Early riser tools: bed and alarm clock!

Photo by Benjamin Voros

Every year, I read about getting up early and its amazing benefits. Every year, I promise myself that this will be the year I definitely get up earlier and do yoga or whatever else and feel amazing all day. Mind you, I’m not even talking about getting up at 4.30 a.m.

A simple 7 a.m. every single morning would suffice for the moment. Unfortunately my bed is just too tempting and my alarm clock doesn’t really make a compelling argument.

I am REALLY not a morning person. In fact, I’m probably the worst morning person on the face of the earth. I truly admire those who get running, blog writing, meditating and a whole lot of other stuff done before 7 a.m. I literally get up 15 minutes before I have to leave for work or whatever else I have to do. However, this year I’m taking a break and going back to school to study music production and sound technology.

This is absolutely amazing but for one little detail: all my classes are in the afternoon. This means that if I’m left to my own devices, wake up time will most likely be around 10 or 11 a.m.

Bye bye productivity!

I’m not lazy, I really am not. I’d much rather work until 3 a.m. and sleep it off until 11. Probably my circadian rhythms are a little off, but society doesn’t really allow for them to be that way.

For this reason, I’ve decided to really really try this time and, to keep myself accountable, I’m going to blog about it. Apparently it takes about a month to build a lasting habit. I’m going to write about it every week for four weeks and see how it’s going.

I don’t know if morning people are born or made, but if I manage this literally anyone can do it.

There’s quite a few ways to go about becoming an early riser apparently, most of which I read about here and there and everywhere. In a quest to find out what works and what doesn’t, here are the tips and tricks I’m going to try to follow to become a super early riser. Sunrise, here I come!  

Don’t Hit the Snooze Button

I know hitting snooze is awful for you as it basically makes you dip in and out of sleep in the early morning and causes your body to think that you actually don’t need to get up. The more you snooze, the more confused you are. Which could explain why even when I do wake up earlier I don’t really feel awake until midday. The aim is to set the alarm for the time you actually need to get up, not earlier.

Leave Your Phone Far From Your Bed

A close friend to avoiding the snooze button, leaving your phone quite far away from your bed means getting up to turn off the alarm. Once you’re up, it doesn’t make much sense to go back to bed, so might as well stay up. Or so the science says.

Turn Off Electronics At Least One Hour Before You Go To Bed

The artificial blue light coming from your iPad, phone screen or TV can be really disruptive to sleep cycles, and yet we all go to bed with at least one electronic device (at least I do; usually not TV but my phone and/or tablet follows me frequently). E-readers like the Kobo and the Kindle seem acceptable though, so I think I’ll stick to reading.

Photo by Logan Nolin

Use an (Evil) App

I know apps are incredibly useful and all, but for a brief period of time I used Alarmy, an app which basically forced me to go take a picture of my bathroom before it turned off. I hated it. It did the job but I absolutely hated it. I hated it even more when, occasionally, it would go off randomly when I was outside my house and obviously couldn’t take a pic of my bathroom. At that point I had to uninstall the app. Not even turning my phone off would shut it up.

These apps are pretty much my last resort, I’m hoping to avoid them this time around but they are cleverly designed and definitely get you out of bed. The problem is that they leave you hassled and quite angry and annoyed (at least in my case). Definitely not the best start to the day.

Have a Fixed Schedule vs Only Go to Bed When You’re Sleepy

There are arguments for both sides of the story. Some say it’s fundamental to go to bed and get up at the same time every single day, and your body will adjust and start feeling sleepy around bedtime. Others say that while wake up time needs to be fixed every day, bedtime should be variable according to when you’re feeling sleepy.

I’d very much like to have a fixed schedule, but, as a musician who plays live quite a lot, I already know that this isn’t going to happen every day. I guess I’m going to try to have a regular schedule as much as possible, or at least a constant wake up time. I know I need at least 7 hours of sleep to function properly though (and avoid wanting to bite people’s heads off), so I’m also going to set a maximum bedtime, whether I’m sleepy or not.

Don’t Make Drastic Changes

This one’s easy, at least in theory. The idea is to start slowly and get up slightly earlier every week or so. Cutting back 15-30 minutes every once in a while shouldn’t be as dramatic as cutting back an hour straight away. Key word being “shouldn’t”!


I feel super motivated before going to bed. I imagine all the wonderful things I’m going to do in the morning with all the extra time. However, when morning comes around, the fog in my brain refuses to lift. I simply cannot focus on the motivation strongly enough to get me out of bed. From now on, my morning time is going to be dedicated to blogging. It’s not like I can practice guitar at 6 in the morning anyway.

A great breakfast might just help as well; after all, delicious food is pretty much guaranteed to get anyone out of bed. Some suggest enrolling in an early exercise class you love, but early exercising isn’t really a thing in Milan. There aren’t that many places that offer super early classes and, honestly, I only love dance so my options are pretty limited. Additionally, the thought of getting up at 6 a.m. to exercise makes me want to bury myself under the covers. I think I’ll skip this for now and stick to breakfast.

yogurt, granola and blueberries
Photo by Dan Counsell

Establish a Relaxing Evening Routine

In addition to turning off electronics, which deserves its own heading, there are other activities which help you unwind in preparation for bedtime. I’m guessing playing live in a noisy bar isn’t one of them, but this is for the normal days!

Evaluate your day and take some time to think about what happened, reflecting on what went well and what didn’t. Planning the next day will also give you a sense of purpose and the motivation you need to wake up. Often though I think about the next day in a negative way and as something I need to “get done”. I need to change the way I look at my top priorities. I need to see them as something I am actually waiting for, not as something I want to escape from.

Relaxing activities can also help me unwind; my favourites are taking baths, reading and perhaps drinking a herbal tea. Other suggestions include yoga, light exercise, listening to podcasts or playing soothing music. Whatever works for you!

Establish a Morning Routine

Having an established morning routine gives you something to focus on straight away. This can be as simple as starting the coffee pot or splashing cold water on your face. This action should serve as a trigger to your body and mind that it’s actually time to wake up.

So there’s the run through of most of the things I’m going to try. It’s not going to be easy, I know that already. Now you probably know it as well since this is a really long post. But this year between studying and working, I NEED more hours in my day. To chronicle this experiment, I’m going to post each Monday for a few weeks, detailing how the week went.  Let’s see how it goes! I’m not even sure this will increase my productivity as I am naturally a night owl. 

What are your favourite techniques to make sure you get up early in the morning? Is it worth it or is it better to follow your natural rhythms when you can?

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