Teach yourself how to wake up early

hitting the snooze button
CC BY 2.0 Ludosphere

Establishing an early morning routine can be challenging, but here are some ways to make the transition a bit easier.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” There really is something to be said for starting the day off early. Before the rest of the world has swung into action, there is a sense of efficiency and mental clarity that fades as the morning wears on.

For the past two years, I’ve been getting up at 5:30 a.m. in order to complete my posts for TreeHugger. With two little kids in the house, it’s pretty much the only time I have any peace and quiet without the accompanying sense of exhaustion that sets in at night. Although it took me awhile to get used to the routine, I’ve grown to love it, and now I automatically wake up at that hour even on weekends.

Starting can be tough, which is why it’s a good idea to ease into a new early morning routine. Adapt gently, so that you don’t give up in frustration. Here are some ideas on how to make the adjustment easier.

1. Go to bed early.

This is crucial for early morning success. If you haven’t gotten as much sleep as you need, it will feel impossible to crawl out of bed and your head will remain groggy. An early bedtime requires discipline, but the earlier you get up in the morning, the sleepier you’ll feel at night. Consider setting yourself a “go to bed” alarm as a reminder. Avoid stimulating screen time right before sleep and spend an hour winding down, if possible.

2. Set your alarm for one minute earlier each day.

If your regular wake-up time is 7 a.m. and you’re aiming for 5:30 a.m., start by moving your alarm back by only one minute per day. The difference is minimal, and your body will hardly know the difference. Alternatively, do it in 10-15 minute increments.

3. Create an appealing early-morning routine.

Give yourself a good reason to get out of bed, whether it’s a hot shower, a cozy housecoat, a few minutes of meditation, a coffee maker set on a timer that fills the house with a delicious aroma, or (my favourite) a hot cup of Earl Grey tea to be enjoyed in the quiet dark. Easing gently into the day makes it a lot easier to get up, rather than leaping into jogging clothes and hitting the empty streets for an early morning run (although that might work for some highly energetic individuals!).

4. Drink a lot of water the night before.

It’s a lot harder to press the snooze button when you’ve got a bladder ready to explode. Once you’re out of bed and moving on your way to the bathroom, it’s that much easier to stay up. Placing your alarm clock on the opposite side of the bedroom can also help with this.

5. Jump out of bed, literally.

This might sound crazy, and it definitely takes a fair bit of (slightly maniacal) determination, but it will wake you up like nothing else. Jump out of bed with arms wide open to embrace the day If your brain doesn't agree, perhaps your actions will convince it that this is what you really want to do!

6. Use time changes to your advantage.

When you turn your clock back at the end of Daylight Savings Time, set your alarm for one hour earlier than usual, which will actually be your normal wake-up time. Be sure to go to bed early, so you don’t feel the lack of sleep.

7. Keep your goals in mind.

Remind yourself of why you want to get up early. What do you want to accomplish that requires this extra bit of self-discipline? With a clear-cut goal to think about before going to sleep, it’s easier to feel motivated to get up. Being accountable to something or somebody (in my case, an editor and website) helps a lot.

Teach yourself how to wake up early
Establishing an early morning routine can be challenging, but here are some ways to make the transition a bit easier.

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