We all want to be happy, healthy, and successful.
Anything that promises us to grant us those wishes is bound to get our attention, whether it’s drinking celery juice or making your bed every morning.
That’s why we’ll eat up any daily routine shared by someone who appears to fit all those classic definitions of success.
Read enough of those daily routines, and you’ll notice a trend: It starts to feel like every mega-successful person wakes up at the crack of dawn to get sh*t done.
Anna Wintour wakes up at around 4am each day and is on the tennis court for 6am. Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his day at 3.45am.
There’s a message here being hammered into our sleepy brains: Wake up early or you’re never going to be successful.
But is that genuinely the case?
Short answer: No. Early wake-ups are held up as superior not because they automatically have greater benefits for our health and productiveness, but because of the way our working culture is structured.
For most students, school will start at 9am, despite our knowledge that while going through puberty young people will naturally need a later start.
Lie-ins are seen as typical of lazy teenagers, waking up late is synonymous with the aggravation of begging your child to hurry up and get out of bed so they can get to school on time.
Then when we reach the working world, we’re shoved into offices that start the day at eight or nine and finish at five.
Lateness is seen as a sign of laziness, disrespect, and poor time-keeping, so waking up late is, too.
So if lateness is bad, being early is good – and that applies to when you wake up, too. The early bird catches the worm, and all that.
Someone who wakes up early is seen as someone who has their life together, who never has to run for a bus or hit the snooze button.
But the fact of the matter is this: Some of us are designed to wake up early, others are not.
Forcing those of us in the latter category to get up at the crack of dawn won’t make us automatically better and more skilled at our jobs.
Instead, it could have a detrimental effect. Steve Ryan, sleep expert at Nectar Sleep, explains that your mind and body will always perform best when you stick to your body’s natural sleeping pattern – whether that means being a late riser or jumping out of bed before sunrise.
‘To be able to optimise your working day and productivity based on your sleeping habits, it’s first important to understand whether you have a morning or evening chronotype,’ Steve tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Put simply, that means are you a lark (more active in morning and gets tired throughout the day) or an owl (struggles to rise but then receives an energy boost late afternoon/evening)? ‘For larks – a 6.30am start may be optimum when their brain is in full swing.
To add a further boost of productivity this could be preceded by a workout.
Dependant on caffeine intake throughout the day – an hour break outside could provide the perfect boost before fishing up between 1-2pm. ‘For owls – almost the direct opposite is true.
Typically, they need much longer to rise and really would be better of having some extra time in bed.
In this situation 1pm start may well be recommended, with a 5-6pm finish. Again, plenty of breaks should be taken throughout the day.’
The issue with forcing your natural owl sleeping pattern into a 4am wakeup is that you might not be able to drift off early enough at night, leading to sleep deprivation.
It’s crucial for your health and your productivity to get enough sleep – not to wake up at a certain time.
That’s something a lot of super successful people don’t mention: skipping parties and being in bed before 9pm so they can make sure they have enough sleep.
An early wake-up time does require going to bed early, too.
Otherwise you’ll be running on a sleep deficit, which could lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a compromised immune system.
‘For some, an early start to the working day comes naturally and those people may jump out of bed ready for the day ahead, however, it is likely they’ll have gone to bed earlier and gained enough hours of full REM in order to feel this way,’ explains Steve.
‘Providing you are getting your recommended seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep, there shouldn’t be a reason as to why you wouldn’t benefit from waking up at 4am and starting your day.
In fact, this is common practise for many shift workers up and down the country.
‘If you make sudden changes to your sleep routine such as waking up 1-2 hours earlier to start work at 6am, you need to be careful.
‘Symptoms most commonly associated with jetlag (nausea and fatigue) may rear their head as your body struggles to adapt to the change.’
In his book, Why We Sleep, neuroscientist Matthew Walker doesn’t declare that one wake-up time is correct, instead simply suggesting that people stick to a routine.