Climbing out of bed each morning can occasionally be the most difficult task I face each day, namely because I am a complete night owl and let’s face it, morning air is cold. But despite this, I generally rise at 5 am (or maybe two snooze buttons later) and make it an early morning simply because I need to get to work. Recently I’ve been trying to make that 5 am rise and shine work better for me though as to get in a quick 20 minutes on the treadmill before starting my day.
Sounds like torture doesn’t it? Except this habit I’ve picked up of rising earlier has some surprising benefits you should definitely consider taking advantage of. At first I just chalked up to the extra energy and productiveness I was experiencing to the fact I was getting the blood pumping harder each morning, but I figured there was much more to it than that when I took some time off to nurse a twisted ankle. I still turned on my early alarm call so as to not ruin the habit I had picked up, but I was surprised to find me energy level still stayed consistently high through the morning hours. This is when I figured my early mornings have more of an influence on my day than I ever realized. Below I’ve outlined the many benefits you’ll begin to experience by setting that alarm earlier than planned, and taking advantage of it.
Benefits of Being an Early Riser
1. Better Grades
According to studies done within the US and Europe concerning university students, those who rose earlier in the morning scored significantly higher on exams, and consistently kept a higher average GPA than their night owl counterparts. Much of this may be chalked up to the fact that students who rise at a regular, consistent hour each morning are managing their time well and not staying up so late – hence they most likely get more sleep as well. But there is much more to be said about good time management. By creating a sleep habit where you rise and wake at similar times each morning, you are also keeping your body in a circadian rhythm. Think of this as an internal clock that cues your body to do certain things at certain times of the day. This rhythmic pattern supports your overall sleep health, an important component that influences how well your brain functions.
2. Positive Outlook
Generally if you are a night owl those morning people generally annoy you to no end. Their perky, chattering, occasionally singing selves need to understand that morning should be a time of quiet- in order for you to fully wake yourself up. But since people who rise earlier often get to bed earlier, they are more likely to have received the seven to nine hours of sleep suggested for an adult’s night’s sleep. Since sleeping the full amount of what is needed to a healthier body and mind, it makes sense that their morning positivity is directly related to their rest.
3. Better Problem Solvers
Obviously a rested mind is more prepared for what the day has to throw at it. Because you will be more organized and energized (as explained below), you are also more prepared to take on what life throws at you. Not only will you mood be better equipped to handle any issues that arise, but long term problems are more likely to be solved with more ease due to your brain’s ability to problem solve through the night if you are getting a good night’s rest.
4. More Energy
Better rest equals more energy. And early risers generally have better sleep patterns than night owls. Enough said. But not really because this is really interesting stuff: a bunch of things happen when your body finally relaxes in sleep, and all of it is beneficial to your long term physical health as well as mental health. Once you drop into deeper cycles of sleep, your blood pressure drops, breathing slows, muscles are relaxed, body temperatures drop, and the blood supply to your muscles increase. This results in tissue and bone both repair, as well as cellular corrections. Growth hormones are also released that are essential for muscle development.
5. More Organized
We’ve all been there: we go to sleep with an idea of what we want to be accomplished the next day, but once we rise- life happens. Simple things like a forgotten lunch, or a slow commute can seen to through off the entire day, and before you know it you are ready to throw in the towel before lunch. Rising earlier and laying out your day in advance creates a series of approachable goals that you can dive right into. Worrying about traffic and your first grader’s untied shoelaces are much more easy to deal with when you aren’t trying to remember a half dozen things while you run out the door.
6. More Time to Exercise
How many of you have started an evening workout routine and made promises to yourself about visiting the gym every evening only to watch them die a tragic death? By the end of a long workday we are typically mentally and physically exhausted, and the thought of exerting ourselves further is enough to make you want to crawl straight into bed. As mentioned, I started my early morning routine simply to get in a quick cardio workout since by the end of the day finding the time to do so can be a challenge. However, more and more gyms are offering their classes earlier in the mornings as well since the evenings are often filled with schoolwork and family, leaving little time for extras such as exercise. Starting your day with a workout doesn’t only cut your early evening fatigue out of the equation, it is also super healthy for you! It burns more calories, and continues to do so at a higher rate after you have finished, plus it helps you sleep better at night. Exercise releases endorphins too, which area feel good hormones: making you start your day out in a good mood as well.
7. Better, Deeper Rest
I’ve already mentioned how your circadian rhythm is affected by setting a sleep schedule, and this is directly related to how well you rest each night as well. When you get yourself into a consistent cycle of rising and waking, you increase the effectiveness of the natural sleep stages your body needs to heal and promote healthy brain function. The sleep cycle happens multiple times throughout the night and is directly related to how our brain processes information and store memory. In fact, many studies suggest that much of our problem solving occurs during this time- making it especially important to make sure this is not interrupted. Plus, your body is physically able to regenerate and heal when well rested.
8. Less Traffic/Easier Commutes
It never ceases to amaze me how just five minutes time difference can make on morning work hour traffic. If you have your morning planned out down to the last minute, then you’ve certainly experienced that five minute delay that has you stuck smack in the middle of it, and stressing over whether you’ll make the board meeting on time. Why do this to yourself when by rising early you can be out the door and well ahead of those hundreds of commuters that have failed to read this article? Taking your time on the way to work lowers your stress over time managment, and gives you the opportunity to relax and think about the rest of your day.
9. Uninterrupted Time to Work
Let’s face it, we all know that fewer distractions equal better productivity. During the weekends I know rising early will allow me a few quiet hours to write before the sound of children playing fill the house- or the interruptions for more milk and cereal ensue. Early risers also have a tendency to set their day’s goals out before them and have a higher rate of completion, mostly because they are able to take advantage of uninterrupted work to get a head start. Getting to the office before your colleagues also keeps you from procrastinating over the coffee pot, and allows you to focus and concentrate on the task at hand without the thought of what else needs to be accomplished before having to leave for the day. Your problems are essentially laid out before you and you can check them off your list as you move through the day.
10. More Family Time
When you aren’t focused each night on everything you didn’t get done during the day, or how to best fit in a quick workout, you can better enjoy the time you have with your family before bedtimes. You might still be tired from your day’s work, but mentally you can unwind surrounded by those you love in a relaxed setting. Some unseen early morning habits can also include uninterrupted quiet time with your significant other. Morning sex has been linked to a variety of health benefits as well, and you should take advantage of them!
11. Better Mental Health
Everything described above equals a support structure for better mental health. Improved brain function, a lack of physical strain and stress, and restorative sleep are all components of an equation that results in your ability to release anxiety and approach your day as it comes. Not surprisingly, mental health experts tie good time management and organization combined with a good night’s rest to a healthier mind. Too much sleep and non-productive sleep leads to a higher incidence of depression and psychological illness.
12. Eat Healthier
I know that when I used to catch every last minute of rest that I could before rising, I also found myself slave to a pretty tight schedule each morning in order to get out the door and to work on time. Coffee? Grab it at the office. Breakfast? What’s that? The point is that in rising later (or late) you don’t give yourself the time you need to start your day out right, and breaking your fast from the night before is an important step in your productivity.
Skipping breakfast, or worse- grabbing high fat, high carb, high sugar choices while on the run- results in less energy for both your body and brain. Getting up with time to spare lets you enjoy a more leisurely pace each morning that can include a healthier meal choice and time to enjoy a better cup of (hot) coffee without the interruptions that are sure to occur after getting to work.
In short, rising early can give you the time you need to really enjoy the space around you. You may have just done nothing for the entire night during your sleep, but you weren’t really awake to enjoy that were you? By giving yourself the time to literally do ‘nothing’ you are also giving yourself the gift to unwind, and remove all mental stimulation that keeps you going all day.
Do yourself and favor and enjoy this from time to time by not doing anything. Pour your cup of coffee and watch the sun rise. Curl up on the couch that is usually monopolized by children and read the book you have been trying to start. Or even just sit and enjoy the silence of the morning in meditation. This period of silence can actually be incredibly beneficial to your brain as well. Sitting in silence increases oxygen to your brain as your breathing generally becomes deeper and more controlled. This helps reduce migraines, high blood pressure, and overall taxation on your body to name a few.
14. Time to Relax
Rising early doesn’t have to be done with productivity and organization in mind. Sometimes just being able to take your time through your morning routines is exactly what you need mentally to face the many challenges of the day. Being able to pick out your outfit for the day, play with a different hairstyle, or flip through a catalog over a cup of coffee without planning your next move is all you need to feel like you have a fresh start.
15. First Choice of Breakfast Items at the Coffee House
It sucks when you have a specific craving and when you do decide to splurge, (both in cash and calories) your delectable choice has already been snatched up by early morning coffee house vultures. Therefor this is by far my favorite benefit of being an early riser. I love a good fresh cup of coffee with a rich coffeecake (or cheese danish, or cinnamon muffin, or ooey, gooey gouda and bacon croissant…). The point is, if you have a craving you will be better able to fulfill it because you won’t have any competition.
Successful People Who Rise Early
Don’t just take my word for this all (and the multiple studies I’ve linked to). Instead, take a look at the many successful people who take advantage of the many benefits rising early has in order to ‘seize the day”!
Richard Branson: Founder and Chairman of the Virgin Group
Mr. Branson uses his early morning hours to exercise and get in a good breakfast before starting his business day. He also swears by using the sun to help set his circadian rhythm in order to be at his best, and keeps his curtains open to allow the natural light to filter in.
Tim Cook: Apple CEO
Mr. Cook uses the VERY early morning hours to stay on top of US time zones and reply to emails at home in a timely manner to help keep business running smoothly. He then takes advantage of his early start to head to the gym and enjoys a cup of coffee before heading into the office.
Bob Iger: Disney CEO
Rising before the sun, Mr. Iger uses his morning quiet time to multitask the things he enjoys. Reading the papers, listening to music, catching up on emails, exercising, and watching tv are all things you may find him focused upon each morning before heading into work.
Michelle Obama: Former First Lady of the United States
Mrs. Obama regularly rises before her children do in order to get in a workout and a little bit of business so she can better be part of her daughter’s preparations for school before attacking the rest of her day. Even while living in the White House this was part of her daily routine.
Tim Gunn: ‘Project Runway’ co host and fashion consultant
Mr. Gunn’s early mornings are his time for relaxation and and contemplation. Sit-ups and and espresso while he catches up on the news is part of his daily routine. Plus, he loves getting up before the sun to take advantage of the quiet and solitude.
Ursula Burns: Xerox CEO
Ms. Burns regularly burns the candle at both ends and uses her early mornings to catch up on emails to keep business rolling. She also schedules personal, hour long workouts by 6 am before heading into work.
Indra Nooyi: PepsiCo CEO
Ms. Nooyi rises by 4 am every morning and is in the office by no later than 7 am to start the day’s work. Her time is spent with family and the quiet the morning provides before jumping into the busy schedule she keeps to stay successful.
Tips on Getting Up
It doesn’t take much to get into an early morning routine, but these few tips will help guide you into being both mentally and physically prepared to start greeting the dawn.
- Plan on a gradual approach to adjusting your schedule, or do it all at once. Depending on the type of person you either approach works. If you need to be gradual about it, be sure to get to sleep at the same time each night (somewhere between 7 and 9 hours before you want to wake) and adjust your alarm from 10 to 15 minutes earlier each morning. Or – if you want to rip off the proverbial band aid- get to bed set your alarm for your ideal early morning wake up call and just do it!
- Make yourself get up! Set your alarm on a shelf across the room, or use a tablet or phone with both sound and light to wake you more naturally. Once you are out of bed you are less likely to get back into it and jump into your morning routine.
- Go to bed earlier. If adults should shoot for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, get to bed at least 8 hours before you plan on rising. Plus, get rid of all those nighttime distractions, like tablets, televisions, and phones. The blue light emitted from them can mess with your natural melatonin levels that help with your falling asleep.
- Be motivated to rise each morning. Whether you plan on using this time for personal peace and quiet, or a chance to catch up on work without interruption, have a goal in mind to help motivate you to rise- even when you don’t want to.
If you never had a good reason to rise early, hopefully you do now. The benefits of rising early are far more reaching than being a simple time to get in some time to catch up on work and answer emails. It also can begin to play an important role in your mental and physical health, and may result in a better, happier you! If you are an early bird, we would love to hear how rising each morning has benefitted your life. And if you are a night owl, what are you waiting for!? Jump on the band wagon and reap the benefits the sunrise can bring.