Sleep is amazing, isn't it? Like many of you reading this post, I love to lie in bed and get "just an extra 15 minutes," which can sometimes turn into an extra hour or two.
You've probably heard that "if you wake up earlier, you'll be more productive" over and over again, but there's definitely truth behind this suggestion. For me, personally, waking up before everyone else in my home allows me to work, respond to emails, or read up on current events without any distractions. I get work done in half the time if the family is still asleep. When my family wakes up, I've already had a productive morning and am ready to enjoy breakfast with them before I start conquering the rest of my day.
Although it seems really easy to get up now, that wasn't always the case. There was a time when just the thought of waking up before the sun rose sent chills down my spine. But once I actually started getting out of bed earlier, I noticed that it wasn't all that bad. And I reached that point by following these seven guaranteed ways to rise and shine at least 30 minutes earlier in the day.
1. Wake up one minute earlier each morning
Changing a habit or routine doesn't happen overnight. It takes a little bit of time and may take easing into the change to make it work for you. Waking up earlier is no exception.
Let's say that you currently wake up at 6:30 a.m. but want to change that time to 6 a.m. Instead of just suddenly resetting your alarm clock for 6, start waking up a minute or two earlier each day. So on day one, your alarm would be set for 6:29, and then 6:28, and so forth.
It may take a month to reach that 6 a.m. goal, but when you reach it, you won't even notice that you're now waking up 30 minutes earlier.
2. Start a morning routine
Besides your alarm going off, what are the other reasons for you to get out of bed? If you can't answer that question, then it's going to be an uphill battle to rise earlier.
But that doesn't mean that you can't find something to get you moving first thing in the morning. For example, you could:
3. Train your body to anticipate sleep
Waking up earlier, however, is only half the battle. The other half is changing your nighttime routine and creating a more conducive sleeping environment so that you can fell asleep earlier.
You can achieve this by:
4. Schedule something important for first thing in the morning
If I have something important, like a meeting or doctor's appointment, first thing in the morning, I naturally wake up earlier. And, apparently, this isn't a unique occurrence.
Studies have found that when sleepers had an expectation they'd be woken up at a certain time, there were higher levels of the hormone adrenocorticotropin, or ACTH, in their blood. In short, the body has an internal alarm clock that wakes us up before the alarm goes off.
If you don't have something scheduled, you can try to make every morning important by scheduling meetings in the a.m. or driving the kids to school instead of having them take the bus. This accountability will force you to wake up.
5. Give yourself a reward
Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, suggests that you give yourself a reward when adopting a new habit.
For example, "Even if you think you want to start exercising, your brain essentially thinks that you're a liar and that you don't actually like exercise," says Duhigg. "So what you have to do is train your brain so it knows that exercise is linked to something you know that you enjoy, like a piece of chocolate, taking a nice long shower, or spending 15 minutes on Facebook. It doesn't matter what the reward is. What matters is it's genuinely rewarding, and that you allow yourself to enjoy that reward."
He continues, "Now contrast that with how most people end up starting an exercise routine. They wake up one morning and they go for a run; they come home, and they're running late because they just spent 20 minutes running. And their kids need to get out the door, so they're stressed out and rushing through their morning routine. What they're doing there is effectively punishing themselves for exercising. They're making things harder after they work out, and that's exactly the wrong thing to do, because we know that our neurology will latch onto rewards."
6. Go camping
Our bodies are meant to naturally sync with the sunrise and sunset. Thanks to lighting and electricity, that's no longer the case. But if you want to get your sleep schedule back on track naturally, then go camping for a week.
Research has shown that going out into nature will get the internal circadian clock back in sync with solar time.
To make this work, though, you need to leave your gadgets at home, or at least minimize your use.
7. Use apps and gadgets to monitor your sleep
As mentioned earlier, getting a good night's rest is a major factor in waking up earlier. Even if you have optimized your sleeping environment, there could still be some things disrupting your sleep.
For example, you could use a gadget like SnoreCoach to gather data about your snoring patterns and sleeping positions so you can find the best position to reduce snoring. Another useful gadget is the Sleep Cycle alarm clock, which monitors your sleep cycles and then wakes you up during light sleep. It also tracks any disruptions that may be interrupting your sleep.
Try just saying, "I will wake up at 6 a.m.," and see what happens. Just the suggestion of the time you wish to wake up is enough for many people to be able to make the change, but whatever method you use to get up earlier, find enjoyment in your new freedom.