I tried waking up at 5:30 a.m. for a week and it actually turned me into an early riser

iStockI (not pictured) tried to wake up early each morning for a week.
  • For a week, I tried to wake up at 5:30 a.m. even though I had previously been used to waking up at around 8:30 a.m.
  • Waking up so early was difficult but it made me feel more productive.
  • I realised that changing out of my pajamas and establishing a morning routine were both important things that helped me to feel more awake each morning.
  • After seeing the benefits of an early start, I plan to continue to wake up early, just not as early as 5:30 a.m.
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I have always wanted to be a morning person who has no problem getting out of bed and who also accomplishes a lot of tasks before noon. Unfortunately, I am more of a night owl with a tendency to sleep in.

After staying up late doing basically nothing, my routine has usually been to sleep until the last possible moment then jump out of bed in a panic so that I’m not late to wherever it is I have to be.

I decided I needed a change so I spent one week trying to wake up at 5:30 a.m. each day. Here were some of my biggest takeaways.

I realised pretty early on that this challenge wouldn’t be easy

As a full-time freelance writer who works from home, my morning routine prior to starting this challenge had been pretty lazy: I would wake up around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., take my time getting out of bed and start working at around 10 a.m.

This meant that I would oftentimes end up working late into the evening because of my very late start. It also left me feeling really lazy. So, the first day my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I woke up feeling motivated and excited to kick off my early start.

I made myself a cup of tea, I watched the news for a little while, I let myself have some leisure time, and then I got to work. It was great and I felt on top of the world.

The second day, though, I was slightly less motivated. Although I had gone to sleep a little earlier than usual the night before, getting up at 5:30 a.m. again was hard. As the days went by, waking up was a bit easier, but those second and third days were pretty rough for me.

To be successful in my challenge, I realised I needed to have more concrete reasons for getting up earlier

For me, wanting to be a morning person just wasn’t enough motivation to wake up early. So, after my tough second day, I wrote down my reasons for wanting to get up earlier and used it as a motivation to get through the week.

The main reason I wanted to succeed in this challenge was that I wanted to be able to complete my work early so I could sign off of my computer in the evening instead of staying up late to finish assignments.

In a similar fashion, I realised creating a sense of accountability by scheduling plans early in the day helped me feel more determined to wake up early, as doing so gave me a sense of urgency and alertness.

So I did this by scheduling a doctor’s appointment one day and an early meeting in the city another day.

To help make this process easier, I tested a few strategies that were supposed to help me feel more awake

Water bottle pouring drinkiStockDrinking water helped me to feel more awake.

I did a bit of research and found that one tip for feeling more awake is to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Experts have suggested this can help to increase your level of alertness, basically helping you feel more awake.

Each night, I left a water bottle next to my bed and, in the morning, I would drink as much of it as I could as soon as I woke up. I found that drinking the water really did help me to feel awake – it also gave me something to do other than stare at the ceiling while wishing I was sleeping.

Changing out of my pajamas as soon as I woke up also helped me to feel more productive

During the beginning of the week, I kept my comfortable pajamas on for hours because it was still dark out. But, by the third morning, I began changing into sweatpants right after I brushed my teeth.

Yes, I was still in comfy clothes. But for some reason, changing into something I hadn’t just slept in helped me to feel more awake.

I also learned that establishing a morning routine was crucial for my being productive

Morning bed sleepiStockI (not pictured) found that having a routine helped me to feel more awake and productive.

During my first and second days of waking up earlier, I did not have a routine in mind. I just let myself be lazy for about an hour before getting to work and, even then, I kept getting distracted.

Halfway through the week, in an effort to boost my productivity, I set up a manageable morning routine for myself.

It went something like this – drink water, put my contacts in, brush my teeth, change out of my pajamas, check social media, and straighten up any mess in my house from the night before. Then, I would check my emails and get to work.

Once I had my morning routine down, I found that I truly was a more productive person when I woke up early. Some days I would get a bunch of work done, glance at the clock, and feel shocked to see it was only 10 a.m. – the time I would have normally just been rolling out of bed. It was an awesome feeling.

By the end of the week, I was thrilled with how productive I felt. I was no longer working late and I didn’t feel like I was skirting my responsibilities.

Hitting snooze made me feel even groggier,
which helped me realise how much more awake I felt when I got out of bed immediately after waking up

Bed sheetsShutterstock/topnatthaponGetting out bed as soon as I woke up helped me to feel more awake.

Hitting the snooze button is great sometimes but, during this challenge, I realised that when I slept for a few extra minutes I just felt extra groggy when it came time to get out of bed.

And there’s a reason using the snooze button made me feel this way. Research has found that hitting snooze and falling back asleep causes your brain to restart its sleep cycle, putting you in an even deeper part of that cycle before you wake up the second time, meaning you will probably feel extra tired by the time you actually rise.

Becoming an early riser caused me to go to sleep earlier

I noticed that planning to wake up early meant I didn’t want to stay up as late each night. By the end of the week, I was falling asleep up to two hours earlier each night and feeling really great about it.

My conclusion? Waking up earlier can be tough, but it’s worth it

After the week ended, I decided to wake up each morning at 6:45 a.m., an early but more reasonable time that fits into my schedule. So far, it’s been awesome – I get more work done, I have a better work-life balance, and I don’t feel quite as lazy.

Plus, there are quite a few other benefits to being an early riser.

Research has found that morning people really are more productive than those who prefer to sleep late. In 2009, research by Harvard biologist Christoph Randler found that people who wake up early are more likely to anticipate problems and deal with them more efficiently, leading them to be more successful.

A 2012 study from the University of Toronto also found that morning people tend to be happier than night owls since they tend to display more positive emotions.

Read More: Night owls have an increased risk for death – and it may be society’s fault

All in all, even though waking up early is still not the easiest thing in the world, I’m glad that I’m finally having days when I really do feel more awake when my alarm goes off.

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