It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.
– Aristotle

It’s a no brainer, if you wake up earlier you can do so much more in a day. Regarding this premise, I remember those days when the old folks in my neighborhood would urge us, young guys, to wake up early. They believe it’s a good habit to develop. I never took the advice seriously, though (I was young and didn’t know better) until I discovered numerous books containing information that confirms the correlation between early birds and success. From the info I have gathered, countless instances point to successful individuals being early risers. My opinion of getting up early in the morning changed completely.

Learning from Steve.

Let me tell you about Steve Pavlina (an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur) and his experience about transforming into an early-early riser. Like me, after noticing the obvious correlation between rising early and being successful, he set a goal to become an early riser. So, he set up an alarm for 5 am. The next day, he had high hopes, then he was disappointed; instead of waking up after the alarm went off, he got out of bed a few minutes before lunchtime. Will you be disappointed if you have the same experience? (Ha! Like I need to ask!)

Anyway, he would be a slave to this habit for years, but ultimately he encountered some sleep research that showed him he was going about the sleep issue the wrong way. When he started applying the ideas he got, he was able to turn into an early riser, consistently. I know you’d like to be one too, so keep reading. You’ll get the strategy to become an early wake upper if you read through the end.

If you use the wrong strategy to tackle the problem, in most probability, you’ll fail. But if you use the right strategy, you’ll succeed.

Avoid the wrong strategy

Steve further shares, “The most common wrong strategy is this: You assume that if you’re going to get up earlier, you’d better go to bed earlier. So you figure out how much sleep you’re getting now, and then just shift everything back a few hours. If you now sleep from midnight to 8am, you figure you’ll go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am instead. Sounds very reasonable, but it will usually fail.”

Two schools of thought about sleep patterns

It seems there are two main schools of thought about sleep patterns. The first one states that you should go to bed and get up at the same hours every day. It’s like having an alarm clock on both ends — you try to sleep the same hours each night. This seems practical for living in a modern society. We need schedules that are somehow predictable. And we need to ensure that we get adequate rest.

The second school of thought states that you should listen to your body’s needs and go to bed when you’re tired and get up when you naturally wake up. This approach is rooted in biology. Our bodies should know how much rest we need, so we should listen to them.

The bad point about the second school of thought

The thing about the second school of thought is when you sleep based on your body’s report, you’ll most likely be dozing off more than what you actually need (most probably a lot more, like 10-15 hours more per week). Heck, that’s the equivalent of a full waking day! Many Joes and Janes who have this sleep habit get 8+ hours of sleep per night, which is too much, generally. “Also, your mornings may be less predictable if you’re getting up at different times. And because our natural rhythms are sometimes out of tune with the 24-hour clock, you may find that your sleep times begin to drift.” ~ Steve Pavlina

He further explains this way: through trial and error, he discovered that the two schools are suboptimal procedures. Both are incorrect if you want to be more productive. Why? When you sleep on set schedules, you may hit the sack even when you’re not sleepy. He says, “If it’s taking you more than five minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough. You’re wasting time lying in bed awake and not being asleep. Another problem is that you’re assuming you need the same number of hours of sleep every night, which is a false assumption. Your sleep needs vary from day to day.”

I have to point out also that when you wake up at different times of the day, your mornings will be less predictable.

Since man’s natural rhythms are at times out-of-sync with the 24-hour clock, you may find, after sometime, that your sleeping times start to drift.

The solution

Eventually he found out that the best solution is to combine both approaches. It’s so simple, and a lot of early morning wakers do it without even being conscious about it; but, it was a breakthrough for him, nevertheless. The solution that fits him was to hit his bed when he’s sleepy (and only when he can’t stop himself from shutting his eyes) and wake up when the alarm goes off at a fixed time (7 days a week). So he would always get up at the same time (his choice is 5am), but his bedtime depends when he is sleepy. And that’s usually at different times of the night.

I interviewed other people and they volunteered their experience. They say they hit their beds when they are too sleepy to stay up. Pavlina in particular, uses a sleepiness test. He describes it like this: “if I couldn’t read a book for more than a page or two without drifting off, I’m ready for bed.” Most of the time when he goes to bed, he is asleep within three minutes. (Maaan how I envy him. I couldn’t do that). He lies down, get comfortable, and he immediately drifts off. He continues, “Sometimes I go to bed at 9:30pm; other times I stay up until midnight. Most of the time I go to bed between 10-11pm. If I’m not sleepy, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.”

That’s when hitting your bed. Now let’s talk about the mornings.

Take baby steps; don’t make drastic changes. Choose the slow route; the slow process is the best choice. Wake up just 15-30 minutes earlier than what you’re used to. Allow yourself to get used to this routine for 3 or 4 days. Then you’re ready to rise 15 more minutes earlier. Continue on gradually ’til you hit your goal.

  • Once your alarm goes off, get up immediately. Don’t allow conversations in your brain about sleeping more for about 15 minutes. If you do, you’ll have the tendency to sleep longer than 15 minutes, and will keep hitting snooze. Once your alarm does her job, get up right away, stretch for a while, and sit up, then stand up towards the clock. I’ve learned that the longer it takes me to get up, the more I am likely to go back to bed.


  • Place your alarm clock far from your bed. Put your alarm clock where you’ll have to take steps to reach it. Never put it next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze then go back to sleep. Stop hitting snooze. When your clock is away from your bed, you need to get up, walk some steps to turn it off. By then, you’re standing, blood circulating faster, and more or less awake. Now, you just need to stay up.


  • Reward yourself when you wake up early. You might feel you’re forcing yourself at first to do something hard, but if you add an element of pleasurable, pretty soon you’ll look forward to facing the day earlier. When I was starting, I used to reward myself with a cup of scalding hot coffee and a great book. Other rewards could be a great tasting breakfast. Another is listening to baroque piano while watching the sunrise. Pick something that can give you great amounts of pleasure, and indulge in it. Make it a part of your morning routine.