Cover image for The Power of Waking Up at 4:00 AM

The Power of Waking Up at 4:00 AM

boltc0rt3z profile image Bolton Updated on ・3 min read

Have you ever wondered how waking up at 4 am feels like? if not, it's about time you actually do.
Just a few months ago, I had no idea how it felt. I had this habit of always hitting the snooze button or pretending not to hear the loud and annoying alarm.

Then one day I decide to wake up and I was able to hit the gym, do a little bit of coding and go to work on time. That's when it dawned to me and I realized what I've been missing out on. I did that for a week (5 days) and the things I was able to achieve (learn new programming concepts) in a day were pretty amazing.

I'm not alone in this. You find yourself setting the alarm the previous night only to hit the snooze button and feel sorry for yourself the rest of the day. The interesting bit is that you don't go to bed till 4 am chilling with Netflix.
Take a stand and decide you ain't gonna be a whiner and awaken the beast inside you. Try to wake up early before the rest of the world and see the magic of how productive you could be.

Not everybody can be a morning person but if it fails on your side at least adjust your schedule to get on or off your bed by reducing the amount of time spent sleeping. If 4, 5 or 6 am is too much to handle, restructure the pattern to probably sleeping late and waking up later in the day. Regardless of the choice you make (no one cares what time you do it), it's very important you get enough sleep (at least 6.5 hours) to avoid constant burnouts. So get to know your body, have a plan and create that time accordingly.

If you want to be proficient in that language you love then create the time you need. If you want to build and deploy that app so badly with your busy schedule then time is what you need. Take responsibility for your life and think about what you can achieve in those 2 to 3 extra hours. In case you claim you don't have enough time during the day, what are you doing to create more time? think about it, no one was given more than 24 hours in a day including yourself. It's only a matter of sacrifice to get more time.
We all have equal opportunities, the difference is how we get to utilize and act on them.

You have a plan tomorrow, something to achieve, someone to love, something significant to look forward to? then get up early or create extra time in whichever way you see fit!!!.
Everybody has problems, so deal with it. Do you want to have a feel of that freedom? Stop complaining and have a little bit of discipline. The sad truth is that if you do what is easy, your life will most probably be hard, but if you do the hard stuff, you have a chance of having an easy life.
Your future simply depends on what you do TODAY!!, so make it count.

Ask yourself what I heard someone asking, "What are you missing out for sleeping in? Everything. What are you gaining for sleeping in? Nothing. What are you giving up by sleeping in? Everything. What are you accomplishing by sleeping in? Nothing."
Just for one day, challenge yourself by creating extra hours IF YOU CAN at any time you desire. I'm NOT saying you sleep for 2 hours, that's a death sentence. Do that for a week (5 days) even if it's just an hour, and you're going to have something special.

Patterns of repetition govern each day, week, year, and lifetime. 'Personal habits' is one term we use to describe the most common of these repeated patterns. But I say these habits are sacred because they give deliberate structure to our lives. Structure gives us a sense of security. And that sense of security is the ground of meaning (Robert Fulghum).

Again, regardless of the pattern you choose, keep in mind that sleep is important. Have just the right amount of sleep since the best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep

And just as a reminder, someone great said, "Excuses sound best to the person that's making 'em up!"

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markdown guide

You have a plan tomorrow

Yes! I plan on waking up naturally, without an alarm.

something to achieve

Yes! 12 months of good night's sleep.

someone to love

Yes! Someone who would not love me at all if I were to ring an alarm every bloody day at the crack of dawn.

something significant to look forward to?

Yes! 12 months of good night's sleep. (very important that one)

Take a stand and decide you ain't gonna be a whiner and awaken the beast inside you.

snores Oh sure, allowing your body and your brain to get the full benefits of sleep is for whiners.

Is it so bad to miss out on things? Why are you so afraid about missing out? That's the question that interests me right now.

It's time to put this inspirational-wake-up-early-to-hustle-every-goddamn-minute-of-your-life nonsense to bed (without setting the alarm).

We don't need another Gary V in this world.


I believe the post is about going to sleep few hours early as well, so you get the same amount of sleep. For example:

Before: going to bed at 12:00 am and wake up at 7:30 am
After: going to bed at 8:30 pm and wake up at 4:00 am


This is a direct quote from the article:

at least adjust your schedule to get on or off your bed by reducing the amount of time spent sleeping

I don’t think people are misunderstanding this. The author is literally talking about getting less sleep.


who sleeps at 8:30 pm? Not even my grandfather....

It’s quite good if you’re trying to accomplish something for yourself, and if you try to do this in the evening (after a full day of work) you are not able (too tired).

The solution is to do work for yourself first (early in the morning, when everybody else sleeps), and then do the day work (that will drain however much energy you have).

Except it's not good to go against your natural circadian cycle. You cannot go against your internal clock that much.

Circadian cycle can shift over time.

With proper exercise schedule, light therapy, and planning, you can slowly shift the circadian rhythm.

And also you can make some good changes in your diet, some people can't understand that you can have a healthy sleep and not being on the bed for 8hrs.

No matter if you wake up earlier or sleep later, a little exercise and a good diet will even be more useful for your body than 2 or 3 hours more of sleep.

Shifting the circadian rhythm is possible of course but it's a myth to believe that you can do whatever with it. It is greatly determined genetically (see e.g. genesdev.cshlp.org/content/24/12/1... and referenced articles) and you cannot fully go against it. If you do advance your circadian rythm, you will always be fighting against it because it will tend to shift back to it's genetically determined natural time.

As for the diet and exercise I totally agree that it's very important as well, but if you are sleeping 5h a night you might still need the extra 2- hours :)

And anyway, why would you want to go to great lengths to go against your body? Is it really worth it? I believe not.


Reminder: You can disagree politely with the author.

Try it sometime.


And I am!

I'm strongly disagreeing with @boltc0rt3z , sure. Am I calling him names? Nope.


I agree with you on everything you said, a good night's sleep is crucial if you want to function normally, however I have to correct you one one thing: I've been following Gary V for quite a long time now and he's not that inspirational-wake-up-early-to-hustle-every-goddamn-minute-of-your-life type of guy. He's the do-what-makes-you-happy-in-life kind of guy, and he even says this quite a lot, it just so happens that working is what he loves. He keeps saying that if you're genuinely happy earning $40k a year and having lots of time to spend with your family, then you should do that. Not that you MUST work and earn more by any means necessary.

Just wanted to share my .02$ on that.


I haven't been following his stuff for years now so my views might be outdated, but I remember him being super pushy on the work hard most hours of most days.

He's the do-what-makes-you-happy-in-life kind of guy

That'd be more my kind of vibe then. :)


If you want to be proficient in that language you love then wake up early

I'm sorry but this is just terrible advice. You need sleep. It's not a weakness.

Skipping sleep is not "taking responsibility", it's idiotic and is actually counter productive to learning. You're literally better off sleeping more if you want to learn.


Appreciate your comments @quii . I didn't mean you skip sleep literally. What I'm trying to put across is waking up early enough (not necessarily 4 am) to actually accomplish whatever you want and more. I strongly agree with your idea of getting enough sleep (an average of at least 6.5 hours) for productivity.

I strongly believe getting up early gives you a kick start for the day ahead. Besides allowing you more hours for your work, it also boosts your speed.


For the majority of population 6.5h average sleep is detrimental to performance and ultimately health. Your advice is viable only for a select fraction of people.

If an average person wants to get up @ 4am,they'd better be asleep by 8pm.

Your right, so for someone of the other part of the population, it can be actually healthier to spent lest time on the bed, @boltc0rt3z is not even just talking to wake up and code, he just gives some examples and opinions about it, you can use those extra hours to do something for your health, and that would impact on your general performance during the day, the week, etc.


I go to bed ~1:30am, wake up between 8:00am and 8:30am and start work around 10am. That's a sensible amount of sleep (well actually it's probably too short) and I do a lot of the things you do at 4am between 11pm and 1am, which actually fits my biorhythm much better. See this previous comment:

Things I do besides coding:

  • I spend a lot of time with my wife, watching movies, TV shows, going out, doing little weekend trips etc.
  • I like traveling and visited ~55 countries so far.
  • Been reading at least one book a week since 2008. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever I can find.
  • I love playing chess and poker and also like studying the theory behind both, especially since they are so different from each other.
  • I'm also nearly always up for a good round of board, miniature or RP games.
  • I have a PS4 and a Nintendo Switch and while I don't play as much as I used to, I still try to get in a couple hours here or there.
  • Occasionally I dabble in electronic music.
  • Back home I also used to skate- and longboard, but Bangkok doesn't really lend itself to these activities, so I try to go the gym a couple of times per week.

That said, I also do have a lot of coding-related hobbies:

  • I'm involved in running 1 user group and 2 conferences.
  • I like to tinker with my Raspberry Pi or M5Stack and just ordered a Fomu to look into Risc-V development.
  • I love all things retro computing and gaming, as well as compilers and interpreters and there's an almost never-ending supply of reading materials around all of those 🙂

Literally every single "wake up early post" I read boils down to "don't waste your time and do things that actually matter". Who cares at what time of day you do them? And yes, I say that as someone who used to wake up at 5:45am for quite a few years.


Nice read. Personally, I established the habit to get up at 5:00 AM and dedicate at least one hour to learn/read in the morning during the last year. While establishing this habit I tracked it using GitHub and made at least one commit every day. (you can read more about it here: medium.com/@rieckpil/30-minutes-ev...)

I can recommend to never reduce the time spent sleeping and rather adjust your schedule to get to bed at 9 - 10pm. Read this excellent book about sleep first if you are more interested: rieckpil.de/p/why-we-sleep


Your comment has an important point that the author is missing in my opinion: Adjusting the schedule to get up early is the key and not to reduce the time you spend sleeping!

Very important because most people jump right into getting up early and try to keep it up until it becomes a habit and then they find themselves constantly tired, burned out, caffeine addicted.


@darksmile92 Thanks for your comment. I also agree with @rieckpil on the point of adjusting your schedule appropriately to meet your needs. I apologize for missing out on that important aspect.

You can still edit the article to clarify that bit ;)

@boltc0rt3z don't apologize, this is the perfect environment to start discussions and come to new conclusions! :)
One cannot always cover all facets of a topic.
As @waterlink said, you can edit your article anytime, if you like to.


I did that for years and years.
Waking up at 4 AM.
To be at the factory at 5 AM.
And then put stuff on a conveyor belt during 10 hours.
What an accomplishment !

Well it sucks.

"The power of dying at 40".
You need to sleep to be healthy, I don't think that "accomplishing things" is a goal in life, it doesn't make your day worthier.

Enjoy life, and if it means waking up at 10 AM (lucky you, I have kids now, not for me anymore before several years ;)) then good for you !


From the perspective of human brain activity and application of patterned thinking,
Waking up at 3:30, enables one to build admirable and super-productive, healthy and just empowering morning routine.
Manage yourself, not time.

Besides, deepwork (Cal Newport) fits in very nicely, especially reading of comprehensive literature, for brain is not busy with anything - your entire focus is on the book's contents.

Thanks for writing, Bolton!


Thanks for the feedback @fosteman .


My personal experience is that I need less sleep since I changed my food habits (no alcohol, no processed food, no sugar) and started to exercise regularly. This also gives me some mental power to endure the madness.


TL;DR; If you are a morning person, try it. If you are not a morning person, let it be.

The day has 24h: 8h work, 8,5h sleep (if everything goes well) and 7,5h for everything else. So I gain nothing from getting up early and instead I would deprivate me of some sleep because I already have trouble getting to bed at about 22:30.

I am just not a morning person. Wake up, get fresh, go to work, don‘t talk to me the first 90 min after getting out of bed.

Hitting the gym in the morning? 🥴🤔😖
I prefer it after work. Then my head is free. No more obligations today. „Me-Time“!

Learning to code in a new language? Try new stuff? If your employer values you, you could do that at work. Maybe not full time, but at least experimenting should be in it for you.
If I am not on a tight deadline, I made it a habit to always try something new. Not the Bazillion-th same Asp.Net Web-Forms Website, but ASP.NET MVC or now I changed to .Net Core trying SignalR and Azure WebApps, Functions ... the Full Monty.


Anyone claiming that you should wake up early is claiming bullshit and understand nothing about sleep.
If you interrupt your sleep, you'll be sleep deprived, period.
If you do it on a long period, you'll have health issues (increased risks of heart diseases and cancer, among others).



You can also go to bed early. It's not one sided. I find I don't sleep as well in the summer when it's light from 5am to 10pm, so I installed black-out shades in my bedroom--dark, quiet, cool. My wife calls it my tomb, but it works for me.


it's very important you get enough sleep (at least 6.5 hours)

It's interesting how this limit is lowering down with the advance of the technology. 20-30 years ago 8 hours of sleep were minimal recommended duration, recently I've started seeing that 7 hours are enough. And now it's 6.5 hours? :/

Too lazy to find sources but 6.5 hours are not enough if you want to rest properly.

Also, I know that everyone is different, but it really doesn't matter if you get up at 4 am or 7 am if you organize your day well.


It's still 8 hours, nothing changed.


I know :D Just saying' that there is a lot of people advocating less sleep.


Kind of important to note that sleep is very important. Our body needs it to recover. Our brain needs it as well. If you want to wake up at 5am, sure. But make sure you go to sleep early as well. Telling someone to wake up early, but not change their evening schedule, is bad.
If you dont get enough sleep, you'll actually achieve less during those hours that you're awake. Sleep is important. Sleep enough ;)


Dear Author, i'd like to see you taking care of little children, for example - mine. I have 3 kids. One, the oldest one does whatever he can to stay up late. He prefers to go to bed after midnight. Some time ago I tried to "fix" his go to bed schedule at about 8pm, it caused him to wake up around 1am. I gave up after two weeks, he was fine, but I was like a zombie.
Another kid prefers going to bed at 8pm and wakes up at 6am. Totally opposite of the first one.
Another one, the hardest case, has no fixed schedule and goes to sleep whenever she wants, and wakes up after 3-6h to fetch something to eat, of course waking her parents. Sometimes she goes back to sleep, but not always.
I'd really enjoy watching how you maintain your routine with them. I think that just one child, except for the middle, will be enough to break your routine. I guarantee that after just few days having alarm clock at 4am you'd experience real hell on earth due to lack of sleep.


Amazing! I'm waking up 5 am for about 3 weeks now and the difference is great. I can read my emails, learn new stuff and come even earlier in the office. I'd recommend this practice for everyone (everyone who can wake up on that time, by the way).


Please don't spread the info that 6.5 hours are sufficient. If you sleep only that much for a week, that's like skipping one entire night of sleep. People do it all the time but it's killing you. 8 hours is the optimum for an adult human.



7-8h on average, but depends on your genes, for some people 6.5h can be enough, but it's true it's definitely not for most people :)


Today was the third day in a row that I got up around 4am. I'm a notoriously early riser anyway, but we had something starting at 7am in NYC and I live in the PNW, so there you go. Of course by 4pm I'm pretty fried.


Don't forget the other added bonus of getting up early. The network and servers are hardly busy--more productivity baby!


Man, I go to sleep at 6:30 am usually...


Wake up earlier, by going to sleep earlier, and having the same amount of time in a day!