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.”
“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.”