An Experiment in How to Become an Early Riser

I’ve always been a night person, and have had the worst sleeping habits. Until this past year, I’ve needed a tv to fall asleep. My mind would run and run, usually about the least important things, and in turn that would keep me up later than I should be. Of course, I always feel more awake at night no matter what, not to mention more focused and creative. At the same time, I’ve always liked being up early and getting things done. I feel the same creativity at 5am as I do at 2am, I just thought it was an extension of being up late.

Ever since junior high, I would switch my days and nights over the summer and I loved 5am. In college I discovered, and experimented with polyphasic sleeping (sleeping about 2 hours total, in 20 minute increments through out the day). It was definitely interesting. It’s really rough to get adjusted to, but then it did work. It was high maintenance in the sense that you had to nap on schedule, otherwise your body would pretty much flip out on you, and with work, it was hard to stick to a strict schedule. There’s a number of alternative sleep schedules. The Everyman (sleeping a core of 2-4 hours, with naps throughout the day) was pretty standard for me, because you could be more flexible. And then every once in a while I would crash for 12 hours or so.

Right after college when I was working full time, all the time (break-less summers became so depressing), I would get shifted. Being awake 7am-5pm, passing out right after work until 10pm, and then being awake until 2 or 3 in the morning. This gave me the night time that I enjoyed, plus I could grocery shop, go to the gym, etc, in the middle of the night when it was less crowded. The downside was that sometimes I could barely keep my eyes open at work, and I never wanted to do anything after.

The laundromat was open from 6am-midnight, so I would make it a point to be there around 6:15am on the weekends and I absolutely loved it. It was the least crowded time, I would grab a breakfast sandwich, a coffee, and do some couponing while I waited. I always felt way more productive for the rest of the day, plus I didn’t feel like I was going to get mugged, like I did when I was there until midnight.

Fast forward to now. For about the past two years, I’ve had a pretty standard sleep schedule, getting up whenever the sun wakes me up, bed around 11-12 at night. Most nights my mind still runs, but I’ve been working on meditating and focusing on breathing to help go to sleep.

I have a subscription to Harper’s Bazaar (don’t judge me, it was free), and the only thing I really read (it’s like 95% ads anyway) is the celebrity’s daily schedules. They’re usually pretty unrealistic for me, since celebrities never seem to grocery shop/do laundry/cook/plan meals, but it’s always interesting to see how successful people start their day. Whether I’m a night owl or not, I cannot deny the fact that that getting started earlier seems to lead to getting more done in general.

And that is the reason for this experiment: getting more things done, and being more successful. I have decided to resign myself to the dreaded schedule of getting up at 5am everyday. I just feel I need more time in the day to get things done, and more motivation to get them done faster.

The Plan

For the next 30 days (actually 27 because I’m already 3 days in), I plan on attempting to get up at 5am. I’ve set an alarm on my phone to start going off at 5 and gradually get louder, in an effort not to wake me in the middle of REM sleep (waking up in the middle of a dream is the worst feeling EVER). I plan on getting out of bed ASAP, no snoozing, or laying around thinking about things. Then onto making a pot of tea, a workout, and then getting some work out of the way.

Daytime naps are okay.

I’ve been working from home now for the past year, including when we went to the OBX. I can’t tell you how good it felt to sit down and get a couple hours worth of work done before anyone else was even in the office. Plus that frees up the rest of the day that I don’t have to worry about falling behind.

So Far

Well, day 1 went a little something like this: I woke up and it was still dark. I was SO excited that I woke up on my own and was wide awake. I usually wake up on my own at 5am, but I don’t have to get up…so I don’t. But today was different..woo hoo. I looked at the clock and it was only 2am. Darnit. Back to sleep. Woke up again and it was dark again. This time it was 4am. I could’ve gotten up but decided to sleep the extra hour. 5am my alarm goes off… “I’ll just snooze for 10 minutes….okay 10 more minutes…okay 5:30 I’ll get up…6 is still better than nothing…crap it’s 9.” Yep, overslept by 4 hours. Epic failure.

Day 2: 5am the alarm goes off and I’m awake and ready to go. I really have to pee, but I don’t want to wake the Mr. I’ll just lay here for a couple of minutes and then get up. No need to set the snooze button or anything….CRAP it’s 7:30. Check email/tweets in bed until 8. Get up. Another failure, but not quite as epic.

Day 3: This morning the alarm went off and I stretched my arms out, took a deep breath, and GOT UP. I went downstairs, turned my computer on, started boiling water for tea, did a quick mini workout (55 push ups, 55 mountain climbers, 20 toe touch bicycles), got my cup of tea, and started writing this at 5:15. It’s now 6, and in a few minutes, I’m going to put on a pot of coffee for the dude, and possibly whip up some protein shakes, and then start work. Success!


I’m planning to continue this way for the next 3o days. We will be moving into our new house in about a month, so hopefully it’ll give me time to get more move-related things done, and not fall behind with work. Ideally, I’d like to get a good 30 minute workout in, but this AM I wanted to get this post written. Hopefully, I’ll have more free time in the day time so I can enjoy the precious little gem below during the day for the next 4 weeks (without feeling guilty that I’m not working).


Pool in our development that I’ve NEVER GONE TO UNTIL YESTERDAY


I’ve been a reader of Steve Pavlina for a long time (I first found him because of his polyphasic sleeping experiment). I’ve been using these articles as motivation and a good how to for the next 30 days: How to Become an Early RiserHow to Become an Early Riser – Part II, and How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off.

What does your morning schedule look like? Do you enjoy getting up in the morning, or do you dread the sound of your alarm?

3 thoughts on “An Experiment in How to Become an Early Riser

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