Years ago, I used to be a night owl.
I would stay up well beyond the point at which my wife would fall asleep to Murder She Wrote re-runs and work overtime on my computer, trying to get a jump on the next day.
It was a quiet time that was almost never interrupted, and I enjoyed that. My thought was: “I’m too busy being pulled in 100 directions to get high-focus work done at the office, and I want to spend my evenings with Callie, so I’ll stay up late and get things done after she goes to bed.”
I fell into the trap that so many of us fall into; I became too busy to get enough sleep. Sure, I was getting seven hours or so, but I was doing mediocre work late at night and then getting poor quality sleep because I was frustrated about my lack of progress. Then, I would wake up feeling exhausted in the morning. It was a vicious cycle.
I thought I was a night owl. I was wrong. I needed to get better sleep!
I won’t spend a ton of time listing the seemingly endless list of the benefits of sleep (better health, focus, productivity, and on and on) because you can read that over on Healthline. If you’re reading this post, you already know that sleep is priceless and you want more of it.
So, what I want to show you is just how easy it is to get better sleep by merely changing your sleep patterns by getting to bed earlier, waking up earlier, and all while getting enough zzzzs in between.
1. Change Your Mindset from “Night Owl” to “Early Riser”
As the saying goes, “The first step is always the hardest.” Deciding to be a morning person is the toughest part, but I can honestly tell you that it’s worth it. I’ve read countless studies and articles stating that getting up earlier and closer to the sunrise is better for your circadian rhythm which promotes better energy throughout the day.
I reasoned that if I got up earlier and started my day, I would have the same amount of quiet time as I did from staying up until 11:30, except this way, I would get my most challenging tasks done while I was at my freshest in the morning.
Not to mention, I could now enjoy my evenings with my wife and go to bed at the same time as her.
Find a couple of important reasons for going to bed and getting up earlier. Finding your ‘why’ will help you get started on the right foot.
2. Prep Your Morning the Night Before
Alright, if the first step is the hardest, then this one is the easiest. Whatever you’re planning to do in the morning, prep for it the night before.
If you’re going to the gym, lay out your gym shoes and clothes, charge your earbuds, and mix your pre-workout when you first get home.
If you’re going to wake up and write a blog or read a book, prep your coffee pot, lay out your book, and tidy up your desk the evening before.
You want to be able to jump out of bed and be started on your task within five to ten minutes. Don’t give yourself any reason to talk yourself into sleeping in. The more you have to get ready in the morning, the more likely you are to convince yourself that it’s too much trouble.
Prep as much as you have too to be successful, but don’t wait until bedtime to do it. Prep your morning well before you feel like crashing into bed. Otherwise, you may opt to “just get to it in the morning.”
3. Start Small at First
Significant changes take time, that’s why I started getting up at 6:30 a.m. (from 7:30 a.m.) at first. It was just an hour, and it was difficult at first, but not as difficult as 5:00 a.m. would have been.
Jumping straight into a 5:00 a.m. wake-up time would have been a recipe for disaster, trust me! If you think you’re going to have a harder time with it, get up 20, 30, or 45 minutes earlier than usual and ease into it.
All it takes to ruin your outlook on waking up earlier is to overdo it for a few days, becoming extremely tired and cranky, and giving up. That’s a quick way to give up early mornings entirely.
4. Set Multiple Alarms and Avoid the Snooze
Warning: this step is simple but may upset your partner if you have one.
I always, even to this day, set two alarms; one on my phone as the primary, and one on my regular alarm clock ten minutes past my main alarm.
In the beginning, I was snoozing the phone, snoozing the alarm, and then they’d both be going off, and suddenly my wife’s hand would come from somewhere in the darkness to konk me in the head.
It was a rough period, but it didn’t last long. I was snoozing the alarms without even realizing it, but once I began getting used to the new wake-up time, I rarely snoozed the alarm or needed the backup…rarely.
Another reason that snoozing is terrible, besides being annoying, is that you’re conditioning yourself to wake up after a set number of snoozes. You want to train yourself to jump up at the first alarm. It’s better for everyone that way.
5. Stay Consistent and Lock in the Habit
The biggest mistake I made at first was giving myself the chance to sleep in on Wednesdays to “recharge.” That only made it harder on Thursday because it felt like Monday all over again. That’s not what anyone wants.
You need to set a time and stay consistent with it to give your internal time clock and circadian rhythm a chance to reset to the new schedule. I recommend getting up at the same time Monday through Friday to help lock in the new habit.
Once you get about 4-6 weeks in, it should start to become second nature. That’s not that long, is it?
Related: Create Habits that Stick: Optional vs. Non-negotiable Choices
6. Set a Bedtime and Stick to it
Bedtime! But we’re not six anymore!
Exactly, we’re not kids anymore. Kids always avoid bedtime because they want to do more and they’re terrified of missing something. But we’re adults now, and we know all the benefits of a good night’s sleep, right?
That’s why I recommend setting a bedtime that gives you the proper amount of sleep you need, working backward from your wakeup time. The amount of sleep we need is different for everyone, but it usually averages between 7-9 hours.
My bedtime, for example, is 9:30 and I get up at 4:45, which is just over 7 hours and I always feel great. I didn’t feel too fantastic at first, but once I got used to 6:30, I went to 6:00, then 5:30….you get the idea.
Now, I’m getting up routinely at 4:45 a.m. and it was only possible because I set my bedtime, stuck to it, and I prepped my mornings beforehand.
Mornings are Beautiful
So there you have it, six simple steps to getting better sleep by going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. If you think that it’s the same amount of sleep, either way, you’re right, but getting your body more in line with your natural circadian rhythm is hugely beneficial.
My last sales pitch for mornings is just how gorgeous they are.
I see so many sunrises and wildlife, empty streets with city lights, and so much more – it’s fun to experience that every morning. So many people don’t get that chance because they’re burning the midnight oil while doing mediocre work. For them, mornings are almost torture, but they shouldn’t be.
Get up earlier, go to bed earlier, sleep better, and you will see your productivity soar! For an even more extensive guide to getting better sleep, check out this guide for improving your sleep today.