If you have ever posted a picture of your pre-work gym session or told me how you just love getting up early, I have a confession. I have 100% rolled my eyes at you internally, and probably thought you were lying. Because who actually does that? You do know there's a snooze button right? But the truth is, I'm just jealous that you're a morning person and I am most definitely not.
This is rare footage of me within the first 1-2hours of waking up:
LOL. Just joking. This is:
But is it possible to become a morning person? And can those extra hours make the day feel longer, reduce stress and make me more productive? I decided to find out, by setting my alarm at 5am every single day, for a week. No gadgets, no tricks, no personal barista, just an iPhone alarm and a desire to be less miserable pre-10am.
[Disclaimer: I am aware many people HAVE to get up at 5am, or earlier. And I salute you.]
DAY 1 - MONDAY
The first thing that registers when my alarm goes off is excitement. Because literally the only reason I would ever be up at this time is to go on a holiday, right? Then I remember, nope, I'm just doing this for fun.
I snooze my alarm for half an hour, until the guilt sets in and I drag my butt out of bed, turning on every available light in my flat in an attempt to trick my brain into feeling awake. My brain knows better and I slump onto the sofa with a cup of tea, a shell of a human being.
By around 6.30am, I'm feeling more alive. I make myself some porridge and switch on my laptop, deciding this is prime spare time to do some admin for a close friend's hen that I've been putting off. As the sun rises, my body properly wakes up and I power through the hen To Do list I'd been letting grow for weeks.
As it approaches half seven, I realise it's now or never if I want to tick off one of my 'morning person' goals - the daybreak run. So I change and head outside. As I jog towards the park, two things strike me. 1) A 7.30am run in 2'C temperatures has very different clothing requirements and I am not appropriately dressed. And 2) It's bloody beautiful. I feel like I have discovered a separate world I had no idea existed.
As I head into work at 9am, I am feel a sense of achievement. The day hasn't even started and I've been for an actual run AND ticked stuff off my life admin list.
By lunch, I feel the need to devour a small medieval feast, most likely due to my early breakfast and major energy slump. That run feels kind of pointless after I inhale a Katsu Curry and brownie in under 10 minutes. Now I feel tired and a bit vommy. The smug feeling has evaporated.
At home that evening, my plan to go to bed early is ruined by the fact the TV I want to watch isn't on until 9pm. I get a second wind and stay awake until 11pm.
DAY 2 - TUESDAY
Bad idea. When my alarm goes off at 5am I feel like something that has been trodden into a pavement over several decades. My survival instinct kicks in (it's what Bear Grylls would do. Probably.) and I hit snooze. Again. By 5.30am the familiar guilt creeps in and I shuffle towards my kettle.
This morning, I decide to try and get a personal project done. One of those things that's been on my To Do List for about 3 years but I just 'never have the time'. Namely, printing out my favourite pictures, so that I have hard copies to look at when I'm old and can't use the mind-controlled holographic computers the kids of 2067 are using. I make decent progress but am nowhere near finished.
While I don't have the sort of job that means I can suddenly change my working hours, I bend the rules a bit and head in half an hour early so I can leave early for a gym class, guilt-free. But by 5pm, I am massively regretting this decision to switch up my day and save the exercise for later. It's pitch black when I leave work and I legitimately nearly nod off during Pilates thanks to the mood lighting.
If I could start my day at 7am, be out by 3pm, hit an early class before it gets dark and get some life admin done before dinner, that might be different. But without that flexibility, the early start just leaves me too zapped to get anything done post 5.30pm. I've reclaimed my mornings, but lost my evenings as a result.
DAY 3 - WEDNESDAY
Right. I can do this. After lying in bed for around 10-15 minutes to read the news, I actually manage to get out of bed pre-5.30am. Because today I have a plan.
I do an online grocery shop, eat my breakfast, answer emails for around half an hour, finish a presentation and head into town for 8.30am. I dump my bags at work and make it to a 9am appointment I'd booked on Monday to fix my non-work laptop, which has been broken for about 6 months. I'm done by 9.15am, pick up a prescription, grab a coffee and am at my desk by 9.30am, feeling like I've achieved a whole day of admin.
For the third day in a row I'm carb-loading at lunch and entering into a weird sleep-deprived hyperactivity by around 3pm. Thankfully, my colleagues just think I'm being super positive about this whole experiment, rather than seeing me for the close-to-breaking-point, cannot-concentrate, caffeine-deprived wreck that I am. (Oh yes, I also decided I would not turn to excess caffeine to get me through this week. What was I thinking?)
I meet my sister for dinner and despite a mild panic that I would fall asleep face-first into my pasta, her company snaps me out of my lethargy. Plus, talking about all the stuff I've managed to get done this week makes me even more determined not to hit snooze again.
DAY 4 - THURSDAY
I make it out of bed on time and settle into my routine of (decaf) coffee, emails and early breakfast, before I pack my gym bag for the 7.30am Pilates class I've booked. It's probably my favourite 'morning person' moment of the week, watching the sun rise over my local park from the gym window, while I stretch my achy body out. Maybe this early morning thing isn't that bad...
Except, speaking of which, I am aching. A lot. And by the end of the day my throat feels tight for the second day in a row. While my brain seems to be getting into this morning person routine, my body isn't. The sleep deprivation is starting to run me down.
DAY 5 - FRIDAY
On my final 5am weekday, I decide to free-up my weekend by getting all the household chores done that would usually dominate my Sunday. I clean my flat, tidy my floordrobe away, do two loads of laundry and clear a shamefully overflowing bowl of dishes.
I am thankfully on a half day and make the most of the afternoon train journey up to my Dad's beach house in Lincoln by napping the whole way. Bliss.
DAY 6 - SATURDAY
IT'S A SATURDAY. I just can't. And the feeling that I'm fighting off a cold is all I need to persuade myself to sleep straight through from 11pm to 9am. Me:
It is glorious. The shame I feel is completely eclipsed by remembering what it feels like to be a fully functioning human being who has had the 8 hours of sleep their body requires. And an extra 2 for good measure...
DAY 7 - SUNDAY
With nothing to do and absolutely zero purpose for getting up at 5am, I set my alarm for 6am as a compromise. It's enough time to boil the kettle, open the curtains and get comfy, as I watch the sun rise over the beach.
Maybe the early starts would be easier if I had this view as a reward every day.
SO, IS IT WORTH IT?
If you constantly feel like there aren't enough hours in the day, extending your morning once or twice a week could be a good solution. But I would suggest you only use it for tangible activities that will make it feel worth while and ideally, ones that will help ease stress in one way or another.
The mornings I did 'general admin' without a sense of completion, didn't feel worth the early start, whereas the days I was able to tick whole things off my list were much more satisfying. But exercise gave me the biggest buzz, as it really felt like I had found time in my day to do something for myself and left me riding the endorphin rush into work.
Make sure you have a stash of healthy snacks, as your energy levels really crash mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Otherwise, you'll fall into the carb trap, riding a wave of sugar-induced highs and lows throughout the day and feeling crappy as a result.
Don't crash and burn. While I was a little too eager with the snooze button early in the week, I definitely needed the Saturday lie-in. If you're getting up earlier, make sure you're going to bed earlier. I didn't, at all, and got run-down as a result. Know your limits and mainline plenty of fruit and veg.
ONE MONTH LATER...
Look, I'm not transformed into a Disney character rising with sun and doing housework while I sing to woodland animals. But I have found myself more conscious of how I'm using my time, and less stressed and more productive as a result.
I used to sleep until an 11am alarm on a weekend, no matter how many times I woke up beforehand. Now, I'm getting up when I wake up, whether that's 7am or 11am. I've also been to two more 7.30am pilates classes when evening plans meant my after-work ones weren't do-able.
Perhaps my biggest lesson is that the snooze button is BAD. NEWS. Not only is it proven to make you feel more tired, it low-key makes you feel like a failure before you've even got out of bed. Even if you spend 20 mins on your phone before you move, at least you're awake. I genuinely have not snoozed once since and I feel better for it.
If nothing else, it's been a reminder that taking time for yourself is important. Don't underestimate it and do what you can to make it happen.
H/T Cosmo UK