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Rise and shine: why getting up at 5am will make you happy

Date

Sandy Smith

Snap out of it? We can all rise and shine, some say.

Snap out of it? We can all rise and shine, some say. Photo: Justin Horrocks

If an early start has you rolling back under the duvet, forget about sleep deprivation and get out of bed - morning people are happier and more successful than night owls.

Laura Vanderkam, the US author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, says getting up early can hold the key to improving your health, career and personal life.

“Mornings are a great time for getting things done, particularly the personal priorities that life has a way of crowding out,” she says. “There's some research finding that our supply of willpower is strongest in the morning (diets are broken at night, not at breakfast). Choosing to devote early morning hours to things that are important to us - exercise, strategic thinking, creative work, nurturing relationships - means you devote your most focused hours to these things, before other people's priorities invade.”

It's no coincidence that early risers have a reputation for being successful. “It is a common trait found in many CEOs, government officials, and other influential people,” says Jennifer Cohen in Forbes. “Margaret Thatcher was up every day at 5am; Frank Lloyd Wright at 4am and Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney, wakes at 4.30am just to name a few."

But what if your natural state is to stay horizontal and hit the snooze button till the last possible moment?

Anyone can become a morning person says Zoë B, a Sydney-based life coach and author of the Simple Life Strategies blog. It's just a case of redefining yourself. “If we keep telling ourselves that we're not a morning person then guess what happens? We don't get up early. This is a habit that we just need to snap out of. Anyone can become a morning person, it's simply a matter of taking action.”

“People who get up early often report feelings of positivity and achievement that continue throughout the day” she says. “If we begin on a positive note, then this positive mood state is much more likely to continue as the day progresses.”

The evidence is not just anecdotal. Research at the University of Roehampton in Britain highlighted the benefits of getting up early. Dr Jürg Huber told the British Daily Telegraph: "There are morning people and evening people, and morning people tend to be healthier and happier as well as having lower body mass indices."

In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education at Heidelberg, found that early risers were more proactive and more likely to spend time identifying long-term goals. “This research also found that this proactivity leads to a feeling of being more in control, which can aid feelings of confidence,” says Zoë B.

What steps can you take to ensure a 5am start?

Get to bed early

“The biggest obstacle to rising early is that people haven't gone to bed on time the night before,” says Vanderkam. “So at 5am or 6am we are still tired. Chronic sleep deprivation just doesn't work. Try moving your bedtime and wake-up time by about 15 minutes each week until you reach the desired time. If you have trouble getting into bed on time, try setting a 'bedtime alarm' about 30 minutes before you need to be asleep, so you can turn off the screens, relax, connect with your spouse/partner and hit the pillow when you intend to.”

Stay calm

“Inability to get to sleep – stimulants and over-thinking are two of the biggest culprits for drifting off to sleep peacefully,” says Zoë B. “No caffeine after lunch and make the bedroom a 'no worry' zone. This means that as soon as you get into bed, you do not allow yourself to worry or think about what you need to do tomorrow. Practice gratitude and think of three things that you were grateful for from the day. It's really important to be in a positive state before we go to sleep so that we can then wake up early feeling refreshed.”

Work out your morning goals

“Get 100% clear about why you want to get up early,” says Zoë B. “Take two minutes to note down exactly what you want to achieve the next morning and in what order you will complete each task or activity. Then immediately before you go to sleep, remind yourself why you will be getting up early the next morning. If you do this, you'll notice that when you do wake up - you're more likely to remember what your 'morning schedule' is and this will motivate you to get up instead of going back to sleep.”

94 comments

  • I've always been a morning person. That's when I'm the most creative and alive. The earlier I get up, the better. It's amazing how much can be accomplished with little or no interruptions. Then I can spend the rest of the day doing the things I love to do above and beyond work.

    Commenter
    All Heart
    Date and time
    April 11, 2014, 7:29AM
    • Yes, me too I now get up at 2am and go to bed at 7pm, works wonders for the creativity and productivity. I was doing this before anyone even knew it was the thing to do.

      Commenter
      Simon
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 9:09AM
    • Well I get up at midnight and go to bed at 4pm - its called night shift!

      Commenter
      Max
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 9:51AM
    • Perfect reason why QLD should never get daylight savings. More sunshine early in the morning. It's for the good of the state :)

      Commenter
      1933
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 10:16AM
    • Echo the sentiment of others.

      A most unscientific article, and quoting of unscientific professional.

      I have long thought it would be great to be a morning person, up with the sun. Have tried many times to re-set. Am currently in process of trying to get into habit of an earlier time right now. Maybe THIS time, if i am just determined enough and stick at it long enough it will work? Its an exhausting process, and can only be done when one does not need to be very functional during the day - this is what has led to me failing so many times before - you just get to a point where you can no longer function to do what you need to do in the day.

      Not to mention the difficulty of combining a lifestyle where you do anything at night beyond most essential activities, with getting up early.

      Commenter
      J
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 11:00AM
    • To add to what 1933 said... unfortunately some of us live in daylight savings states. For seven months of the year, those of us who have to set our alarm for 5 am, actually get out of bed at 4 am, and laughingly call it "5 am".

      And people snigger about an apocryphal Queensland housewife who complained that her curtains would fade faster. Who is the more deluded?

      Commenter
      duke
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 11:56AM
    • @All Heart - I am a night person and it's amazing how much can be accomplished with little or no interruptions as everyone else has gone to bed early. I get enormous satisfaction doing my email etc. at night so that I give all those mites who get up early something to do to get their feeling of purpose and happiness. In fact it makes me sleep all the better as I know that I have made so many peoples morning a bundle of happiness and joy. Yay!

      Commenter
      Lance
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 4:23PM
    • LOL....daylight savings, I miss it.... and 3 points:

      1. Its six months a year, from the first Sat in Oct to first Sat in April
      2. The article says you wake up early, nothing about sunlight,
      3.Deary me what to do when it gets dark at 9pm? So late, but when I get home from work I have another few hours of daylight, to cook a BBQ, go for a walk, so nice not to leave for work in the dark and get home in the dark, and if you go to bed at 9.30 and wake up at 5.30 you still have a full 8 hrs.....

      Oh..daylight savings...did I mention that I miss it already and I usually wake up at 5.15am, summer and winter.....

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      April 12, 2014, 8:06AM
  • Bulldust!

    Commenter
    Chriscb
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 11, 2014, 7:44AM
    • Fact is that many successful people are at their best later in the day and work late. This is especially the case in the technology sector. And they don't have to get up early because they got the job done the previous evening!
      It generally does not work to change your natural pattern, it is best to schedule so you make use of your most productive time - whether it is early morning, middle of the day, afternoon or evening. In technology I have worked with many early starters who run out of energy and become unproductive by 3pm, while the late starters keep building energy and output through the day and end up far more productive overall.
      It seems that early starters often think that is the only way to be, hence articles like this. While late starters seem to be more flexible about what works. In the end, only a proper study measuring real work outputs would provide any real guidance, and it will probably be: do what works best for you!

      Commenter
      RealityCheck
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 11, 2014, 11:30AM

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