I woke up at 5am every day for a month

young woman morning coffee


It’s tough getting out of bed early. Seeing how many times you can hit the snooze button in the morning is a game most of us like to play. But there are benefits to be had by adopting the role of the early bird – both physically and mentally. Here’s what Sydney-sider CAROLINE ATKINS learnt after committing to wake up at 5am every day for a month.

I am a complete night owl by nature. I've always wanted to be a person who gets up early, but it’s against my instincts. This means I never make use of my mornings, which society tells us isn’t okay.

I challenged myself to wake up at 5am every day for a month. I wanted to see the effect it had on my health and explore if it was something I could maintain in the long run. Plus, plenty of other people do it – how hard could it be?

The first morning was terrible. I was so tired and confused, just not used to it at all. I ended up hitting snooze for about an hour which (understandably) made my partner mad. Eventually, I peeled myself out of bed, sat on the couch and scrolled through my phone in a daze. It definitely wasn’t a great start.

And the day got worse from there. I was tired and sluggish the whole day and then, frustratingly, I still had trouble getting to sleep at a reasonable hour that night. Probably due to the three coffees I had to try and feel alert. The next couple of days were just as bad, but by the third night I was so exhausted that I finally went to bed early. After that, the next morning wasn’t so hard.

Soon enough, I could get up with my alarm. Well, maybe after just one snooze. It was autumn, so waking up early meant that I got to enjoy a couple of extra hours of sunlight. I started to enjoy it a lot more when I put my phone down and did things that I wouldn’t normally do in the morning, like walk the dog. Getting outside was a massive help. It’s so nice and quiet that time of morning. Being awake and outside during the sunrise feels like being let in on a secret.

Sometimes I’d treat myself by making a nice breakfast. Normally, I’d just eat some cereal at my desk at work – but now I had the extra time, so I’d fry up veggie-laden omelettes, which would put me in a healthy food mindset for the rest of the day.

I took advantage of the bragging rights. I turned into one of those people who tells everyone about waking up early. It was like I had cracked some sort of code to living. But I also had a few midweek commitments that ran late into the night. This happened twice and led to a lack of proper sleep that massively impacted the day after.

I did find I had more energy after giving myself some time and space in the morning. But this schedule clashed with the ingrained habits of my partner, which was a real challenge. It was especially difficult in the evenings because I’d want to go to bed after eating dinner the minute I got home from work, and he didn’t. 
After the month was over I tried to keep up the habit. But the mornings were starting to get really cold and stay dark, and I quickly found my motivation zapped. It took me about two weeks to shift back to being a night owl, but I’m a little bit better on the snooze button now. It’s nice to think that I could be a ‘morning person’ if I really tried, but there are benefits to being a night person too, like being able to go out to dinner without feeling anxious about getting to bed. I appreciate that more now. 

(As told to Sean Irving)

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