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October 29, 2020

Why You Shouldn't Wake Up at 5am

Lately, I’ve been wondering why many of us so easily consider compromising a full night’s rest in order to wake up at 5am (or something similar). What are the underlying reasons for why we’d consider doing so? More importantly, should we be challenging them?

If you’re an early bird by nature, congratulations. I envy you.

This article is aimed at the rest of us. Armed with some fresh knowledge on the science of sleep, I’ve begun to challenge those who consider cutting back on sleep to expand their day, including myself.

If you, like me, want to get more out of your day, here are some things you need to think about before setting your alarm clock back.

Accept that you’re unproductive.

Don’t feel personally attacked, we’re all friends here. But let’s be honest, at some point in time both you and I have considered waking up at 5am to get more done during the day, so enter the idea of the expanded day, the ‘wake up at 5am’ day.

By cutting short our precious sleep, we make the arrogant assumption that we’ve already squeezed all the ‘juice’ out of our time awake, leaving no other option than to adopt a longer working day.

The truth is, we’d rather accept that there’s not enough time in the day than to confront our inadequacies in getting things done.

I won’t delve into all the ways we waste time or work inefficiently, but we’re all self-aware of our unique shortcomings. Once we identify and accept them as our own, we can start to plan, implement and reiterate the changes needed to improve productivity.

So cut out the hour of Netflix you watch religiously each night, stop checking your socials whilst working and stop replying to your emails first thing in the morning. These things aren’t necessary, a full eight-hour sleep is [1].

If we start getting more things done during our days, we wouldn’t have to cut down on our nights.

Your role models have no other choice

When we think about improving our productivity, we gawk at the incredible routines of entrepreneurs and figures we’re aspiring to emulate. No matter how hard we try, it seems almost impossible to compare.

And you’d be right not to.

Facebook is obsessed with displaying articles on how Elon Musk (and others like him) start and spend their days. Yes, Elon wakes up much earlier than me, but I don’t spend my days juggling billion-dollar companies. If I had the responsibility of keeping directors and stockholders’ portfolios from plunging, I think I’d be up at 5am too. Nevertheless, I always click on the article, because Elon’s intriguing and cool.

Don’t get me wrong, starting your day whilst the world is sleeping is a great practice for getting things done, it just isn’t essential for what most of us are looking to achieve.

In many cases, the nature of our job dictates our sleeping pattern, not the other way around.

Just because there’s a correlation between early waking and being “successful”, doesn’t mean there is causation.

And if you believe that high-flyers who discount their sleep are proof that we’re able to operate at high capacity without any biopsychosocial repercussions … you’ve been lied to.

Don’t lose sleep, it’s unhealthy

I can count on one hand the amount of times sleep was mentioned during my formal medical education. We spend a third of our lifetimes sleeping (or at least we’re supposed to), yet the majority of us are collectively oblivious to the true significance of sleep and the protection of that which it provides.

Due to our ignorance of the benefits and harms that a full nights rest provides and protects us from, society is increasingly purging its sleep on a daily basis, with little to no knowledge of the repercussions.

The golden age of sleep medicine is fast approaching, and it’s as mysterious as it is life-saving.

Did you know that there’s a reason teenagers sleep later than young children and adults? The answer isn’t in their rebellious nature, it’s biology.

Our circadian rhythms dictate that we sleep early as children, swinging over to late-night during teen years and finally stabilising at a sensible middle-point for the rest of our adult lives [2]. Does it make sense then, that we pester the youth to ‘get an early start’, ignoring mother nature’s biological alarm clock?

Empirical studies have demonstrated that loss of sleep makes us forgetful, inattentive, uncreative, emotionally labile, depressed and much much more. I’ll spare you the complete lecture on sleep (for now), but quite simply, losing sleep snatches away the quantity and quality of our lives.

The next time you hear someone preaching about the sleep-neglecting ‘5am’ cult, remember that any advice that makes you compromise your health is by default, not worth listening to. More importantly, stop and correct anyone who spreads the motto that ‘sleep is for the weak’; it’s our teenagers and young adults who have more to lose and are the most impressionable.

So wake up at 5am if you wish, but if you’re cheating sleep in doing so, you’re only cheating yourself.

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