College and University Blog

Early Risers - Born or Made?

Are morning people born or made? Regardless of how they get there, there is a high correlation between success and rising early. Your productivity will almost always be higher, not just in the morning but all throughout the day. You may also notice a feeling of well-being

There are two main types of sleep patterns. One says you should go to bed and get up at the same times every day. You try to sleep the same hours each night. This suits the predictability of our schedules. This should also give us adequate rest. The other type of sleep pattern says you should listen to your body’s needs and go to bed when you’re tired and rise when you naturally wake up. This approach is rooted in biology. Our bodies should know how much rest we need.

Both sleep patterns are wrong if you are concerned about productivity. Here’s why:

If you sleep set hours, you’ll sometimes go to bed when you aren’t tired. If it takes more than 10 minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough. You are wasting time lying in bed awake. This type of sleep pattern also assumes you need the same amount of sleep every night. This assumption is false. Your sleep needs can vary from day to day.

If you sleep based on what your body tells you, you’ll probably be sleeping more than you need – sometimes much more (10-15 hours/week). It is difficult to keep a schedule if you’re not waking early enough. Our natural rhythms are not always aligned with the 24 hour clock, so sleep times may drift

The optimal solution appears to be a combination of both approaches. It’s probably a habit for many early risers. The solution is to go to bed when you’re tired and get up at a fixed time every morning (7 days a week). Your bedtime may vary, but you get up at the same time every day. Do this for 30 days straight to lock in the habit. It’s okay to sleep in late now and then if you need to. If you stay up until 3am, you probably won’t want to get up at 5 am. Return to your regular schedule the following night.

If you hit the snooze button a lot in the mornings, place your alarm clock across the room from the bed. Make yourself get up. If you can’t get yourself out of bed when your alarm goes off, this is probably due to a lack of self-discipline.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep at first, keep with it. Get up and stay awake for awhile. Resist sleep until you’re tired and then get up at the scheduled time. You may be tired that first day from getting up too early and getting only a few hours of sleep the whole night, but you’ll get through the day and will want to go to bed earlier that second night. After a few days, you’ll settle into a pattern of going to bed at roughly the same time. Once the habit is established, it will be subconscious. Your body will determine what time to go to bed.

The best thing about getting up early is the time you will gain. You will gain about 10-15 hours each week. You could add many things to your schedule – exercise, hobbies, volunteer work, a job, reading, etc. Most people also experience an increase of energy when getting up early. They say the energy increase lasts all day, not just in the morning hours. Having time for everything that’s important to you may make you feel more balanced and optimistic

Having an extra hour or two a day can greatly influence your well-being. Try some of the following in your extra time:

  • Create a morning ritual. Rituals like meditation/prayer, exercising, yoga, and gardening have an amazing ability to refresh and quiet the mind
  • Get a head start to your day. Review long-term objectives and goals, check your schedule, read e mails – know what’s coming at you for the day
  • Reward yourself. Have a cup of coffee or tea and read. Make a smoothie with delicious fresh fruit.
  • Enjoy the dawn. Try to get outside once in awhile and watch the sky turn light. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful.

If you oversleep just 30 minutes a day, that’s more than 180 hours a year. If you’re at 60 minutes a day, that’s 365 hours a year (the equivalent of nine 40-hour weeks). I can think of better things to do with that time than sleep!