Is getting up at 5am the key to success?

Cup of Coffee next to an alarm clock
Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

Getting up at 5am seems to be THE thing right now. Especially people who run businesses, bloggers, youtubers but also politicians or CEOs seem to have gotten into the habit. Getting up early apparently is the secret to success.

Most people who get up at 5am claim to be more productive, have more time to exercise, meditate, pray, do yoga, read, write, a.s.o. 

By the time other people are hitting their snooze button for the third time, those early morning risers are already wide awake, sipping their second cup of coffee, having already burned hundreds of calories. Ready to wake up their kids, go to work, plan their week, write their blog, film their youtube-videos, you name it.

One of the biggest benefits of being up so early reportedly is the quiet time in the early morning hours: no emails, no text messages, no kids up yet. NO distractions AT ALL. Furthermore, those early birds claim to feel in control about their lives (vs. their lives controlling them), they are better organised, they get things done and still have time.

Sounds tempting?

Well, to me it almost sounds too good to be true. And the more people I hear bragging about their awesome (early) mornings, the more I wonder:

Is getting up at 5am really the key to a more organised, healthier and happier life? Is it really that beneficial and life changing?

Are there any downsides and if so, what are those?

As I am writing this, and I assume this is always what has kept me from trying to become a 5am person, three major BUT’s come to mind:

  1. I like to get up early, I have always liked it, but I have NEVER (voluntarily) gotten up as early as 5am. I just think it is TOO early! I can easily do 6am. Maybe even 5:30. But 5am?! I don’t think so. So the question is: Does it really have to be 5am? Isn’t 6am just as fine?
  2. As a Mom (this point might also be true for people working night shifts, or people with a very irregular working schedule), especially during the first year of motherhood, I was very thankful for EVERY MINUTE of sleep I could get at night. When my son then slept through the night, I still felt like I needed to sleep as long as I possibly could, which basically means as long as my son would sleep (and let me sleep), in order to make it through the day. Even as he is sleeping through the night, and has been doing so for several months now, I still feel like I need to take in all the sleep I can get.
  3. Lastly, and that is my biggest issue, I don’t think I can give up my “free” nights with my friends or my husband. Because as soon as the boy is sound asleep, I can have friends come over, hang out with my husband or go out for a drink (given that my husband is home to stay with the little one). I like to be social and as much as I love my child, I do also value my friendships and enjoy hanging out with them WITHOUT always having a one and a half year old grabbling and babbling toddler with me.

So, is getting up at 5am really that beneficial? Am I willing to sacrifice my precious evenings for precious mornings?

Here are some benefits and difficulties of getting up at 5am that I gathered from around the web:

Benefits of getting up at 5am:

  • You feel in control of your life
  • You have more time for yourself
  • You get some quiet time before everybody else is up
  • You have time to exercise in the morning, BEFORE school/work/…
  • You have time to plan your day/week
  • You have time to eat a healthy breakfast
  • You have enough time for selfcare
  • There are NO distractions in the early morning hours, no emails, no texts, no calls…
  • By the time you get to work/school you are already wide awake!
  • You will get used to a sleeping schedule and stick to it, which improves your quality of sleep
  • You are more productive and can concentrate better
  • The earlier you get up, the earlier you want to go to bed at night. So you will naturally be tired at an earlier hour. (This might not be considered beneficial for everybody :D)

Difficulties of getting up at 5am:

  • It is not for everyone! Studies have shown that our genes determine wether we are naturally a morning person or rather a night owl. Thus: „if you don’t naturally feel alert in the morning but decide to wake up early anyway, you might be sabotaging your actual peak performance times.“ And that, of course, would not be beneficial at all!!! (bbc.com)
  • Try to find your natural (biological) internal clock. Research has shown that we work best if we find our internal clock and stick to it (as far as possible, of course).
  • Only works if you are actually able to shift your BEDTIME to an earlier hour. If you want to stay up late in spite of getting up at 5am: DON’T DO IT! Cutting sleep is NOT an option. It causes bad health conditions (see my other blog posts on lack of sleep). Plus, you will simply be tired all the time and not gain anything from your new routine.
  • If you want to wake up at 5am, set yourself some goals that you want to achieve during that time. If you don’t have a reason for why you should get up or something to look forward to, it will just be very tough and unnatural to become a morning person.

The difficulties I personally see are:

  • If getting up early means going to bed early, it might get very difficult to meet friends at night, got to birthday-parties, BBQs, to the movies etc.
  • …..it might be hard to spend quality time with your partner.

Would you have known?
For about half of us, this isn’t really an issue. It’s estimated that some 50% of the population isn’t really morning or evening-oriented, but somewhere in the middle. 
Roughly one in four of us, though, tend more toward bright-eyed early risers, and another one in four are night owls. For them, the effects can go beyond falling asleep in front of the TV at 10pm or being chronically late for work. Research shows that morning versus evening types show a classic left-brain versus right-brain division: more analytical and cooperative versus more imaginative and individualistic.
from bbc.com

So what now?

What we can easily acknowledge is:

The benefit of getting up so early is that you have MORE TIME for whatever you want to do in the morning. At the same time the main difficulty seems to be that you might try to force yourself into something that is simply not for you, which will not end well, or, that you will exchange your free nights for free mornings and with that automatically eliminate time with friends or your partner.

However: The day has 24 hours. We are recommended to sleep about eight hours every night. We have to work, do house work, go to appointments, pick up kids, whatsoever. The time remaining is the time remaining. No matter when you get up. Make sure to use it for your own well being!!

Develop a sleeping schedule, take time to plan your day, try to figure out when you are most productive, when you can make time for just yourself and how you can establish your own routines.

Be strong, set yourself some goals, make time for the things that are important to you and cut out the things that waste your precious time. Turn off your phone, if you don’t want to be distracted.

All those benefits of getting up at 5am will remain the same if you really care about how you spend your time.

For me, personally, I like to get up at 6/6:30am. Have a cup of coffee before my son wakes up. That’s a priority and that is all I need in the morning.

I don’t need to exercise EVERY morning because I am a big fan of simply being active throughout the day. I don’t need the morning in order to be alone or without distractions: I usually use my son’s nap-time after lunch. I put him to sleep, brew some fresh coffee, put my phone away or switch it to airplane mode and then read, write, do some yoga, plan my week or just sit and daydream.

What really keeps me from getting up as early as 5am is the fact that I would probably have to be in bed by 9pm. Given that my son goes to sleep around 8pm, sometimes 8:30pm, going to bed at 9pm myself is simply not an option!! I LOVE MY EVENINGS!! Because that is the time for me to socialize. As a woman, as a friend, as a wife and NOT as a mom. I don’t think I could ever give that up.

So, after all, I truly believe that the key to all those benefits people claim to get from getting up at 5am is to find your own perfect way. Find what suits you, find what works for you. Find what fills your needs. That may still be getting up at 5am. It might not be that at all.

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