How To Wake Up Early: The Last 6 Strategies You’ll Ever Need
How to wake up early

How To Wake Up Early: The Last 6 Strategies You’ll Ever Need

When it comes to getting up early, there are two myths that make me cringe.

Myth #1: People think that getting up early in the morning is some sort of recipe or requirement for success. They think something along the lines of, “If I could just become an early riser, my life would completely take off and I would become super successful super quickly.”

Err… no. I speak from experience when I tell you this: Getting up early does NOT make all of your problems go away. It’s not so special. It’s not the secret sauce you’re looking for. It’s not the one thing that magically separates winners from losers.

Yes, it offers some benefits (from getting better grades to improved mental health etc.), but it’s not the end-all-be-all it’s made out to be.

Myth #2: Getting up early is almost impossibly hard. It takes a lot of effort and discipline and time and perseverance and dedication and willpower. Only people with a lot of self-discipline, drive, and an instinct for success can do it…

Uhm, not true.

Look, I’ve struggled with getting up early for years. And honestly, it’s not as hard as you may think. Let me explain…

Getting Up Early Is NOT That Complicated

Do you ever find it easy to get out of bed in the morning?

Certainly, right? Unless you’re suffering from some sort of illness or are just chronically sleep deprived, you are able to get out of bed fairly easily after a decent night’s sleep.

If you currently get up at around 8am, then that should be fairly easy. Likewise, if you currently get up at 10am, then that, too, should be fairly easy.

Now guess what? Getting up at 4am or 5am or 6am can be just as easy. It’s simply a matter of habit and adaptation. (Check out the 5am Challenge.)

Right now, your body is adapted to your current sleep/wake schedule. If you go to bed at around midnight then your body will help you fall asleep at around that time by “making” you tired and sleepy. Likewise, your body will help you get out of bed in the morning at your usual wake time. About an hour before waking up, the body automatically starts to prepare for getting out of bed – your sleep becomes lighter, your body temperature starts rising, and hormones such as cortisol are released.

The point is, your body is an adaptation machine and you can train it to “wake you up” at almost any time you want (within the limitations of your circadian rhythm; more on that later).

Once your body is adapted to waking up at 5am, getting out of bed will be a breeze. And voilà, you’ve magically turned into an early riser.

BEST of all, your body adapts quickly. It really only takes 3-5 days of successfully getting up at your preferred wake-up time. Once you’ve overcome those few days of drudgery, you’re golden.

If It’s So Simple, Then Why Do We Fail?

Understanding the body’s adaptation mechanism really makes becoming an early riser fairly simple…

…but then why is it still so hard? Why do so many people struggle with this? Why did I struggle with this for so long? Here’s my take on it:

The problem is that we never give our bodies enough time to adapt. For whatever reason, we just give up a tad bit too early.

Let me illustrate this point with a story:

Mike wants to make a change in his life and decides to become an early riser. Currently, he’s going to bed at 12am and getting up at 8am. His plan is to shift this schedule back two hours; he wants to sleep at 10pm and get up at 6am.

Let’s look how he does…

Monday:

He goes to bed at 11pm on Sunday. He doesn’t feel tired yet, lies in bed for an hour, and only falls asleep at midnight. Monday morning his alarm goes off at 6am and, even though he’s tired and feels like sh*t, he manages to crawl out of bed. During his entire day, he feels kind of tired, confused, and worn out – that’s normal because his body isn’t used to the new schedule yet.

“The body loves rhythm and predictability. Most tiredness happens because we are very bad at sticking to regular bedtimes – going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.”Dr. Neil Stanley, independent sleep expert

Mike goes to bed at 10pm. But because his body isn’t used to sleep at that time, he only manages to fall asleep at 11:30pm (still 30min before his usual sleep time!).

Tuesday:

His alarm goes off at 6am. He feels even more tired than the day before, but by unleashing copious amounts of willpower he manages to crawl out of bed. Phew, that was hard. Again, during the day he feels less energized, less happy, and less productive than usual. He goes to bed at 11pm because he’s afraid of not being able to fall asleep when he goes to bed earlier. He’s asleep at 11:15pm.

Wednesday:

Same story: Alarm goes off at 6am, Mike feels like sh*t, yet still manages to get out of bed. During the day he feels tired and worn out. He starts doubting whether getting up early is such a great thing after all. He’s in bed at 11pm and asleep at 11:15pm.

Thursday:

Alarm goes off at 6am, Mike (once more) feels like sh*t, but this time, he’s had enough. He says “fuck it,” religiously hits the snooze function of his phone, before reluctantly getting up at 8am – still tired and still feeling worn out. He decides to stop this madness and quits. He gives up. He didn’t have the strength to overcome a few days of drudgery.

Here’s how his sleep/wake schedule looked like:

  • Sunday to Monday: 12am – 6am
  • Monday to Tuesday: 11:30pm – 6am
  • Tuesday to Wednesday: 11:15pm – 6am
  • Wednesday to Thursday: 11:15pm – 8am (whoops… failed!)

Now, has something similar ever happened to you? Me, I sure went through a similar turn of events many times.

So what went wrong here? If you look closely, there are two issues. And these are the exact two obstacles that are holding most of us back from getting up early on a regular basis:

Obstacle #1: Not being able to fall asleep at will

Obstacle #2: Not getting out of bed in the morning (during the adaptation phase)

That’s all there is to it. Think about it. If Mike had been able to fall asleep at will, he wouldn’t have been nearly as tired in the mornings. Getting out of bed would have been much easier and also his entire days would have been more productive and enjoyable.

Plus, if he would have gotten out of bed on Thursday morning and pushed himself a little longer, his body would have eventually adapted.

Let’s make a quick recap at this point:

  • Getting up early is about habit and adaptation. To become an early riser, all you really need is to overcome a few days of drudgery until your body has adapted to your new sleep/wake schedule. Most of us fail because we don’t give our bodies enough time to adapt.
  • The first obstacle to making this happen is not being able to fall asleep at will. This leaves you at risk of sleep deprivation and waking up dead tired and worn out in the morning. Getting out of bed will be harder and your entire day will be less enjoyable and productive.
  • The second obstacle is not getting out of bed in the morning. If you could manage to get out of bed day after day after day at your new wake up time, your body would adapt sooner rather than later.

The Last 6 Strategies You’ll Ever Need to Get Up Early

Now that you understand the dynamics of getting up early, let’s look at 6 actual strategies that will help you pull this off.

First, we’ll look at 3 strategies that’ll help you fall asleep faster and then 3 strategies that will help you get out of bed in the morning.

1. Limit Blue Light Exposure At Night

You’ve probably heard of the circadian rhythm before. It’s your internal time-keeping clock that is responsible for helping you fall asleep at night and staying awake during the day. One way your circadian rhythm helps you fall asleep is by releasing the hormone melatonin, which helps you relax, calm down, and get deep sleep.

This rhythm gets influenced by light. When the sun is shining, the circadian rhythm helps the body stay energized and awake. When it’s dark, on the other hand, the circadian rhythm tells the body to produce sleep hormones such as melatonin.

The problem in our society is that it never really gets dark anymore. Even when it’s pitch black outside, we expose ourselves to artificial light through lamps, TVs, and smartphones.

This tricks our brain into thinking it’s still daytime and strongly reduces the release of melatonin and other hormones that help us fall asleep. No wonder we have trouble falling asleep!

Blue light - which emits in large amounts from devices like computers, laptops, and tablets - is the worst in this regard. It has the strongest melatonin-suppressing effects.

By reducing your exposure to blue light at nighttime, you’ll have more melatonin and will fall asleep a lot faster.

You’ve got several options to pull this off:

  • Download f.lux for your PC.
  • Install a blue-blocking app for your smartphone. I use Twilight for Android.
  • Dim your room lights if possible.
  • Stop watching TV 1-2 hours before going to bed.
  • Wear blue-light blocking glasses 1-2 hours before going to bed (these are the ones I use).

2. Supplement With Melatonin

You already know about the powers of melatonin – it’s your #1 sleep hormone and quite literally tells your body to slow down, relax, get sleepy, and go to bed.

Supplementing with melatonin is one of the easiest ways to fall asleep faster. And it’s safe... unlike certain sleeping pills that doctors prescribe.

One study, for example, shows that people who took it fell asleep faster and even had an improvement in sleep quality of 15%.

Best of all, melatonin is partly responsible for setting your circadian rhythm. What this means is that it helps your body adapt to your new sleep/wake schedule. The adaptation will be faster and run more smoothly. Plus, you’ll even feel less tired during the adaptation days. Believe me, it makes a HUGE difference.

I suggest using it as follows:

Take 0.5 – 1mg approximately 30-60 minutes before going to bed. For example, if your desired new sleep time is 10pm, take it between 9pm – 9:30pm. Do this for 3-5 days in a row until your body is more or less adapted to the new schedule.

This simple trick can make all the difference. It almost completely eliminates the problem of not being able to fall asleep at will. Plus, it helps your body adapt and will let you wake up more energized the next day. (Both the first and this trick will also help you get out of bed more easily in the morning!)

After the initial adaptation process, I wouldn’t recommend using melatonin more than 1-2x per week. It’s a hormone after all and we don’t know if there are possibly any long-term side effects or withdrawals or whatever. (Don’t worry too much, though… I know people who take it every day and they haven’t experienced any side effects whatsoever.)

3. Go to Bed 30-60 Minutes Before Your Desired Sleep Time

One of the biggest obstacles keeping people from falling asleep, apart from producing too little melatonin, is an over-active, chattering mind that won’t shut up.

There’s no way I can go to bed after a hectic day and fall asleep right away – my mind won’t let me.

Some people are so afraid of facing the chatters of their mind that they have to distract themselves with music, radio, or watching TV until they eventually fall asleep.

The point is, you need some time to wind down and let the worries of the day fade away. The best way I’ve found to do that is through reading - this will shift your thoughts onto other things.

(More on why reading is just a smart thing to do in general here.)​

Plus, laying down in bed and reading at the end of a long day is actually quite exhaustive. You’ll find yourself getting tired quickly and after 20-30 minutes of reading, you’ll be able to fall asleep pretty fast.

4. Trick Your Brain Into Getting Out of Bed Right When The Alarm Clock Goes Off

Imagine this scenario: Every time your alarm goes off in the morning, you automatically get out of bed right away. No thinking required. No willpower required. It happens completely automatic.

Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that help you become an early riser? Of course, it would! So here’s how you do it…

You create the following implementation intention and ingrain it in your (subconscious) mind:

“If my alarm rings in the morning, then I immediately get out of bed, no matter what!”

(I’ve written extensively about implementation intentions in this article, so I won’t explain the science behind why and how this exactly works.)

To make this stick in your mind, you want to repeat the statement and visualize yourself doing the action every night for 1-2 minutes before going to bed. Do this for the next 20-30 days and getting right out of bed when the alarm goes off will become second nature to you.

The key is to repeat it often enough. See the alarm clock going off in the morning, and then see yourself getting out of bed right away.

  • Alarm goes off —> you get out of bed immediately
  • Alarm goes off —> you get out of bed immediately
  • Alarm goes off —> you get out of bed immediately
  • Alarm goes off —> you get out of bed immediately
  • Alarm goes off —> you get out of bed immediately

That’s the single most powerful way to never hit the snooze button again.

5. Use A Smart Alarm Clock

If you’re using your smartphone’s built-in alarm clock, you’re missing out.

There are two far better options out there:

Step out of Bed: This is the option I recommend if you’re struggling with the snooze button. The app will get you out of bed, period. When the alarm goes off, it forces you to walk a pre-determined number of steps. If you don’t move, the alarm won’t stop.

Once you’re out of bed and have made the required number of steps, chances are you won’t go back to sleep again.

If you’re an Android user, check out Alarmy as a good alternative.

Sleep Cycle: I’d recommend this for anyone who isn’t struggling with a severe snooze addiction. The app measures your sleep patterns and wakes you up during light sleep. This means you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and clear-minded.

Other apps that don’t track your sleep patterns can wake you up during any sleep cycle. If you’re unlucky, you get alarmed during deep sleep and you’ll feel confused and tired.

6. Watch Your Self-Talk

One last thing to keep in mind is your self-talk.

Are you telling yourself that you enjoy getting up early, that it’s a gift you’re giving yourself? Or are you telling yourself that you have to get up early? Or that you should get up early? Or that you’re not a morning person?

Most of us, unconsciously, tell ourselves we should and have to get up early. That’s a bit of a problem because it means you are being forced to do it. It’s against your will. It’s not what you want. It’s not your decision.

This creates inner resistance. Some part of you will always resist getting up early which wastes unnecessary energy and willpower.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix to this challenge. Every time you catch yourself thinking or talking about getting up early, simply change the wording:

  • I CHOOSE to get up early
  • I ENJOY getting up early
  • I DO get up early
  • I HAVE TO get up early
  • I SHOULD get up early

I believe this will make a difference in the long-run.

(Learn more about effective self talk from an Olympic Gold Medalist in this article.)​

What Else?

In my opinion, you really don’t need anything else other than those six strategies. If you give them a serious try, I am convinced that you’ll be able to get up early consistently.

If you want to do more, though, then anything that improves your sleep will be helpful. We have written a bunch of articles on sleep optimization that you can check out here.

Also, be sure to download our Fall Asleep Faster Checklist. (It’s free.)

Other than that, anything that improves your willpower will also be beneficial. This will help you go to bed on time, stick to your sleep practices, and actually get out of bed in the morning.

Your Turn

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What tips help you get up early? Please share some of your best tips below so that others can benefit from your advice and get motivated.


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Nils Salzgeber

Nils Salzgeber is an Amazon #1 bestselling author and co-founder of NJlifehacks. He is a productivity and personal transformation specialist who combines personal experience with modern science. He quit university at the age of 21 after successfully making the leap to entrepreneurship. Since then, he has been traveling the world, built several successful online businesses, and published two books.

  • Bands says:

    Good afternoon. Thanks a lot! Excellent article.

  • Hi, Thanks for your top-notch article. I want to add something with you. I think starting your day early improves your concentration. In addition to being able to focus on goals and task lists without being interrupted by family members or coworkers, getting up early means that by the time you get to work or school, you’ve had hours to properly acclimate yourself to the day. You’ll be more alert during peak hours as a result. Am I right?

    • Hey Katherin, I would agree with that, yeah. Personally, I feel more focused after having a head start to the day because it gives me a certain calmness and sense of accomplishment and some initial positivity.

  • >

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