Sleep Hacking: A 21-Day 4:30am Early Rising Challenge

Early Rising at Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th century mystic poet.

Why I Wanted to Become an Early Riser

Always start your smart habits with why. Your reasons to do something is unique to you. Don’t borrow anyone else’s reasons and don’t start any habit without first knowing precisely why.

I believed that somewhere in me, early rising would bring me closer to who I was meant to be. I believed that in an inexplicable way, it would help me understand what I really want in life as I floated in the space between solitude and gratitude in those early pre-dawn hours. I believed that perhaps, early rising would add more significance to my life quests and make me a better version of myself.

Of course, that is the poetic side of it and to that part I still hold on with all my heart and soul. But then there is practical side: Early rising is the single best way to make the most of your days and hours, and when you are clear on your life’s purpose and your quest to fulfill it, the one thing you need more than anything on earth is time, baby, TIME!

My best advice to you is to always listen to your body and to approach the early rising challenge with an extremely positive, non-judgmental attitude.

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Benjamin Franklin

The 21-Day 4:30am Early Rising Challenge

The rules of this challenge were simple: Go to bed at a decent time. Wake up at 4:30am every single day. Never snooze. Take a nap if you are extremely tired in the afternoons. Meditate 10-15 minutes immediately upon rising with the Re-Awakening tracks in a sitting or lying down position on the yoga mat. If you mess up any of the rules, no berating or criticizing allowed. Be extra loving and gentle with yourself. Listen to your body. Tune out your stubborn chatter-box mind!

Why 21 days? Just to experiment with the 21-days to build a habit philosophy.
What I found out? That as the days and weeks moved on, it was easier to wake up, as long as I did not stay up too late. I could feel the routine working its magic in my body. It was never a shock to get up at 4:30am, it was just mildly challenging. However, I am not so convinced there is anything special about 21 days, 25 or 30 or 17 might work for someone else. I do believe that anything over 2 weeks gets your body in a place where it starts to expect the behavior and thus, you are more willing to perform said behavior.

The morning routine upon rising

I would go to bed sometime between 10:15 to 11:30pm, leaning more towards the former. Mostly I averaged out arrival to sleepy-town at around 10:45pm. I would put my alarm in the bathroom and walk to turn it off at 4:30am. Then I would go to my yoga mat and meditate for 10-15minutes. I would either sit or lie down and sometimes, I dozed off during meditation slightly. The only meditation routine that worked for me was this brilliant new product for which I am a proud affiliate: The Re-Awakening. The voice of my friend, Angela Artemis, is beyond soothing.

Then I would either go to my office to work with my cup of hot Oolong tea and some food, or else I would get ready to make my 5:45am cycling classes. The days when I exercised in the morning, I always felt better. I kept a pretty rigorous cardiovascular exercise regimen during the early rising challenge and this reminds me to tell you: All smart habits link together and build up on each other. Remember that!

FYI: I was recovering big time from a neck injury during the challenge and getting lots of chiropractic adjustments and I still did just fine.

The 21-day challenge detailed results:
Day 1 Fri Mar 23rd 4:30am – PM Walk and stretches.
Day 2 Sat Mar 24th 4:30am – PM Walk and some yoga.
Day 3 Sun Mar 25th 4:30am – AM 100-min Power Yoga.
Day 4 Mon Mar 26th 4:30am – Early AM 60-min cycle & 60-min resistance training.
Day 5 Tue Mar 27th 4:30am – PM 60-min cycle.
Day 6 Wed Mar 28th 4:30am – AM 60-min yoga and resistance training.
Day 7 Thu Mar 29th 4:30am – Rested from exercise – 60-min nap.
Day 8 Fri Mar 30th 4:30am – Early AM 60-min cycle – 60-min nap.
Day 9 Sat Mar 31st 4:30am – Rested from exercise.
Day 10 Sun Apr 1st 4:30am – AM 60-min cycle & 100-min power yoga – 60-min nap.
Day 11 Mon Apr 2nd 4:30am – PM 60-min cycle.
Day 12 Tue Apr 3rd 4:30am – Fell asleep 20min past meditation. PM 60-min cycle.
Day 13 Wed Apr 4th 4:30am – Rested from exercise.
Day 14 Thu Apr 5th 4:30am – AM 60-min cycle & PM 100-min yoga – 30-min nap.
Day 15 Fri Apr 6th 4:30am – PM 60-min cycle – 90-min massage.
Day 16 Sat Apr 7th 4:30am – PM Walk and stretches.
Day 17 Sun Apr 8th 4:30am – Back to bed at 5:15 for 60min. AM 60-min cycle & 100-min Power yoga.
Day 18 Mon Apr 9th 4:30am – AM 60-min cycle
Day 19 Tue Apr 10th 4:30am – AM 60-min cycle
Day 20 Wed Apr 11th 4:30am – Back to bed at 6 for 2hours. Rested from exercise.
Day 21 Thu Apr 12th 4:30am – AM 60-min cycle & PM 100-min yoga

Overall summary of the challenge

Well, as far as getting up at 4:30am, I did that every day! However, I went back to bed 2 times in the 21 days and rest assured, there was not a single day when the thought did not enter my mind! 😉 I consider that a beautiful success.

I felt good and energetic about an hour after getting up. Not Immediately. So even though it was slowly becoming more of a habit, I was not waking up with tons of energy ready to run! It took me an hour to get going. Most of the day felt very good and afternoons would sometimes slow down. I would take a nap, as you can see, if I felt very sleepy. If I felt very tired but not sleepy, I would meditate or take a break from working.

All in all, this has been one of the hardest challenges, even though I have gotten up at 4:30am very regularly when doing my 5:45am classes in the past year or two, but not consistently for a period of 21 days and not when I did not have a class to attend.

Get Confident in 21 Easy Steps

Early Birds or Night Owls Are Not Born, They Are Made

Before we get too deep into this topic, let’s get something out in the open. To my surprise, I’ve found that this is a sensitive topic, so I am covering my body with protective shields as I say it: You are not born an early bird or a night owl. You make yourself into one.

Early birds are people who get up early and night owls are people who go to bed late. The early and late are relative. You get to define it. For me, an early bird gets up before 5am and a night owl is up past midnight.

And just as you make yourself into one, you can just as easily un-make yourself and then re-make yourself into the other. It will be some work and effort – no magic wands, sorry! – but you won’t be changing your personality traits or your genes because the becoming an early riser has little to do with that and everything to do with mindset, habits, and routines. That is the best kind of change to undergo!

So if you ever say “I can’t wake up early. I am a night owl.”, you really mean: “I don’t want to get up early. I want to stay up late and that is how my body is now conditioned to operate.” You say this based on the belief that you cannot do it. That is your mind lying to you and your ego protecting that lie. Your body is capable of so much more!

I will refrain from going into the argument of whether night owls are more or less productive than early birds. That is irrelevant. If early rising is only about more productivity for you, then that may not be a strong enough reason to sustain your habit for the long term, even though you will be more alert and efficient during the early hours of dawn following a night of sleep than the late hours of the evening before going to sleep. Like I said, I won’t get into this one. I can be convinced that night owls are extremely productive, because I have had productive phases as one.

Early rising would be a great experiment for you if you have been a night owl for a long time and now want to experiment with a different system for your body either out of curiosity or because your current routine does not seem as productive as you think you can be. Now that is a great reason to explore early rising.

I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.
Emily Dickinson

The Very Beginning of This Early Rising Journey

My first obsession with early rising came in 2007. I read something, I felt something, and I decided that I needed to become an early riser. At first it was casual curiosity: What if I could get up early every day? Oh imagine what I can accomplish! Imagine how productive the day would be! Imagine how I would go from being frantic to being calm and centered. I was salivating at the prospect of it.

Then I tried to wake up early a few times, and realized just how hard this is going to be. My ego was badly bruised, let me tell you. I realized just how much I had over-estimated my own powers of accomplishing this enormously challenging habit. Subsequently, in the face of this obstacle, the stubborn human being in me jumped to an obsessive phase rather than the understanding phase of what was really happening. Like I said, it was very early in my self-discovery journey and I was very harsh with my own body those days. It was all about pushing, forcing, disciplining, and punishing myself, and the more my mind persisted, the more the natural rhythms of my body rejected my decision to wake up before 5am. A losing battle as you can imagine.

Of course, it did not help that all my life, I’ve had a combative relationship with sleep: Quite simply put, I consider sleep a complete waste of human life. It is a real tragedy that we have to sleep away our precious hours when so much else is waiting to be done. Can you even picture what our lives would be like if we needed one hour of sleep every 24 hours instead of 6 or 8?

Alas, apparently, we need sleep like we do air and water, so we might as well stop fighting it and invent brilliant ways to hack it. Hence, this journal on sleep hacking. Here I share with you my honest experience with a 21-day challenge to get up every single day at 4:30am. I share with you what works and what does not work in this sleep hacking process, what exactly happened and what I will be doing going forward.

The 15 Approaches to Early Rising that You Must Avoid

Over the years, I have tried many approaches to early rising. Here are some of the methods that did not work:

Before Getting Up – 9 Things to Avoid

1- Going back to sleep obviously! This is a no-brainer. Your alarm goes off. You realize that it was really a stupid idea that you decided to do this last night. You go back to sleep. The end.
2- Snoozing even once: (especially dangerous if combined with snuggling with your significant other!): Your body will resist waking up no matter what so if there is an easy way to go back to sleep, it will find it and do it, and your willpower is weak first thing in the morning and your senses are just adjusting to the day ahead so you want to avoid snoozing at all costs. Snoozing is going to make you extremely grouchy and tired later because it really messes up with your sleep cycle. This is the one thing to absolutely avoid at all costs.
3- Putting the alarm next to the bed: If the alarm is within hands reach, you will turn it off and are very likely to sleep more or snooze again or turn it off altogether. Tell me if this is not true? In fact, it won’t be uncommon for you to sometimes not even remember that you turned it off. Your alarm needs to be in a place where you walk a few paces to it and still hear it when it goes off.
4- Choosing soft music to wake you up: I have tried many different genres of music and either with the alarm itself playing the soft music or with the radio or iPod playing it a few minutes before the alarm goes off. The soft music never works for me in the pre-wake-up phase. I would prefer to wake up to a distinct sound.
5- Letting your natural cycle wake you up without an alarm: I read about how you should ideally wake up without an alarm, and this method apparently also works for early rising. I never, ever had any success with this, even when I used a crazy technique that a friend suggested which goes like this: Right before going to sleep, hit your head on the pillow as many times as the desired wake-up hour number. So if you are waking up at 6am, you (gently) hit your head on the pillow 6 times. This magic trick only messed up my hair before falling asleep!
6- Using a random wake-up time: As I will later tell you the importance of sleep cycles, this will make more sense. Suffice it to say here that 5am does not work as an ideal wake-up time for everyone. You need to shoot for the end of your sleep cycle.
7- Using different wake-up times each day: If you are waking up at 6am one day and 5am the next and 7am the one after, it will really throw your body out of whack and make it very difficult to develop a pattern. This is fine during experimentation phase if you are trying to figure out when your sleep cycle ends or what time works best for you but not when you are on your early rising challenge.
8- Allowing the mind chatter to talk you into going back to sleep: If you don’t have an idea what you will be doing, your mind will come up with one for you but it’s usually not the one that your better judgement would have preferred. Your mind chatter first thing in the morning is loud and obnoxious and since you are barely awake and your willpower is sound asleep, it’s very likely that your chatter will talk you into going back to sleep.
9- Dreading the sounding alarm when it goes off: This is all about attitude. If you immediately have the feeling of dread when you hear your alarm, if your mind fills up with negative thoughts and starts to resent yourself for such an idea, you will fail miserably every time and your morning will be already starting on a sour note. Plus, you do plenty of harm and damage to your own self-esteem.

The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.
Thomas Jefferson

After Getting Up – 6 Things to Avoid:

1 – Going back to bed obviously: Yes, I know I am being a bit clever but make going back to bed an absolute no-no rule. My husband’s rules are simple: he does not mind my crazy early alarm at 4:30am as long as I do not do it twice in the same morning, meaning no snoozing, no waking him up twice!
2 – Sleeping somewhere other than your bed: What? You mean I am the only one who has gone back to sleep on the bathroom rug in child’s pose? Oh I’ve had some great naps that way! So yes, do not allow yourself to go back to sleep somewhere else in your house!
3 – Not having a specific plan for when you get up: I don’t mean you have an agenda or a list of 5 things to do. I mean that you need to know in advance – as in, before you go to sleep the night before – what you will do upon rising, at least for the first 2 hours. You need to be clear about this in advance and not leave it up to the moment to decide. The more specific you are, the more successful you will be.
4 – Skipping the awakening phase: If you don’t brush your teeth and your hair and put some lotion on your dehydrated face and drink some water right upon rising, you will have a really hard time waking up your body and internal organs from sleepiness, and this will make that mind chatter really loud and pull you back into sleep phase.
5 – Staying in an extra warm room or turning on the heater: It is natural to feel chilly first thing you wake up, yet ironically, the worst thing to do is to go into a very warm room. I remember I would turn on my heater in the winters and crank up the temperature to a sauna and barely be able to keep my eyes open to write. Don’t do that!
6 – Reading: As much as I love, LOVE, reading, I don’t do it first thing in the morning. It is the best medicine to put you right back to sleep, especially if you are lying down. If you are studying and have interaction with the material more so than just consuming it, then that might work better. Otherwise, I would move reading down the list to-do things upon rising.
7- Not doing anything stimulating: The best thing to do first thing in the morning is meditation and exercise, in whatever order works for you because they are stimulating. You can do whatever you want as long as it has some level of stimulation. You can write, you can work, you can organize, you can do email, you can go for a walk, you can write code, whatever that gives your brain some stimulation.

The early morning hath gold in its mouth.
Benjamin Franklin

Remember not to rely on your willpower or your sense of self-discipline to kick in when that alarm goes off. Early rising is more about setting intentions and being loving with firmness and kindness.

How Much Sleep You Need

I do understand the importance of sleep to our survival on all levels, physical, emotional, psychological, and I do not want to discourage anyone from getting plenty of sleep and rest. It is natural to cut on sleep when we are in a hurry to get so much done with our lives, and to feel that we get ahead by sleeping less but the real intelligence tells us that we need sleep to function well and we do our best after plenty of rest.

The how much part is where I am still experimenting but so far, here is my finding: As you can see from my results, I ended up functioning great on 6 hours of sleep, sometimes on 5, as long as I caught up with a power nap 2 sometimes 3 times a week. This averaged out to about 6.5 hours a night. During those hours, I was in very restful sleep. Except for one restless night, I can say that I slept extremely soundly during the hours of sleep, and dreamt vivid dreams and I know for a fact that a night of 6-hour quality sleep far outweighs a night of 8-hour restless worrisome sleep. So the quality of your sleep is extremely important and if you can maximize the quality of your sleep, you may perhaps find that you will function better on less than 8 hours of sleep. It is different for all of us.

Meditation Breakthrough

The Importance of Knowing Your Sleep Cycles

One thing that has proven extremely helpful to me in my early rising journey is the better understanding of my sleep cycles.

At first, I was experimenting with waking up any time between 5am and 6am and I was having an extremely hard time. Then I started to experiment with an earlier time to see if it might make a difference so I chose 4:30am and it was easier. I kept experimenting and 9 times out of 10, 4:30am was the best time for me to wake up if given the choice of any hour between 4:00am to 6:00am. The next best hour to get up was 6:00am or 7:30am. Getting up anywhere in between was torture. So it turns out that my sleep cycle ends around 4:30 and if I can get up before the next cycle starts, I am happier than if I wake up in the middle of the next cycle. Because 6:00am is too late, I decided to work on 4:30am as my set rising hour, and then based on that, identify the best time to go to bed.

Wikipedia says: In humans, the average length of the first sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes and 100 to 120 minutes from the second to the fourth cycle, which is usually the last one.

So if a sleep cycle is around 90 minutes, that makes sense because 4:30am, 6:00am and 7:30am all work out to the end of a cycle. Now the real question is whether that is significantly affected if I go to bed at 10:30 versus 10:45 versus 11:15 etc. I found that as long as I was asleep between 10:15 and 11:00pm, I felt just fine with my 4:30am rising and had plenty of energy during the day, with the occasional 2-3 naps per week.

Wikipedia says: A number of studies have concluded that a short period of sleep during the day, a power nap does not have any measurable effect on normal circadian rhythms, but can decrease stress and improve productivity.

My challenge did not exclude naps by any means. I feel that I have come to deserve that nap by 3pm in the afternoon and I bask in its glory even if it’s for 30 minutes. Usually, I try to allow 30-45minutes. That may be longer than a “power nap” but I wake up refreshed and happy. It takes me a few minutes to get going, but the evening hours become just as productive and I am happy with myself.

The Challenge Conclusion and the Early Rising Plan Moving Forward

I admit, the last two days, I have slept past 4:30am and it has been incredible! I won’t deny the pleasure of sleeping in once in a while! Of course, I am also doubling up on my exercise routine so I may be needing the extra “la la”, as we say in Farsi.

So what is the plan going forward?

I am feeling SO inspired by this challenge. want to be kind and gentle with my body and make the best decision for it. I want to stay committed to 4:30am because 6:00am would rob me of some early morning joy and activity. So I have decided to rise at 4:30am Mondays through Fridays and sleep in until 6:00am or 7:30am on weekends. This is of course without travel plans interfering.

Lifestyle is always going to be a challenge when you are a super early riser, so flexibility and forgiveness must become your best friends if you are to maintain this habit long term. I’m already great buddies with both of them because early rising brings me closer to everything I want to create.

How to wake up early is an incredible resource for early rising that I found during the writing of this post.

Last but not least, I think this time I succeeded with my early rising quest because I was not going to FORCE myself to do this. I just set an intention for this challenge with heaps of love and understanding and respect for myself and I really believe that is why it worked.

Get Confident in 21 Easy Steps

What about you? Are you an early riser, a night owl, or somewhere in between? Do you have a quest for early rising? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Few ever lived to a great age, and fewer still ever became distinguished; who were not in the habit of early using.
John Todd

  • Melody | Deliberate Receiving

    Hot Damn, Farnoosh! 4:30? I struggle to get up before 9 a.m., LOL. I used to try to get up earlier, but I found that I so love to wake up naturally, without an alarm. Waking up on my own, then puttering around with a cup of tea is such a luxury for me, after years and years of alarms and sleep deprivation. Never again. :) But I salute you, and I imagine that getting up at 4:30 makes for a productive day. I generally go to bed around then. Makes for a productive night. Ha!

    Huge hugs!

    • Farnoosh

      Hello my dear, you are a night owl then :)! Thank you so much for commenting. I think most people I know prefer to work late at night. I can’t tell you how long and productive the days are, Melody, it’s wonderful and if I nap, it’s the best sleep on earth because I really need it ;)! Hugs back at you.

  • Lissie

    Why? Why wake up early? Or are you really saying you are sleeping less? I had a job for a few months that required me to wakeup at 4:30. It was pretty much hell. Because of my evening schedule I could rarely go to bed before 10pm – and generally I needed to have a nap every afternoon – which I consider a total waste of time. When I got a regular day job (in addition to the 5-8am job) I dropped the early morning ASAP, as I couldn’t survive without the nap!

    Working for myself one of my greatest joys is waking up at any time I want. Surprisingly (for someone who for years never got out of bed before 9am without an alarm) – I now wake and get up somewhere between 6-8am – usually around 7am. What effects it -temperature more than anything -if its hot I wake earlier. And now I do the same on weekends – so I think I do have a better sleep cycle.

    BTW my partner has an alarm which goes at 6am – I rarely hear it – if sleeping was an Olympic sport I’d be a gold medallist!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Lissie, I explained the why in the 4000+ word blog post, I thought ;)!
      Just teasing you. And yes, I am sleeping more quality sleep and less. I had a job years ago that required me to get up very early to drive an hour and I resented everything about the job – so I wonder, if you had to get up really early to go do something that you are really passionate about, would that change the way you feel about 4:30 or 5 or 6am? ;)!
      Nonetheless, early rising is not for everyone, and staying up all night is not for me anymore. :)
      Great to see you here, thanks for stopping by.

      • Lissie

        I have to get up at 4am to catch the plane to Australia – it leaves at 6am. I feel physically ill and awful. As you know I love travel and I like Australia .. the ONLY thing I hate about travelling is very, very early departures!

        I actually don’t mind being jetlagged – because then I can wake up early and in Asia early morning can be quite magical in the cities – but I only see it for the first few days when I’m jetlagged.

  • Glori

    Oh boy.
    I am not a morning person.
    I could barely wake up before 9 like Melody. My job requires me to be at work by 6 am though, so I struggle everyday to wake up at 5.
    I could really use some of the stuff you have here!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Glori, you can do *whatever* you decide, believe me. :) Have you tried to change the way you think about it? What if you kept telling yourself you absolutely LOVE getting up and love early mornings, and of course do the obvious like go to bed at a reasonable time. I bet you will feel differently, if only slightly. Just use positive affirmations, especially since you have to do it for your job right now.

  • David Stevens

    You’ve created a fresh habit Farnoosh, congrats…I need my sleep…works better for me. Thankyou for the detail
    be good to yourself

    • Farnoosh

      Oh dear, we ALL need sleep, I am just hacking it for now ;)! Thanks so much David for stopping by and yes, I will be good to myself in the whole process. That’s the condition on it all.

  • Nea | Self Improvement Saga

    I feel such admiration for you and anyone else who can get up in 4:30 AM…and actually like it. Maybe if I knew how to figure out when my sleep cycle ends, I could do it; but I doubt it. I like to wake up with the sunshine…and I mean when the sun shines very very brightly into my window. At 4:30, I’m just turning over.

    • Farnoosh

      Waking up with sunshine is perfect, Nea, and I don’t advocate my 4:30am for anyone else either, but I do believe we can do whatever we want, and that is the main message :)! Sweet dreams and productive days to all of us, however we find them. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  • Vidya Sury

    Waking up early is a way of life for me, even if I sleep late. And I actually wake up without an alarm. My body clock wakes me up at sharp 5.15 am every morning. No idea why. I probably did it two days in a row long long ago. When we were in school, I used to be up at 4.30 am as it was usual to help with some housework and in the kitchen before getting ready to go to school. So – good old habit that has been a good thing all my life. 😀 My friends actually ask me to wake them up at a particular time when they travel, because they don’t trust themselves, their alarms or their hotel wake up calls! Of course, we do it more for fun than anything else.

    Waking up early is something I highly recommend. There are days when I get more work done in two hours in the morning than during the rest of the day.

    😀 Congratulations, Farnoosh!

    • Farnoosh

      Vidya, hello to another early riser. I am envious of you waking up without an alarm, so envious and so happy for you. Maybe someday for me. I love the great school habits. Iran and Turkey had strict academic programs so until I moved to the US, I had a harsh system to follow ;)! Thank you so much for the vote of confidence, Vidya, and for taking the time to share it.

  • Cassandra

    Hello again dearest Farnoosh!

    Wow! I commend you for sticking to this challenge, and doing so with a neck injury…very great accomplishment!

    I honestly am a night owl, hands down! lol I fell into this routine because of how limited my time is through the day taking care of my boys. With my going to college, almost all of my course work and assignments are done after the boys go to sleep. I slowly got in to the routine of staying up a little later each night to get the assignments done and then started sleeping in until the boys woke up, which is usually around 9 or 9:30 am. I am very much wanting to do the early rising challenge though because I would LOVE to have those extra precious hours in the early morning to myself. I can imagine how much more productive I could be, and how much more I could enjoy my days. This challenge is definitely one of my goals for the VERY near future.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and advice with us, Farnoosh! :) It definitely offers me with a lot of encouragement!

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Cassandra, my challenge is on-going, minus the weekends when I will let myself sleep in until 6am or so, maybe someday later, but 4:30am during the week is my plan and today was no exception. If you ever want a cheerleader, come back and I’ll cheer you on. Thanks for your lovely message. And you are VERY welcome, glad you found this useful.

      • Cassandra

        Thank you for your offer of helping to cheer me on! :) It’s very sweet of you. And I’ve got to say, you are one of the most determined, strong, admirable, and inspiring people that I know!…I don’t know very many people who would be able to get up at 4:30 am 5 days a week and still be able to be so productive (especially with how much I’m sure you need to do every day), let alone as caring, genuine, and supportive as you are. You are definitely a source of inspiration for me, dearest Farnoosh!

  • VeehCirra

    Honestly the times I wake up at 4.30a.m and am smiling. Are when I have to travel and the journey ahead had practically kept me awake with anticipation. And I had promised myself I will catch up on sleep during the trip. Seems like a good bargain. So I salute you Farnoosh, for accomplishing the early rising challenge.

    Generally my sleeping habits are not what you would call normal. I love the quite of the night, though I don’t like to wake up to a sunless sky. So, I sleep around midnight to 1 a.m and wake up at 6 a.m in the morning. If I wake up around 7am my body will be incredibly lazy. I sometimes use the alarm (crickets sound) , though I generally wake up the same time everyday.

    I had read from Angela about writing dreams in the morning. But sometimes I procrastinate. Makes me think of doing a 21 Day Dream Writing Challenge. Will be interesting learn more about the dream land. By the way,I love your monster post 😉 Thanks for sharing.

    • Farnoosh

      You’re kidding about the dream part? That’s such a coincidence. You know, I finished her book, the Intuition Principle and then started writing my dreams and for 2 days, I remembered them so well – I just typed them into my iPhone because it was faster. So I definitely recommend that challenge – that is SO interesting to me, I love to understand my dreams. Do it. I may follow suit. Thanks for stopping by and your sleep patterns seem just fine to me :)!

  • Betsy Cross

    Hey Farnoush!
    I get up every day at 4am. I would never change the habit. But I wake up naturally, thank goodness! I hate alarm clocks. I have to get back to the meditation…I do it differently, and the stretching. A new goal! Yay!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Farnoosh

      Hey Betsy, naturally at 4am. That’s brilliant. I’m not a big fan of alarm clocks either but alas, I can’t trust my body just yet – maybe I will experiment with it. Yes, meditation is a big one for me, thanks so much for sharing and happy meditating.

  • Lisa | Practically Intuitive

    My cat has decided that 5:30 am is her new time to awaken me in a not-so-gentle way (MOM! GET UP! GET UP!) and there is no putting off a cat who thinks it’s meal time (especially if she’s 20 years old and has earned the right to bug me). I was going back to sleep around 7am but found out it made me groggy and foggy so now I just stay up and try to be productive.

    As a newly self-employed chick, I’m learning to create a whole new routine (perhaps my cat is trying to be of assistance there?) and it’s harder than I thought but not “un-possible” – as you show, it just takes practice and intention.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Lisa, too funny….. No snooze alarms on the cat, right? It takes practice and intention and it also helps if you imagine yourself ALREADY in that routine, so don’t think so much from a place of struggling to get there so much as imagine you are doing it, you are productive, and then put some plans in place and I bet you’ll get there soon! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your cat stories, dear Lisa and come back anytime!

  • Lee

    This post is very interesting to me as I am constantly switching between night owl and early riser routines – which means I somewhat agree with your statement that you can choose to be one or the other. I’m more inclined to think it has to do with the level of activity you do during the day, how many hours of sleep your body naturally seeks and the quality of that slumber. I have three children who exhibit distinct natural rythms that can be manipulated depending on what they do when. For example, my son is a short sleeper like me and refreshes quickly. One daughter does not sleep overly long periods, but needs quite a settling down period before she can fall sleep and the other daughter requires the most sleep of the three to function through a busy day and then knocks out easily. I tend to feel my mind click on between 5:00 and 6:30 no matter what time I go to bed. My eyes or body don’t always agree and feel sluggish. I tend to feel an energy slump between 2 & 4. and want to nap. If I don’t nap and push through it I will recover after a while and be fine until 10pm. If I stay up past that time I then recharge until around 1:30am and then crash by 2. For all of us it tends to be about how we time our schedule to accomodate when we want to sleep or rise. Exercise plays a bit part.

    Sorry this is so long, but I find sleep and productivity fascinating so was happy to read your thoughts and experience.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Lee, I am just as fascinated as yourself so thank you for sharing all of your thoughts – also I checked out your lovely website :) – thanks for being here and welcome. I loved reading about the sleep patterns of your whole family, and you are right, it depends on our activities, so true. I should have mentioned that my life was running on a regular routine during this challenge so I did not have to change my lifestyle or social life drastically – and I find that a lot of what you described about yourself in terms of pushing through the nap time and being fine til 10pm etc, and then a second wind, yes I feel that too, but I can only go that long (after getting up at say 4:30) once or twice before it catches up with me.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and here’s hoping that we find the perfect rhythms meant for us.

      • Lee

        Thanks Farnoosh, I think my perfect rhythm is all about the “hack”, meaning knowing my sleep cycle and timing my activities and sleep times accordingly to take advantage of them. That is why I find it can possible to either be up super early or late as needed- like you said, it’s something you can do if you will it. The silence during the night or early morn is excellent for productivity either way.

        • Farnoosh

          I hear you, Lee, and I’m here to cheer you on and be your supporter. The silence of those hours are golden, aren’t they? Thanks for your beautiful insights, Lee!

  • Jonez

    Amazing! You absolutely inspire me.

    • Farnoosh

      Awesome, thanks Jonez.

  • Arvind Devalia

    Farnoosh, well done for sticking to your 21 days!

    You are such an inspiration:-).

    My late father used to wake up every morning at 3.30am and meditate for 3 hours. He had this practice for the last 20 years of his life. He would go to be around 10.30 and still had more energy than most people half his age.

    Shows what’s possible with a bit of perseverance!

    Maybe one day, you too will be rising at 3.30am 😉

    • Farnoosh

      How incredibly powerful, Arvind. I love that you remember him so fondly. Thanks for sharing, and if I ever get up at 3:30am, your father is getting the credit for pure inspiration. :)

      • Arvind Devalia

        Thanks Farnoosh! Yes, my late father was an inspiration to many people:-).

        And let me know when you do start your 3.30 am regime.

  • Stephen P Smith

    Several years ago I took a job as the manager of a banquet service team in a large-ish hotel. My day usually started at 5:30 or 6:00am – and I had a 45 minute drive to get there. So I started waking up about 3:30 or 4:00 every morning. With the work and the home life I needed to be up until at least 10pm, so I basically trained myself to operate on six hours of sleep for decent periods of time.

    Since I started freelancing and consulting again, I have returned to the habit of getting to bed by 10:00pm and rising naturally every morning between 4 and 5:00am.

    My productivity is amazing in these early hours before my wife wakes up to start her day.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Stephen, now that is early – reminds me of the morning news anchor job, I think they get up at around 2 or 3 am for the 6 o’clock news. So HOW did you do on those 6 hours of sleep? Were you stressed in your waking hours or were you really happy? I really think our state of being actually determines how much sleep we need …..
      Great to hear you are back to the early rising and I’m not the only crazy one here. So so nice of you to share your thoughts, Stephen.

      • Stephen P Smith

        I actually do quite well on 6 hours, although usually on my “days off” I will sleep a little longer. I was stressed, but not due to lack of sleep, I’m not sure if you know what is involved in managing the catering operation for a hotel with 20,000 square feet of meeting space (3 ballrooms, 5 conference rooms, typically 3-6 groups in house at any given time). LOL. I am retired from that business now and focusing on my work from home and writing.

        The important thing is to go to bed when you are ready and keep a consistent routine.

        • Farnoosh

          Oh dear, no sir, I have no idea what it takes to manage that kind of a place but I have much respect for anyone who does. Hats off to you Stephen and got it on the advice. Thank you so much, my early riser friend.

  • Tess The Bold Life

    Because I grew up on a farm getting up at 4:30 is the norm. To this day it’s impossible for me to sleep in. Unless one calls 5:30 sleeping in! When the girls were growing up the early morning was my “me” time. When they were in high school and rollerblading became popular I would throw my skates in the car, drive four miles to the most beautiful path in Michigan, skate 5 miles out and 5 miles back and be back home before they knew I was gone.

    I do have to say to this day I begin to yawn at 9 pm!

    • Farnoosh

      Tess, you are something else – I knew about the farm bit but not how you carried that habit to the rest of your life. Bravo! You were feisty and active then and you are still the same. I bet it has helped keep you so beautifully young and vibrant ….. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tess!

  • Rachael

    Dearest Farnoosh

    4.30am! Makes my eyes gritty just thinking about it!

    I am another who works by my body’s natural rhythms. I tend to be more productive in the evenings so I wander off to bed once my energy lapses and my spark goes out. This is normally about 11pm.

    In the morning I let my body wake me up naturally and it is pretty much always around 6.00-6.30am. This is usually about the same time the dogs want out so even without my own internal alarm, they would help me with theirs ; )

    I appreciated what you said about sleep being a waste of precious hours and I have the same feeling but personally apply it to sleep through the day. I would have to be INCREDIBLY tired or ill to sleep during the day. I can’t recall when I did last. Plus, it does not serve me well at all.

    Well done on the challenge! I can only imagine what is possible for you now with more time on your hands!

    BTW: Love the beautiful picture of my homeland : )

    • Farnoosh

      Rachael, how wonderful to see you. If you only knew how relaxed I was when I was in your lovely homeland, I slept, I dozed off, I dreamt, I relaxed, I meditated, it was heavenly. :) And no 4:30am happened there…. 😉

      You seem like you have a beautiful rhythm. And as for sleeping during the day, yeah, I can totally hear you. I do it when I am at my wit’s end and just can’t go anymore and even THAT is a waste of time sigh… but it is how we humans were meant to be I suppose.

      Thanks SO much for chiming in. Sending you and New Zealand heaps of love.

  • Sandra / Always Well Within

    It was fascinating to read about your experiment, Farnoosh. I love the compromise you reached at the end to meet both your wishes: to be an early rise and sleep in at times too.

    You have given us so many compelling reasons to be an early riser! My concerns is that although people may be able to live on 6 hours of sleep for awhile, it may have long term consequences. I’m personally not drawn to be an early morning rises, but I’m very happy you’ve had such a successful challenges and it is working so well for you.

    • Farnoosh

      Sandra, first, a happy birthday to Always Well Within. She is a little sister to Prolific Living, we turned 3 last month. :)!

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I wonder how my body would feel if I lived in the glorious island of Hawaii. And yes, I need to exercise some balance, I have learned, if I want to keep my habits going long-term.

      As for the 6-hours per night, I plan to catch up on weekends, although I am still reading some research that says the concept of “catch up” may not be as effective as I was led to believe. We’ll see. :)

  • Betsy at Zen Mama

    What a great post! It’s fascinating to read!! I got up at 4:30 and am still up at 11:00. I am definitely an early riser. I’ve learned to stay up a little but that’s what I’ve found hard. But I have to say that I think we do have a basic “time” personality. My sons are a perfect example. We have one night owl and one that is a real early bird. (and one that can do either) The early bird cannot stay up late for the life of him… and if he does, he still gets up early. The night owl can sleep in until late in the morning or early afternoon. They have been like this since babies.

    Glad you’ve been so successful!

    • Farnoosh

      Betsy, you sound like a crazy Tasmanian devil ;)) I can do what you do once in a while…. but you know what? I think it means we are just full of life and passion too because when I worked at corporate, I dragged around in my life.
      Your babies sound wonderful and it adds so much variety to a household, doesn’t it? Thanks and big hugs to you, dear early riser Betsy :)!

      • Betsy at Zen Mama

        PS My “babies” are 21, 19 and 15!!!!!!!!

  • Mary

    Hi Farnoosh,

    First, I want to thank you for this incredible website. I read somethin from it each day!
    I love getting up early!! It is quiet, my mind is alert and focused. I get reading done, mediation done.. mentally plan out my day. I try to do a bit of a workout, not always successful though (lol).
    I was a night shift nurse for over 30 years. Never in my wildest dreams did I consider I would become an early bird!! Thanks for showing me a new way to think and perhaps a new lifestyle is coming my way!!
    Keep doing what you do..It’s awesome.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Mary, you are ever so welcome. I am so so happy to have such beautiful readers such as yourself.
      I had a friend long time ago who did the night shift as a nurse. It’s amazing how the body adjusts to new schedules, isn’t it?
      Come back anytime. All the site is yours to enjoy and delight in.
      Sending you my best.

  • Noch Noch | be me. be natural.

    been trying to wake early. so hard this week :(
    Noch Noch

    • Farnoosh

      Noch Noch, try saying it’s “so easy and wonderful to get up early” – just say it over and over and see whether it makes a difference. Play mind games. And dare to win :)!

      • Noch Noch | be me. be natural.

        ok Farnoosh! i’m going to keep repeating that to myself today!
        Noch Noch

  • Galen Pearl

    I was so happy when I got the place where I no longer needed to wake up to an alarm. I get so much pleasure from waking up on my own. However, I have noticed that I have a natural wake up time in the wee hours, and then I go back to sleep. What if I got up at that first awakening? I might try this. There is something magical about those early morning hours. Thanks for the detailed account of all the facts of this experiment. That was so helpful.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Galen, hi! I wonder too for you. That will be an interesting test. Let me know. The morning hours are magic, yes! And I hope to get to a place where I can awake naturally without an alarm for my 4:30am. We shall see. Would not have worked out this AM without alarm, that’s for sure. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  • janet

    you’re like a monk! i think waking up at 4:30 (or at the least, 5am) would be the ONLY way for me to get exercise in the day.. I do walk 1 1/2 hr to commute to work in a day but it would still be nice to get an actual work out in. I feel it’s time to take up running again. Maybe you’ll inspire me to wake up earlier.. maybe. So not a morning person. Have to wake up by 6am to get to work by 7!

    • Farnoosh

      I was walking around my house today at 4:30 and thinking about your funny comment: you’re like a monk. Too funny! Well, this monk actually went back to bed today after 4 days of extremely hard work and got another hour from 6-7 but that’s ok. It’s all a success. I don’t punish myself ANY More. :)
      6am is not bad at all, but if you HAVE to get up then, Janet, that’s no fun. If you had an extra half hour to yourself because you WANT to get up early, now that is exciting. Try it, and let me know.

  • Mark

    I’m in your camp on this! I’ve been an early riser for years and love it. My eyes just open and I get up between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. everyday. (Although, there are times I wish my body would sleep in!) I have not needed an alarm clock to wake me for years.

    I used to hit the wall in the early afternoon and struggled to keep my eyes open. I found changing my diet has completely eliminated that along with the constant yawning.

    So here’s to early rising! (Toasting you with a fresh green juice! :-) ) And to cycling in the cool, fresh early morning air.

    • Farnoosh

      Mark, I am so glad. You are way ahead of me. My gosh, no alarm!! I am so envious…. you are like a robot. How did this happen? Is it years of practice??
      And if you are interested in green juices, just today I launched my 3-Week Juicing Intensive Clinic. Wanna join us? :)
      PS: I cycle indoors but we leave the door open ;)!

  • Nadia Chaudhry (@NadiaChaudhry)

    Wow, I REALLY needed that post! I’ve been struggling with my productivity due to my excessive sleeping and erratic sleeping behaviors. I’m so ready to do this!! <3 Thanks Farnoosh. I'm excited and hopeful for what this may mean for me.

    • Farnoosh

      Nadia, as I write this to you it’s just about 1am, and I want to tell you that the last month was a blur so I fell out of my habit, I tell you this because life happens but I know how to get back into it and I fully intend it. I know that you will find what’s best for you and push the limits on what’s possible so you set your own habits and routines. Best of luck!

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  • Callum

    4:30am – 10:45pm is nearly 6 hours sleep, so it’s only 15 minutes more awake than the average human, or at least my average day – with the difference that you wake up 90 minutes earlier than me.

    “I believed that somewhere in me, early rising would bring me closer to who I was meant to be.”
    – There’s no incentive there for us to wake up at 4.30 😀

    • Farnoosh

      You are right Callum. I was doing this during an experiment phase and it just felt great. There’s no need to get up that early at all. :)

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