleep you need and when to fall asleep, so you’re not yanking yourself out of your deep sleep.

Regular Exercise

I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’ve already heard of the mountain of data supporting the benefits of regular exercise. So, I won’t bore you with all of that here. However, you might not have heard about its effect on your sleep quality.

This article from sleep.org says that “As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise , such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.”

I’m not saying that you only do 10 minutes as you won’t reach the minimum of 30 minutes a day of recommended exercise but you can already see the benefits. Exercising regulates your body and tires you out. When you work out, you break down your muscles (that’s why they’re sore afterwards). Your body needs sleep to repair those muscles.

bike ride better sleep

Regular exercise is a great aid for learning how to wake up early. Better sleep quality means you won’t feel like a zombie when your alarm goes off at 6 am (or earlier).

You don’t have to work out first thing in the morning though, and a recent study from the University of Bath states that eating a light meal before exercise can help burn more calories but more studies are needed (as always)

Warning! Working out in the afternoon may actually hinder your sleep quality. It depends on the person and the type of exercise. You’ll need to figure out how your body responds.

blue light at night

Beware of blue light

I’ve written about blue light before and how it could be messing with your sleep cycles so I won’t dive into it too much. However, studies, like this one from Harvard, show that even minimal light before sleep can change your quality of sleep and consequently you’ll wake up tired.

It may be 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there but over a month that can be you missing out on a whole nights sleep. As I’ve been saying, the little things add up, money, exercise, and now, we can include sleep to that list. Do everything you can to promote the best sleep possible.

Tear off the bandaid

This may be a bit controversial, and it depends on what type of person you are. There’s a regular piece of advice floating around that waking up 10 minutes earlier every day until you reach your early wake-up time make it an easier transition. I understand where they’re coming from but I disagree. I say you just rip the band-aid off and jump that hour or two. Here’s why.

I’m going to continue with the travelling analogy I was using earlier. When you travel, you don’t gradually wake up earlier. You have to jump into that time zone as quickly as possible.

Common recommendations are that you make it to at least 9 pm with no naps in the new time zone. Your body takes 3 or 4 days to get used to that time zone and, voila! You’re good to go.

band-aid

Now, if you were to wake up earlier 10 minutes every day we’re talking almost two weeks of work if you want to wake up two hours earlier. I’ve always been in the camp of doing hard work now, to make everything easier in the future.

I like the “polar-bear plunge” analogy. When you want to jump in cold water do you slowly inch your way into it? No, that’s excruciating! You jump in, suffer for 30 seconds, and then you’re all good. That’s kind of how I see waking up early.

Have the right tools for the job

We all love new toys and learning how to wake up early can be a great excuse to do some shopping therapy. First off, you need a bed that allows you to get a good nights sleep. If you don’t have that, you’re going to feel horrible.

Mattress

My recommendation would be the Leesa Mattress. It’s a firm mattress with cooling foam technology and a solid 4.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Which, for something as tricky as a mattress, is pretty solid. Beware though, if you don’t like a firm mattress, this probably won’t be for you. I’m a stomach sleeper, and it works great for me.

leesa mattress

You can check out the mattress for yourself here: Amazon

Pillow

As for your pillow, this one from Coop has over 15,000 reviews at a 4.3. Incredibly hard to beat that. It’s made in the US with memory foam, so it won’t sag during the middle of the night.

coop pillow

Check it out! Amazon

Light alarm clock

Last but not least, your alarm clock. In the winter months waking up in the dead of night is unpleasant, to say the least. This Wake-up light alarm clock from Phillips gradually glows to mimic a sunrise in your room. It’s a soft orange and will help you gradually wake up.

philips light alarm clock

Note: If you sleep in the same room with someone who doesn’t want to wake up early, this may not be for you.

Take a look! Amazon

*If all else fails, drugs

*This is an extreme measure and you should consult your doctor.

melatonin sleep aid wake up early

No, not those drugs, although they may be legal in some states. I’m talking about melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone made in the body, and it’s often coined the “sleep hormone”.

If you’re trying to wake up early but lay in bed at night, and nothing seems to help you fall asleep, melatonin might be a good option.

There’s evidence showing that taking melatonin before bed helps you get to sleep faster and improve sleep quality.

There are no major side effects, but some people may experience sleepiness, headaches and nausea. You should check with your doctor first, but you gotta get that beauty rest. If you can’t seem to fall asleep, a little melatonin to jump-start your new circadian rhythm might not be a bad idea.

How to wake up early: Nighttime

Wind down routine

Everyone has a certain wind-down routine at night even if you don’t think about it. Maybe you brush your teeth, wash your face, use the bathroom and read for 30 minutes. Whether you’re conscious about it or not it’s just a part of our nature to build routines around things we do every day.

That said, I would like to propose you add one thing to your wind-down routine. That is to tell yourself that no matter how much sleep you get, it’s the perfect amount.

bathroom wind down

Hal Elrod in his famous book The Miracle Morning, says that the last thought you have at night is the first one you’ll have in the morning.

If you end your day with positive affirmations about how rested you’ll feel in the morning. Doing that will make it more likely that you’ll think that when you wake up. It’s a simple trick but waking up in the morning and saying how tired you are, or you didn’t get enough sleep and how this sucks isn’t the best motivation to get out of your warm bed.

Prepare the morning

“You must decide where you are going in the evening if you intend to leave early in the morning.” – Malian Proverbs

When you wake up, you don’t want to be wandering around. Waking up early for the sake of waking up early doesn’t make much sense. You have to wake up early to take advantage of that quiet, alone time where you’re batteries at 100%.

how to wake up early to do

Have a plan when you go to bed of the things you’ll do in the morning. That way you don’t have to make decisions while your brain is revving up for the day.

*Eliminate obstacles (How to wake up early level: ninja)

I read the other day that someone bought themself some timed outlets. You know, the ones you set for a specific time of day to turn on and off. He connected one to his t.v. and internet.

So, every day at 9 pm his internet and t.v. would shut off automatically. At that point, it would be more difficult to stay awake then go to bed. He found that he watched ridiculous t.v. at night and was just wasting time. His idea was to eliminate all obstacles of how to wake up early.

timer outlet

Whether you want to do this or not, it couldn’t hurt. You’ll have to convince your spouse and or family members it’s a good idea though (good luck with that).

If this is something you might be interested, check out the Woods 24-Hour Timer with Remote control.

How to wake up early: Morning

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
~ Lemony Snicket

It’s 5:30 am, and you’re awake. Now what?

Morning Routine

meditation corner

I’m guessing you want to learn how to wake up early to have more time in the day. Possibly for things you can’t seem to fit in when your day starts getting going.

Well, do those things now!

As I mentioned, for me, that’s meditation and journaling. If I don’t meditate first thing in the morning, before my coffee, then I can’t seem to quiet my mind enough, and it never works out too well. I know meditation isn’t about doing it well, but I feel like I waste that time if my mind’s running 100 mph.

Figure out the things you “should” be doing or love to do but can’t find the time for and do them now! Unless of course they involve power tools and you’ll wake up the neighborhood. That might be best saved for later in the day.

Double Alarm Clocks

This could be a double-edged sword, and in all honesty, I haven’t tried it. However, I can see how it could help. There’s a common how to wake up early tip that says put your alarm on the other side of the room. That way you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off and so you’ll be more likely to stay awake.

That one I have tried and I must say it’s really quite unpleasant. Alarms are meant to be jarring and wake up you up so having yours go off for 30 seconds while you orient yourself, and get out of bed turn it off really isn’t fun. It’s like dumping your head in cold water.

alarm clock

Now, here’s a 2.0 version I’ve seen that might work better for some. The idea is you have two alarm clocks: one next to you and one on the other side of the room.

The one next to you goes off 5-10 minutes before you want to wake up. In the version I saw, the guy had a Fitbit so it would wake him up with vibration. The alarm on the other side of the room is set for the time you want to wake up. Instead of the alarm clock going off and forcing you out of bed, you need to get out of bed, so the other alarm doesn’t go off.

His personal motivation, with the first silent alarm and turning off the alarm before it sounds, was not to wake his wife.

This way you’re forced out of bed, but you don’t have an alarm blaring at you. You’re saving yourself from that horrible noise waking up the household.

In theory, it sounds good and might be the motivation you need to get out of bed.

Water or lemon water

A lot of our tiredness and lack of energy in the morning is due to dehydration. If all other things are in place. The first thing I do when I wake up is have a glass of room-temperature water.

If you sleep for 8 hours, that’s 8 hours you haven’t hydrated your body. I can’t imagine going a whole work day not having anything to drink.

lemon tea wake up early

Warm lemon water in the morning is a great way to jumpstart your day. According to this article from the Edison Institute of Nutrition, lemon water boosts your immune system, helps maintain Ph balance, and is a great source of vitamins and minerals.

This could be the step on your how to wake up early list of things to do in the morning.

No rationalizing

It sounds a bit harsh, but if you let your brain start thinking in the morning, for many people, it’s already too late. Our ability to rationalise short-term benefits (staying in our warm bed) over long-term goals (getting things done) is an impressive super power!

If you jump out of bed without thinking you won’t give your mind time to talk you out of it. That’s why I’ve talked about having something concrete to do.

Jumping out of bed and then looking around not knowing what you’re going to do doesn’t make any sense. Make sure you can swing out your legs, put on your slippers and have a goal and direction in mind.

A little tunnel vision for 2 minutes can make all the difference here.

How to Wake up Early in a nutshell

All of these tips and hacks are ways to help manage your environment and to make waking up early as easy as possible. That said, it won’t be easy and none of them will work if you don’t decide they’ll work. These tips help make getting up easier by changing the goal to something easier, making sure you get enough sleep and putting all of the pieces in the right spot. Without a bit of willpower though, you’ll fall right back asleep. As simple as that.

Most people’s problem when it comes to waking up early isn’t a matter of skill, but one of will. Find your WHY, and everything else is just icing on the cake.

What time do you wake up? Do you have any tricks for how to wake up early?

 

20 Replies to “How to wake up early and not be a zombie!”

  1. For sure I’m not a morning person. Every morning I pull myself out of bed and start bumping on everything. I’ not a coffee drinker, so a glass with warm water and lemon is my first take. I noticed that if I’m not going to bed before 10PM than it’s really hard to have a proper sleep. I agree with exercising, and I do 30 minutes easy walk outside before bedtime.

    I have to try your suggestions, I hope to manage to set up the goal to weak up earlier.

    1. I hope some of my suggestions can come in handy. I know they’ve worked for me and many others so hopefully they’ll work for you too. Let me know if you have any questions! Take care

  2. thank youf or this really interesting post! I do struggle to get up early in the morning so I have found this post quite helpful. My favourite tip is to set a small goal like putting th ecoffe on at 6am, I havent heard of this trick before but I will be sur eto give it a try. My main problem is justthatthere is not enough time in the day no matter when I get up so i end up staying up late and trying to get up early aswell.

    1. Hey! That does seem to be a problem. Hopefully waking up early there will be less distractions so you’re able to get a bit more accomplished. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  3. Great points.  I get up at 5:15 every day cause this is the time where my kids and wife still sleep and I can have a few hours of peace.  I too do my writing at this time.  I have to say that I am always motivated to get up early because i like the time so much.

    My whole family goes to bed early and so do I.  It makes it so much easier to get up.

    I never use my ipad, laptop or phone at night or in bed because as you say it will and has before messed up my sleep cycle.

    I make sure everything is ready for me in the morning so no fumbling around.

    1. It sounds like you’ve got waking up early to a science. I’m glad you can take advantage of that time as well and still have time left over to spend with your family and loved ones. Thank you for stopping by. Take care!

  4. What a timely article! Lately I’ve been having problems waking up early and I just couldn’t understand why. I used to be a morning person and I woke up early every day around 5 am just to freshen up, do some work and a quick jog around the neighborhood before coming back to the house to freshen up and go to work.

    But after my breakup, I’ve been super demotivated and now that I’m okay already, I feel as though I’m losing my momentum so picking it back up is a real challenge. The reward thing is super brilliant! Rewarding myself if I wake up early would definitely bring up my drive a bit, thanks for sharing this! 

    Just curious, what’s your reward for waking up early though? I’m thinking of buying myself a new PS4 game if I hit 30 days of morning wakes 😀

    1. Hey! Building momentum can be really challenging! My reward is that I don’t have to work in the afternoons. I don’t want to be that person working late into the night because family time and time with loved ones is incredibly important to me. My reward is spending time with those I love. I also love meditating and journaling and those are the first two things I do every morning (after coffee).

      It might not seem like a reward to some people but to me, having that quiet time in the morning and then family time in the afternoon is more than enough motivation to get me out of bed.

      Good luck waking up early!

  5. Hello there,

    I am not a morning person, I will be first to admit, haha! But I absolutely would love to become one to be honest. There are soo many great benefits of waking up earlier- You feel much better, more motivated and energized, more positive that’s for sure. And, You have more time to get things done during the day, therefore it greatly enhances the producitivty of a person. However, waking up early is not easy (at least for me), it’s actually quite challenging… I do work out a lot and have pretty decent diet, however my issue is that I tend to overthink a lot of stuff during night time and feel very anxious, which makes it so much more difficult to fall asleep… Therefore I am super happy that I’ve stumbled across Your article which presented me new ways to combat this issue and improve the quality of my sleep and my health in general. I will definitely follow some of Your advices and will give them shot and see what happens. I realyl like Your strategy of ”making waking up early a reward”, that might be very effective to me! I also will ensure to not consume caffeine after 2pm. Oh, and by the way- I recently bought glasses which filter out blue light and they truly help me a lot! Thanks for this informative and helpful article, I really enjoyed it! Keep up the good work

    1. Hey! I’m glad you found some helpful tips on how to wake up early! Making waking up early a reward has been huge for me. There are things I really enjoy doing like meditating and journaling that if I start my day without doing them, they get pushed aside. I do those things first thing and then I go onto things I “have” to do.

      Thank you for stopping by and let me know how your waking up early journey goes! Take care

  6. I’m grateful to have come across this article at this point in time. To get me up as early as possible every single day, the “WHY” idea is good enough to keep me up! I have a great why. It is to achieve my financial freedom through Internet marketing and the early mornings are best times for this.

    PS: The quote by Christopher McDougall is quite interesting to me…

    1. That WHY is definitely a good one and is something I’m working on as well. Good luck with waking up early and in your journey to financial freedom! Take care!

  7. If you expect to adopt wake up early routine, you have to Improves your Quality of Sleep. 

    Keeping your body and your brain on a sleep routine will make it more easier to go to sleep and wake up naturally at the same time each night. It set your internal clock.

    Steve Jobs considered that the thing what gives Apple the head start they had is that he had 5 hours extra each day. And This is what most CEOs, billionaires and successful entrepreneurs tell stories about.

    There is one way to achieve this: Try to wake up 30 min earlier every day until you get to 5:30AM or 5:00AM.

    1. Hey!

      Thank you for stopping by! Steve Jobs is definitely one who knew that routines and doing the same, positive things every day would lead to success. They say that’s why he alway swore black turtule necks and jeans. He didn’t want to waste decision making on the clothes he wore.

      Something to be said for that. Sleep quality is everything as well!

      Thank you for commenting! Happy waking up early!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this article, its just the right reminder for me, to keep doing the right thing every other day. I am a self motivated person who understands the need to set goals and work towards achieving these goals. Every day you wake up, you just have to push and chase these goals, until you achieve them in the end. I don’t have any trick i use to wake, just the sheer motivation to get up and chase my dream. Thanks for this great article 

    1. Thank you for stopping by! You’re exactly right! If you have the right motivation and internal drive there’s no need for fancy tricks or equipment. Unfortunately many don’t have it so these things will come in handy if they’d like to wake up early. Take care!

  9. I love this post! I do have trouble waking up early unless I am going somewhere or have an early shift. I do love the quiet house early in the morning before everyone else is up. I can get some “me” time, but alas, it is hard to commit.

    I really love the idea about changing the goal from “get up early” to “put slippers on at 6 AM”. This is an interesting suggestion. I think I am going to try this. And changing the goal of “writing one chapter” to “writing one sentence” is genius!

    These suggestions seem like great ideas I will implement immediately!

    1. Hey!

      Thank you for stopping by! Creating “micro habits” has been a game changer for me. We all know getting started is the hardest thing to do, but once we pull ourselves away from everything else it’s all downhill from there.

      Also, make sure to give yourself permission to only wite 1 sentence. If you write 1 and don’t want to write more, don’t. More often than not though that 1 sentence will turn into 1 page or more.

      Take care!

  10. Wow, didn’t think there’re so much to it when it comes to wake up early in the morning. I guess everyone has that issue once in a while in their lives. I certainly do. I am recently thinking about change my mattress for better sleep quality. Can you point me to some articles about mattress research. Like what types are there and which one is better, etc. I honestly have no idea about mattress. 

    Thank you for sharing this. It has been helpful as well as inspiring.

    1. Hey!

      Waking up early can be as complicated as you want to make it! For some people all it takes is a little motivation or quiet time that gets them out of bed. Other’s it take a lot more!

      I think the mattress I pointed out would be a great place to start. Also, you can head to How to choose a mattress from Bettersleep.com and that should give you some great info.

      Good luck with waking up early!

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