How to Wake Up Early: 14 Tips to Becoming a Morning Person

Wake up early by shifting your sleep and wake-up times gradually, getting light first thing, and avoiding light, caffeine, and meals too close to bedtime.
Updated
2023-06-02
16 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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How to Wake Up Early? 

  • You can wake up early by shifting your circadian rhythm, or body clock, earlier. 
  • Make gradual changes and focus on getting light first thing in the morning and avoiding light in the evenings.
  • The RISE app can tell you when exactly to get and avoid light to help you shift your sleep-wake times and then make an early wake-up time stick.

Waking up early comes with plenty of benefits. You can get a head start on the day, get some me-time before work, and kick-start healthy habits. But just because it can be beneficial, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Below, we’ll dive into how you can wake up early (yes, it’s possible, even as a night owl!), why you might be struggling to wake up early, and how you can use the RISE app to make early mornings easier.  

Advice from a sleep doctor:

Before we dive into the advice, we wanted to know what a sleep doctor thinks about waking up early. We spoke to one of our medical reviewers, Dr. Chester Wu, who’s double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine.

“It is possible to start waking up early, even if you’re used to a later schedule. My biggest tip is to get out in sunlight as soon as you can each morning. Light resets your body clock for the day, keeping your earlier sleep cycle on track.

How to Wake Up Early?

Want to become a morning person or just get out of bed when your alarm clock goes off (the first time)? Here’s how to wake up earlier. 

1. Get Out in Sunlight First Thing in the Morning 

Sunlight is a powerful tool for waking up earlier. Light tells your circadian rhythm — your body’s internal clock — that it’s daytime and time to be awake. 

And when you get light first thing, you can shift your circadian rhythm earlier and set yourself up to feel sleepy earlier that evening, making it easier to maintain an earlier sleep schedule. 

Getting sunlight throughout the day can also make you less sensitive to light in the evening. The more light you get, the less sensitive you’ll be, so prioritize getting out in natural light if you’re trying to fall asleep at an earlier bedtime. 

Try this tomorrow: Get out in sunlight as soon as possible after waking up. Aim for 10 minutes if it’s a bright day and 15 to 20 minutes if it’s overcast or if you’re getting light through a window. 

If it’s dark when you wake up, a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp is the next best thing to natural sunlight.

2. Avoid Light Before Bed 

RISE app screenshot showing when to get and avoid bright light
The RISE app can tell you when to get and avoid light.

When you get light exposure in the evening, you push back your circadian rhythm and suppress your melatonin levels (your body’s sleep hormone). This pushes back the time your body wants to go to sleep. With a later sleep time, you’ll struggle to wake up early. 

Light is so powerful it can even help night owls wake up earlier. One study found when night owls were only exposed to natural light for a week — so no electronic devices or indoor lighting — their circadian rhythms shifted to look more like those of early birds.

Try this tonight: About 90 minutes before bed, dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses (we recommend these). Consider avoiding all devices about an hour before bedtime.

Love screen time before bed? You might not have to give it up altogether. A 2022 study found media use an hour before bed was linked to an earlier bedtime. And if this media use was done in bed and without multitasking, it resulted in more sleep time overall.  

To get the timing of light just right, turn to RISE. RISE can tell you when exactly to get and avoid light each day. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their get bright and avoid light reminders.

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3. Avoid Eating Two to Three Before Bed 

While it’s not as powerful as light, eating can also change the timing of your circadian rhythm. 

Plus, eating close to bedtime ups your odds of digestive issues, like acid reflux, keeping you awake. And if you don’t get enough sleep, it’s obviously going to be much harder to wake up early. 

Try this tonight: Plan to be done with dinner two to three hours before bed. Remember to factor in an earlier bedtime if you’re waking up earlier than usual. 

We’ve covered the best time to stop eating before bed here, including what to eat if you need a late-night snack. 

4. Exercise Early in the Day (and Not Within an Hour of Bedtime) 

One more thing that can change the timing of your circadian rhythm? Exercise. 

A 2019 study asked participants to do an hour of moderate exercise on a treadmill at one of eight different times throughout the day and night. Exercising at 7 a.m. and between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. was found to have the biggest effect on shifting participants' circadian rhythms earlier. 

Try this right now: Plan your workouts for the week. Try to exercise earlier in the day to shift your sleep-wake times earlier. If that’s not possible, just be sure not to work out within an hour of bedtime, as this can keep you awake. 

We’ve covered the best times to work out here.

5. Keep Your Sleep Debt Low

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can tell you how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body. It’s compared to your sleep need, which is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need. 

What we know about sleep need: We looked at sleep need data from 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up. The median sleep need was eight hours, but 48% of users need eight hours or more sleep a night.

When you don’t meet your sleep need, you start building up sleep debt. And this can lead to low energy, troubling focusing, and poor health and overall wellness. 

Beyond that, it’s simply harder to get up early if you haven’t had enough sleep. 

So, when you’re waking up earlier than usual, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting enough sleep overall and not building up sleep debt. 

Follow these steps to keep sleep debt low: 

  • Use RISE to find out your individual sleep need: It’s not necessarily eight hours of sleep — some RISE users have a sleep need of 11 hours 30 minutes. 
  • Count back from your desired wake-up time to find your ideal bedtime: Add 30 minutes to an hour to give yourself time to fall asleep and wake up in the night and still meet your sleep need.
  • Keep an eye on your sleep debt: We recommend keeping this below five hours to feel your best. Naps and going to bed a little earlier can help you catch up on sleep if your sleep debt creeps up. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need and here to view their sleep debt.

6. Shift Your Wake Up Time by 15 Minutes 

Waking up at 10 a.m. now, but want to get up at 6? Don’t make the jump to early mornings all in one go. 

Instead, move your wake-up time by 15 or 30 minutes every few days. This will give your circadian rhythm a chance to adjust. 

Expert tip: Don’t forget to shift your bedtime, too. Shifting your meal times by the same amount can also help shift your circadian rhythm. 

If you’re struggling to fall asleep at an earlier bedtime, we’ve covered how to sleep early here.

Use the RISE app: Pick a goal wake time with RISE’s smart schedule feature. The app will then give you a smart bedtime goal each night that gently shifts and trains your body to get the sleep you need on an earlier schedule.

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7. Be Consistent with Waking Up Early

Once you’ve started getting up early, try to stick to the new habit. Hitting snooze on weekends is tempting, but this will only undo all your hard work. 

Aim to get up and go to bed at the same times, even on your days off. 

Need extra motivation to make this happen? Research shows people with a regular sleep pattern have more energy than those who don’t, even when they get enough sleep. 

8. Put Your Alarm Clock on the Other Side of the Room 

Make it harder to press the snooze button. If you have to get out of bed to turn off the alarm, you’re more likely to stay out of bed. 

Once you’re up, aim to get light, get moving, and get hydrated as quickly as possible to kickstart your day. 

If you need a more gradual rousing, RISE’s alarm feature can help. When you turn the alarm off, RISE will send you straight to your favorite app for 15 minutes of guilt-free phone time. This will help you wake up more gently without hitting snooze.

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9. Avoid Caffeine 12 Hours Before Bed 

Caffeine can impact your sleep in many ways. According to 2017 research, it can: 

  • Increase sleep latency — the time it takes to fall asleep 
  • Increase arousals at night  
  • Reduce total sleep time 
  • Reduce sleep efficiency — the measure of how long you spend sleeping in bed 
  • Worsen perceived sleep quality 
  • Reduce deep sleep
  • Increase light sleep 

All this means you’re less likely to get the sleep you need, which will make waking up earlier even harder the next morning.

Try this right now: Put that coffee down! Or at least cut yourself off if it’s the afternoon. Caffeine can last in your system for more than 12 hours and make an early bedtime and wake time even harder to achieve.

RISE can remind you when to stop drinking coffee each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their limit caffeine reminder.

10. Avoid Alcohol Three to Four Hours Before Bed 

Alcohol can help you feel sleepy at first, so you might think it’s the ideal way to get to bed earlier, so you can wake up earlier. 

But alcohol fragments your sleep, meaning you may wake up in the middle of the night, and feel more sleepiness the next day. 

For more sleep, and a better chance at getting up earlier, stop drinking alcohol three to four hours before bed

11. Create a Morning Routine You Look Forward To 

Make it easier to leave a warm cozy bed by having a morning routine you enjoy. 

This could include: 

  • Having a cup of coffee 
  • Taking a morning walk with a podcast 
  • Doing a favorite workout class or running route 
  • Having breakfast with a family member 
  • Prioritizing 20 minutes of me-time to read or meditate 

Expert tip: If you find yourself watching Netflix or scrolling social media late into the night, give yourself some time to do this in the morning, instead. The blue light from the screens will help wake you up (although don’t forget, natural sunlight is even more powerful) and you’ll get the relaxing me-time you’re looking for, without the late bedtime. 

12. Do a Relaxing Bedtime Routine 

RISE app screenshot showing relaxation techniques
The RISE app can guide you through relaxation exercises before bed.

Routines aren’t just for mornings. Try doing a relaxing bedtime routine about an hour before bed.

This could include: 

A sleep routine with calming activities can help you unwind, so you fall asleep faster, get the sleep you need, and have an easier time waking up come morning.

Not sure what to do? RISE can walk you through breathing exercises, like diaphragmatic breathing, and relaxation techniques, like progressive muscle relaxation, which have been proven to boost relaxation and sleep. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to go right to their relaxation audio guide homepage and get started.

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13. Take a Melatonin Supplement, if Necessary 

Melatonin is your body’s natural sleep hormone. When you take melatonin in supplement form, you can shift the timing of your circadian rhythm earlier or later. 

While we don’t recommend taking melatonin every night to sleep and wake up earlier, it can be useful when making the initial shift to an earlier schedule. 

Research shows taking melatonin four to five hours before your usual bedtime can help you feel sleepy earlier. And one study found taking 5 milligrams of melatonin in the afternoon can help shift natural melatonin production 1.5 hours earlier. 

We’ve covered more on when to take melatonin here. 

Expert tip: If you’re trying to sleep earlier so you can wake up earlier, resist the temptation of sleep aids. They come with side effects and can cause rebound insomnia, which can make it harder to sleep when you stop taking them. 

14. Speak to a Sleep Specialist 

If you’ve tried all of the advice we’ve shared and still can’t wake up early, consider talking to a sleep specialist. 

They can test you for sleep disorders that may be making it hard to wake up or get the sleep you need. 

These include: 

Why Do I Struggle to Wake Up Early?

It’s not always easy to get up early. Here’s why you might be struggling: 

  • You’re a night owl: This is your chronotype, or your natural tendency to sleep and wake up later. If getting up early is hard, you may be hardwired to wake up later. It’s still possible to become a morning person if you’re a night owl, it just takes a little more work to get there and it’ll be an active ongoing process to keep getting up early. 
  • You’ve got sleep debt: If you haven’t had enough sleep (either recently or that night), your body’s going to want to catch up on shut-eye, and sleeping in later might be the way to do this. 
  • You’ve got social jetlag: If you stay up late at the weekend and then try to wake up early come Monday, you’ve got social jetlag. Your circadian rhythm will be thrown out of whack and you’ll struggle to sleep and wake up on time. 

Should You Wake Up Early?

You don’t have to wake up early. Of course, you may need to for your job or for family obligations, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to just because early risers are more praised in today’s society.  

What does science have to say on the matter? 

There is some research from 2019 showing shifting your sleep schedule two hours earlier could help with depression, stress, and mental and physical performance. And a study from 2021 found waking up an hour earlier could cut depression risk by 23%. 

But for many of us, as long as we’re keeping our sleep debt low, we can be happy, healthy, and productive, even when we wake up later. 

Our top tip for night owls: Keep an eye on your sleep debt. It’s easy to miss out on sleep when you need to sleep later into the morning to get it. Low sleep debt will help to maximize your energy, focus, and health.

We’ve covered how to be more productive as a night owl here. 

How to Wake Up Faster?

All too often you can get out of bed on time, but still feel groggy long into the morning. This is known as sleep inertia and it’s totally normal — even if you’ve had enough sleep. 

Shake off sleep inertia faster by: 

  • Drinking a cup of coffee
  • Working out 
  • Getting out in sunlight 
  • Taking a cold shower 

We’ve covered how to wake up faster in the morning here.

Expert tip: Sleep deprivation will make sleep inertia feel worse (another motivation to keep your sleep debt low), but it’s hard to escape morning grogginess entirely. Try giving yourself 90 minutes or so in the morning before you need to be properly awake. 

Make Waking Up Earlier Easier 

Waking up early isn’t always easy, but it is possible — even for night owls. As well as making gradual changes, the most important thing to focus on is good sleep hygiene. 

Sleep hygiene is the set of daily behaviors that influence your sleep. Many of the tips in this article are part of good sleep hygiene (such as keeping a consistent sleep schedule, getting and avoiding light at the right times, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, large meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime). 

To stay on top of sleep hygiene day after day, the RISE app can tell you when exactly to do 20+ healthy sleep habits. These habits will help you get a good night’s sleep at an earlier time, so waking up early is easier to do. 

RISE can also work how your unique sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying. You can then make sure you’re getting enough sleep overall, so you can enjoy an earlier wake-up time without sacrificing energy.

It doesn’t take long to see results: 80% of RISE users get better sleep within five days.

Summary FAQs

How to wake up early

Wake up early by gradually shifting your wake and sleep times, getting light exposure first thing, exercising earlier in the day, and avoiding light, caffeine, large meals, alcohol, and intense exercise too close to bedtime.

How to wake up early easier

To make waking up early easier, gradually shift your wake and sleep times, get light exposure first thing, exercise earlier in the day, and avoid light, caffeine, large meals, alcohol, and intense exercise too close to bedtime. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.

How to wake up early without an alarm

To wake up early without an alarm, shift your circadian rhythm earlier. Do this by getting light exposure first thing, exercising earlier in the day, and avoiding light, large meals, and intense exercise too close to bedtime. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.

How to wake up early after sleeping late

To wake up early after sleeping late, put your alarm clock on the other side of the room. Once you’re up, get natural light first thing, exercise to boost your energy levels, and then catch up on sleep with naps or an earlier night when you can.

How to wake up early with ADHD

To wake up early with ADHD, gradually shift your wake and sleep times, get light exposure first thing, exercise earlier in the day, and avoid light, caffeine, large meals, alcohol, and intense exercise too close to bedtime. Research shows bright light therapy can help shift your circadian rhythm earlier and improve ADHD symptoms.

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