7 Sleep Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Waking Up Earlier


I am a recovering night owl. I have been a night owl my entire life. There’s something about being awake when most others are asleep that makes me feel I’m getting more out of life or something. Little did I know (or realize), but people who wake up earlier than me get that much more time out of life. What an epiphany! Yeah, took me a while to figure that one out.

If you’re a night owl and have to wake up fairly early like me, you feel my pain. Grogginess throughout the morning that not even coffee can cure, and irritation from being tired ring a bell? Even if you’re not a night owl, these side effects from lack of sleep probably happen to you too.

It’s not fair to us, and it’s not fair to those around us who feel our wrath when we’re short-tempered. So I devised a Kaizen solution that has been working for me, and may work for you too.

7 Sleep Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Waking Up Earlier

1) Have a process for winding down before bedtime

I’ve been meditating before going to bed for two reasons: I want to get better at meditating (kill two birds with one stone), and it calms my mind.

I don’t talk a lot about my A.D.D. on here because, to me, it’s not a real problem but rather something I have to learn how to live with (without medication). My mind goes 100 miles a minute, and that’s the main reason I have a hard time getting to sleep before midnight. Meditation really helps with calming my mind, which calms my body as well.

Your process could be taking a bath, drinking some chamomile tea, or reading a chapter out of a book. Whatever you choose, try it for the next two weeks. Repeat the same process every night about 30 minutes before the time you want to go to sleep.

2) Avoid caffeine or sugar after 5pm (or 2pm if you’re really sensitive to it)

I love my coffee, and I love chocolate. Unfortunately those are two of the leading causes of keeping you up at night. They’re also the cause of you not sleeping well (see #4 for more details). As much as it pains me, I’m getting rid of those two things after 5pm.

If you typically have coffee or chocolate in the evening, don’t just quit cold-turkey. That will cause you to fail. We’re trying to trick the mind and body here, so no abrupt changes. Still have your coffee or chocolate, just cut back by 30 minutes each day over the next two weeks.

3) Brainwash yourself before going to sleep

As you’re trying to fall asleep, tell yourself that you’re going to wake up at [desired time] and that you’ll be wide awake, refreshed and ready to start the day. This may sound odd, but it works. The more you do it, the more it will work. You’ll eventually start waking up about a minute before your alarm goes off. It’s so interesting how the mind works. Give it a shot for the next couple of weeks and see what happens.

4) Get enough quality sleep (6-10 hours depending on the person)

Now don’t go choosing 6 hours if you know you really function best off of 9 hours. This is a natural thing, and it behooves you to go with what your body needs. Your body needs recovery time, and that’s exactly what it’s doing while you’re sleeping.

It doesn’t matter if you sleep for 12 hours, your body and mind won’t be repaired if you don’t have that deep restful sleep. A couple of ways to improve restful sleep is to avoid caffeine and sugar, and also avoid eating anything within a couple hours of sleeping. All of these have proven to lead to insomnia.

5) Get an alarm clock or smartphone app that wakes you up slowly

Alarm clocks that jolt you out of your sleep are bad for your health. They trigger your “fight or flight” response, which increases adrenaline levels and puts your body into a state of shock. In addition, it leads to high blood pressure, stress and anxiety throughout the day.

I use an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle. It starts to wake me up about 30 minutes before the time I actually want to wake up. It starts out with very soft sounds and increases the volume every 5 or 10 minutes, which starts to wake up the conscious mind. By the time it gets to my desired wake-up time, the sound is loud enough to where my eyes open and I’m fully awake, but without the stress.

There are a lot of apps and alarm clocks out there that will do a similar thing. Try some out and see what works for you. Choose to start out your day on a good note.

6) Put your alarm clock across the room

One of the surest ways to sleep past your desired wake up time is the snooze button. When you’re in that half-awake-half-asleep state your mind and body still want to sleep, and in that hypnotic state your hand will mysteriously push that snooze button without you realizing it until it’s too late. You know what I’m talking about.

If you put your alarm clock across the room, you have to get up and turn it off. Warning: DO NOT get back into bed! My sleepy mind is very smart. It tells me that I should just lay there for a bit and think about my day ahead. Then I fall back asleep. My sleepy mind wins every time!

7) Physically get out of bed when you wake up

If you use the step above, you will already be out of bed to turn off the alarm. If you have the alarm next to your bed, start getting in the habit of getting out of bed when it goes off and turn on the light. Stretch out a bit or walk around to get your blood flowing.

The worst thing you can do is stay in bed after the alarm goes off. I used to set three alarms that would go off about every 15 minutes. The first alarm was the time that I wanted to wake up and the last alarm was the time I absolutely had to wake up in order to get to work on time. Guess which one I chose every morning. Snooze through #1, snooze through #2, jump out of bed at #3 and rush through my morning routine in order to make it to work on time. Every morning was the same. No wonder I had anxiety throughout the day.

Just set one alarm and get out of bed when it goes off. I used to be so afraid that I would sleep through my alarm if I only set one. However, something surprising happened when I only set one alarm: I actually woke up! It works.


Bonus: Kaizen steps to waking up earlier, by going to bed earlier

Don’t change your routine significantly or all at once. Instead, go to bed 5 minutes earlier every night until you get to your desired sleep time. No more, no less. Start your nightly routine 5 minutes earlier, as well. This way your subconscious won’t notice a difference, and little by little you will create a healthy habit of going to bed earlier, which will make it easier for you to wake up earlier.


Are you good at waking up at your desired time? What did I miss? What techniques do you use that can help us out? Please tell us in the comments section below.


Photo by Don Dearing

  • IN

    needed this tips to go back into waking up early and take advantage of gym!! man yes i know i am such a vampire lol xoxoxo love this article…

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      I’m still working on exercising in the morning…but for now just having that extra time in the morning has been soooooo good for me

  • http://twitter.com/majiccal Marcy Johnson

    Haha, I was laughing aloud at the beginning of this. I too am a recovery night owl. I think I would add (in addition to trying to squeeze as many hours out of a day as possible), I also felt like I was cool for staying up late. Even as an early adult, I felt like it takes toughness to stay awake.

    Most of my life I have had to get up pretty early, but I stayed up late too. Now I get up pretty early, but go to bed early too. I think it was my spiritual training that caused this to happen naturally. The more into spirituality and also natural health I got, the more I listened to my body, and honored what it seemed to want. It leveled out at wanting to go to bed around 10 or 11 and getting up at 6 or 7. I realized after this happened that I had read in a yoga article, this is the body’s natural cycle. 10pm to 6am sleep. I think I fought doing that, however, until my body told me to itself, lol.

    Fun to hear about others’ having similar experiences as well! Great article. I love the concept of brainwashing yourself before bed.

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      I like the idea of a listening to the body and following its schedule. 6am still seems really early to me, but that’s only because I’m not used to it. I’m going to bed earlier and earlier now, but still not down to that 10pm bedtime. Eventually, though, I feel like that will be my schedule too. It would be really cool to see the sunrise and sunset every day though!

  • Gustavo Briseno

    This method of waking up will definitely accommodate me in my mornings since i am always falling back asleep!!!!

    • Gustavo Briseno

      Thanks a lot for the advice!

      • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

        Of course Gustavo, and good luck with this process!

  • jennifer van dyk

    I just passed this on to my fiance. He is a night owl that needs reforming. Thanks for the tips.

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      hahaha I’m glad I could help :-)

  • Michael Ricci

    All great tips! What works best for me is black out curtains!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      I like that too, but it makes it more difficult to wake up for me. On the weekends though…it’s perfect!

  • http://www.claireseet.com/ Claire Seet

    I found that No.3 works best for me. What I need to add before the brainwash is a very good reason, something that I really want to do ie. swimming works better for me than running. And yes, I do wake up a couple of minutes before the alarm goes off, and I feel really refreshed too!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      That’s so cool Claire! It’s amazing how the mind/body naturally wakes up a couple of minutes before the alarm goes off

  • http://www.facebook.com/lindsay.nicole.5891 Lindsay Nicole

    I found tip #3 very interesting. I can’t wait to try it! I really hope that it works because I do find myself hitting my snooze button and going back to sleep. I am also guilty of setting a loud alarm. I thought it would help me wake up in the morning, but it doesn’t. I find myself more stressed when I get up. I will be trying to set an alarm that slowly wakes me up. Thank you for the tips!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      You’re welcome, I hope it works for you :-) I have noticed that by setting only one alarm, my mind knows that it has to wake up and can’t rely on other alarms to go off later. It has worked perfectly so far!

  • Cathan

    I’m honestly pretty good at waking up early but the title of this post intrigued me. #3 is the main trick I use. I love the concept of having an internal alarm clock. I’ve woken up seconds before my alarm clock and been in a mad rush to turn it off before it started the horrible buzzing. My teacher had recommended your blog and just at a glance I was very interested and now I’m full on hooked and cant wait to read more

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      Hey Cathan, thank you for your comment. I’ve also been waking up just seconds before the alarm and rushing to cancel the alarm before it goes off too! It’s so cool how our bodies/minds just know!

  • Alex

    Thank you for this article!! I seriously have been having the most difficult time waking up early. I stay up really late and sleep in late, but it is not the lifestyle I want anymore. When I was exploring your blog, deciding which article to read, I saw this one and new it was fate. I have been wanting to change my routine because I just think it’s healthier and you can get a lot more done. So I was really excited to read this. I already printed it out and am ready to give it a chance. I cannot wait. I thought what you said about alarm clocks trigging your fight or flight mode because this is literally how I feel when I wake up to an alarm clock and now I know why. Thanks for the wonderful tips!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      You’re welcome Alex :-) It can be a difficult habit to start, or it can be really easy depending on your mindset. Have the confidence that you’re going to wake up, feeling fully rested and ready for the day. It’s amazing how good the mind is at giving us what we want in life.

  • Richie Orozco

    Thank you these are very helpful, as a college student who struggles to get up in the morning these will help a lot, I especially love tip 5 as I have come to hate my alarm for the very reason it jolts me up, I didn’t know it would hurt my health though, I will definitely be looking for a new alarm now

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      That’s great Richie, and with your new alarm you’ll start to notice that your days start off more calm, especially when you don’t have to rush to get somewhere right away. Try to give yourself at least 30 minutes between waking up and the time you have to leave. An hour would be ideal, but as a college student you may not have that luxury yet! Good luck!

  • Jessica Nunez

    I love this article! ive always known that waking up earlier makes your day productive but lately getting out of bed has been a drag, ive been trying to go to bed earlier to wake up rested but i cant seem to get back into the routine. im really going to try these tips though, they seem like they will solve my problem, thanks!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      Hi Jessica, changing our sleeping habits may be one of the most difficult tasks in our lives, but it’s doable. Remember that it starts in the mind with a decision, then just take the steps to make it a reality.

  • Eugene Samaniego

    Wow I really like the information on this article. I really liked tip 3 to brainwash yourself. As a college student its sometimes hard to get up for 8 am class when you stayed up until 3 am studying or writing a paper. It nice positive approach to feeling better and waking up in the morning. Thank you so much for this information, I will definitely be trying these tips.

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      I remember those days Eugene! Good luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/miguel.garcia.1401 Miguel Garcia

    I really enjoyed the tips that were given in this article! One thing
    that I constantly do I snooze and go back to sleep because I leave my
    phone right next to my bed. I am definitely going to get the app for my
    smartphone. Thanks for these awesome tips!

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      Yeah that app is pretty cool, and remember to put your phone across the room so that you actually have to physically get up to turn it off. Then turn on the light right away, otherwise you’re more susceptible to jumping right back in bed with the deadly mentality of “I’ll just rest for a few more minutes.” I can’t count how many times I got back in bed and thought those same words, then woke up an hour later than I needed to!

  • Bryan

    I recently obtained a Phillips alarm clock with a built-in sunlight simulator. It gradually gets brighter and sounds a pleasant sound at the preset alarm time. Although still struggling with the snoozing part, the bright light and non-offensive alarm noise definitely help me start my day (and my attitude) in a better place.

    • http://kaizenways.com/ JeffreyFriend | KaizenWays.com

      What? Seriously?!? That’s an awesome idea! Yeah waking up without the jolt is hands down the best way to start a new day

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