Why should you take life advice from a 17-year-old?
Simple. Regarding this subject, I’ve gone through all the trial and error so you don’t have to. And in doing so…
I’ve cracked the code of how to get up early and not feel like death!
Which is huge for me.
My Struggle with Sleep and Getting Up Early
My entire life, I’ve been a night owl. I’ve dealt with insomnia since I seven.
I remember going to bed, then tossing and turning, bored out of my mind for hours.
For years I would just have to wake up late because I still needed sleep. This ended up with me getting ready for the day at 11 AM, feeling like a failure.
Sometimes, I’d have to get up at 6 AM to go somewhere no matter how bad my night was—no matter how few hours of sleep I got.
If you struggle with waking up early, then you likely know how I felt. I was exhausted when I had to get up that early. I’d set alarm after alarm and keep snoozing it. When I did manage to get up, I’d have terrible nausea—a telltale sign of lack of sleep. I’d end up vomiting often.
Like everything, being a night owl had its perks. I couldn’t sleep because not only was I not tired, but also because my mind would race with brilliant ideas! My aunt had this—turns out it’s a sign of being intelligent.
In fact, most of my writing has been done after the midnight hour. Does anyone remember my 11 PM-7 AM writing routine during July Camp NaNo 2017?
“It’s 3 AM. THE NIGHT IS STILL YOUNG.”
– Madison Grace, 2k17
I would never fall asleep before midnight. I would feel sick and exhausted just waking up at 9 AM!
I tried everything.
All of the expert sleep advice you find on Google.
I saw a doctor and tried her reccomendations.
I ate healthier and cleaner than anyone you’ve likely ever met—I only ate fruits, veggies, nuts, and lean meats. No gluten, dairy, sugar, or grain.
I exercised as much as I could, given my health conditions some years. And even when I was perfectly healthy, I still had insomnia.
I even tried putting my phone up an hour before bed like all the experts recommended. It did absolutely nothing for me. (While I do believe this is helpful, if this is all you do, you will get nowhere.) In fact, texting on my phone was the only way to stay sane and avoid tossing and turning in frustration during these years.
I tried getting up and going to bed at the same time.
I tried a nice, relaxing evening routine, complete with soft piano music, journaling, doodling, and tea.
I tried it all!
I was ready to give up on my dreams of waking up early and having an awesomely productive day. On August 27, 2019, I wrote:
maybe give up on an early morning schedule? night owl, do things at night. school, etc.
But then I cracked the code.
What’s the secret to getting up early and not feeling like death?
It all has to do with your circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is also known as your body clock or the sleep/wake cycle. Healthy body clocks feel sleepy at around the same time every night and feel awake at roughly the same time every morning.
During the night, you go through cycles of REM sleep, which are about 90 minutes long. These are periods in which your brain becomes more active, and that’s when you dream. The average adult goes through five or six cycles of REM sleep. Your brain becomes more and more active during this final phase of sleep, until voila! You’re awake (usually from a dream).
Why might you feel sleepy in the mornings? Because your brain probably hasn’t gotten a chance to go through all its cycles of REM sleep—or, if you got less than 90 minutes of sleep, didn’t enter into it all!
Therefore, your circadian rhythm, which gradually helps you feel more and more awake after each REM cycle (at least that’s my conclusion based on research), increasing your brain activity until you’re finally awake, doesn’t have a chance to do its job.
That’s why sleep experts say to go to bed and get up at the same time each night.
So why did that never work for me? Going to bed at 10, waking up at 7?
Because I couldn’t fall asleep for hours! The time I went to bed was not the time I fell asleep! My circadian rhythm only got sleepy after midnight, and therefore only finished its REM stages later in the morning—think 11 AM—when I could finally wake up, having gotten enough sleep.
If I woke up before then, I’d feel nauseous all morning and miserable all day. Worse, I still couldn’t fall asleep at night even though I was tired!
The good thing is that if you can reset your circadian rhythm using this method I will show you, you can crack the code to feeling alive when you wake up early!
Things to Consider Before You Begin
My adrenal fatigue syndrome at the time had insomnia as a symptom, so once I addressed and healed that, I was then able to do the following.
You might need to examine your health and make sure there aren’t any other factors contributing to your sleep struggles. Anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and many other health issues have insomnia as a symptom that could be causing this.
I recommend functional medicine and not harsh sleep drugs. My adrenal fatigue was completely cured in 11 weeks through the use of natural, functional medicine.
Once you’ve taken care of any underlying issues that may be contributing to your sleep struggles, the steps below will work.
Another thing I want to address is the common advice you hear on how to reset your circadian rhythm. Everyone says to just wake up early and then you’ll feel tired enough to go to bed early, or simply pull an all-nighter for the same effect.
Well, you’ve likely tried these methods and they failed you just like they failed me! If that’s you, here are the steps that do work.
How to Wake Up As Early As You Want & Feel Alive
1. Start with being able to sleep early first.
What helps you fall asleep earlier and faster? For me, the magic bullets were:
- Going to bed at roughly the same time every night.
- Taking natural sleep-promoting supplements.
I’ll discuss each of these steps in detail.
I take the following supplements to make me sleepy:
- Melatonin (at dinner time)
- And then, at bedtime:
- A cup of Magnesium “Calm” tea
Melatonin is the chemical produced in the evening to make you sleepy. You’ll naturally fix what time your body produces this as you go through these steps, but to help you out in that, take it in supplement form.
Serotonin and GABA are calming neurotransmitters in your brain, and magnesium is wonderful for relaxation.
Guys, these worked wonders. These helped my body get sleepier earlier and naturally. Just last night, BEFORE I took my bedtime supplements, I literally fell asleep on the couch at 9:50 because these supplements helped my body get sleepy at the same time every night—it helped my circadian rhythm!
For someone who usually fell asleep at around 2 AM, that’s a miracle.
Keep taking them even if you don’t see results immediately. I know that’s what everyone says about everything, and it rarely ever works, but for this, it actually will.
I don’t really remember how long it took for me, but just gradually after taking them, I looked up one day and realized DANG, I AM SUCCEEDING AT THE SLEEP/WAKE CYCLE.
Careful with the magnesium tea. It will give you loose stools if you take too much, so cut back if you’re having diarrhea every day.
Choose an hour to shoot to be in bed by. As long as you take the melatonin at dinner time, you’ll eventually get sleepy in a couple hours.
It’s important to choose an hour early enough to allow you to wake up at an early time. If you find you sleep best with eight hours of sleep, don’t go to bed at midnight if you’re wanting to wake up at 5 AM.
You don’t have to be perfect with the time—just try not to vary it by more than an hour. This is especially important while you’re adjusting your circadian rhythm from the crazy state it’s currently in.
The supplements will help you fall asleep earlier. Eventually, your circadian rhythm will adjust and you’ll feel sleepy at roughly the same time every night.
I try to get in bed by 10 PM. Now that I’ve fixed my circadian rhythm, I’m usually asleep within 30 minutes, sometimes 45. I just text on my phone until I fall asleep.
(Blue light does stunt melatonin production, but while you’re adjusting, to keep you from getting frustrated and discouraged, you may want to do something on your phone like me. It actually makes me drowsy instead of keeping me up.)
To help relax me, I sometimes use the app Relax Melodies to play soft piano music with beach waves and birds (sometimes I’ll do rain sounds or flute and a crackling fire instead because #JAPANESEVIBES).
I keep it at a low to medium volume and fall asleep to it. Sometimes I’ll remember to set a timer and it’ll fade out after an hour, and sometimes it just goes all night.
2. Don’t set an alarm. Pay attention to what time you keep waking up naturally.
While you’re working on going to sleep earlier, don’t set an alarm to wake up.
Once you’re falling asleep at a normal time, just see when you wake up naturally. For me, it was around 7:40-8:30. And I kept waking up naturally time and time again like this! Now, I end up naturally waking up at 6 AM. (Can you believe it???)
I got used to waking up naturally around the 8:00 hour. Then I set my alarm for 7 AM.
Once you keep falling asleep at around the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every day, your circadian rhythm will adjust to the point that it starts waking you up more and more as it gets closer and closer to the time your alarm goes off.
That, my friends, is cracking the code!
Tips for Getting Out of Bed in the Morning
If you succeed at waking up in the morning, finally feeling alive, but are too lazy or just unmotivated to get out of bed, keep your normal alarm at 7 AM.
But set a second alarm for a couple minutes after, away from your bed, even across the room. I had an iPad alarm under my loft bed set to go off at 7:03 AM.
That alone is enough to get me out of bed before it goes off. I don’t want to wake up the entire house!
It totally worked. By that time, I was out of bed. So might as well get on with my day.
Over time, you won’t even need this anymore. I don’t remember when, but I stopped doing the second alarm and got used to just getting up at the first alarm. I literally can’t believe I am succeeding this much at my sleep cycle.
Then, make the first thing you do when you wake up something enjoy.
Another reason I dreaded getting out of bed in the mornings was because my first task was to take a shower. And because I HATE feeling oily and dirty—I can’t be productive that way!—I take a shower every day.
Which gets monotonous and annoying and I quickly grew to hate and procrastinate it.
So if you dread getting out of bed, find the reason.
Instead of showering first thing in the morning, I changed it up a bit. Now, after I get up and turn my alarm off, I go straight to the couch to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast while chatting to my online friends.
For the first couple days, I was tired when I woke up as my circadian rhythm was adjusting. The coffee helped. But then, gradually, I got out of bed feeling COMPLETELY AWAKE AND ALERT.
At 7 AM.
Guys, this is from someone who used to feel nauseous and sleep deprived just waking up at 9 AM.
The best part about this plan? Simply adjust your sleep/wake times to reflect the times you need to wake up.
For example, say you want to get up at 5 AM, not 7. Maybe try 6 AM (going to bed an hour earlier as well; just take your sleep supplements earlier) until you feel the same amount of alertness as you did at 7, then move to 5 and stick with it.
The second best part about this plan is that you can’t ruin it, even by naps.
Take it from me! I had a two-hour nap one day (my tiredness then was due to medication, not lack of sleep) but thanks to all the natural sleep aid supplements at night, they’ll still “knock you out”. (They’re almost like sleep drugs but… totally natural. And it WORKS.)
The third best part about this plan is that you don’t need to exercise.
You should exercise. Exercising would probably help lessen the need for so many supplements (and keep me sleeping all the way through the night—I did regularly wake up for a few minutes at around 1:30 for a few weeks) but if you can’t exercise for whatever reason, this plan has been working for me with barely any consistent exercise at all.
(I eventually started exercising a little every day. In addition to other medicine [not for sleep] I took at night, I was finally able to generally sleep all the way through the night.)
Quick Summary of the Foolproof Plan for Waking Up Early and Feeling Alive
Mastering your circadian rhythm—the sleep/wake cycle—is the key to cracking the code of waking up early and still feeling alive.
- Start with being able to sleep at the same time every night first. Pick a time every night to go to bed (it must be early enough so that you can get a full amount of sleep and still wake up early). Take sleep supplements to help you fall asleep faster, and eventually, you will finally fall asleep shortly after you go to bed.
- Pay attention to what time you wake up naturally after some time of keeping a consistent bedtime to see how much sleep you need.
- Set your alarm around that time, or a little earlier if you desire.
- Have a second alarm away from your bed if you need help getting out of bed while your circadian rhythm adjusts or if you need extra motivation.
- Remember, have something you enjoy doing be the first thing you do when you wake up (out of your bed).
- Eventually after being consistent with this, your body will adjust to feeling more and more awake by the time your alarm goes off.
Enjoy feeling awake and alive when your alarm goes off, folks, and finally being able to sleep at night.
Am I still a night owl? I think I would say that I am.
I think I’m still the most creative at nights—overactive minds are just a sign of intelligence. But when I’m healthy enough to get back to writing again, I can just move my creating times to 8-10 PM, as much as I cherish those 11 PM to after-midnight writing times. (Hey, maybe I can have a summer circadian rhythm to do that!)
I wrote this article back in February and only edited it recently. A few things have changed.
Unfortunately I had to stop following this plan due to stubborn health issues, so my sleep schedule isn’t as great as it used to be. But once I finish going through therapy, I will pick this method back up to be right where I was again! It’s foolproof and worked for me perfectly.