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Last updated: Sep 14th, 2011

Waking Up Early:

Male American Robin, chubby, with vibrant red breast, in grass, with scattered dead leaves
Birds are one symbol of early rising, as they tend to be most active early in the day.

Some people, including myself, find that the morning is one of their most productive times of the day. I find that I tend to focus more easily on difficult tasks in the morning than at any other time. Yet many people in American society seem to have trouble waking up early. Whether you are seeking greater productivity, or whether you are required by a job or other commitment to wake up early, there are a few tips that can help make early rising into a joy rather than a chore.

How beneficial is early rising?

There are numerous sources and historical figures who have spoken and written at length about the supposed benefits of early rising.

My personal opinion is that people have different preferences and strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working and living with different patterns of sleep, and people can generally know themselves better than anyone else can. If you want or need to wake up early, then do so, but if you find that another pattern of waking and sleeping works better within the framework of your life, it is best to go with the pattern that works best for you.

Societal Benefits to Early Rising:

In general, society is better off when people learn and work with whatever circadian rhythms work well for them. But there are some benefits to society when a majority of people wake up early, and there are also some individual benefits to adopting this structure:

There are, however, a few advantages to having very different circadian rhythms from the norm. For example, if you wake and drive to work much earlier or much later than normal, you can avoid rush hour, which can save time and resources.

How to Wake Up Early:

If you want to get up easily in the morning, the most important piece of advice is to get enough sleep. There is no way around this point: sleep is a requirement for both optimum physical and mental health. In general, I have found all of the following tips helpful for waking up early:

If you like both rising early and staying up late:

I often feel torn between different forces when it comes to my circadian rhythms. I value sleep very highly, and am most productive in the morning, and various work and school obligations have often demanded that I wake up early. However, most social activities happen late at night--much later than I would schedule them in an ideal world. The problem is not the number of hours in the day, the problem is when things happen. I want to be productive, but I also want to have a social life.

Some people find napping or taking a siesta during the middle of the day to be an effective way of managing these two conflicting priorities. I can see the appeal of this approach, as there is a certain time of the day in the afternoon in which I feel the most sluggish and least productive. Many people say this approach works for them, and it is even embedded in the culture of some countries, especially relatively warm and sunny countries such as Spain. However, I've found that I tend to not nap particularly well unless I'm sick or exhausted, so I have not yet found a good solution to this problem.

Losing sleep by staying up is better than waking earlier:

There is one interesting study that compared the effects of cutting two hours out of the normal sleep schedule by waking two hours earlier, with going to sleep two hours later. This study found that staying up two hours later was less stressful for the body, and resulted in less overall disruption and loss of performance, whereas waking up two hours earlier was more disruptive. [Source] My own personal experience has validated this.

Resources Related to Early Rising:

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