With all that’s going on in the world and in your daily life, from parenting to working to managing your finances, it can seem like reaching the recommended seven hours of sleep is never going to happen and the thought of becoming an early riser is impossible to comprehend. While the task might seem insurmountable, it can be done.
Here’s what you need to know about waking up early, including why it might have health benefits and how to do it.
Why waking early might be good for you
Benjamin Franklin famously said “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. “ While there’s no scientific proof behind the wealthy and wise part, science actually has proven that waking early can be good for you. It can help with cooperation, and productivity, and may even lower the risk of some diseases like breast cancer. It has also been shown to help your sleep hygiene, and even lower the risk of depression.
How to wake up early
You night owls might be thinking there’s no way you’ll be able to change your habits, but studies have shown that you actually can retrain your habits to lead to overall improved health and sleep health. Waking early doesn’t have to mean waking at 5 AM, either—even just waking an hour earlier than you do now can be beneficial. Here’s how to do it.
Go to bed earlier
Going to bed earlier doesn’t have to mean pressuring yourself to have your eyes closed by 9 PM. What it does mean is starting your ritual earlier, to try to see if you can get your body fully winded down at whatever time you need to meet your sleep needs. So, if you want to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep, and wake by 6 AM, try at least getting into bed by 10 or 11 PM. That might mean snuggling into your bed and just reading or listening to music for a longer period of time before falling asleep during the first few weeks of adjusting your schedule, but eventually, you’ll be able to fall asleep at your desired time.
Put away your electronics
Blue light from electronics is likely keeping you up at night and or throwing off your circadian rhythm. Science has proven that it really can benefit you to put your electronics away two to three hours before going to sleep. (Better yet, store them in a different room, if possible.)
Move your alarm clock
It can be tempting to think you’ll start out by setting an early alarm and just hit snooze until you get up, but not so fast: Hitting the snooze button can disrupt REM sleep, the deepest, most important sleep we can get. Plus, those extra minutes you get in bed aren’t really spent sleeping restoratively anyway. The act of having to get up from the bed to turn off an alarm can help shake the desire to snooze. If you’re already keeping your phone somewhere else, a traditional alarm clock set across the room can be enough motivation for you to get up and stay up.
Let the light in
If your desired wake time and time zone permit, try to get some natural light in your body within the first few minutes of waking or even timing your wake to sunrise. It can help make you feel more alert in the morning, especially if you’re dragging. It can be especially helpful for you as you age.
Have a plan
Having a plan for what you’ll do with your extra time can be a motivator for getting up. Maybe that means exercising, doing household tasks, or just enjoying time with a book or podcast. Whatever it is, write it down or say it out loud to help get you excited. If you live with someone, tell them your plans. Saying it out loud is a small act of accountability that can have a big impact. And if you can find a partner in early rising–such as a spouse you live with or a friend you can text—you can hold each other accountable.
You might want to hit the ground running during the weekday to work on a passion project or organize your day but be mindful that waking early is a lifestyle, not a bodily function you can turn on and off. Don’t be surprised if you start waking early on weekends, too, although you might have the option to linger longer in bed then. Consistency helps your body clock figure out what to do.
Take it slow
These changes won’t be immediate. Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days for a habit to become automatic, so see early rising as a marathon and not a sprint. Be kind to yourself and remember the reasons you want to wake early in the first place, whether it be to catch a moment of quietude during sunrise or to get a jump start on your day. And don’t forget to reward yourself! Pairing early rising with a reward, such as a hot cup of coffee or meditation, can help you start the day off right.