5 Benefits of Waking up at 5 am
Waking up at 5 am is changing my life.
Honestly. I am seeing improvements in literally every area of my life simply by waking up at an hour that is ungodly for most. I think that’s actually what I like it about more than any of the other benefits to waking up at 5 am. I like the feeling of knowing that I am putting the work in when other people are not.
I always feel like I’ve been willing to go the extra mile when other people won’t. I work hard in the gym whether there’s someone else there or not. You can find me training legs on days I don’t feel like it. You can find me walking to places when I could take the bus. You can find me doing things in ways that often require more work than is necessary. There’s something about the feeling of working hard that I really really like.
I don’t know why this is or where this feeling comes from, but for as long as I can remember I’ve had this chip on my shoulder that makes me feel that I need to be the hardest worker in the room. Waking up at 5 am is just another one of those things to me. I’ve noticed a plethora of benefits from waking up this early but the ones I am going to focus on in this article are the following:
1. You simply get more done
2. The psychological advantage
3. Uninterrupted time
4. Increased energy (no really)
5. Locked in routine
1. You simply get more done
This is admittedly fairly obvious. If you wake up an hour or two earlier than you normally do it gives you more of the raw material required (time) you need to get shit done and be productive. Although, I think it’s worth noting that I think the hours when the majority are sleeping are higher value hours for productivity because you are distraction free and aren’t interrupted which I’ll speak about later in the article.
Now, I have to caveat this one by saying that if you wake up at 5 am, this does not mean you just keep going to bed late and fuck yourself over for the entire day because you didn’t get enough sleep. No, that’s absurd. I think everyone knows how valuable sleep is. If you’ve ever read or heard any of the research from Matthew Walker’s book, “Why We Sleep”, you are hyper-aware of just how valuable sleep is. If you want to wake up at 5 am, I think you need to be in bed by 10 pm at the latest. For me, 7 hours is the minimum.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a famous speech where he goes over his 6 rules for success and he briefly mentions sleep. He has a quote that mentions something along the lines of “If you are trying to get a lot done, then sleep faster”. We’re not all as superhuman as Arnold, and I highly recommend not convincing yourself that you’re part of the 1% who can get by on 4 hours of sleep a night. Like I mentioned already the sweet spot is 7, but I try to do everything I can to get 8.
Imagine you work a typical 9–5. You wake up at 7, shower, change, eat and leave for work at 8:00, commute and get to the office for about 9:00. Do your days’ work, get home by 6 and chill out for a few hours rotating between checking your various social feeds, watching Netflix and surfing the web, before you know it, you’re going to bed at 11:30, still half browsing Instagram til 12.
Now imagine you cut out the useless shit in your life, stopped wasting time on social media that gets you nothing, went to bed at 10 pm and woke up at 5 am. You’ve just gained 2 extra hours per day or 14 hours per week to use as you see fit. You could go to the gym to get your day start. You could go for a run. You could learn to code. You could work on your side hustle. You could do anything. All of these are going to benefit you more than staring into endless infinite pool apps that are designed to attract and keep your attention for as long as possible.
2. The psychological advantage.
The psychological advantage that you gain from waking up at 5 am is something that is synonymous with pretty much everyone I’ve ever spoken to that does it. When you’re arriving at the office at whatever time you see all the other bleary-eyed people half away staring at their Starbucks cups. Meanwhile, you’ve already been awake for a few hours, hit the gym, listened to your favorite podcast and replied to your emails.
There is a definite psychological advantage just knowing that you have been working while others haven’t that puts you into a winning mindset for the entire day. Momentum like this can make you feel unstoppable and creates a positive feedback loop that only further encourages you to continue your newly formed productivity superpower.
Just imagine how far ahead you can get of other people if you are putting in work for 2 hours extra a day while they’re asleep. Of course, over time this effect compounds and soon you are exponentially ahead of all your competition before they even realize what’s happening. Waking up at 5 am creates the psychology of a winner.
3. Uninterrupted Time
I mentioned this briefly earlier, but I think this point definitely deserves its own subheading. The time you get while other people are asleep often comes extremely distraction free which means you can work on whatever you want to with a very high level of focus. In a world where routine tasks are becoming more and more automated, it is this high quality deep focused work that adds real value to whatever you’re trying to do.
In Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work” he gives the example of a man who was working on getting his Ph.D. part-time while working a full-time job. This man used to wake up at 4 am to work on his Ph.D. for 3 hours a day, then help his kids get ready for school, leave for work at 8am, work his 9–5, come home to work on his PhD for a few more hours and then go to bed at 9 pm. These few hours a day before anyone else awake are almost worth 2x the rest of the hours in the day simply because of how easy it can be to focus when you’re not getting emails, Slack messages, phone calls, WhatsApp notifications or Facebook messenger pings.
I think we can all see looking around us with all the different apps, services, social media feeds and websites doing everything they can to get our attention how hard it can be to get stuff done sometimes. You’re trying your hardest to concentrate but there’s a call from your friend asking if you want to go for a beer, but you tell him no because you’re busy. Followed by an email from another dreaded “Reply to all” thread. Then you get an Instagram notification that the hot fitness influencer you follow has now gone live to try and sell you some detox tea. If this sounds like your life, then maybe waking up at 5 am and getting off social media to get your productive work done every day might be the golden ticket you need to get ahead on the day.
4. It increases your energy (No, really)
Now, this may sound like a contradiction but waking up earlier has genuinely increased my energy throughout the rest of the day. I think this is because I use the time, I gain by waking up earlier to exercise, which gives you endorphins, which gives you energy. Whatever the case may be, this is a widely reported benefit of exercise. Now, I am sure you are thinking that sounds great, but I don’t have the time to exercise.
Either does Casey Neistat. But there he is waking up at 4 or 5 am to exercise for 2/3 hours every day because he knows that it gives him more energy back than he puts in. Now I know you’re obviously way busier and have better things to do than Casey Neistat but hear me out. He only has one of the most successful YouTube channels that there is where he filmed and edited high-quality daily vlogs for over a year of consecutive videos. He only runs and works with multiple companies. He only flies across the globe to give keynote speeches. He only has a family, a wife, and three kids that he makes time for. I know you’re busier than him, but maybe you can still find time to exercise.
Wow, that last paragraph was super aggressive (lol). Anyway, I think you probably get the point. There are people busier than you or me who are making time to exercise because they understand that it gives you a net benefit in terms of your energy on a day to day basis. If you want more energy, wake up early and exercise more. It may be tough at the start but trust me after a week you’ll thank yourself.
5. It creates a routine.
This is a pretty simple one. If you are waking up at 5 am every day, then by the time the clock hits 9 or 10 pm you are going to be tired. You are going to really want to go to bed and sleep. Let’s face it, sleeping when you’re tired is x10 more appealing than going to bed when you haven’t done much or been productive that day. For me, there’s no worse feeling than waking up halfway through the day because I slept through my alarm or I’m hungover from staying out too late the night before. Don’t get me wrong I like to go out an party as much as the next guy, but I can’t help but worry about the people who are out there working hard while I’m asleep.
This act of waking up at 5 am is similar to the idea of lock-in productivity where you create a consequence through the use of some sort of contract in order to achieve a desired behavior that I mentioned in a recent post where I discussed the book “Atomic Habits”. But by waking up at 5 am, you are creating a consequence that if you don’t go to bed at a reasonable hour that night, you are going to be REALLY tired the next day. Nobody wants to do that to themselves. Being tired sucks. Don’t do that.
If you are waking up at 5 am, exercising, working hard at your job throughout the day — you are going to be tired at a reasonable hour to go to bed. Even with all the stimulants and artificial blue light we pump into our bodies and optic nerves, it’s hard not to get tired by the end of the day when you wake up early. If you’re still struggling to go to bed at that time because you’re simply “not tired”, then maybe stay away from caffeine after 5 pm, unplug from technology for an hour or two before bed, have some chamomile tea or read a book for 30 minutes. If all of those fail then try reading any one of my blog posts here or on my personal site, I guarantee they will put you to sleep.