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Why Even Night Owls Should Wake Up Early

I woke up at 6:40 AM this morning to the rustling of my little dog, “Duke,” a feisty lab-corgi mix.

No alarm was involved, Duke is all the ALARM I need.

I used to require alarms, but after the past 18 months of traveling, I have learned to just get up when I get up. Without the stress of work and non-stop sensory input from overuse (abuse?) of computers, I naturally wake up before 7 AM on most days. 6:30 AM is typical.

If I am ever reluctant to jump out of bed, Duke gives me the required motivation. This morning after letting Duke outside to do HIS business, I got down to my own.

Duke says "Hello". He is the perfect alarm clock.
Duke says “Hello”. He is the perfect alarm clock

I brushed my teeth, grabbed my laptop and started outlining a blog post – the one you are reading RIGHT NOW. I’ll admit, I also checked in on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The temptation was too great.

This morning I didn’t meditate or exercise – at least not right away. That stuff will happen later, perhaps.

Is there an ideal daily morning routine anyway?

I know lots of successful people who wake up crazy early, Robin Sharma’s #5AMClub for example, but also there are some who don’t see the point, like GaryVee who says that “Being a Morning Person Doesn’t Make You More Successful“.

There are some who meditate religiously, like Deepak and Oprah and the Dalai Lama, but most of my successful friends do not.

…and don’t get me started on the issue of drinking coffee! I love the stuff. Though part of me feels like I’d be more intrinsically motivated if I learned to function in the morning without it.

The Ideal Morning Routine

I don’t think there is an ideal routine, but I do agree with Tony Robbins statement that “SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES.” So I’ve spent time looking for common themes from the daily routines of successful people.

One key component of the ideal morning routine is the ACT OF WAKING UP.

Is it best to wake up EARLY and get a jumpstart on the day, or just wake up whenever you naturally wake up? Should you do as GaryVee says and #CRUSHIT whenever you can, even if that means embracing the inner night-owl and sleeping in late if you need to?

The Magic Of Waking Up Early

Ben Franklin, the gran poobah of daily routines, stated “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Ben woke up at 5 AM everydayaccording to his autobiography. Granted, he also had a cadre of servants (slaves?) to cater to his needs, but still, the guy was highly prolific (did you know he invented the lighting rod, bifocal glasses and urinary catheter?).

Robert Iger, Disney DEO, does even better, waking at 4:45 AM!

Many CEOs and world leaders follow a similar pattern with crazy early wake-up-calls. I won’t list them all here. Just spend some time searching for your favorite (or least favorite) world leader and you will inevitably find an interview where they share aspects of their morning routine.

4-5AM wake up routines are not uncommon amongst the highly successful crowd.

Even our…ahem… beloved President Barack Obama gets up somewhat early, exercising and ready to work by 8:30-9 AM. This might be late compared to G.W.B.’s routine (who would be in the office before 7 AM), but is still super early compared to most people. I’ll also add that BO only sleeps about 6 hours a night.

In the world of fitness, perhaps no greater specimen comes to mind than Arnold. He had a well known routine that was highly regimented, including 7 AM hardcore training sessions with his bodybuilding partner, Franco Columbo (immortalized in the movie Pumping Iron). To be training at 7 AM, with his pre-workout meal and prep, he must have been up by 6AM or earlier.

Metaphysical Basis For Waking Up Early

Deepak Chopra wakes up early and sees early rising NOT as a way to be more productive, but as a way to get in tune to the biorhythms of nature. Deepak further says “By itself, getting up early in the morning isn’t enough to have a significant impact in one’s life, but in concert with a spiritual practice and a healthy diet and lifestyle, it can contribute to your overall well-being.”

AYURVEDA, an Indian system of healing speaks of the morning as a very special time that is important to promote healing and get the day started in the proper way.

More broadly speaking, Ayurveda teaches us that waking before 6 AM is important since this is a time when the VATA ELEMENT is dominant. VATA governs the nervous system so waking up with this element dominant helps the body get going and tuned into nature.

Eastern spiritual traditions (Hinduism or Buddhism in its many flavors) encourage PRACTICE well before dawn. At the ashram I attended growing up, morning Puja was held at 5 AM, followed by mediation at 6 AM, PRACTICALLY EVERY DAY!

It is said that the special 5 AM Puja (“Puja” is a Sanskrit term for prayer) had the purpose of waking up the LORD. If the LORD is getting up early, shouldn’t we be? Something to think about.

Switching gears to Christianity, there are many (100s) of bible verses on EARLY RISING. Monks at St. Mary’s Monastery (Benedictine Monks) rise at 4:30 AM and begin vigils at 5 AM while at St. John’s they “sleep in” and begin private prayers at 5:30 AM. Monks of the middle ages would routinely rise and begin prayers at 5 AM.

No doubt, across religious and spiritual traditions, there something magical and holy about the early hours of the morning.

Don’t believe in metaphysical benefits of waking up early? No problem…

Scientific Support For Waking Up Early

Several studies correlate the positive effects of waking up early.  Sorry Garyvee, the cards are stacked against your assertion that waking up early doesn’t matter.

In a 2008 Texas University study, college students who identified themselves as “morning people” earned a full point higher on their GPAs than those who were “night owls” (3.5 vs. 2.5).

Christoph Randler is a professor of biology at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany. Randler discovered in 2008 that early risers are more proactive. They were more likely to agree with statements like “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself” and “I feel in charge of making things happen.”

Randler’s research also revealed that “morning people” are more likely to anticipate problems and minimize them efficiently, which leads to more success in the business world.

St. Lawrence University conducted another study showcasing the higher performance of students who took morning classes. They found that students who took morning classes tended to make other decisions that favorably impacted their daily living (e.g. not partying the night before an early morning class) in addition to their performing better academically.

So while GaryVee’s theory of people CRUSHING IT being more important than waking up early might be reasonable in theory, in practice, when people wake up late – chances are they won’t be achieving their full potential. If you are a night owl, chances are you also sleep in to get adequate rest.

Even Night Owls Should Wake Up Early

Sleep experts say that if you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, your body will be more in tune with the earth’s circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep. Don’t fight nature, go along with it!

Various studies have shown that morning people exhibit character traits like optimism, being agreeable, satisfaction and conscientiousness. Night owls, while linked with creativity and intelligence, are more likely to exhibit traits like depression, pessimism and being neurotic.

So…..it’s pretty clear that waking up early is important, but how early is EARLY?

How early you need to wake up is open for debate, but before 7 AM seems like a smart choice to me. More likely, 6 AM is a better bet based on what I’ve seen in research and exhibited by high performers across a variety of fields.

As for me, I feel good about 6:40 AM being a typical wakeup time for me naturally, but am continuing to push to join the #5AMCLUB.

I am most inspired and creative in the morning. Might as well take advantage of that!

I’ll also reveal something that no other study points out: waking up early ensures that distractions DON’T GET IN YOUR WAY: be it kiddos running around, the dog needing to be walked, or the deluge of incoming tweets and emails.

Getting up early means you get to take CONTROL of your day before other people do.

Even if you think you are a night owl, it is worth challenging that belief. Take steps to reclaim your mornings.

4 comments

  1. M Hassan says:

    Various studies have shown that morning people exhibit character traits like optimism, being agreeable, satisfaction and conscientiousness. Night owls, while linked with creativity and intelligence, are more likely to exhibit traits like depression, pessimism and being neurotic
    Sir can you send me the references of the above mentioned passage. Kindly i need it.
    Reg M Hassan

  2. Anizkhan says:

    In Islam we practising muslims also wake up around 5.30am to do our morning prayers… It is consider as good day when u start ur day with morning prayer.

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