How To Wake Up Early: Understand The Science (And Build A Routine)

One of the keys to being able to wake up early every day is establishing a routine and sticking with it, which can be difficult if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

This article will help you understand the science behind our sleep-wake patterns, as well as provide other useful tips for getting into a routine that sticks.


Common reasons why waking up early is difficult

There are many reasons why waking up early can be difficult. Let’s look at the most common ones.

  1. Inconsistent sleep schedule

When you have an inconsistent sleep schedule, you sleep longer on weekends or take long naps during the day. You also don’t have a fixed time to go to bed – you just plonk on the bed whenever you feel sleepy.

  1. Your sleep quality is poor

There are a few factors that affect your sleep quality:

  • A snoring partner
  • Your own snoring
  • The room is too chilly
  • Frequent bathroom visits

All of these can contribute to poor sleep quality, making it difficult to feel refreshed and alert in the morning.

  1. Sleep disorders

Lifestyle factors are the usual culprit to not being able to wake up early. However, you may also be suffering from one of the sleep disorders mentioned below:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Prolonged sleep inertia


Have clarity about WHY you want to wake up early

To make any change in your life stick, you must first identify why it is important to you.

Ask yourself why you want to wake up at a specific time. What motivates you to do this?

For example, do you want to wake up early to get more work done before you go to work? Do you want an early start to a more productive day with less distractions from social media and technology? Or do you want to have breakfast with family and have some quiet time for self-reflection and meditation?

Once you’ve determined your reasons, take the next step and inform your family or housemates about the change you want to make. The public commitment and accountability can give you an extra nudge when you feel tired and ready to say, “Screw it! I’m going back to bed.”


Give yourself something to look forward to in the morning

To wake up even when you feel sleepy, give yourself something to look forward to in the morning.

Perhaps you can reward yourself with a nice breakfast or a morning walk. Or during your morning workout, you can listen to your favourite podcast or songs.

This technique is called temptation bundling, where you connect two actions: one you want to do and the other you need to do.

Here is an excellent morning routine to follow for a happier more productive day:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Workout

Check out our Become A Morning Person bootcamp which helps you build a solid morning routine that includes meditation, journaling, and workout


Schedule a morning workout or yoga session

Exercising in the morning has been shown to boost your mood and can help you concentrate later in the day. Exercising also releases endorphins, which give us that natural high and make us feel like we can tackle anything.

As you build this schedule, you will slowly get hooked on to the feeling of wellness early in the morning and start looking forward to it.

Yoga is also proven to increase overall sleep quality, so it’s all the more reason to schedule a yoga session. [1]


Maintain consistency even during weekends

Maintain a regular sleep and wake-up schedule to reset your circadian rhythm. Your body will learn to accommodate the new rhythm if you go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

Observe the same bedtime and wake time on weekends as you do during the week. A consistent weekend bedtime appears to result in better sleep and make it easier to wake up throughout the week. [2]

Even if you can’t fall asleep at the time you’ve planned, set an alarm and get up at the scheduled time, regardless. This will help you stay on track.


Understand your biological clock and chronotype

Our biological clock or circadian rhythm determines our natural sleep and wake cycle. Evolutionary pressures have ensured that we usually follow a daily routine – there are certain activities we engage in at specific times of the day. We sleep when it is dark and wake when the sun rises.

However, not everyone falls asleep when the light fades. Chronotypes account for some people remaining awake until sunrise and others collapsing on the sofa before they even reach their bedroom.

You can influence your circadian rhythm with a sleep schedule, but your chronotype may remain the same. When someone’s natural chronotype clashes with their work or social schedule, they experience what is called social jetlag.

Not all of us have the luxury to completely follow our natural chronotype, but understanding how the circadian rhythm and chronotype work can help tweak our schedule and build in the required interventions to help us get to the desired daily routine.


No screens before bedtime

Screen-time before bed can mess with your sleep. Blue light from screens interferes with the circadian rhythm, disrupts the sleep pattern, and even affects the next morning alertness. [3] [4]

Blue light is blue wavelength light which boosts attention, elevates the mood, and helps cognitive function. [5] This blue light which is highly beneficial during the day is what causes most disruption during night.

Unplug from digital devices at least 2 hours before bed. If you have to use night lights, use dim red lights.

If you cannot avoid your laptop/smartphone screens at night, install apps that filter blue wavelength light at night. F.lux is a good choice.

A wind-down routine before bedtime signals to your brain that it is time to relax. Scrolling through your newsfeed or social media at night can keep your brain active and trigger thoughts that are difficult to shut down.

Engage in a relaxing bedtime routine at least 90 minutes before bed. Some wind-down activities you can consider:

  • Spend time with your family
  • Read a book (no thrillers or whodunits that can keep you awake)
  • Do a short guided meditation
  • Journaling


Do not snooze when the alarm goes off

When the alarm goes off, do not hit the snooze button because it will only make you feel more tired when you eventually have to get up. You may feel like you’re catching a few extra zzzs, but snoozing is bad for your health because it hampers the restorative late stage REM sleep. [6]

Instead of snoozing, immediately get up and start your day.

But we know this is easier said than done. So here are a few concrete steps you can take to prevent yourself from snoozing.

Keep the alarm out of reach preferably at a spot where you have to get out of the bed and walk over to kill it.

Reframe your thoughts about waking up. If you think about waking up as an unpleasant punishment that you have to go through, your ever-helpful brain will hatch up ways to avoid that pain. Instead, bring about a mindset shift – think about the brand new day and its infinite possibilities when the alarm goes off.

Use a pleasant alarm tone that you’re happy to wake up to.

Make a firm commitment that you will sit up on the bed and put your feet on the floor as soon as you hear the alarm. Mentally decide that this is what you are going to do. Once you have made that decision, do it regardless of what you “feel like” at the time.


Bright light exposure right after you wake up

Go to a brightly lit area after you get up. Step out of the house or into your balcony and get some morning sunlight. Go for a run outside.

Research has shown that exposure to bright light at an early hour of the day reduces melatonin production and boosts attention. [7] [8]

A study published in Sleep Health Journal found that a strong dose of bright light in the morning helped with better sleep and lower levels of stress and depression. [9]

Seek out areas of light after you wake up. You want your brain to realize that it’s time to wake up. This will help you get into and stay in the alert mode.


Ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep

Sleep is your body’s time to repair and heal. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but most of us get much less than that. [10]

Chronic sleep deprivation can turn us into walking zombies. [11] Here are a few symptoms of insufficient sleep that you need to watch out for:

  • Foggy thinking
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Poor memory
  • Low energy
  • Irritability and other mood changes

If you find that you are sleep-deprived, prioritize your sleep and take necessary actions such as following a bedtime routine and a consistent sleep schedule, setting boundaries in your social life and work, and avoiding stimulating beverages at night.


Maintain a sleep log

A sleep log is a way to monitor your sleep quality. In a notebook, keep track of all the improvements you make in your sleep habits and record how you feel after every one.

Take a look at the notebook after a week of trying a new strategy. If it worked, stick with it. If not, reconsider the challenges and try different approaches.

Don’t expect to be perfect. The sleep log is just a way to help you understand what’s working and what’s not.

Here are a few things you can track:

1) Sleep quality: How would you rate your sleep quality?

2) Duration of sleep: How much time did you sleep last night?

3) Consistency of sleep: Is the amount of time you spend sleeping each night consistent?

4) Morning tiredness: When waking up in the morning are you very tired or not at all tired?

5) Bedtime/Wake up time: What is your bedtime and wake-up time?

6) Activity before bed: What do you do before going to bed? Are you watching TV, playing on the computer, reading, etc? How long are you doing this activity for?

7) After waking up: What are you doing after waking up? What is your mood like? How energetic do you feel?



When you wake up early, you will find that you can get more done in the morning. This is because there’s less distractions and demands from others on your time.

Waking up earlier allows you to set boundaries with yourself (i.e., no TV after 10PM), which will help lead to better sleep quality by cutting down on screen time before bedtime.

And finally, when it comes to waking up early and sleeping on time, the rule is that consistency leads to success.

So if you’re trying out new routines, then give yourself time. Be patient and see how well your body responds. Stick with what works and try not to be too hard on yourself!

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