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How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

Each morning when I wake up, I start my day by getting 3 simple things; movement, water, and sunlight. And together these three tiny habits quickly get me past that initial groggy stage and help me feel fully awake.


But why are these three habits so effective in particular? And how do you get yourself out of bed in the first place so you can actually get them.

That's what we're gonna talk about in this article but before we get into that, I wanna lay some groundwork. First and foremost you do not have to wake up early in the morning to be a productive person. There are certainly gonna be other people here on YouTube we'll try to tell you differently but the fact of the matter is different people operate on different schedules.

For example, over on Brain Pickings, there's this fantastic infographic that I found a few years ago which compares the different wake-up times of some famous authors throughout history. 

And while it's true that some of them do wake up at obscenely early times, like Haruki Murakami, who gets up at 4:00 AM, when he's writing a novel.

How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

Others who are just as if not more successful and famous and productive get up at later times, for example, C.S. Lewis and Ray Bradbury both got up at around 9:00 AM in the morning and they did just fine.

How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

So while some YouTubers are gonna tell you that you absolutely have to be getting up super early to be successful while they filmed themselves out for a 4:00 AM run, the truth of the matter is that it's possible to live a perfectly productive life as a night owl. However, I personally have found that when I carve out time in the morning and actually go through a morning routine I tend to be more productive.

Again, this is a personal thing, but I've found through experimentation and personal experience that I tend to use the morning hours more productively than I do my evening hours.

So if I wake up earlier than I naturally would and I carve out time in the morning I tend to waste less time and get more out of my day. And you might be in the exact same boat. You might find that your mornings are just more productive, you have more energy, you have more drive if you wake up early. But if that's you, you probably have also faced the same problem that I faced which is that when you wake up in the morning you feel like a truck hit you, you feel lethargic, you feel groggy, you feel tired. The only thing you wanna do is hit the snooze button.


1. How can you avoid that snooze button?
2. How can you get past that tired feeling as quickly as possible?

Let's focus on that sequence of three habits I talked about in the intro, water, sunlight, and movement. Through personal experimentation as well as some scientific research I have found that this sequence of habits is possibly the most important thing to getting your body woken up and feeling energetic. Besides, of course, getting enough sleep.


1. Movement

How much movement, what kind of movement do you need to get your body feeling awake?

When I first started discovering the power of movement to wake my body up when I was in college and I decided to sign up for a 6:00 AM, ROTC military fitness class. The school was offering this to both military kids, but also to civilians and I was in the latter category, and to get to that class, I actually had to wake up at about 5:30 in the morning so I could get across campus and be there on time.

And I'm an early bird, I do like getting up early in the morning but 5:30 is a little bit early even for me.

So every time my alarm would go off I would hate it and I would really wanna go back to sleep. But I learned something interesting because I had to get out of bed, I had to be to class on time, I never once hit the snooze button and most importantly, I was immediately moving after the alarm went off.

And because I was getting that initial movement right after waking up, getting out of bed, getting dressed, running out the door that lethargic feeling that I had immediately after waking up didn't last very long. And I learned that as long as I was getting enough sleep over the long term that energy lasted me pretty much the entire day. But you don't have to go to an ROTC fitness class or do an hour and a half of exercise to feel awake in the morning.

Because the main thing I observed is just getting myself out of bed, having that sort of Damocles hanging over my head the deadline got me past that lethargic feeling before I even left my dorm.

So getting some initial movement even just a little bit in the morning can really go a long way to helping you feel more awake especially if you also add water and sunlight.


2. Sunlight

Sunlight in particular affects your body's circadian rhythm which is this internal clock this process that governs when you feel sleepy when you fall asleep and when you wake up. When sunlight hits the photoreceptors in your eyes, they actually send signals to your brain telling you that, "Hey, it's time to wake up." And that's not all research has also found that this morning sunlight exposure also helps improve the overall quality of your sleep going forward.

A 2017 study found that exposure in the morning to what they called circadian-effective light was associated with both improved sleep quality and earlier sleep onset, AKA falling asleep faster.

How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

Now, this term circadian-effective light is an interesting one because it doesn't just refer to sunlight.

Rather it refers to some certain qualities of lights including its intensity, and how well it covers certain areas of the color spectrum. There are certain areas of the visual light spectrum that are associated with triggering those photoreceptors and governing our circadian rhythm. And most of the lights in our interior environments don't cover that area of the color spectrum.

There is at least one company working on light bulbs that you can actually go out and buy right now that do purport to cover this area of the light spectrum and there are some early research, mostly in office environments that have some promising results. But before you rush out and go buy a $500 desk lamp that purports to governor your circadian rhythm realized that the most effective, circadian-effective light is gonna be sunlight, which makes sense because these little light bulbs are just light bulbs and the sun is a freaking star.


3. Water

Now, when it comes to water I haven't been able to find quite as much strong scientific evidence as I have for sunlight as to why it helps you wake up so well. But through personal experimentation and experience, I have found that when I wake up and drink a glass of water it gets me past that groggy stage really quickly and it's a great way to help me feel even more awake.

So get in a bed immediately, move to a different room of your house so you get some movement and ideally some sunlight and drink a glass of water. This doesn't involve an ROTC fitness class, it doesn't involve a long hike in the woods, it's incredibly simple but it's effective nonetheless. Of course, this assumes you can get yourself out of bed in the first place and avoid the temptations of the snooze button.


So how do you do that?

Well for that problem let's think back to the ROTC fitness class. I talked about how when the alarm went off and I was taking that class I never once hit the snooze button. And the reason for that should be pretty obvious. I had to get out of bed if I didn't, I was gonna be late for class and I would get a worst grade. So that class gave me a very strong reason to get out of bed.

And you probably understand the power of this if you've ever had to get up for an early morning flight, you don't wanna get up at 4:00 AM but the prospect of missing the flight gets you out of bed all the same.

But here's the problem carving out time for yourself in the morning building a morning routine by definition means there's no real strong deadline or pressing engagement and you have to get out of bed for.


So what do you do in these situations?

Well, the words of my friend, Tiago Forte come to mind here some point last year, he tweeted you can't compete with somebody who's having fun. And I think the context of that tweet was for people who are building businesses or building products. But I think that sentiment applies to many of the things in our life, including the prospect of getting out of bed earlier than you normally would.

Think about it a version of yourself that hates getting up has nothing to look forward to in the morning is trying to entirely rely on self-discipline can never compete with a version of you that's excited to get up as something fun to look forward to. So there's the solution. 

Add something, it could be anything, no matter how small that you're excited for it into your morning routine, give yourself a reason to anticipate getting up in the morning and you're gonna find getting up to be so much easier.

Self-discipline is still important to cultivate, yes but on the other side of the coin when we are doing something we enjoy where the resistance does not overweigh how much we enjoy the thing we don't have to rely on self-discipline in the first place.

Personally, that thing for me is riding my bike to work and listening to an audiobook. Recently, I got a co-working space in downtown Denver which is actually about 18 miles from my house. So I got an e-bike and the process of riding my bike to work on the bike trails listening to an audiobook, getting to learn, but also getting to be outside and be active is something that I actively look forward to every single morning.

 And whenever I get to do it, I'm super excited to get up get dressed, and get out of the door.
And to dwell on this example for a moment, there's another great thing about this bike ride, which is that it's an example of what I call useful movement.

In other words, I have a purpose for getting outside and getting nearly an hour of exercise. And this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately because the way in which we design our urban environments especially suburban environments where I live right now kind of forces people in many cases to exercise in ways that are arbitrary. They have to convince themselves to go to the gym.

The only real reason for moving in an intense or lengthy wage day is guilt or the feeling that you have to stay physically active. But when you design your life in a way where you have a reason to go somewhere actively like riding your bike to work you don't have to spend as much motivation to go be physically active because there's a real reason to do it.

This is kind of besides the point of waking up early but I've been thinking about useful movement a lot lately, and I think it really helps us to be more productive, happier, and even more connected to our environments and our neighbors. So it's probably something that's gonna be a through-line in some of my future articles.


But here's the overall point.

If you wanna be able to get a bit more easily if you want it to be effortless, if you want to have time for that morning routine then adds something to the routine that you enjoy that you anticipate. For me, it's that bike ride with the audiobook. For you it might be a breakfast that you particularly enjoy, it might be a morning walk it might be reading some fiction, whatever it is add into the routine and you're gonna find yourself having more time for that routine.

And if you can combine that with our little three-step process, water, sunlight, and movement, you're gonna find yourself getting up more easily, feeling less groggy, going through less of that tired, lethargic period, and having space in the morning for whatever it is that you wanna do.


Now, if you're sitting there asking yourself what should I put into my morning routine? How can I make the most of my mornings?

I do have one suggestion identify something that pushes you forward in some way. A lot of us spend so much of our time so busy with our obligations and our schedules that we don't have a whole lot of time for learning and pushing ourselves forward and really moving the needle. And carving out time for yourself in the morning well, at least for me this is a great way to make sure that I'm still progressing.

So when you're designing your morning routine see if you can add something that either makes you stronger or helps you learn something new or maybe improves your problem-solving abilities. And if you're looking for a resource that can hit those two latter categories problem solving and teaching you new things you should check out Brilliant.

How to Wake Up Early Without Feeling Tired

Brilliant is a resource that helps you master complex topics in math, science, and computer science but also helping you become a better problem solver at the same time. And that's because all of their courses get you actively using what you're learning almost right away. They combined bite-sized problems that are logically sequenced with the actual learning material so that you never go more than a few minutes without getting engaged.

You're gonna find more than 60 courses in their library including a full mass suite going from the basics of number theory to really complex stuff along with courses covering scientific thinking and even computer science courses that dive into things like algorithms and data structures.

Hopefully, you found something useful in this article, hopefully, it helps you get up earlier and feel less tired if that's something you're trying to do.  And to end this article I've got a question for you, which is do you have any additional tips for helping yourself wake up and feel as tired in the mornings, smelling salts, death metal, setting your entire room on fire? I don't know. Let me know down in the comments and we can all help each other become smarter and more capable people.

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