If you’re not a morning person, waking up is hard to do. Maybe you hit snooze eleventy million times, eventually stumble to the kitchen for coffee, and wonder why it’s so hard for you to wake up in the morning when others seem to have no problem bouncing out of bed to greet the day.
So, have you decided that you want to become an early bird but are finding it really difficult to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Here are 8 non-obvious reasons why you can’t stick to this habit.
1. YOU’RE NOT TAKING YOUR SLEEP CYCLES INTO CONSIDERATION
I think a common issue that stops people from waking up early is that they feel extremely tired when they do. I mean, I know you’re assuming this is some pretty basic observation, but there’s actually more to it.
The thing is that you’re not supposed to feel so tired every time you wake up. So, basically, if you wake up feeling froggy and too tired, it means you’re waking up at the wrong time. To understand this concept better, let me first explain how sleep works.
The entire duration of our sleep is divided into “sleep cycles” – each in turn divided into 4 stages. Each sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes. This means that in the first 20 minutes of your sleep you are in the first stage, called “light sleep” – and it’s very easy to wake up during this stage.
The second stage is when the real sleep starts (“Normal Sleep”). Then you move on to the third stage which is the “deep sleep”. In this stage we have something called rapid eye movement (R.E.M) in which your brain stores and processes all the information you got while you were awake. And finally, it goes to the fourth stage which is the “light sleep” again.
Now an entire cycle has been completed and the next one is about to start. On average, if you sleep 6 hours per night you’re going to go through 4 sleep cycles.
Here’s a diagram to help you understand it more clearly:
So for instance, if you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle (in the third stage for example) what happens is that your brain is still storing all that information and it’s hard to wake up at that moment. It’s like you’re forcing your brain to stop that process in the middle of it, just like restarting a computer and trying to turn it on before the restart process is actually finished.
So if you want to wake up at a particular time feeling awake instead of tired and foggy, you need to make sure you don’t wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle but between two sleep cycles (indeed, during the last and first stages of the cycle we experience “light sleep”, which means it will be pretty easy to wake up in that moment feeling alert).
Now you’re probably wondering:
“But how do I exactly calculate at which time I need to wake up in order to make sure I’m between two sleep cycles?”
2. “FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT”
Ever heard about the Circadian Rhythm?
If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank. Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
In other words, your Circadian rhythm regulates when you feel tired enough to go to bed and when you need to wake up instead. It works at its best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends).
So if you want to start waking up early around the same time everyday, this is what you need to work on.
I don’t like giving you this advice, but it’s needed: even if you’re shattered, get up. The next night (or the night after, or the night after that) you’ll sleep better because you’ll get tired sooner and as a consequence you’ll also wake up earlier.
Maybe you’ll need some time to adjust and change your Circadian rhythm (between 1 to 3 weeks on average), but it’ll be all worth it in the end.
So you need to suffer pain in the beginning to enjoy the gain in the long run.
3. YOU HAVE TROUBLES FALLING ASLEEP
I promised non-obvious reasons in this post and I swear I’m trying to deliver, so if you’re like ‘Duh’ after reading this title, please hear me out.
Sleep is controlled by the hormone melatonin which is affected by the light that hits your skin. A long time ago, before the invention of lighting, that was how our bodies would know when it was time to go to sleep or stay awake. When the sun was out, it was time to stay awake and focused, when the sun went down it was time to be tired enough to fall asleep.
However, nowadays there’s artificial lighting everywhere and we can “substitute” the sun’s light at any time (screens on our phones, computers etc.). According to Harvard Health, blue light suppresses melatonin secretion – and that’s the reason why we have troubles getting tired enough to fall asleep.
Luckily, there’s a very simple thing you can do about it: installing some apps that control the color of your screens light.
These apps change the light on your screen throughout the day so when the sun starts to set it changes the light on your screen from white light to yellow light which simulates the sun setting and allows melatonin to be produced naturally.
4. YOU DON’T HAVE A STEADY NIGHT ROUTINE
Routines are more important for your body than you might expect.
They are not only a way for your body to save energy and willpower throughout the day (‘cause you’re following a pre-set loop, basically), they also make the brain aware of what’s about to come next.
So if your night routine consists in 4-5 steps you repeat every single day (preferably also at the same time) your body will soon perceive that these exercises mean the day has finished and it’s time to go to sleep, and will prepare consequently.
Your body is smart, work with it and waking up early wll be a pleasure!
5. YOU’RE EXPECTING TO ‘FEEL LIKE IT’
I’m not gonna lie to you. Actually, I’ll say it straight to your face: waking up early can totally suck. At least for the first 5 minutes.
If you’re a early bird it might not be your case, but it could actually be that you’re one of those people that simply hate waking up in the morning. And I’m here to tell you that that’s perfectly fine.
Actually, that’s exactly what happens to me everyday. I’ve been consistent with waking up early for quite some time now (I even wrote a guide on how to do it here) and I still don’t ‘feel like doing it’ every single day. For the first five minutes, all I can think of is “I want to go back to my warm sheets”…“I need 5 more minutes”…“I will just stay in bed, I won’t sleep”…“I deserve some sleep, I work so hard” and so on.
So what do I do? I just don’t listen to my brain. That’s it. I know it’s bs talk. So I just walk to the bathroom, wash my face, do my things and it eventually stops.
And after those 15/20 minutes awake, I start loving waking up early again. I love feeling like I’m the only person in the world, I love that calm, I love knowing that most people are asleep while I’m ready to conquer the world.
But if I didn’t get past those 5 minutes, if I actually acted on those no-sense thoughts, I would feel guilty for going back to bed. I would feel like failing myself for the rest of the day.
So what’s worse? Not acting on my sh*tty thoughts for 15 minutes or acting on them, going back to bed and then feeling rushed and disappointed in myself for the rest of the day? I don’t know if this is your case, but I know that if someone told me this before I started realizing it myself, I would have probably conquered this habit a lot sooner. So I’m saying it to you, in case you need it.
To recap: waking up early can be extremely unpleasant for the first 5 minutes, but if you can get yourself through that first moment, you can achieve great things during the rest of the day.
6. YOUR REASON FOR WAKING UP EARLY IS NOT COMPELLING ENOUGH
As we just mentioned in the previous paragraph, in the first 5 minutes awake (unless you’re a “natural” early bird – which I guess it’s not the case since your clicked to read this post) we all have to fight the voice in our head that keeps screaming “Go back to sleeeep!!!”.
So, to avoid actually listening to that voice and getting under your blankets again, we need a plan.
Something I found very useful in this case is having something to do. I know, I know, seems obvious, right? But I don’t mean just anything. You have to find something to do that you want to do more than you want to go back to sleep.
Let’s say you’re a coffee lover. Imagine you smelled some great hot coffee coming from the kitchen. Would this distract you from going back to sleep? I bet it would! You would go straight to get your coffee!!
So give yourself a chance to do something you love doing in the morning – it could be enjoying a big breakfast, listening to your favourite podcast or reading a book that’s been sitting on the shelf for too long.
7. YOU’RE NOT GIVING YOUR BODY TIME TO ADAPT
Remember when we talked about the Circadian rhythm in point #2, right?
Well, the reason why you can’t stick to waking up early could be that you’re rushing it. Let’s say you usually wake up at 7 am. Then you decide you want to start waking up at 5 am and go all in.
It can be a total shock for your body, you might hit snooze without even remembering it (I know because it happened to me multiple times!). There are definitely some cases in which going “all in” can help, but might not be this.
So if your body is not responding well to the shock and you notice the change is not sustainable for more than a few days, change your approach.
Instead, you could start by waking 15 minutes before the usual time your alarm rings. For the example we mentioned, you could start by waking up at 6:45 am for a whole week, maybe two and then start waking up at 6:30 am for another week and so on.
This way your body will adapt to your new routine much more smoothly.
8. YOU DON’T REALLY WANT TO GET UP EARLY
Maybe it’s because it became such a popular habit in the last few years (from the realization that most successful people wake up from 4 am to 7 am), but nowadays everybody seems to be trying to wake up early. The earlier, the merrier.
But if you really hate doing it (after the first 10 minutes have gone by) then just don’t do it. Don’t do it just because everybody else is doing it, don’t do it because most successful people do it. If it’s not making you more productive and happy throughout the rest of the day, why would you be doing it for?!
Besides, there are also many examples of successful people that absolutely hate waking up early and are still being productive.
So don’t waste so much effort and energies into something you realize you don’t really want to be doing. Waking up early is though, sometimes it doesn’t even get better with practice, so if you don’t really have a purpose, a tangible reason to do it, just don’t. And save yourself that amount of stress. Enjoy your beloved sleep instead!
What’s the thing you struggle the most with when trying to wake up early? Why do you want to wake up early? What are your favorite things to do right after you get out of bed? Let me know in the comments section below!