I realised the other day that my 30 day trial was actually at day 37. Oops. Anyway, here’s my wrapup, even if it did take me to day 42 to get there…
Getting up early is set in as a habit now. Although initially I was going to sleep in on weekends, that became uncomfortable by around week 3, so my compromise was that I’d always wake up early (somewhere between 3 and 4.30), but that if it was a weekend I could go back to bed until 6 – so long as I got up and did at least one thing first. That way it didn’t feel like I was breaking the chain.
I also discovered that movement and light first thing are absolute keys to this. At the end, when my phone alarm went off with a catchy tune, I’d either jump up or at worst do some form of seated dancing. It’s a short tune, so maybe a minute of this, but the difference it made to how awake I felt and how late I got tired again was amazing. Also, turning on the lights. If you’re getting up after the sun, use that, if not, turn on every light you can find, even if it’s just for ten minutes. That’s enough for your brain to start churning out those “it’s daytime now, sleepyhead” hormones that stop you going back to sleep. Temporarily at least.
There were some tough days where I ended up staying late, getting to bed anywhere between 10.30 and 1.30am, but even if I intended to let myself sleep in, the habit kicked in and I woke up anyway. That’s not a bad thing – afternoon naps are a handy compromise – but it shows how powerful habits can be, I think.
Anyway, the final list of “How to Get Up Early” Tips is:
- Routine/Habits. First thing in the morning, I chant “ABCDE” – A is for “Arise” (ie get up instantly, see below); B is for “Bed” (make it, so you can’t climb back in); C is for “Clean” (Shower etc); D is for “Dress” and E is for “Eat”. Sometimes I do things differently, but I never change the first two, so they’re programmed to automatic – by the time I’m awake enough to think, they’re done. That’s the trick, really – train yourself to react instantly to the alarm and you’ll be standing up with an already made bed before your mind gets up enough to beg for five more minutes. At that stage, it’s easy to say no.
- Planning. Have as much laid out as you can the night before, but also know exactly what you intend to do first when you get up. This is similar to the last one – you want to be able to move straight into doing it without having to think, because for the first little while, even though you’re standing up and moving around, your brain will still be in neutral (or even reverse)!
- Light. Your brain tells you to wake up via hormones, which it starts sending out when it gets light. Look out the window, or if you can afford it, get a dawn simulator alarm clock. I can tell you, my boyfriend hates mine, because it’s all but impossible to sleep through – even without noise! (It also makes daylight saving a LOT easier). Mine is the Lumie Bodyclock.
- Go easy on food & drink the night before. You don’t want to go to bed on a full stomach, and you definitely don’t want coffee or alcohol in your system, or you won’t sleep deeply enough to rest properly. I accidentally gave up coffee shortly after I started this, and I’ve noticed I’m sleeping much better without it. Even if you don’t want to go that far, give yourself at least 5 hrs without it before you go to bed the night before, and finish your eating off at least 3 hours before, so there’s no digestion or stimulation going on.
- If you have to get up early, but can’t get to bed 8 hours beforehand, try to fit in a half hour “nanna nap” the day before. You’d be surprised how much it helps. If you can, allow for one in the afternoon you’ve had to get up for, to catch yourself up a bit. No more than an hour, but half an hour is best.
- Still feeling drowsy? An apple is supposed to be a better wake-up aid than a cup of coffee. I’ve tried it, and yes, it does work better. The other trick to get the brain cells going when the yawns set in is to find a quiet place and bounce up and down for 30 seconds. Sounds stupid, I know, but just try it and you’ll be surprised…
- You can actually pre-program more than just your alarm clock to help you wake. When you get into bed and turn out the lights, tell yourself (silently to yourself is fine) that you’re now going to sleep deeply and well, and will wake up full of energy before the alarm goes off. Alternatively, you can put in that you’ll wake up full of energy at xxx o’clock. It actually works for me.
- If you know ahead of time how much earlier you have to get up, you can gradually train yourself into it by getting up a bit earlier each day. I had an early start this week, so I spent 3 days getting up earlier: 4.30am (my usual, now), 4am, 3.30am and then on the day, 3am. I wasn’t nearly as wrecked this time as I usually am. Of course, now I find myself waking up with a ‘usual’ time closer to 4 o’clock, but that’s ok, gives me even more time to do my stuff before I go (I’m even fitting exercise in, now! ok, maybe only sometimes, but still…)
- A lot of people over at the digital point forums swear by drinking lots of water before you go to bed. Then nature takes care of getting you up. I like to have a drink anyway, because you dehydrate a lot overnight. Plus I leave a glass of water by the bed and drink it as soon as I’m up (after A and B: see above). Not sure if that helps with waking me up, it’s just a habit of mine.
- Another digital point gem is to have the alarm clock as far away from the bed as possible, so you have to get up to switch it off. I’ve used this one in the past, and it can work – but only so long as you don’t get up, switch it off, and crawl back under the covers. Which I’ve also done, although not on this trial, and not (much) since I got the Bodyclock.
- Besides my dawn simulator, there are all kinds of new variations on the traditional alarm clock that are meant to make it harder to switch off. There are ones that move around so you have to chase them from under the bed (try going back to sleep after that!), helicopter type ones that have a flying bit you need to retrieve, a hanging one that retracts towards the ceiling every time you snooze it, and even a Rubiks cube one that won’t shut up until you solve it (I’d be stuffed, although there are You-Tube videos on how to solve a rubiks that make it look easy)
- Having a very clear reason why you want to get up at that time helps, especially when you know you couldn’t leave it any later. Trying to cheat the system by setting the alarm for half an hour before I had to get up usually meant I snoozed it for a half an hour, until the REAL deadline came up. So, having a clear reason why is another one.
- Knowing the main thing you want to accomplish with your early time was a great start to the day. Not sure how much it helped cement the habit, but it definitely helped with the motivation side of things. After all, when you get a great feeling out of doing something that wouldn’t otherwise have been done, before the day (and the rest of the world) has even started, you’re not going to resist getting up again as much as pushing yourself to do it cold, with no positive associations.
- I tried stretching first thing, like Steve Pavlina recommends, but found it didn’t work as well for me (maybe because I was still horizontal in bed) as jumping up and getting active. My phone alarm tune was a catchy one, so I’d dance to that until it turned off, and it made a big difference.
- Lights. I know I already mentioned this one, but it turned out to be critical. So much so, that when I had to get up particularly early (3am) I’d also have the lounge light put on timer to turn on, and the first thing I did after my little dance was flick several lights on. It really, really helped.
So, there’s my summary. This new habit has been responsible for most (if not all) of the new posts making it to you since I started back on Nov 5, and it’s well and truly set now. In the interests of full disclosure, my boyfriend does hate it when I wake up, get up, and he doesn’t get a snuggle to wake up to himself, but we worked out a compromise, and I pre-warn him that’s going to happen.
Next up, I’ve got to do a post on how going coffee-free has changed things. In one word – surprisingly! Stay tuned, that’ll probably come saturday.
PS The picture is one I took on my trip to work, which I photoblogged a while ago under “Prettiest Commute” – this is a more recent photo than that set, but it is a gorgeous view, isn’t it?