If you’re a night owl, there’s a good chance you’ve wondered how to wake up early in the morning without hating your life. Why? Because our society is designed for early birds.
With early work and school times (and kids who wake up at the crack of dawn), we night owls of the world are forced to rip our bodies from out beds—usually at the last moment possible—and groggily start our day.
While it would be great to live in a world that lets us night owls prosper according to our sleep chronotype, most of us find that we need to wake up earlier in order to achieve our goals.
Whether you want to wake up early to workout or get a head start on your to-do list, you’re in the right place to learn how to ditch your snooze button and wake up feeling energized.
This post is going to give you several tips that will walk you through how to wake up early in the morning without being crazy tired. Plus, you can grab the free download summarizing all the tips!
HOW I STARTED TO WAKE UP CRAZY EARLY
I’ve always been one to hit my snooze button until the last possible moment. Whether it was before my ride came to pick me up for school or before I had to leave for work as a pre-kid professional, my life has been waking up fifteen minutes before heading out the door halfway ready and breakfast in hand.
And once I had kids, I suddenly found myself waking daily to the sound of a child demanding to be fed.
But the truth is I always wanted to figure out how to wake up early in the morning. I had always dreamt of being an early morning exerciser.
And once I became a mom, I wanted desperately to be able to get myself ready and start knocking out my to-do list before my kids heads bounced off their pillows in the mornings. Instead of starting everyday feeling behind, I wanted to start feeling productive and centered.
But despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it.
Until I suddenly found myself with 4 small kids and I realized that the only way I could possibly workout would be if I woke up at 4:00am everyday.
Yeah, 4:00am. Or else I couldn’t exercise. Pretty much ever.
And for this die-hard night owl, where waking at 6:00am felt like being pried from the jaws of death, it seemed more likely that I would sprout wings and learn to fly before I could ever wake up at 4:00 in the morning.
And to wake up at 4:00am regularly to workout?
How was I going to manage waking up that early in the morning?
While it felt impossible, I was at a crossroads.
Because I could see clearly that a life of health and organization meant waking up early. Creating an early morning routine was the only way to achieve my goals and build the life I wanted.
Since I was especially good at hitting the snooze button for hours, I was gonna need every tip and strategy I could get to wake up early. So I read everything I could about waking up early (this book was my favorite).
And here’s what I discovered:
YOU CAN DISCIPLINE YOURSELF TO WAKE UP EARLY WITHOUT BEING TIRED
Even if you, like me, are a total night owl. You can do it. Trust me. Because guess what? Miraculously, I actually started to wake up at 4:00 and workout.
(And I did so for over a year until I was able to manage a 6:00 am wake up time and still workout.)
And the biggest miracle: I actually started to like it. I know. Crazy.
But these tips are how I manage to wake up early.
HOW TO WAKE UP EARLY IN THE MORNING
1. Ease into it
Like any new habit, making slow and steady changes often helps to make them more permanent. Instead of suddenly trying to wake up crazy early everyday, ease into your desired schedule.
You can do this 2 different ways:
- Wake up a little earlier everyday, gradually making your way to your goal
- Wake up at the desired time a couple days a week and gradually add days
Research suggests that the first option is probably the better one, since most sleep scientists strongly recommend going to sleep and waking at the same time everyday (weekends too) in order to have good sleep hygiene.
2. Set Your Intentions The Night Before
To avoid hitting snooze a dozen times (and then, inevitably, hating yourself for it), you need to mentally prepare yourself to pop out of bed when your alarm goes off.
You have to be very clear and determined–well before your alarm starts to sound–about two specific things:
One, that you will actually wake up and pop out of bed when you hear your alarm. And two, you have to know exactly what you plan to do in the minutes after waking up.
This planning can take many forms:
- VISUALIZATION: Visualizing yourself completing the tasks you want to achieve is an extremely powerful strategy that can change your life. I use it all the time and definitely use it at night to prepare for the morning. I visualize myself smiling and popping out of bed and going through my morning routine step-by-step.
- WRITE IT DOWN: Create a written plan with what time you will get up and each thing you plan to accomplish in the order you plan to do them.
- GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER: Get someone to hold you accountable for waking up early. This could be an early morning exercise buddy, or someone that you simply check in with to stay accountable. Letting someone else know of your plans makes you more likely to keep them.
3. Set Out Everything the Night Before
Since you will be tired and only partially awake once you get out of bed in the morning, you want to have everything prepared so that you can can just go through the motions in the first few minutes you’re awake. That way it will take less discipline and willpower to get you going in the morning.
You want to have everything you can possibly think of ready to go so you’re not rooting around for anything when you’re only half awake (and maybe a bit cranky).
This may include setting out:
- work out clothes
- book to read
- a gym bag
- a purse/work bag
- glass of water
Personally, I work out most every morning. So I lay out everything I’m going to need: socks, shoes, clothes, sports bra, and headphones (I also find that getting dressed in gym clothes first things means I don’t skip my workout).
If I’m going for a run, I leave out my house key lanyard. I even have a big glass of water ready and waiting by my bathroom sink (see step 8). If I plan on working, I get everything set up in my home office so that I can just sit down and get to work.
Regardless of my morning plans, I make sure that all I have to do is get out of bed and then go through my routine.
What things should YOU set out to be ready for your morning?
4. Set an Earlier Bedtime and Keep it EVERYDAY
This is essential since you don’t want to be operating with a sleep deficiency. Sleep deprivation (getting less than 7-8 hours) basically leads to a host of health issues including weight gain (ugh) and even a shorter lifespan. Yikes!
Without enough sleep, you will always be exhausted when you wake up.
(BTW, the best book out there on sleep, is the fascinating and mind-blowing Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker)
While this may seem like an obvious one, as a night owl this will take preparation and planning. This means you have to have a cut-off time for evening activities well before your set bedtime.
Also, going to bed at the same time every night, weekends and weekdays, will help your body make the transition to an earlier wake up time.
Personally, getting serious with my bedtime has been the MOST IMPORTANT thing I’ve done to be able to wake up early without being tired. I’ve made my set bedtime pretty much sacred.
An hour before my bedtime, I wrap up whatever I’m doing and head to my bedroom to go through my wind down routine (more on that below). That way, I’m both relaxed and ready for bed when the time comes.
5. Get Quality Sleep
Unfortunately, just setting an earlier bedtime isn’t enough to make sure that you’re going to wake up rested. We’ve all laid awake in bed with our minds racing or spent the night tossing and turning.
Quality sleep is essential to feeling well-rested, yet it’s not always easy to come by (especially as a busy mama).
One way to help ensure some quality shut-eye is to create a relaxing wind-down routine that helps your body get in the sleep mode. Here are a few ideas of what you can do:
- shut off screens a couple hours before bedtime
- take a warm bath
Personally, I take a super hot bath with oils and epsom salts while I read. Then I do some stretches (and continue reading) once I get out. Then I visualize exactly what I pan to do the next morning as I slip into bed. I find that this relaxes my mind and body so I can fall asleep quickly.
6. Optimize Your Alarms
Making sure you have an alarm set that you will not “snooze” til the end of time is essential. Luckily, there are a lot of options:
- ALARM ACROSS THE ROOM: This serves 2 purposes–it gets lights and technology away from you when you’re trying to sleep (thereby improving sleep quality) and it makes you actually get up and out of bed to turn it off. This was a game changer for me.
- ALARM ACROSS THE ROOM & PHONE BY YOUR BED: This is my preferred way to wake up. I keep a really soft alarm on my phone by my bed that gently wakes me up. My alarm across the room is set for 3 minutes later. Since I don’t want to disturb my husband, I get up easily with my gentle alarm and turn off the other alarm before it even goes off.
- USE STEP OUT APP: This app is completely genius. (And slightly terrifying.) If you can hit snooze a million times without even thinking, this is the app for you. You can set it up so that in order to turn off the alarm, you actually have to take 10 or 20 steps. And by that point, you are awake!
Also, try and get an alarm that isn’t horribly annoying. If the sound is too grating, it’ll put you in a bad mood the minute you hear it. And actually, research suggests that you’re more likely to be successful changing a habit during a time of change. Therefore, I’d suggest getting a new alarm to signal turning a new leaf.
Update April 2021: Hands down, the best alarm clock I’ve found is this awesome light alarm clock from Amazon. It’s what I currently use. Here’s why I LOVE it:
- The light gently wakes you up before the alarm even sounds. I
- There are several alarm sounds including ocean noises, birds, and other pleasant noises that don’t make me want to throw the alarm out the window.
- You can set it to be completely dark during the night so no annoying light disturbing your sleep.
7. Train Yourself to Smile Right When You Wake Up
I know it sounds super cheesy, but smiling and telling yourself how excited you are to wake up (even when you feel like you want to die) really works. It actually will help make you happy and excited to wake up.
Fake it til you make it, baby!
8. Get Out of Your Bedroom ASAP
In order to get going in the morning, you have to train yourself to pop out of bed (to turn off your alarm across the room) and then to get out of your bedroom before you can think about how comfy your mattress feels. That way you don’t even let yourself think about getting back into bed!
While you can do whatever works best for you, I highly recommend that you make it second nature to then head straight to the bathroom without even giving it a thought.
9. Drink a Glass of Water & Brush Your Teeth
Once you’re up and have gone straight to the bathroom, you can really start to wake yourself up by drinking a full glass of water and brushing your teeth. This is going to start to really wake you up and get into your morning routine.
First off, drinking water starts getting your body revved up (and you metabolism going) and will give you an instant energy boost.
Then, brushing your teeth not only gives you something to do as you are trying to wake up, it actually wakes up your mouth (hello minty freshness!). By this point, you are at least halfway woken up.
10. Put on Exercise Clothes
While you’re still waking yourself up, you can put on the clothes that you’ve already set out. Getting dressed and physically preparing for the day is going to help you continue to wake yourself up AND it makes it way less likely that you’ll slip back into bed once you’re dressed.
To make the most of your day, I HIGHLY recommend working out first thing and getting it out of the way.
YOU CAN WAKE UP EARLY IN THE MORNING
Trust me, if I can train myself to wake up early and not hate my life, absolutely ANYONE can! While any habit change is tough, these tips will make waking up early in the morning much easier.
With these 10 strategies, you can leave your snooze button in the dust and discipline yourself to wake up early. And grab the free printable checklist below.
You’ve got this!
*Update 2019: I woke up at 4:00am most days for over a year until my schedule permitted me to wake up at 6:00am instead. I still wake up before my kids every day and go through my intentional morning routine.*