The Early-Late Debate: When Should You Be Getting Up?
In October this year, the Daily Mail published a piece on early-rising women who ‘have it all’. These strong, sassy females are ticking all the boxes: a stellar career, a healthy lifestyle and a well-stocked bank account. What’s the secret? Their four AM wake-up time.
As the clocks went back this autumn, there were more than a few sighs of relief country-wide. As a people, we Britons aren’t the best at rising early. 37% of us claim they don’t get enough sleep, and the average rise-time clocks in at a tardy 7.12 AM.
But if you believe the hype, you’ll know that the superwomen of tomorrow are those who know the far side of the sunrise. An early start is associated not only with increased productivity but superior health, happiness and self-fulfillment. Think you’ve got what it takes to join the pre-dawn club? Read on.
Bird kingdom: owls and larks
We’ve all heard it: you’re either a lark or an owl, and never both. While the former enjoy a 24-hour circadian rhythm and a natural energy peak early in the day, the latter tend to struggle with pre-midnight bedtimes. Recent research indicates that our sleeping preferences are genetically predetermined, with certain people naturally less capable of rising.
So ‘owl’ is a synonym for biologically lazy? Not necessarily. Some argue that owls actually make better career choices, ending up smarter and wealthier than their early-morning colleagues. And it will be the owls going to Mars when Virgin finally gets its act together, not larks.
That said, it’s obviously the larks who win out in the early riser game, and there are numerous other advantages to starting your day before dawn…
First off, a recent sleep and nutrition report by Jawbone indicated that, of larks and owls, the former tend to be healthier. Furthermore, the pros of clocking those extra morning hours can put you seriously ahead at work.
Is an early morning also the secret to increased productivity? Plenty of people think so, citing those blissful morning hours between four and six as the most uninterrupted and concentrated of their day. Plenty of celebrity businessmen and women swear by an early alarm, with Apple CEO Tim Cook rising at a casual 3.45 AM.
All the same, it might not be worth taking the idea too far. There are plenty of people who think that starting the day at 4 AM isn’t merely mad, but actively bad for you. Each to their own, we suppose…
So you’re set on joining the early morning club? There are ways to make the transition easier.
The night before an early morning, eat your last meal of the day at least two hours before sleep. We sleep better on a slightly emptied stomach and, if you’re hungry in the morning, it doubles your motivation to get out of bed. As soon as you get up, drink a glass of water. It will get your metabolism revving, waking you up further. Switch on the lights too; the light will kick-start your body clock, kidding your body into thinking it’s daytime.
When writer Nicole Yi decided to try the approach for a week, she found that booking early-morning gym classes gave her the motivation to drag herself out of bed – and left her feeling pumped for the day ahead!
Finally, if you’re determined to survive on the minimum amount of sleep, at least make that sleep high quality. Turn off screens – yes, your phone too – an hour before bed; the blue light simulates daylight, keeping your brain awake. And try wearing socks to bed – warm hands and feet are linked with dozing off quickly.
The high-tech fixes
If you’re truly determined to master the early wake-up, there are plenty of technological fixes you can invest in. Most famous is the wake-up light – an alarm clock that slowly lights up in the half hour before you wake up, brightening the room. The sunrise simulation makes your transition into wakefulness easier, and the ‘natural’ approach brings a bunch of benefits with it.
Got a bit more cash to splash? Company Eight Sleep have invented a smart mattress cover that can track your sleep patterns, heat your bed and optimise your sleepy time to suit you. Plus it’s only a mattress cover, so perfectly portable. And if that’s not enough, you can buy an alarm-clock-cum-mat that will force you to stand up out of bed before it stops sounding. Yes – that’s a thing.
Finally, it might not be a high-tech fix, but a mastery of the ‘tactical nap’ will do you well when the early mornings catch up with you. Human sleep in 90-minute cycles, typically, so the best length for a nap is a full cycle. Don’t have the time? No problem. Down a shot of espresso and go for a half-hour lie-down. By the time you get up, the caffeine will be kicking in, and you’ll feel right as rain.
Need more advice? Come right on over. You’ll find us snuggled under our duvets, ignoring our alarms.
Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.