What’s something that Oprah Winfrey, Tim Cook, and Richard Branson have in common? They all wake up each morning at an unfathomably early hour. They also seem to love doing it.
Tim Cook claims that his 4 AM wake-up time is what has allowed him to become so successful. He starts his day by reading user comments, checking his emails, and working out.
Richard Branson wakes up at 5 AM then proceeds to play tennis, go for a run, or even go windsurfing, since, as he puts it: “There’s no better way to start the day than with the wind in your hair, salt on your skin, and a smile on your face.”
But it’s not just eccentric billionaires who enjoy waking up early. More and more health gurus and fitness fanatics are also beginning to tout the benefits of an early rise.
So what does the actual science say? Can waking up early improve your overall wellbeing, or is it nothing more than another fitness fad?
Early to bed and early to rise
All people, no matter their insomniac tendencies, have an internal clock that regulates when they wake up and fall asleep. This is known as your circadian rhythm.
In a perfect world, people would fall asleep in the early evening and wake up in the early morning. Their sleep schedules would, more or less, coincide with the rising and setting of the sun.
Of course, life can make it difficult to maintain a solid sleep schedule. From staying up late to finish work to spending a night out on the town, it’s easy to lose track of time and realize that it’s already the middle of the night (or technically, the early morning).
That said, most people find themselves feeling the most energized when they practice a standard early-to-bed-early-to-rise sleep schedule.
The benefits of waking up early
While waking up early won’t turn you into a billionaire, it can provide you with other health benefits.
Studies seem to show that people who wake up earlier enjoy higher quality sleep (1). Of course, you need to sleep in the right environment and get the recommended minimum of seven hours, but waking up early might help you feel more energized (2).
The other major benefit of waking up early is that you get more time to do the things you want to do. Whether that means squeezing in a workout before work, doing yoga, or just giving yourself some downtime before starting your day, waking up early lets you do it all.
How early is too early?
If you’re looking to wake up at 5 AM, seven hours of sleep will require you to tuck yourself into bed around 10 PM. Of course, most people don’t fall asleep instantly, so you’ll have to factor that in as well. Depending on how long it takes you to drift off to sleep, you might want to get into bed around 9:30 PM.
For many people, that’s not doable.
In that case, try to create a sleep schedule that works for you. Take the time you need to get your body used to sleeping and waking up early. Eventually, it’ll become habitual.
No right answer
While research does show that practicing a standard sleep schedule is beneficial, everyone’s different. If you’re someone who operates best in the night when everyone around you is sleeping, don’t feel pressured to change unless you think you think that your current sleep schedule is unhealthy.
As long as you feel rested and are getting enough sleep, you’re doing just fine.