There was a period in my life when I woke up at 5 a.m. every single day, and ran 5 miles before doing anything else. I was in the best shape of my life, and I was more productive at work... most days. Other days, even after my adrenaline-fueled run, I was absolutely drained. I consider myself to be a "morning person", but waking up at 5 a.m. just doesn’t work for me anymore. 6 a.m. is my go-to wake-up time, and forcing myself to get up earlier just leaves my body exhausted.
I keep reading about Elon Musk and Richard Branson prototypes who wake up at 5 every morning and use their extra hours to accomplish more each day. I can't help but wonder... even if this lifestyle boosts productivity, is it really beneficial in the long run? If you are not a "morning person", is waking up at 5 a.m. even something you should strive for?
According to a recent article in Inc. Magazine, "even if you’re not an early riser, changing your routine could improve your productivity.” Similarly, if you Google “waking up at 5 am”, the first 10 results will all rave about the benefits... but what about the downside?
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that waking up early may actually increase your risk of developing metabolic problems. It has also been shown that Daylight Savings Time has a negative effect on your sleep and on your health. Overall, it's hard to find a definitive, conclusive statement about the health effects of waking up at 5 a.m.
My advice is to experiment and see what works best for your body. I may actually start waking up early again, because I do remember feeling more accomplished and getting a lot more done with that extra hour... but I know it’s not going to be an easy transition.
If you want to take on the challenge with me, here are 6 things you can do to help your body wake up early:
1. Put your phone away at night - We are all guilty of this, but reading news, emails, or even Instagram posts before going to bed is actually doing you more harm than good. The light from your phone tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime - which can throw off your sleeping patterns and reduce production of melatonin, which helps you sleep (and may prevent cancer!). So put down your phone, get some sleep, and you’ll have a much easier time waking up in the morning.
2. Plan ahead - For me, this meant planning my wardrobe ahead of time for my workout and work. Every minute counts - so being prepared will not only minimize the time it takes you to get ready, but will also give you one less excuse to stay in bed.
3. Drink water - Regardless of what anyone says about the benefits of drinking water in the morning, it still disgusts me when I first wake up... but it does actually help to wake my mind up and refresh my body. I usually drink colder water for an extra kick. It’s hydrating and eye opening, so give it a try.
4. Rinse with cold water - While drinking cold water is great, splashing it on your face is even better. It provides a nice jolt at 5 a.m. and really wakes you up. I don’t feel energized until I’ve washed my face, and the cold temperature makes a huge difference.
5. Find an early morning running buddy - When I was on a 5 a.m. routine, this was what got me up every morning. My buddy and I lived about 1.5 miles apart, so every morning I would run up the insane hills of San Francisco to meet her halfway - and then we would do our 5-mile run together. Knowing that she was waiting for me forced me to get up, no matter how tired I was. We both had days where it was just impossible to wake up, but overall we had close to a 95% success rate when we relied on each other.
5. Ease into it - In addition to the above, you definitely should ease into waking up early. Use 15-minute increments to adjust your wake-up time each week. For example, if you usually wake up at 6 a.m. like I do, start by waking up at 5:45 during Week 1, at 5:30 during Week 2, and so on. This will help you adjust slowly without disrupting your sleep patterns. During that first week or two, you can do quick sessions of yoga or meditation, since we all know meditation is beneficial and can improve your mood.
So despite all the articles promoting an early morning wake up call, we are not completely sold. But if you have a need to wake up early, follow my tips above and I’ll see you on our morning run.