Alarm clock
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Does Waking at 4am Improve your Health and Make You More Effective?

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin


Many of us are not morning people – we struggle to rise at 7am when our alarm goes. We hear the alarm, hit snooze, and roll over for five more minutes rest.


But have you ever tried regularly waking super early? Say, at 4am? It sounds odd, but many hard working people are finding that early rising is the key to health, wealth and happiness.


Regularly rising early has been a regular fixture of the personal development scene for years now. Many popular bloggers have experimented with getting up at 4am – they’ve relayed its benefits, and potential pitfalls.


Is Early Waking Hitting the Mainstream?


It appears that 4am rising has become more popular of late - I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal recently discussing the phenomenon 


The article talks about Michelle Obama being an early riser; it also discusses how Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up at 3.45am every day. “Hey!” I hear you cry, “That’s the middle of the night!” Tim would argue differently, that it allows him to rise in the stillness and peace before dawn, and get a start on his competitors by being more productive.


What Are the Benefits of Waking Early?


Early risers, unsurprisingly, tend to get more done in the day. They say that getting up before everyone else allows them to meditate, do yoga, go jogging, drink coffee and have breakfast – all before the rest of the house has started to stir.


With regard to work, and answering emails, there actually seems to be a dispute between rival camps of 4am risers.


On one hand, some say that in the early hours you should hit the work hard, writing emails, doing spreadsheets and generally getting a start on your rivals. They say it gives you a 2-3 hour advantage over business competitors in the day, and just allows more time to fit more in.


Opponents of this view say that work and social media should be delayed, and the pre-dawn hours should be reserved for relaxing or spiritual pursuits. Monks have been getting up early for thousands of years, and regularly use the hours for prayer and meditation.


These types say the early hours should be a time of exercise and preparation for the day, not diving into Facebook feeds and email, which, they say, just compounds the problem, and complicates one’s life.


These people say that when it comes to early morning, less is more.


What’s the Best Way to Waking Up Early?


On his classic minimalist (and very popular) blog “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta lays out an early waking path for people looking to get started -


He gives these pointers:

  • Start slowly – wake 15 minutes earlier than usual, get used to this for a few days, then cut back another 15 minutes. Do it gradually.
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Put your alarm clock far from your bed
  • Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm
  • Do not rationalise, just do it – don’t let your brain talk you out of waking early.
  • Have a good reason – incentivise yourself. Reward yourself with a 4am rise with a delicious breakfast of, say, porridge and berries
  • Take advantage of that extra time!

Leo has been an early riser for years, so I guess his advice is likely to be tried and tested. Give it a try, see what you can achieve.


What are the Health Benefits of Rising Early?

  • Better grades – In a 2008 Texas University study, college students who identified themselves as “morning people” earned a full grade higher than those who were “night owls”.
  • Get Better Sleep – According to Forbes 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
  • Perhaps the biggest health benefit comes from the exercise and breakfast activities that many early risers tend to do in the early hours. If you’re using the extra time in the early morning to eat healthy, work out, run, meditate and do yoga, then this is going to enhance your physical and mental health greatly, much more than if you spend the time on Facebook!



So, the question you may be asking is – is regular waking up early for me? Can it improve my life?


Well the evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, suggests that it can. Many bloggers talk about it in positive terms - early waking makes them more productive, healthier and gives them more time to spend with their families and children.


I think you do need discipline to regularly wake at 4am. Some “morning people” could probably manage it with relatively no fuss.


The rest of us? It could be a struggle. But with some of the advice above, I think it could worth giving it a try for a month, just to see how we get on.


Try it as a 30 day challenge, and see if it changes your life…or just tires you out!