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Jun 11, 2008

Why Waking Up Early Can Be So Hard

This post is part of the Better Sleep series. Be sure to sign up for RSS or email updates to catch the entire series of articles.

While I’m pleased to see I’m not the only one to wake up early and enjoy the benefits of doing so, I know from bitter experience that for a lot of people, it’s not an easy path to take.  There’s resistance, both internal and external that can make it difficult.  Becoming an early riser wasn’t something I nailed on the first try, and if you’ve tried it you may have had some of the same struggles as well.  Let’s take a look at a few of those obstacles to better sleep and early rising and talk about some workarounds.

Obstacle #1 – Jumping Mt. Everest In One Step

I can’t say it any better than the fine folks at Trizle: It’s easy to fail when you try and climb Mt. Everest in one step.  Even really smart, successful people fall prey to this.  If you’re trying to develop a new habit that’s strength based (such as getting better at something as opposed to breaking a habit that’s an addiction), you can’t go wrong with the slow and steady approach (even if our instant-gratification culture views that as the weak way to do things).  If you get up at 8am and your goal is 6am, don’t try 6am the first day.  Ratchet back a bit at a time.

Obstacle #2 -You’re Just Not That Into It

Face it – when you want something – you really want it – you do what it takes to make it happen (assuming you know how to make it happen, that is).  When you have an exciting vacation planned, waking up early to hit the road is easy.  If you don’t have a compelling reason to want get up early, if you’re not emotionally and mentally invested in it, then it’s going to be really hard.  You’ve got to get your reasons clear in mind, and you’ve got to be able to tap into that emotion when the alarm goes off.   Forget willpower – think want-power.  Do you want it strongly enough?

Obstacle #3 – Staying Up Really, Really Late

As much as we’d like to, we can’t burn our candle at both ends.  Often people try to start the early riser habit without making any change in the time their head hits the pillow.  But waking up early involves shifting your sleep schedule, not simply shortening it.  If you’re looking to get up earlier in the morning, you’ve got to give a little to get a little.  Remember, waking up early frees up time in the beginning of the day, so if you’re hesitant to go to bed earlier because you have too much to do, don’t forget that you’re simply shifting time, not giving it up.

Obstacle #4 – Hanging On To Late Night Entertainment

Certainly, there’s a trade-off that has to occur when you wake up early and go to sleep earlier to compensate.  Maybe there’s a show you want to watch or an online game / community you want to interact with.  But you’ve got to make the call – if the benefits of waking up early are worth it to you, set the VCR / DVR to record those shows.  Save the online stuff or evening face time for a different time slot.  Make a conscious decision that you’re trading something “good” for something that’s “better.”  I’m not saying it’s easy – just that it’s worthwhile.

Note: You may be in the place where the people you really want to interact with are only available later at night, and shifting that isn’t an option that is worth it to you.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Early rising isn’t the ideal choice for everyone.  If that’s the case, keep your eye on this series as I discuss things that can help make the sleep you’re already getting more restful.

Obstacle #5 – Only You Know This One …

I’m positive that there are other obstacles to waking up early that I haven’t covered in this short post, and I’d love to hear your input in the comments.  In my Becoming an Early Riser program I have 20 mini-workshops that help build habits that make it easier to get better sleep and wake up energized, but I’d be very interested to see if there are obstacles I haven’t included that I could work into the program as bonus material.

I’ll tell you what – lay out your biggest obstacle(s) in the comments below, and if I haven’t covered it in my program, I’ll work on developing a mini-workshop to help you move past it and I’ll send it to you via email so you can blast it out of the water.  If I have covered it, I’ll let you know.  (And if you just want to dive in now, you can get the program here).

I’ll see you in the comments!

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10 Responses to “Why Waking Up Early Can Be So Hard”

  • Jun 11, 2008 Andrea_R

    Re: #5 – my head won’t shut up. :D Sometimes writing a list helps.

    Andrea_R’s last blog post..Adsense Revenue Sharing plugin for WPMU

  • Jun 11, 2008 whizkaran

    Let me begin with saying that i find your blog really interesting and follow you on twitter regularly.
    Now here is my reason for not waking up early. I always end up sleeping late. And why do i sleep late ? Its because of my job,which i almost hate. When i am back at home around 9PM from office, i feel as if i have wasted a day,havent learned anything fruitful. So i end up reading,surfing , blogging (i do have active interest in internet marketing) late till 1 or 2 AM. Its only when i feel satisfied that i have added something to my intellect and knowledge base i feel content and m off to sleep :)

    whizkaran’s last blog post..A Blueprint to get an effective online presence

  • Jun 11, 2008 Steph

    @whizkaran: You’re not alone: you sound just like my hubby!

    @ Dave: Wow, does this ever address my post this morning! :) Thanks! My main problems are staying up too late for various reasons and then not sleeping well (I’m okay to fall asleep but not to stay asleep). The first one will be fixed when I start working more productively during the day. The second will be fixed when I learn how to sleep like the dead.

    Steph’s last blog post..early to rise

  • Jun 11, 2008 Mark R. Reif at Reif Group Mediations

    Dave – Your logical thinking is impressive – so here is a problem I need to solve to make it easier to become a consistant early riser. My wife is in no way interested in becoming an early riser, and really doesn’t have a need to. Therefore, when I announce I’m going to bed at 9 PM, it’s not that she complains. It just that I feel guilty leaving her all by herself for the last two to three hours of her day. Again, she’s OK with my going to bed “early” but I’m the one that feels like I’m not spending the time with her I should. Any suggestions?


    Mark Reif

  • Jun 11, 2008 Alison

    @Mark R. Reif – Mark, have you tried asking her about it? Speaking as the wife of an early riser, sometimes we late-stayers *like* having that last couple of hours of the day to ourselves. Especially if your wife is the least bit introverted, this time could be exactly what she needs to unwind from a long day at the office/home/with the kids/with work. There’s a good chance that when you announce your bedtime, she’s thinking, “finally” and not “aww, man”. ;)

    Talk to her about it and see how she feels – maybe it’s just a matter of staying up til 9:30 or 10:00 and shifting that early rising an hour in her favor to get that “we” time. Only the two of you can make that call, but you do have to make it together by asking her. :) (Giving her a little extra snuggle time and showing genuine interest in her day before you go to bed is also a big help.)

    @Dave – Hope I’m not overstepping blogosphere ettiquette by handing out unasked-for advice in *your* blog. Also, see you when you get home from the gym. ;)

  • Jun 11, 2008 Dave Navarro

    My wife ROCKS.

    And she’s right.

    And she can chime in anytime :-p

    Give her a hollaback, everyone.

  • Jun 11, 2008 Brett Legree

    The main thing for me was always ‘consistency’. I had to want it badly enough, to be able to get up at 4 am on Saturday and Sunday even though I ‘didn’t have to’.

    Once I got into the habit of getting up same time all the time, things got much easier. I’d rather be consistent, and then (if needed) have a short nap later in the day (weekends) or with the kids after supper (weekdays) – that way, I get “me time” every day.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..the straw.

  • Jun 11, 2008 Michael Martine

    I have no problem with my routine, I like it just fine. Sometimes I’m up early, sometimes not. I just don’t sweat it. I probably shouldn’t be saying that here! :)

    Michael Martine’s last blog post..Here’s What’s Next for Gateway Blogging

  • Jun 12, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Brett –
    Right. Consistency is especially important when you’re an early, early riser – you’ve got to get into that groove – you let up, you lose :-)

    @Michael –
    Pfft. Say what you want! As I said, early rising isn’t ideal or everyone. It depends on your schedule, your goals, your circumstances … and since you seem to be getting everything done, you’re golden, right?

  • Jun 12, 2008 Trey Meier

    I have found that it doesn’t get any easier to wake up early in the morning, that I still feel groggy and walk into walls even after having done it consistently for a week. But it does get easier to get out of bed in the morning, even though I’m still useless for a little while.

    Has anyone else experienced this? Even though you are waking up early consistently you aren’t always waking up refreshed and ready to go?

    Great post Dave! The sacrifice late at night is my biggest struggle (#3), but I eventually realized that I don’t do anything productive late at night anyway.

    Trey Meier’s last blog post..Cooking = Scary Stuff

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