Photo by Geoffrey Arduini on Unsplash
Since I work from home, on most days, I wake up sometime between 10-11 AM. Yes, I enjoy the perks of that #workfromhome life, but I have to say, I deal with an internal sense of discomfort every time I mention my waking time. Sleeping in until dangerously close to noon on an average Tuesday has a way of making one feel like they’re behind the eight ball. I often feel like the day is running me and I’m constantly rushing from task to task.
This led me to wonder what it would be like to stop saying “I’ll try it one day” about waking up early and try it for a week solid. I wanted to see if it would make a difference in my productivity, energy levels, and overall sense of well-being. So, I decided to experiment. I would set my alarm and get up at 6 AM (or earlier) for seven days straight, no matter what.
Along the way, I documented my energy levels, moods, productivity levels, eating habits, and more to see if the early bird does get the worm.
Does early to bed and early to rise really make one healthy, wealthy, and wise? Let’s find out.
I meant to start this experiment on a Sunday, but ended up deciding to start it the week I’d be with my boyfriend, Konstantin, in New York. Monday was Memorial Day and to be honest, we were in the midst of a should-we-stay-or-should-we-go mentality that day, and neither of us had the emotional energy for a 6 AM wakeup call.
So day one ended up being Tuesday when Konstantin forced me out of bed along with him (he had gotten up early to work on an IT project). I was tired and already dreading a week of this special kind of hell called waking up early.
But after about 20 minutes of the day, after having moisturized, having some tea, and gotten in front of my computer, I felt exactly like I do every morning. I completed some assignments. Looking at the clock three hours later, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t even 10 AM yet, and I’d already blown through such a big chunk of work. I felt productive, energized, and very satisfied.
Most days, I feel like the day is getting away from me and there’s not enough time to do everything that needs doing, but already on day one, I noticed a huge difference in my anxiety levels.
I am someone who diligently gets eight to nine hours of sleep per night. I wondered how getting less sleep would affect me. I got about seven hours of sleep, which felt...restorative. I felt rested. Not once during the day did I feel the urge to take a nap.
Also, my appetite was lower overall, and I had less of an inkling to snack at night. I couldn’t believe how great day one of this experiment went.
If this was what waking up early would do for me, I was ready to do this every day!
It was a lot harder to get out of bed on Wednesday. I stayed up way too late the night before, and I do not do well with sleep deprivation. I didn’t really get out of bed until about 7:30 or 8, since I was in a fog of “I am kind of awake but kind of not but technically up, so it counts.”
Once I did get up, the same routine ensued: once I took care of my skin, got dressed, and got some fluids into my system, I felt bright eyed and bushy tailed.
I was more productive and had higher energy overall, compared to most days. I also wasn’t drowsy or wanting to nap, which happens a lot of the time when I am sleep deprived.
When I went to bed that night, I found myself tired and satisfied that I was ready for sleep around 10 PM, something I would never have dreamed I’d do a week ago.
I woke up before the 6 AM call time on Thursday, since my boyfriend and I were going to go on the train together in Manhattan.
I felt a little strange being out in public at such an early hour!
Not something that I’m used to.
One thing that I found hard to regulate was my appetite. Since I’m used to having my meals later than most when I’m not waking up at 6, I found myself struggling to figure out how to manage my hunger. On day three, I didn’t eat anything until about 10 AM, and I found myself famished for the rest of the day, trying to play catch up for the lack of food that morning.
Around 4 PM, I hit a productivity wall. I tried to force myself to get work done by changing locations to a new coffee shop, but nothing seemed to work. I felt frustrated since this was the first time this week I’d experienced such a lapse in energy.
On Friday, I took the day off, so I wasn’t going to be doing any work. Instead, I was going to be apartment hunting with Konstantin in New York City, which is probably equivalent to a 14 hour day of staring at a wall, in terms of frustration.
Konstantin woke up at 5:30 AM to work on his IT stuff, and I got up, well tried to get up, at 6. I wasn’t having it. I’m not sure what time I actually hauled my ass out of bed; it was after 6 AM, but it was still early.
At this point, waking up early seemed to be an every-other-day thing, in terms of ease. One day I’d be really into it, pumped and ready to roll, but then the next day I’d be tired and wanting to sleep in. If I do continue to wake up early, it will be an on-again-off-again relationship.
We had a full day of apartment hunting ahead of us, and I was excited about the day that lay ahead.
Throughout the morning, I felt very energized, yet relaxed and calm.
I had a good breakfast, and I didn’t feel tired at all during the day and didn’t have any noticeable fatigue. (With my usual wake up at 10 AM routine, I'm left with an energy dip in the afternoon.)
I was tired; I didn’t get very much sleep the night before (probably about seven hours). Upon waking, I felt that familiar light fog in my head, that is usually indicative of a headache, looming on the horizon.
Sure enough, I did get a headache that morning. It wasn't a full-blown migraine, but I was feeling it, especially while at an event with a lot of people, noise, and overhead lighting. Some ibuprofen took the edge off after a couple of hours, but the sleep deprivation of the week was catching up to me. I realized that I need to get a proper amount of sleep if I wanted to feel good.
Sunday Funday! It was odd to get out of bed at 6 AM on a day when I wasn’t working and didn’t have anywhere to be. I also clearly didn’t get yesterday's memo about sleep deprivation; despite my headache the day, before, I got less than seven hours of shut eye.
The plan for the day was just to chill out, read, eat, and spend some quality time with my boo.
I felt relaxed, calm, and energized. I also did well with my food intake since I made sure to have an early breakfast. Making sure to eat breakfast less than two hours into my day and having lunch around noon was the key to making my appetite work when waking up early, as I confirmed.
On another note, my sex drive, which is typically high, felt more subdued. I still had sex with my boyfriend most days, but I didn’t feel that same level of focus on sex.
Monday was a morning flight, which meant another 5 AM wakeup call for my last day of the experiment. I was tired waking up and only got about five hours of sleep, which certainly didn’t help matters.
Unlike the other mornings, I was famished. When I got to the airport, I immediately hit up Hudson News for some snacks to get me through the plane ride.
The rest of the day, I actually felt tired, stressed, and on-edge. I wasn’t used to being in such a funk and figured that the stress of traveling, Monday morning, and five hours of sleep, accumulated and caught up to me.
Overall, I really enjoyed doing this experiment a lot more than I thought I was going to. While I slept less than I normally do overall, I found my body adjusted to the schedule quite well.
My energy was higher than usual, and I didn’t have any dips in the afternoon like I often do when I wake up in the mid-morning.
I felt good for the entire day and liked the even-keel energy levels that were present, rather than a constant, unpredictable fluctuation. I found that this change was really beneficial for my mental health and kept me from experiencing nasty symptoms of bipolar disorder, thanks to the stability I felt internally.
I found myself wishing that I could have one day on and one day off throughout the experiment, so I think it’s crucial that if I do want to wake up super early, I don’t make it a daily practice. My body is just not built for that!
The hardest part of the experiment was food intake. Adjusting my meal times was not second nature, and I ended up being all over the map the first couple of days with my appetite. However, I learned that if I get up earlier, I need to eat almost as soon as I get up to regulate my hunger, and have my lunch around noon, give or take an hour.
I definitely want to keep this up and start waking up earlier. But for me, that means a routine that includes rising somewhere between 7-8:30 AM, which I believe will provide the perfect balance of early to rise and glorious shut eye.
The old wives tale has some merit, guys: waking up earlier really does make one healthy, wealthy, and wise.