On Waking Up Early

Woman sunrise waking early morning

Waking up early is one of the best things we can do for our lives. On some days we have no choice but to tear ourselves away from the bed early to go to work or school, and we dread it. This is often why on our free days there’s always the temptation to sleep late. But it’s especially then that waking early can have a positive impact on our lives.

When you wake early, you lengthen your day. Those minutes you gain give you the chance to do more of what you want to do. Also, they help you make the most of your cognitive capacity. According to our biological clock, the brain reaches its peak around 10 a.m. Waking up at least an hour and a half or two hours before 10 a.m. means we can start work fresh and gradually  improve our performance. 

For writers and other artists, waking up early is great. Many of the world’s most celebrated authors, from Hemingway to Roald Dahl, used to wake up early. When you can work or study in the morning, you can finish your tasks by noon, and then you have the second part of the day free for other things. In this way you also avoid distractions, many of which tend to happen in the second half of the day.

Now I know that “early” means different hours for different people. For some, 8 a.m. is early. Others won’t settle for any definition of “early” that’s not before 7 a.m. The important thing here is for us to constantly ask ourselves these questions — Am I waking up early enough? Could I wake up earlier? 

Maybe lately we’ve been waking at 8:30 a.m. That’s not bad. But if we could wake around 8, that would be even better. We’d have more time for ourselves, and our productivity would usually also increase.

I like to wake early even on days when I don’t have to. On some weekends, I even like to set my alarm early so I can tear myself from the bed, open the window, and glance out at the slowly coming morning, while the coldness stares back at me. When I begin to shiver, I close the window and go back to bed to listen to an audiobook or to meditate. In this way I feel I can really appreciate the comfort of my bed, and the warm ease of not having to go anywhere or do anything. 

By contrast, if I wake at 9:30 or 10, disappointment would then be my bedfellow, and I would need at least an hour to sober up after my slumber. A sense of having missed something would linger with me, almost like not having made it in time to an event I really wanted attend   

Now I must admit I don’t always wake as early as I would like to. But this usually happens because I go to bed late. Of all hours of the day, I like the midnight hour the best, and often I read or write up until 1 a.m. I often have to give up one hour in the morning for that. But even so, I usually manage 8 a.m. at least, which isn’t so bad, especially when you consider than people who sleep 7 hours tend to live longest.

The secret to being on your feet early isn’t having a good alarm. It’s getting good sleep at night. We may force ourselves to wake early after just a few hours of sleep, but if the quality of our sleep is low, we won’t have enough energy to make use of the hours we’ve gained. Ideally, we want to wake early in a natural way, by means of our eyelids, not of our ears.

Waking up early is like doing a pushup. It’s a bit hard, especially if you haven’t practiced lately. But if you manage to do one, the second becomes easier, and before long, you discover you’re in better shape.

Waking up early may come more easily to some of us than to others, but ultimately it’s a habit. One that helps us do more of what we like, and do it better.

At what hour do you usually wake up?

11 thoughts on “On Waking Up Early

  1. No, no, NO! Does that express how I feel about getting up early?

    Throughout the years, I have been forced to regularly wake up somewhere around 6 or 7am for school or work. I was always told to “practice”, which would re-wire my internal clock and make me eventually get used to waking up early. All these years later… I still hate waking up early. My optimal time of waking would probably be 9am. But because I have to get up earlier during the week, I use the weekend to sleep in a bit. I know that is supposedly bad, but I cannot help it. I am the kind of person who can sleep 11h when possible and be most content with it. Definitely a night owl here, too.

  2. I love to nap. I just love it, and I can’t deny it anymore. Having said that, I agree with you about waking up early. It can be a peaceful time, free of distraction. Even if I nap later in the day, I always feel better if I’ve started out by feeling like I have done something before noon.

  3. I prefer being up late, or technically speaking, early. Since my ideal time to be awake is 1am in the morning. That’s just because I prefer being alone in a quiet space, and the darkness helps me focus on whatever I’m doing so I don’t start staring at random things in the room.
    So whenever I can, I go to bed at some hour in the morning and waking up around midday.

  4. I’m usually up before 5.30 at first light here in Ubud, Bali. I meditate and do some simple stretching exercises for an hour, have a shower, and then my ‘working’ day begins. I have to agree with you: I do prefer to write in the morning, up to lunch time. The mind is less cluttered then.

  5. It’s cold here now. And dark out in the early morning. But I agree, it’s when I find the most precious inspiration—alone, before the rest of my world wakes. We’re talking 5:00 am to make it matter. 5:00am up and then 5:00pm…isn’t that wine time…? 😉

  6. I used to be a morning person, happy out if bed by 6. Since my burn-out and depression diagnosis I struggle with getting out of bed even if I expect to have a good day. As reading a lot which I can’t do anymore either, I miss it a lot. But al determined to get both back!

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