How (and Why) I Get Up Early Now

I’m the horse on the right. What? Did you think a human wrote this?

I’ve thoroughly explored personal development for the last 15 years. I’ve tried many things. I’ve failed and succeeded. I think anyone who intentionally tries to grow and learn will soon discover what they’re good at and what they’re not good at.

I’m not good at regulating my sleep schedule. I never have been. But I’ve fought and tried everything you can imagine (including practicing waking up to my alarm clock). Over the years, I’ve found only one thing that works—moving forward.

I’ve written about this before, even recently, but my experience has been solidified at this point, so I wanted to write a definitive article on what works for me and why. I know there are others out there struggling to become early birds, and this advice is simply not out there for them when it could be what they need.

First, I’ll explain how I changed my sleep schedule. And then I’ll explain why it’s been a game changer.

How I Did(n’t) Fix My Sleep Schedule

In order for me to adjust my sleep schedule, I must stay up later and later until I am going to bed early at night and waking up early in the morning. This works because it’s natural progression of my circadian rhythm. Here are the other things I tried (and failed with).

Scaling Back

This is the most common advice I’ve seen. The idea is to go to sleep 15-30 minutes earlier and wake up 15-30 minutes earlier each day until you’re at the ideal times. The problem? I have weak self-control, and this plan has two self-control-fail opportunities every day.

  1. On any day, you can go to sleep later than you should.
  2. On any day, you can sleep in longer than you should.

This has always failed me because I am a slave to my sleep schedule. This is why I have sleep schedule problems! It’s like telling someone with a flat tire to not have a flat tire.  Unless I must get up early, I will wake up when I wake up, and sleep when I’m tired.

This could probably work for someone more disciplined with a less stubborn circadian rhythm, but they don’t have this problem to begin with. Know your audience, people.

Weird Alarm Clocks

Before smarthome technology even existed, I bought a “sun alarm clock,” which gradually turned on in the morning to simulate the sunrise. If the light wasn’t enough to wake you up, it had a backup (standard obnoxious blaring alarm).

I researched all of the alarm clocks. Some require you to shoot a target, others to stand on a mat, or even apps requiring you to solve math problems on your phone or scan a QR code in another room. I’ve tried them, but I needed something stronger, so I bought this. You place this pod under your pillow, and when the time comes, it vibrates powerfully right under your head. Nice.

In the end, the fancy alarm clocks were just like everything else—they seemed to help a little bit at first, but didn’t bring lasting results. And I didn’t like my head being rattled to start the day!

Drugs: Melatonin/Caffeine

I tried melatonin to reset my sleep schedule. It was awful. It just gave me terrible dreams and didn’t help me fall asleep.

Caffeine didn’t work either. It just makes me hyper for a few hours and doesn’t seem to change my circadian rhythm.

The Common Problem

All of these “solutions” had a common problem—they failed to get my sleep schedule in a new rhythm. Instead, they relied on me to be responsible and not find ways to sleep longer.

Ha! Do they know who I am? I sonic boomed that alarm clock right into the trash can. 

Through many, many trials and errors, I’ve realized that the only way to get the sleep schedule I want is to work with my body. Interrupting or manipulating my circadian rhythm with a sonic boom alarm clock or drugs didn’t work.

My internal clock moves much like a real clock—it only goes forward. I can usually push my bedtime later, but if I’m not tired, I’m not tired, meaning no early bedtime. I’ll just be wide awake in bed, with open or closed eyes.

When I need to reset, I start staying up very late. I’ll be going to sleep at 7 AM, then Noon, then 4 PM, then 8 PM. It takes a few days to complete the cycle, but when I get there, I naturally and easily wake up at 4 AM and get tired at 8 PM. It’s awesome! It feels like cheating to become an early riser in such a weird but easy way when others are using pure willpower to force their eyelids open in the morning, but I’m not one to argue with results.

That’s how I did it, and here’s why it has changed my life.

Morning Is Special

The single greatest part about being a morning person is that nothing is happening. Businesses are closed. The stock market isn’t open. No sports are on. All of your friends are asleep. There is seriously nothing to do… except for, you know, all the stuff you dream about doing.

Productivity is so high in the morning because there is almost no other option. Added to this, there is something really fun and special about getting up before Mr. Sun. Okay, fine, I promise I won’t call it that ever again.

I’m not one of those people who says if you don’t get up before 5 AM, you are a worthless sack of flesh. I’m a night owl at heart. But I can’t deny the benefit of rising early.

In the past, I would sleep 9-10 hours, but I think my body sleeps so much more efficiently now that I don’t need as much. I’ve been averaging eight hours a night and feeling great.

In conclusion, if you’ve tried everything to reset your sleep schedule to no avail, try the stupid way. Watch some movies or play games, and stay up as late as you can, and then wake up when you wake up. Repeat until you’re the earliest bird there is.

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