Mind Over Mattress: How to Wake Early When All You Want to Do is Sleep

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I normally wake at 5am, and have been doing so for some time. In fact, if I didn’t wake early you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now as I simply wouldn’t have the time to write for this blog. This past week, however, I have struggled to wake early and have been hitting the snooze button for the first time in a long time. What’s going on?

One thing I have learned over the past year and a half is that waking early is not just about setting your alarm clock for a particular time and getting up. For example, it is pointless to force yourself to wake early if it leaves you feeling like a zombie for the rest of the day. If you are interested in waking earlier, the following are a few things I have learned that may be of help. And hopefully we can work out why I have been bashing the snooze button so much….

The Evening Before

Avoid caffeine/ alcohol/ sugar. All these things can potentially affect your quality of sleep and make it incredibly hard to wake when your alarm goes off. When it comes to something like sugar, for example, I indulge my sweet tooth during the day. Then in the evening I avoid it because I know it makes me restless during the night.

Wind down. Don’t go to bed with your mind still active. This is one reason I have been struggling to wake early the past week – I have gotten into the bad habit of shutting down the computer and heading straight to bed. I need to get back into the habit of turning off the computer earlier and instead reading a fictional book followed by some meditation.

Visualize. Just before falling asleep, visualize yourself waking at a particular time. It’s amazing how effectively this works.


Get enough. Different people need different amounts of sleep. So the key is to experiment and be aware what amount works well for you. I need at least 6 and a half to 7 hours. When I sleep less than this (such as I did a night or two last week), I always regret it because I am tired all the next day. There is nothing productive about that.

Better quality. I sleep less than I did 2 years ago, but I generally find it easier to wake up. One major reason for this is my quality of sleep is much better (although I am conveniently forgetting the first few months after our son was born). Apart from avoiding the things I mentioned earlier, I usually wear a sleep mask to make things completely dark. Kathryn has nicknamed me Zorro because of this, but it is worth it.

Waking Early

Have a purpose. I usually find it relatively easy to wake at 5am because I have a clear purpose of what I want to do in the morning. Typically I will spend a few minutes the night before making a list of what I want to do. Then in the morning I am able to quickly focus on these.

Find a morning routine you love. Over the past 1-2 years my mornings have changed from waking up and rushing to get ready and out the door, to waking earlier and incorporating some activities/ habits I enjoy into my mornings. To get some ideas, I highly recommend my article 24 Daily Habits. I obviously don’t do everything in the preceding article each morning, but once you have some ideas to make your morning more enjoyable it is easy to incorporate at least one or two.

Be sneaky. A very effective trick I do is to place my alarm on the other side of the room, effectively forcing me to get out of bed to turn it off.

Be disciplined. Of course the above trick is no guarantee that I won’t go back and curl up in bed (as I have done a few times over the past week). I don’t think my problem has been discipline so much as the other things I have discussed in this article. But certainly waking earlier does require you to put “mind over mattress”. Remember: “the price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret”.

Small steps. It took me a number of months to go from waking at 7am to 5am. The key was to take it slowly by chipping away at 15 minutes at a time. Take small steps and be patient.

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Now waking earlier may not be for everyone, but it has been a life changing habit for me. What do you think?

Photo by Ludosphère