Bright Side

Why I Started Waking Up at 5:30 AM and How It Changed My Life

According to statistics, the average person in America rises sometime between 6:00 AM and 7:30 AM. I never was an exception to this generally accepted routine of getting up at 7:45 AM, leaving for work by 8:00 AM, and sipping a large cup of coffee on the go. Then there was the long and boring commute, after which I'd reach my office at 9:00 AM. After work, I was so exhausted that my only wish was to lie down and do nothing. So I did exactly that - no gym, no self-development, no creative planning, just a blurry mind and a constant feeling of tiredness.

One day I decided to change my life completely and do an experiment for a month - I started waking up at 5:30 AM every morning.

Exclusively for Bright Side, I'd like to share my experience of becoming an early bird and all the benefits that this new way of life has brought me.

Benefit #8: I've become more productive.

Successful people rise early. I heard about this everywhere I went. Steve Jobs used to wake up at about 5:30 AM and spared enough extra time to get a head start on Apple. There are lots of other well-known examples too. It never occurred to me that I could be one of them. I liked considering myself to be a night owl and was really proud if I managed to finish a project or 2 during the week.

When I started the experiment, I realized that mornings were the most productive time of day for me. Now I wake up with a clear mind, a well-rested body, and can concentrate on important tasks and set goals for the following day immediately. Then I check my emails and Facebook. I can do all this while my family members are still in their beds fast asleep.

Getting up at 5:30 AM every single day gives you way more time to do things. I do so many tasks before starting my work in the morning that by the time the evening rolls around, I have no more work left to do and can spend more time with my family.

Switching from a night owl to an early riser produced a significant boost to my productivity in both my professional and personal life.

Benefit #7: I'm taking my time.

I used to start my day by jumping out of bed, late as usual, and rushing to get myself ready. But still, I usually came to work late. I walked into my office, looking disheveled and grumpy, was barely awake and was behind everyone else. That's certainly not a great way to start the day.

Now I have more than 2 hours before leaving for work. And during this period of time, I not only get organized, I can sometimes indulge in a hot cup of freshly ground coffee or in reading a couple of pages from my favorite book. Waking up early and not feeling rushed allows me to have a refreshing start to my day and to feel much calmer and more confident than before.

Benefit #6: I've developed new habits.

Developing new habits is crucial to your self-improvement, and the extra morning hours are the perfect time to make it happen. Сreating your own morning ritual like planning a list of things you do every day in the same order, can help you form new good habits without forcing yourself to do anything.

For example, my day starts with a visit to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, shaving, and getting dressed. Then I gulp down a glass of warm water and go to my desk where I do some reading, make plans for the day and so on. The same tasks must be done in the same way every single day, including weekends.

The morning ritual is much more than just a way to organize your morning routine - it helps you easily insert new habits among your old ones by chaining all the tasks together.

Benefit #5: I'm getting in shape.

When you wake up early, the extra time gives you the flexibility to work out before you exhaust your brain at work - you can visit the gym right in the morning or just go for a walk around the neighborhood.

Of course, there are other times to work out aside from the early morning. But I've found that going to the gym right after work is most likely to be called off because of other things that usually come up. Morning exercise, on the other hand, can never get canceled. Thanks to the extra time I'd gained, I started jogging for 30 minutes every morning and lost about 4 pounds after a month. And I'm not going to stop there!

Benefit #4: I'm enjoying the silence.

That's the thing I like most about getting up so early: no kids yelling, no babies crying, no cars honking, no television noise. The early morning hours are really peaceful. Nothing distracts me from important tasks, I can easily gather my thoughts, plan ahead and focus effectively on what I'm doing at the moment.

Jeremy Korst, the former general manager of Microsoft, wakes up at 3:30 AM - 4:00 AM for 2 reasons: clarity of thought and quiet time. During the following 2 hours in the morning, he usually does all his work that requires the most focus without any distractions.

As Pascal once said, "The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room." Now I firmly believe that you can find your peace and happiness in the morning hours.

Benefit #3: I'm saving time and energy on commuting.

No one likes rush-hour traffic, and an early start can improve this part of your life too. If you have a morning commute, you can take an earlier bus or train that is less busy, more pleasant to travel on, and can arrive more quickly. If you drive, you can avoid the heavier traffic and reduce your journey time significantly. Or better yet, you can start bike commuting, like I did during the experiment.

Benefit #2: I'm eating healthy breakfasts.

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day. According to the latest studies, we should consume about 15% - 25% of our daily energy intake with a morning meal. Without breakfast, we usually get so hungry by lunchtime that we eat lots of unhealthy, yet pleasurable foods.

Before the experiment, when I woke up I had to be somewhere else right away, and that's why I almost always skipped breakfast. But now I don't have to be in a rush and I actually have enough time not only to prepare breakfast, but to sit down and enjoy it as well. I can assure you, it's much better than scarfing something down on your way to work or right at your desk.

Benefit #1: I've improved the quality of my sleep.

Night owls go to sleep and wake up at random times while those who get up early usually have established sleep schedules. Not having a set sleep routine may lead to bad consequences for your health like high cholesterol, obesity, and so on.

During this month, I realized that I don't need to stay in bed for 10-12 hours to get enough sleep like I did before. Waking up at 5:30, I feel well-rested and full of energy to start a new day. A regular sleep schedule really improves the quality of your sleep and makes you feel better.

Bonus: How to become an early riser

Here are some tips I'd like to share with you that helped me a lot in my transformation from a night owl to an early bird:

  • Open your curtains before going to bed. In the morning, you'll be forced to wake up by the very first rays of the sun.
  • Set a curfew for electronics. According to some studies, electronic devices make it more difficult for you to get to sleep because their blue light restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep cycles. So it's not a bad idea to withdraw from your phone, tablet, and TV at least an hour before bed if you want to improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Go to sleep earlier. If you decide to get up 2 hours earlier, go to bed at least 2 hours earlier than you're used to. Only then will you get enough sleep. Having a hard time falling asleep? You can read in bed or listen to an audiobook for a bit - both these activities easily put me to sleep.
  • Put your alarm across the room. If it's right next to your bed, you'll shut it off or hit snooze and fall asleep again. But if it's out of your reach, it won’t be easy to continue sleeping. By the time you reach the alarm, you'll be up.
  • Go out of the bedroom right after getting up. Just start doing your morning ritual as soon as possible - go to the bathroom, brush your teeth. By the time you've done that, you'll be awake enough to face the day.
  • Make plans. Set something to do early in the morning that's really important. This reason will motivate you to get up.
  • Visualize. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld uses a calendar system to force himself to write his jokes. He has a big wall calendar and for every day that he writes new material, he puts a big red "X" on it. He aims to create an unbroken chain of these "X" marks for as long as he can. This is a great way to build a new lifestyle because it gives you a visual record of your success.
  • Reward yourself. Find something that's really pleasurable for you and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine. For me, it's having a cup of tasty herbal tea or reading a good book. Your reward could be a delicious treat for breakfast, watching the sunrise, or meditating - anything you can take pleasure in.

What time do you usually get up? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Tell us about your sleeping habits in the comments!

Illustrated by Daniil Shubin for Bright Side