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Nathan Kallman
Nathan Kallman

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

The Night owls guide to 6am

Cover photo by Manidip Mandal on Unsplash

I'm a night owl at heart. Hand me a controller or remote and I'll be happy 'til 2am.

But after 4 years of college classes and 4 years of parenting demanding I wake up early, I've trained myself to be able to wake up at 6 each day.

So here's a tip I've learned from each of those years:

1. Get enough sleep

Perhaps the most obvious (and the one everyone mentions), but it is true! You won't do very well waking up early (or at all) if you are over tired.

Try to get 7½ to 9 hours of sleep every night. How much specifically varies from person to person. For example, if I get less than 8-9 hours consistently, I start feeling the effects and feel more lethargic and less motivated during the day.

But what if you truly can't get that much sleep tonight?

2. Sleep in multiples of 90 minutes

If you can't sleep for that 7½ to 9 hours, then you'll able to wake up much more easily if you awaken at the end of a sleep cycle rather than from the middle (aka "deep" sleep). Since sleep cycles often end on 90 minute increments, try to sleep for a multiple of that (3 hours, 4½ hours, 6 hours). For example, I've found from many late college nights that 3 hours of sleep feels "better" than 4 hours.

Rabbit hole: both 7½ and 9 hours are also multiples are 90 minutes. Cool right? So we can also take the sleep recommendation as "get 5 or 6 sleep cycles per night" instead of an arbitrary length of time.

Now wait for just a minute. This is not an excuse to get less than a full nights sleep! This is by no means healthy for you in the long term. Only use this tip in emergencies. Speaking of things that aren't healthy...

3. Do not snooze

Unlike the previous tips that I don't always follow, this is absolutely non-negotiable. Do not snooze your alarm!

Waking up to a horrific buzzing and sleeping again for 5 minutes over and over again thrashes your body's hormones telling you to wake up and fall asleep. After a few rounds your body doesn't know what it is doing and you'll struggle to get out of bed.

Wake up the first time you hear your alarm! But I understand how tempting it is to just stay under those nice warm sheets. The next two tips should help with this.

4. Use a carrot/stick alarm

Either use an app / clock that supports this, or have two seperate alarms set. Set them up so that the first alarm is gentle and soothing, slowly building in intensity while the second alarm is loud and obnoxious.

These will be your "carrot" and "stick" for getting out of bed.

The first alarm entices. It tells "awaken friend, today starts another beautiful day".

The second alarm pushes. It yells "Get up you lazy, lumpy potato!".

These two alarms will help you get out of bed better (and not snooze). I found myself getting up to turn off the alarms before the second one sounded because I didn't want to start my day with that awful sound in my ears.

5. Set alarm out of reach

Combined with the last two tips, this totally changed how I start my days.

I found it much harder to snooze my alarms if I could not reach them from the comfort of my bed. Once out of bed it was much easier for me to stay out of bed.

Put the alarm far enough away that you must fully and completely get out of bed to turn it off.

6. Write down what to do

Now that we're awake, what do we do with the extra time that we are not rushing to shower and get dressed?

For me, I cannot remember anything in the mornings. Put a gun to my head and ask what I needed to do; just pull the trigger because I am incapable of remembering.

To fix that problem, I write a short list the evening before of what I want to do. Unload the dishwasher? done. Pay that bill? check sent.

I find it important to make the list informal though. Erase it or throw it away the next day. Anything like a journal or dating the lists made me feel bad when an item wasn't done. That feeling made me not want to write things on the list for fear of not doing them. Not having the list ensured that I didn't do those things I wanted to do. Keep it short sweet and transient.

7. Be honest about what can be accomplished

Don't make a laundry list a mile long. I don't move very quickly in the morning and an hour or two can only contain so many tasks.

Prioritize and cut down to a few essential things you'd like to do in the morning.

8. Do something fun

Most importantly, do something you want to do. Life is not about dropping your feet onto the gound to start churning out tasks within 5 minutes until your head hits the pillow at night, like some sort of machine.

Take your time. Read that book only you are intereseted in. Play that game. Watch the show no one else wants to watch. Having something you look forward to starting the day makes all the difference.

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Top comments (12)

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

Honorable mention: Drink water before anything else

This didn't make the cut as it is not something I do. Other people swear by it though, so I'll leave it down here.

Take a full glass of cold water and drink it completely before leaving the bed.

Personally I felt sick trying to drink that much water on an empty stomach, but it did wake me up. You do you I guess.

denvermullets profile image

the water trick is great, i used to do that until the cats became a problem with it. i didn't need to drink a full cup though, usually a sip or two was enough.

a thing i recently added to my routine a little while ago that seems to help a bunch with waking up - vitamin d supplements. it could be bs, it could not, i just know that i jump out of bed so much easier (and i was already a morning person) since i started taking them with my lunch.

ianturton profile image
Ian Turton

I have a radio alarm clock, it only stays on for an hour so if I haven't woken up and moved by 8 am then this isn't going to be a work day. The only downside is if the internet is down in defaults to buzzer mode (and there is no point getting up if there is no internet as I WFH),

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

My alarm clock at university would only continue for half an hour! I learned the hard way how snoozing leads to missed classes.

yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

Don't use any alarm clock! Always wake up naturally.
The only exception is on the days you have to catch a morning flight. However, nobody should fly this year.

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

That's great if you can do that daily! (also a sign that you have a very healthy bedtime schedule) I "wake up" at 10 when left to my own devices though...

yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi • Edited

My bedtime is all over the place: evening conference calls, late night bugfix, TV, Doom, …
As planned, it should be 23:00±0:30 ~ 06:00±0:30.
In reality, it's more like 00:00±2:30 ~ 06:00±3:30.
But still, no alarm clock. Natural wakeup only!

alexanderjanke profile image
Alex Janke

You guys get sleep.. ?

For me, I cannot remember anything in the mornings. Put a gun to my head and ask what I needed to do; just pull the trigger because I am incapable of remembering.

I heavily relate to this. Started to enter all my reminders in my google calendar and when I get up I just say "good morning" to my phone and a routine kicks in to tell me all the stuff I need to know (weather, meetings, my reminders, ...)

ricardogeek profile image
Ricardo Enrique

my best alarm clock is the smell of fresh coffee.
bought a machine that you can program to grinder and brew coffee at a scheduled time (7am in my case), and it works every time!

michaelphipps profile image

When I wake up, first thing I do is call the coffee shop and order a pick up coffee. It motivates me to get up, shower, get dressed and leave the house in a timely manner.

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

Needing to go somewhere definitely adds a motivation I don't otherwise have!

jimcmorrison profile image

Super valid points here Nathan. While I tend to run closer to the 6 1/2 hour mark on sleep, setting my phone out of reach has been a game changer for me!