I woke up at 5 a.m. for 7 days to see if it would increase my productivity: Here are the pros and cons
I'm someone who sleeps until noon most weekends, so it was very out of character for me to volunteer for my most bizarre challenge yet: waking up at 5 a.m. for seven days.
We're often told that the most successful people wake up super early in the morning to get things done, and what I really wanted to learn from this exercise was if waking up earlier than I usually do would help me be more productive.
When I'm heading into the office, I get up at 6:45 a.m. And, on my work-from-home days, I'm probably rolling out of the bed around 8:30.
But, from Tuesday, Jan. 31, to Wednesday, Feb. 8, I set my alarm for 5 a.m. and got up before the sun each morning. Though, some things never change because I could not, and did not, stick to my 5 a.m. wake time over the weekend.
Here's what I enjoyed, found helpful and what I didn't. And whether or not this experiment had any effect at all on my productivity.
Plus, tips from a psychiatrist about how to wake up at 5 a.m. while considering your overall wellbeing.
Pros and cons of waking up at 5 a.m.
Let's start with the good, because there were benefits to waking up earlier than I typically do on weekdays.
- More time in solitude: Some mornings, I was simply able to sit in the bed for an hour or two in silence, which was very nice because I don't live alone. Every day, I was able to meditate, for however long I wanted to, before rushing to prepare for my workday.
- Increased energy at the start of the workday: Usually, I don't feel completely awake before jumping up to get ready for my commute. And when I work from home, I just hop right onto my laptop. However, my earlier start made me feel more energized at the top of my workday.
- Laundry in the morning: I mean, checking laundry off of my to-do list first thing in the morning was honestly amazing.
- Going to the gym before working: I joined a gym last week (which I was going to do anyway). And though I only went in the morning on one day of the challenge, it still felt so great to be in and out of the gym before 8 a.m.
- Bigger breakfasts: I made pancakes for the first time by myself and paired it with eggs, fruit and cucumber water! My normal breakfast before work is almost always oatmeal, and maybe eggs on a good day.
Yet, like all things, there were some downsides.
- Going to sleep at 9 p.m.: When heading into the challenge, there was one thing that I decided would not be affected by waking up earlier: my sleep. So, in order to get the same amount of sleep that I usually do, that meant going to bed at 9 p.m. And, I felt like I was missing out on so much, including the Grammys!
- Rushed evenings: My commute is about an hour long, so getting home around 6 p.m. meant taking a shower, cooking and doing anything else I wanted to do after work within three hours. Need I say more?
- Waking up earlier on weekends: Now, I know I said I didn't wake up at 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday; but, because my body was used to my new wake time, I still got up at about 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. This also meant that I was tired much earlier than I'd usually be, and asleep before 11 p.m. on both days.
I'd say the good outweighs the bad, and maybe I'll consider getting up at 5 a.m. some days for productivity – but not tomorrow.
Tips for shifting to a 5 a.m. wake-up, from a psychiatrist
Waking up at 5 a.m. can be very beneficial, says Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, an outpatient mental health company.
"Depending on your unique situation, it can allow you to incorporate a self-care practice without disruption, like a workout or meditation, or accomplish a few things off your to-do list before your kids or partner wake up," she says.
Yet, that doesn't mean shifting your wake time to 5 a.m. will be easy. Here are some tips that Patel-Dunn recommends if you plan to make the switch:
- Be realistic with yourself and understand that the adjustment won't happen overnight
- Ease into it gradually by waking up slightly earlier over time
- Make sure you're getting enough sleep
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