Updated Feb 2023
I’m a huge fan of motivational and inspirational videos on YouTube. Whether they are about business, mindset, positivity, it doesn’t matter. I watch them all and learn something from each and every single one. But there’s one concept that comes up again and again: the idea that waking up at 5 AM will lead to success.
This idea had me intrigued: everyone was talking about it, and all the biggest names in business were saying that they do it: Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Richard Branson (founder of Virgin), Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks), and the list keeps going (just google it to get a whole bunch of hits).
And if you go onto YouTube and search for motivational videos, I’ll bet you that at least 3 of the top 10 videos mention waking up at 5 AM.
Because my curiosity was piqued by this, I researched it quite extensively, and decided to share my thoughts in a couple of posts:
In this one, I will focus on the pros and cons of waking up at 5 AM.
So without further ado, are the pros and cons of waking early!
Pros of waking up at 5 AM
Getting a head start on the day
When you wake up at the crack of dawn, of course, you’re going to be one of the only human beings up at that time. I mean, it’s still night out… But that also means being able to get ahead and do things that normally take you twice as long to do because you’re constantly interrupted. So a task that might have taken you an hour to complete during the day now takes you only 30 minutes – that’s a lot of time saved!
You get to start the day calmly
If you wake up at the latest possible moment, knowing that you will have to get ready at record speed to be at work on time, you start out your day in a pretty stressed out mode, right? I mean, your feet haven’t hit the floor yet, and you already know that if you get even one red light on the way to work, you won’t make it on time.
BUT. Getting up earlier allows you to take some time to yourself. To either get ahead on your to-do list for the day or just enjoy that cup of coffee while reading a good book instead of gulping it down and cursing yourself for burning your tongue. Again.
It can be a more productive time
Depending on the type of person you are, you’re much more likely to be super productive in the early morning than later on in the day. If that’s the case, then early morning productivity coupled with the fact that you’re on your own and no one’s there to pester you means that you’ll get an insane amount of stuff done.
If you’re one of those people who just hits the grounds running and can get going right away, then this could be amazing for you. You could use this time to catch up on your emails without worrying that the person is going to reply to you 38 seconds after you sent it. Or you could write that book you’ve always wanted to. Or you could work out before the day gets in the way! The possibilities are endless!
It’s known to be linked to crazy success
As mentioned earlier, many, many hugely successful people state that waking up early played a role in their success. Science hasn’t really been able to prove that there’s a direct correlation – it could simply be a matter of personality. One study has shown that we are naturally either morning or evening people and that people of one type or the other have certain traits (read the entire article here).
Basically, morning people tend to be more proactive, more positive, tend to get better grades in school which leads to getting into better colleges, thus getting better jobs.
So while getting up early can’t (yet?) be scientifically linked as the cause of their success, it is certainly linked to successful people.
You develop discipline
This I think is the real reason people who do it are successful. Because they aren’t afraid to sacrifice a little comfort in the here and now for the ultimate goal they are striving to reach. Waking up at 5 AM takes a lot of discipline. And I firmly believe that discipline is what will get you the farthest in life.
After all, self-discipline is to adults what parents are to children, right? Think about it: as children, we have our parents to tell us to get up, get dressed, have breakfast, and all of the other stuff we have to do to get to school on time, and succeed at our level.
But when we’re grown up? No more mommy and daddy to tell you what you need to do and when you need to do it.
It’s up to you now, and that’s when self-discipline comes in. This – self-discipline – is what is going to drive you to success.
Now on to the cons:
Cons of getting up early
From what I can see and have read, the cons mainly apply to non-morning people – to people who are naturally more awake in the evenings, but who try to force themselves to wake early. So if that’s you, then keep these in mind.
You may be hurting more than you’re helping
As mentioned above, people are not created equal. Some of us are night owls, while some are early birds. While studies show that people can somewhat alter this, making a full change is extremely difficult, and unlikely to produce good or lasting results.
The problem with trying to force yourself to get up early when you are not a morning person is that you may be doing more harm than good. Indeed, you get the deepest, most restorative sleep in the REM cycle, which occurs in the early morning. This means that if you wake up during this cycle and interrupt it, you’re going to wake feeling really crappy – not a good start to your day.
It can lead to burnout if you’re not careful
If you’re a night owl, but try to force yourself to become a morning person because it’s what all the successful people are – and you want to be successful – then you could get yourself in trouble.
Like with almost anything in life, you need to listen to yourself, your body and your needs. If you force yourself to wake up super early each morning because it’s what you think you need to do, you might be heading straight for disaster. If you keep ignoring your body’s signals (exhaustion, for example), there’s only one way your body’s going to be able to get the message through to you. And that’s by shutting down and forcing you to stop: a burnout.
So be mindful; if you want to wake up early, that’s great! But listen to your body, and heed what it’s telling you.
Take your life into consideration
This isn’t really a con per se, but I think it deserves to be said. The study I mentioned before in this post was performed on college students. That means it’s a demographic of a certain age (young), and are almost certainly not parents, which you and I are.
So take your life into account.
As parents, our priority is our family, right? This means that we need enough energy to make it to the end of the day, when those little tigers are finally in bed and you can collapse onto the couch. Waking up too early might feel great at first because you get those precious few hours to yourself. But then there’s the reverse of the coin – the day goes on after those few hours, and your little people get up and need attention.
So just make sure that you take this into account. Not to be sexist, but it’s still the case for many of us that no matter how amazing our husbands are, we still bear the brunt of childcare. It’s not their fault, I think it’s just the way we’re designed – children tend to go to their Mamma when they need something.
BUT this does mean that it’s also our energy that’s drained most during the day, and why many of the successful people who wake up early are men.
Now, I’m not saying that it can’t work for mothers. Indeed, I’ve read of many highly successful mothers (Michelle Obama among them) who do wake up at 5 AM. But each mother has to make the judgment for herself. What works for some may not work for you. And if it doesn’t work for you, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
The people saying over and over that you should be waking up at 5 AM don’t live your life. I’m not saying this to give you an excuse not do start doing it – I firmly believe in the benefits of doing it!
BUT I do also know that sleep deprivation is no joke, and should not be taken lightly. If you’re considering starting to wake up at 5 AM, then do so, I highly recommend it! But do so intelligently, if I may say so. Don’t cut out sleep. Shift your night forward so you go to bed earlier, in order to get up earlier too.
If this is something you want to do, then read part 2 here! I go into detail about how to determine if this is the right move for you, and how you can go about starting it – the healthy way!
What about you? Do you wake up early, or do you hate the idea? What works for you?
I’d love to hear from you, so drop a comment below and let me know! 🙂
Hope to talk soon, and in the meantime, take care!
P.S. Don’t forget to pin this for later!