Like most people in their early 20s, I have a roommate. We share a loft apartment with absolutely no privacy, so we know all about one another’s sleep habits. I tend to wake up around 7:30-8:00 am naturally and I usually lie in my bed dreading the moment my alarm clock goes off. My roommate wakes up closer to 6:45 and as soon as she’s conscious, she’s wide awake. While part of me relishes my early morning half-awake, half-asleep phase, a larger part of me is jealous that my roommate has such an easy time waking up and getting started with the day.
It’s hard not to be jealous of natural morning people. Waking up early has a lot of benefits! For example, if you wake up earlier in the morning, you won’t feel as rushed and stressed as you’re getting into the office. Feeling less stressed makes it easier to start the day in an organized fashion that makes you more efficient on the job. You’ll also have more time to complete important morning activities like eating a healthy breakfast so you can make it through the day with energy.
After observing my roommate for the last couple of weeks and doing some research I’ve worked out some of the differences between us and figured out why I wake up groggy and late while she wakes up early and refreshed.
At first I thought that my roommate wakes up earlier than I do because she just doesn’t need as much sleep. In order to investigate, I began tracking the number of hours between my head first hitting the pillow and my first moment of early morning consciousness. She did the same. We found that we actually sleep for about the same length of time, but I wake up feeling more tired, which could suggest that I need more sleep than she does. Of course this is by no means scientific, but I also know that some people sleep naturally longer than others, so it’s best to track your sleep and figure out what your natural sleep time is. Then, base your bedtime and wake-up time around that rather than an arbitrary number of hours. This way, you can set up a natural schedule that results in an earlier wake-up time.
Next I found that you should be wary of your caffeine and nap habits. I’m not a big coffee or soda drinker myself, but cutting down on caffeine (even earlier in the day) can make it easier to keep your natural circadian rhythm. In the same vein, taking a nap after work can throw your sleep schedule off balance and make it harder to fall asleep later in the evening — meaning it will be more difficult to wake up early in the morning. In order to fix this problem, replace caffeine and naps with fruit, water, and exercise. These replacements will give your body a more natural boost that will subside by bedtime (As long as you don’t workout right before bed).
Once you set your body up to start waking up earlier naturally, you can then set up your mind. If you have trouble waking up early, you have to teach yourself that mornings aren’t the enemy. I noticed that I have a bad attitude about mornings whereas my roommate enjoys them, so I figured I needed to change my mindset. I started this process by changing my alarm sound. I used to use a loud beeping noise, but I switched it to a softer, more musical bell chime. I also turned the volume on my alarm clock down. By making my wake-up sound more gentle and calm, I stopped waking up with automatic anxiety towards the alarm clock. When I stopped waking up feeling stressed in general, it was easier to wake up early and calm.
After I established the morning as a less stressful time, I wanted to also give it an element of enjoyment. I found that choosing to do something I enjoy every morning made it a lot easier to wake up early naturally because I had something to look forward to. Since I like writing, I chose to move my journaling time from evening to the early morning and that made me feel more excited to wake up! So, if you have a hobby or activity that you wish you had more time to do, try setting up a time for that activity first thing in the morning, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. This can give your morning the positive spin that it needs to help you wake up early, refreshed, and excited for the day.
One of my favorite things about waking up earlier is that I get two things: 1. More “me” time and 2. More mindful time. When I wake up earlier, not only do I get to write in the morning, but I also get a few minutes to myself in the office to get in the zone without having to listen to cubicle conversation. I also get the chance to enjoy under appreciated things like sunrises and the lovely food smells on the walk to work. Waking up without a rush allows me to enjoy all the little things that I would otherwise miss. I wouldn’t say I’m a 100% early riser just yet, but I’m definitely starting to see how my roommate does it. It turns out this healthy habit is totally achievable.