Arianna Huffington, the high-flying, uber-successful founder of The Huffington Post, swears by the benefits of “sleeping your way to the top”.
In her new book Thrive, the entrepreneur documents her transition from being a member of the chronically under-slept masses to “one of those horrible ‘rise and shine’ people you normally want to throttle”.
Huffington’s policy was simple: Invest in sleep, treat your bedtime “like an appointment” and reap the work and personal life benefits.
So how, and why, should you become an early bird?
According to Dr Leon Lack, a professor of psychology at the University of Flinders, waking up earlier has the potential to seriously increase your productivity.
“We tend to wake up just before we go to work, so our more productive period of the day is in the earlier part of our wakeful period,” Dr Lack says. “Then we finish work and our recreation period for the day is in the evening.”
By getting out of bed earlier, you’re essentially sacrificing an hour of recreation for an added hour of productivity, a great thing if you’re feeling overworked or overwhelmed.
As long as you also commit to going to bed at a reasonable hour, realistically all you will lose is an extra hour of watching television.
The topic of an napping is a contentious one but Dr Lack insists that, as with everything else in life, healthy napping is all about moderation.
“If you’re feeling particularly sleepy during the day, instead of trying to soldier on, take a brief 10-minute nap is really great to increase alertness,” says Dr Lack, who also emphasises that sleeping for any longer can be detrimental.
“A longer nap will give you sleep inertia – that groggy feeling after you wake up – and recovering from that will waste valuable time.”
Tips and tricks
If you’re ready to completely embrace your mornings, follow these tried-and-tested tips from Dr Lack, and our early-rising New Daily staffers, to bounce out of bed before 8.00am.
Dr Leon Lack, professor of psychology at Flinders University
Light it up: Exposure to bright light has the capacity to retime your body clock. Get some sun or artificial light early in the morning to wake you up. Switching off the screens at night will also allow you to fall asleep more easily.
Avoid sleep-ins: Although it’s tempting to stay in bed a bit longer on Saturday and Sunday mornings, you will just undo all the hard work you put in over the week. Even an extra hour in bed can delay your body clock. Fight the urge.
Melissa Mack, acting money editor at The New Daily
Prepare like a boy scout: “The one time I forgot to set my alarm properly I still got out of the house in seven minutes. Prepare your morning like a factory assembly line and turn up to work perfectly packaged. Think of everything – clothes, food train timetable, weather forecast and even your after work schedule.”
Exercise: “Aside from the obvious aesthetic and health benefits, exercise is essential when waking early. It wakes you up when all you want to do is crash, then it makes you tired enough to go to bed on time. Plus, the fitter you are the better you’ll cope with an early start.”
Start snacking: “Starting your day early means you’ll be hungry (read: absolutely starving) long before lunchtime, so have a range of snacks at work including nuts, dried and fresh fruit, yogurt and muesli bars to stop you gorging at midday. Have the same at home for the afternoon nibbles – and don’t feel bad about embracing comfort food (apricot danishes are highly recommended) when you need some extra motivation to get through the week.”
Brigid Delaney, director of news at The New Daily
Nap: “If you are getting up early for shift work, and come home tired, consider having a short nap in the afternoon. It will keep you fresh if you have something planned for the evening – so your social life doesn’t suffer just because you are starting work early.”
Have a routine: “Your body will get used to waking up early if you keep to the same schedule each day. Soon you won’t need your alarm – you’ll wake up naturally if you do it daily!”
Keep socialising to a minimum: “Getting up early each day usually means early nights. You should keep your socialising to weekends and limit alcohol consumption during the week to ensure that you are fresh for early starts.”
Susannah Guthrie, reporter at The New Daily
Carry toiletries in your bag: “If you’re rushing out the door, it’s often better to prioritise getting dressed and fed over personal maintenance. Carry a small bag with a razor, shaving cream, a comb, a toothbrush, toothpaste and any makeup you need, that way you can freshen up on the go.”
Have something to wake up for: “A great breakfast, an excellent coffee, your favourite morning show or a brisk walk. Whatever it is, ensure you have something to look forward to in the morning. That way, when the alarm is cutting into your cosy sleep-in you can offer yourself a really great incentive to get out of bed.”
Layer up and keep warm: “It’s always cooler in the morning and nothing makes starting your day harder than having to head outside in the biting cold. Have a heater in your room ready to go for when you wake up, slip straight into a cosy bathrobe and slippers and, when the time comes to get dressed, bundle yourself up in your favourite coat and scarf.”