February 5, 2010

5 Steps to Become an Early Riser

how to wake up early

I’ve been a night owl my entire life, even when I had to get up early to head off to work. Funny thing is, I really enjoy getting up early in the morning. I just never could figure out how to do it without dragging myself out of the bed or wishing I had a syringe full of espresso.

However, for the first time in my life I have established a routine in which I wake up at 6:30 every morning. Crazy huh? I never would have thought I would be the type of person to willingly wake up early each day.

Why Did I Become An Early Riser?

So you are probably wondering, why the change? The main reason was because I decided I wanted to get a steady sleep schedule going. It sure beats going to sleep at different times everyday and never knowing when you are going to wake up.

Here are some other reasons why I decided to start waking up early:

To Watch The Sunrise

As I mentioned yesterday in my post about the perfect morning, I have gone for a morning run each day and love watching the sun come up. The picture above is yet another amazing example of a sunrise. Besides the sun coming up, there is also something about the morning air that I really enjoy. It sure beats running at 1 in afternoon.

To Sleep Less

Believe it or not, another main reason I decided to start waking up early is because I wanted to spend less time sleeping. Prior to making the switch, I would go to bed around 4 in the morning and easily sleep until one or two in the afternoon. That’s over nine hours of sleep. Plus I constantly felt tired when I woke up, which was most likely due to the over sleeping.

Now that I get up early every morning, I get somewhere between six and seven hours of sleep each night. I even feel more awake now when I wake up than I ever did before.

To Beat Insomnia

I have never been the type of person to fall asleep as soon as I go to bed. I remember nights where I sit in bed staring at the ceiling for hours before I drift off. Usually I would just sit there and think about things I need to do, or better yet what I could be doing instead of lying there in bed.

Now that I get up early I have finally hit a point where I can go to bed, read for a little bit, and pass out really quickly. Talk about a time saver! Now I no longer waste those couple hours lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.

To Exercise Daily

Last but not least, I made the switch to waking up early to make sure that I go outside and exercise everyday. Now that running is the first thing in my schedule, it is very difficult for me to bail on it. Prior to waking up early, I would always make up excuses such as it’s already 2PM, I need to work, or I feel tired today. Those excuses no longer work.

How Did I Do it?

So the real question is how did I manage to alter my sleep schedule so much? Believe it or not, it was actually a lot easier than you think. However, the hard part is fighting through the transition phase without giving up.

Here is a step by step guide on what I did, along with some tips to make it easier for you:

1. Decide When To Get Up

The first step in the transition is deciding when you actually want to wake up. For me, I decided that 6:30 is the perfect time for me because the sun starts to rise and running is perfect at that time. Regardless of what time you choose, make it a plan to stick to it no matter what.

2. Create A Reason To Get Out Of Bed

Once you have the time set in stone, it helps to give yourself a reason to wake up. Going for a morning run is my reason, as well as having more time in the morning to read. It does not need to be a major project or task, the key is to just give yourself a little motivation to want to crawl out of bed.

A few other reasons you could use would be to have time to think to yourself, catch up on your to do list, or to sit down and drink a cup of coffee.

3. Get Up!

This is the difficult part, especially in the beginning. The important thing is to set your alarm for the exact time you want to get up. When it goes off, get up instantly. Literally jump out of bed and do push ups if you have to! There is no time for the snooze button or lying around pretending to wake up. Instead, it is all about getting up as quickly as possible.

Getting up right away will make the transition a hell of a lot easier for you, trust me. This was the only way I was able to stick to it and actually alter my night owl sleep schedule. By doing this for a week straight, I was able to get my body used to waking up. Once you make it past the transition phase, it becomes much easier.

4. Sleep When You’re Tired

When it comes to being a night owl, one of the things that can be tricky is going to bed at a certain time. My whole life I have never been able to set a specific time to go to bed. It is far easier to wake up at a certain time than it is to go to bed.

So what I have done lately is go to sleep whenever I feel tired. Some nights it might be 10, other nights it might be 12 or 1 in the morning. The thing is, as long as I wake up at my scheduled time, my body tends to adapt. If I stay up late one night, I tend to fall asleep earlier the next. So far, this schedule has worked a lot better than my chaotic one I had before switching.

5. Make It A Routine

Last but not least, it is important (and very helpful) to create a morning routine. For me, every morning I hop out of bed and have a cup of coffee. I then throw on my workout clothes and head out the door for my jog. By doing this on a repeated basis, it makes getting up so much easier since my body (and mind) know what to expect.

If you can set up a routine, you will be much more inclined to stick to it.

So there you have it, a few tips on how to start waking up early. Remember, it does take some time to get used to so I would try out a new schedule for a few weeks before making a final decision. The worse case scenario is you decide waking up early is not for you. It’s fairly easy to go back to your normal sleeping habits as I have done it many times in the past.

Which do you prefer: waking up early or sleeping in?

Photo Credit: *clairity*

23 thoughts on “5 Steps to Become an Early Riser

  1. Lisa Newton

    I’ve always been an early riser, often times being up before 5:00am. It’s just me. My kids used to ask me if I had ever slept in, and I told them once, I slept until 6:30am. Strangely, they thought that was very funny.

    1. Justin Wright Post author

      lol, even I thought that was funny. I’ve slept until 6:30 PM before, not that I’m proud of it.

      Yeah I am starting to notice that getting up early is for me as well. It’s just so much more enjoyable. Only time will tell if I stick with it or not.

    2. Phil Hamilton

      When you talk to couples, does it seem that early risers and “sleeper-inners” have ‘found each other’ more often than randomness would suggest? That’s what happened in my case, too.

      1. Justin Wright Post author

        Hmm, I’ve never though about that. My girlfriend and I used to be on the exact OPPOSITE sleep schedules. I would go to bed to the sound of her alarm every morning. But now we’re on the same schedule, which so far as been much, much easier.

  2. Phil Hamilton


    Excellent tips. I’m a life-long late riser. Usually stayed up longer than I’d planned the night before.

    I now prefer waking up early. I love to wake up about 5:30 or 6:00 and lie in bed and read for an hour.

    I’ve drifted into going to bed and waking earlier as I’ve lived in a small town in Costa Rica. The neighborhood is usually quiet by about 8:00 p.m. I’ve found myself automatically…and gradually…going to bed earlier. Instead of midnight or later, I now find myself in bed (reading!) at 8:30 p.m. or so.

    1. Justin Wright Post author

      eeks, 3:30 might be tough for me. Though I have noticed that getting up early is getting easier as each day comes. Perhaps I will start getting up even earlier after I completely adapt to it.

  3. Adam Pieniazek

    I stick the entrepreneurial freelancer schedule. Go to sleep at Cali time (2 AMish), wake up on Boston time (8AMish). Works great, though I’d love to get up just a little bit earlier.

  4. Shane

    I’d like to get up early every morning and workout before getting ready to go to work. The problem is unless it’s summer or late spring, I can’t seem to get myself to get up. The dark and the cold air make it tough.

    1. Justin Wright Post author

      Yeah I can imagine. Even here in Florida when it gets cold I have to force myself to go outside and run. It’s crazy how much easier it is to get up and going when it’s warm outside.

  5. brian

    I definitely like to get up early if possible. You feel like you’ve made headway if it is 10AM and you’ve knocked out tasks that you would not normally get to until 3PM.

    One thing people do is drink too much caffeine late in the day. Then they can’t get to sleep so that they can get up early. Limit your caffeine to the morning and you’ll be ready to hit the sheets at a decent hour.

  6. Jeremy

    I’ve got a great new strategy for getting up earlier! I’ve been setting up my heater to come on a half hour before I plan to get up, but set it for REALLY hot, I set mine for 72 degrees. After a night of no heater and therefore thick blankets, just the heat makes me wake up, and it’s not so bad to step out of bed when the air is nice and warm.

    I turn it off once I’m up, so it’s up to you whether the cost of blasting the heater for a half hour is worth it. This has been the best strategy I’ve stumbled upon, the only thing better is getting exercise every day so you actually want to go to bed early, but we all know how easy it is to keep that up…

  7. Elke

    Now that spring is coming, I´ve been thinking of doing the same thing. Though 7AM should be early enough for now, I can´t even run half an hour yet. Ah, imagine having the time to go to the bakery and getting a fresh bread. Hmmm …

  8. Dan

    Nice post Justin.
    I’ll give this a shot starting tomorrow morning (I mean this morning… it’s 12:05AM). After all, the boss seems less than enthusiastic with my 10AM arrivals lately.
    To bed then. And up again.
    Here goes…

  9. ImageDesigner

    Hey Justin,
    Thanks for the great motivation. I’m a freelancer working from home and one of my biggest challenge is time management. Always trying to get up early but even if I manage to after a few weeks I sleep in again.
    You just gave me a good idea (a reason) to wake up. I’m gonna take a photo of the rising sun every morning when walking the dog on the beach.

    thx:) & all the best

  10. Doug

    I just started getting up at 6:15 am a week ago. I actually just got up at 7:15, which wasn’t so tough for me, but losing day saving time make it 6:15!

    I just found your site today. I was helped in getting up earlier by stevepavlina.com and he suggested the same approach of getting up at the same time every day, but going to bed whenever you get sleepy.

    You have a nice looking site and good articles. Keep it up!

  11. Shirl

    I Googled “how to get out of bed instead of laying there awake.” Yours was the first hit. :o) I can stay in bed 2-3 hours after I’ve actually woken up. Talk about a HUGE time waster. The days I’ve managed to get up and going before 7:00 are just all around better. My usual get-out-of-bed time can be anywhere from 9:00 to 11:00. It can then take me an hour or more to decide that I’ve put off starting work as long as possible. When you don’t get started working until 1:00 p.m., it makes the workday go on forevvvvvvver. It’s so much cooler to look at work productivity, see it’s almost completed for the day, and it’s not even noon yet.

    I’ve set an alarm before, but I can never manage to get up right away. I have a horrible time falling asleep, so sometimes I might only manage 4 hours of shut eye. Left to my own devices, my body thinks it needs 9, 10, sometimes 12 hours of sleep/rest. I find this completely unacceptable and yet have been so resistant to change.

    Your former sleep situation sounds so much like mine that I just have to give your ideas a shot.

  12. Pingback: Day Five: Less Tech. More Outdoors. | LIFE without an iPhone

  13. Sherry-lee

    I have suffered from sleep my whole life since infancy. I am now attending a sleeping clinic. They suggested a product called a lite book. It’s suppose to help set back your biological clock!!! I hope it works or helps. It was $200 Canadian plus tax! I am worried cause my job is on the line. I love my job and I need help. Thanks Tbear


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