There are two components to waking up effortlessly in the morning:
- the time at which you will go to sleep (and this is the most difficult for people who are willing to wake up early),
- patience and practice.
No alarm clock
For a very long time I thought that I had to have a fancy alarm clock or something like that in order to wake up early. Actually what makes effortless waking up early is not a fancy alarm clock, it's just a practice. If you practice long enough, you will wake up without an alarm clock. That's it.
How long you have to practice to not need an alarm clock anymore? I have used an alarm clock to wake up at before 4:00 AM (yes, because my goal is to wake up before 4:00 AM, so bear in mind that I am very, very ambitious on that front) for at least six months before my my body actually adapted to this rhythm and stopped forcing me to sleep when the alarm clock rang.
Right now I'm still having an alarm clock on my bedside table, but I'm actually waking up before this alarm clock - I'm just turning it off after I woke up naturally.
So, I needed to practice waking up early for far longer than the 30 days or 21 days some habit gurus are mentioning as the stretches of time needed to build habits.
Going to sleep
At which hour should you go to sleep? I don't want to give you advice like that. For me, I am aiming at between seven and eight hours of sleep per day, per 24 hours. In order to achieve that, I have to go to sleep (or at least try to go to sleep) at 8:30 PM. Usually it's not so simple and I'm actually asleep closer to 9:00 PM, because my kids want to spend more time with me. They just don't want to stop playing. They want to read a book with me, etc. Because those activities are important for me, I am often pushing back the time when we go to sleep.
It makes seven hours per night. If I am able to be home from work at a normal hour (which is rare, unfortunately), we are able to go to sleep earlier, closer to 8:00 PM and that makes eight hours of sleep per night.
Why so early?
Why am I aiming at waking up before 4:00 AM? It's because I want to be creative in the mornings. I want to read some paper books and I like to do it in the morning because it calms me before my day. I want also to have at least one hour of time before my kids awake to go running. So, all of this added together makes that I need to wake up rather at 4:00 AM. But I suppose that if you are waking up today at seven, a goal of waking up at five would be pretty amazing! So, you know - set your own goals, don't look at me.
Another thing that that helps with going to sleep earlier and and having this kind of schedule is that we have made a choice in our family to go to sleep together. Everybody.
I know that oftentimes parents stay longer when kids are asleep. This is something we did not want to do. Instead we wanted to make a ritual of going to sleep together and having our house "shut down" at night closer to 9:00 PM.
A family rhythm
From our experience, it is easier for everybody if the kids know that you don't go to play and work while they are asleep, but actually everybody goes to sleep together at the same time. It induces a rhythm into the family. The big value is that it's a unique rhythm for everybody, a shared rhythm - not different rhythms for kids and for parents.
Besides that, even if you don't have kids, I think that it helps to our body to be more in tune with the natural rhythms of the sun setting down and the world waking up with the sun the next morning. A lot of our hormones are linked also to natural light exposure.
So that's it.
Just two components.