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How to Wake Up Early

After reading last week’s article on problem solving, Tina casually mentioned wanting to wake up early. I felt inspired to write a piece on how to wake up early. For the past 4 months, I’ve been consistently waking up early—5am specifically. This article contain tips I’ve found helpful to become an early riser.

4:45 a.m. arrives and our bedroom becomes a full on symphony of battling alarms: my husband’s starts at 4:45, mine follows at 5:00, his chimes back in again at 5:00 (in unison with mine), and depending on the snooze capacity that day … we may even have one more finale at 5:15 a.m.

The coffee grinder is also programmed to go off at 5 a.m. The aroma and grinding sound of coffee beans travels all the way from the downstairs kitchen to our bedroom upstairs.

One year ago, this would have been an awful disturbance. One year ago, this would have been utter noise. One year ago, I would happily ignore any attempt of waking up early, curl back up in the cool bed sheets, and snuggle in that much more comfortably, knowing I could get away with sleeping in for a few more hours.

I was not a morning person, regardless of how much I tried to be.

Today, this has changed.

I am humbled and proud to be a recovering night owl with so much joy in waking up early well before sunrise. There is a certain bliss that comes from waking up to the darkness, right before the sun comes out.

There is a sense of peace and belonging in waking up before most of the world. There is an abundance of clarity and creativity that waits for me at 5 a.m. This routine of wellness-waking–as I like to call it–has brought tremendous energy and gratitude to each day.

How to Wake Up Early: 3 Keys

Here are three ways to transform you into a morning person, wake up well, and sustain the practice. The trick: In order to wake up early, it starts with the night before.

1. Prioritize

To shift from waking up two to three hours earlier means that you will have to prioritize tasks during the evening.

You may not be able to get everything done that you’re used to; however, the key to waking up early is to get to bed early.

So, prioritize the non-negotiable tasks—make a list of the recurring evening chores, rituals, must-dos—and let go of the others. This may mean sacrificing a favorite TV show—if you find this difficult—try to combine tasks, such as folding laundry while enjoying the TV show.

2. Disconnect & Prepare For Bed

Set a bedtime for yourself.

If your bedtime is 10 pm, attempt to disconnect from everything by 9 pm—TV, PC, phone, anything that requires your full energy—one full hour before lying down.

Then, take that last hour to make preparations for tomorrow morning: whether that is packing tomorrow’s lunch, picking out the gym clothes you’ll be wearing, organizing the calendar for tomorrow, or preparing the work outfit. Try to do as much during the evening to allow for ease of waking up hassle-free.

3. Sleep

We often compromise sleep, in order to squeeze in as much as we can in our day. Sustainability to the early morning “wellness waking” lies in the quality of sleep that you’re getting. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

I recently attended a presentation by Tony Schwartz, an expert on energy and productivity, and the CEO of The Energy Project. He states:

Physical energy is the foundation of all dimensions of energy, and sleep is the foundation of physical energy. There is no single behavior that more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life.

Sleep deprivation takes a powerful toll on our health, our emotional well-being, and our cognitive functioning. Make getting 7-8 hours of sleep your highest priority. Sleep is often the first thing we’re willing to give up in an effort to get more done. Even small amounts of sleep deprivation make us vastly less efficient.

Motivation to Wake Up Early

The evening ritual smoothness determines whether or not the morning will work out as planned. So, ensure you’re prioritizing the non-negotiable tasks, disconnecting and preparing for tomorrow, and, most importantly, getting in at least 7 hours of sleep.

I believe that waking up early is–fundamentally– reliant on a healthy evening routine, consistent practice, and finding something desirable in the morning which can inspire you to jump out of bed.

You don’t necessarily have to get up to run 3 miles … or do yoga … or walk the dog; there are many other early morning possibilities that can kick-off your day with a state of wellness.

6 Things To Do In The Morning

Here are 6 ideas that you can start doing in the morning that will yield positive results on your overall wellbeing:

1. Journal

Wake up, find your favorite spot—whether in your home or at the local coffee shop—and write. There doesn’t need to be a theme. Simply relax and write: whatever is on your mind, let it flow onto the page.

There is clarity to be found in simply freefalling onto a piece of paper. This is a concept called “Morning Pages” by Julia Cameron—basically writing down on paper a stream of consciousness without editing, and doing so first thing in the morning.

2. Be Outside

The outdoors, whether a stroll around the block or to the park, can be incredibly nourishing to your senses and well-being.

Find your way to the front door and just take a stroll outside—zoom in on the way the sun feels on your body, the wind on your face, or the ground beneath your feet. Just be outside and allow nature to breathe with you.

3. Nourish your mind

The early morning is an optimal time to pick up a good book or read your favorite, refreshing blog (such as lovely TSN). It is a gift to you, your day and all the people you encounter by entering into the morning with a sense of mental, positive nourishment.

4. Nurture your body

Connect with the thing your body is asking for. Perhaps you have been sluggish and could benefit from a cardio workout to get your heart pumping. Perhaps, you have been overworked and could benefit from some yoga stretching.

Perhaps, your body feels soft to you and it’s time to tone up by hitting the weights at the gym. Nurture your body by giving what it is asking for.

5. Listen

Tune into your mood and feed it with music that is soothing. Listen to that uplifting podcast, the favorite song, or the energizing beat. Allow the music, the positive feelings, to accompany you on your morning journey.

6. Just Sit

Perhaps it may seem contradictory to wake up early to simply sit, but it truly can be a gift to the how the rest of your day unfolds.

I admire my husband’s ability to wake up at 4:45AM and just sit in silence for 15 minutes before he gets ready for work. I have witnessed such a shift in his ability to deal with the stresses in his day with much more ease.

By taking a few moments in the morning to first reach for your breath—instead of your cell phone or the morning paper—this will set the stage for calmness and clarity to follow.

Parting Words: How to Wake Up Early

There are many more ways to nourish in the early morning by waking up well. The key to sustain motivation is by zooming in on what you may be searching for in the early morning–whether that is peace, productivity, health improvement, or creativity.

What are some of the early morning goals you’d like to achieve?

****Good morning and cheers to each of you (coffee in hand). I am proud of you for making a conscious decision to explore the well-being that is waiting before sunrise****

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About the author

Cat is a recent corporate escapee, now practicing as a full-time Zen Student. Her home, for the next year or so, is on various meditation cushions in the world.

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41 thoughts on How to Wake Up Early

  1. Rahi~ You’re so, so wise. What a blessing for us to soak up all your knowledge! I will definitely research into the bursting of ions–intriguing.

    I did learn in a recent Ayurveda course that by rising by 6 a.m. allows for optimal energy. I found this article on Yoga Journal that talks a bit more in detail about the Ayurveda life-science and rising early:

    Will~ So great that you’re able to find awareness with what will work for you (a game to incentivize). And I admire your persistence: that after 4 years, you have continued to adjust and try again at the AM routine. 2 weeks is huge! 21 days = habit, if you find truth in that. Tony seems pretty brilliant; I will have to look into the book you speak of.


  2. Stefanie~ Appreciate the trackback. Very happy that you found it helpful and are able to share with your readers. Thank you :)

  3. Great suggestions here Cat. I’ve always had a problem with waking up early because I try to do too much at night. I have definitely been more discipline with myself. Disconnecting is the hardest part for me but after a while it certainly did work and now I’m getting my much needed 8 hours sleep nights.

  4. 5am sounds tough but I know there are plenty of benefits of getting an early start… OK, early mornings here I go again… Thanks for this extra push

  5. Bryan~ That’s great you get 8 hours! I imagine that is rare among the population. I agree disconnecting is not always easy. Once in the habit of winding down, though, it can be tremendously helpful in getting to bed. Thanks for sharing your testimony :)

    Daniel~ 5am used to be a huge challenge; however, now that I’ve seen the peace and productivity that waits for me at this early hour, I am excited to wake up…

    Proud of you for giving the early mornings another shot . . . perhaps ease into the hour; start with an hour before (like 7am or 6am) and then gradually move towards 5am? :)

  6. Just the thing I need :) Thanks for all the wonderful tips in here…

  7. I go to the gym at 6am every morning I’m at my own house. Unfortunately if I stay with my other half he refuses to get up before 7:15 so I feel lethargic and don’t get to work out. It makes a remarkable difference to my day, I feel ready for work when I arrive.

  8. Sonal~ You’re welcome. So glad that it’s helpful.

    Charlotte~ My husband and I have very different workout routines too. He typically goes at lunch, whereas I prefer to start bright and early. It is remarkable what the early AM workout can offer to our day :)

  9. Thanks for the suggestions about what to do to get off to a great start! I’ve often tried to do something meaningful in the morning, but struggled at times with good solid ideas of what exactly to strive for. I also had never been a morning person (until my hours at work changed and forced me to become one).

    I’m looking forward to more great articles from you! Keep up the good work! ^_^

  10. Hello
    Well written post and good tips. I just would like to emphasize one point. It is very important that you get up right after you hear the alarm clock. Lounging around in bed will make you even more sleepy. I know, it is not an easy thing to do, but it is worth trying.
    Best Regards

  11. Jaga

    I lived in an ashram (hindu/ vedic monastery) for 6 years, rising every day at 4:15. It is true, the brahma mahurta is a very powerful time to do spiritual practices; mantra meditation flow with ease; but come about 10am, its harder. The mind just wants to do something. According to the Vedas, there are 3 energies pushing us, sattva, rajas, and tamas; or goodness, ambition/passion, and ignorance. Goodness influences about 3am to 10am, passion during the day, and ignorance at night.

  12. Bibha

    Hey.. Thanks a lot.. Although I hadn’t yet tried them. But by just going through the article I feel being motivated.. Thanks again

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