October 7, 2019

Brompton Bicycle’s CEO Will Butler-Adams wakes up at 5.45am every morning. Robson Lee, the chairman of HCI Board of Directors, starts his day at 5.30am. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, takes the cake with daily 4am wake-up calls. For the majority of the population that doesn’t suffer from backaches and still partakes in a little thing called nightlife, that’s the time to hit the hay. The mere thought of doing the opposite seems to conjure vehement protests, as if it were a counterproductive recipe for existential depression. 

Excuses such as, “It’s not in my DNA to wake up early” and “I’m just not a morning person”, come up. But these arguments don’t hold water if you think about transpacific travel and everyone’s natural ability to adapt to different time zones. Waking up early is like operating on a time zone a couple of hours earlier. And according to how it turned out for the likes of Will, Robson, and Tim, the payoff, in exchange for a temporary, zombie-like visage, is not too shabby. Could this be the secret ingredient to the success of these high flyers? Here are the perks that come with being an early riser. 

They say the early bird gets the worm, and there’s some truth to that. Giving yourself those extra hours in the morning allows you to be more productive. You’re able to get those chores out of the way, and even squeeze in 30 minutes of exercise. Working out in the morning is also in itself a massive positive, with research showing that you’ll sleep better at night, be better equipped to control the urge to snack, have more energy for the rest of the day, protect yourself from diabetes, and, if you exercise on an empty stomach, burn more fat

Speaking of health, early risers are less likely to develop breast cancer, according to a study done by the University of Bristol. Taking care of your physical self translates to better mental health as well, which right off the bat will improve your life drastically. Research by the Exeter University confirms it, revealing that those who wake up early tend to be happier in general with a low likelihood of falling into depression. 

Nocturnal folks, on the other hand, may not be as perky. Do you start nodding off at your desk at around 3pm? Do you find yourself yawning throughout the day, instead of feeling fresh in the morning and drowsy at night? For many night owls, whose sleeping schedule clashes with their day-to-day time tables, going to bed late and rising later results in unoptimised living. You’ll not only be cranky and over-reliant on caffeine to wake up. You’ll move at a slightly slower pace too, that is, spacing out every now and then, getting distracted easily, and basically not as productive as you could be. 

Nevertheless, not everyone is looking to hustle and “have it all”, whatever that means. For some, waking up early is not about boosting productivity, but about having more time to themselves. To watch the world still asleep, with barely a soul on the streets, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s a calming pastime, making it feel as though time has stopped for the moment. You’re free to take your time, meditate, go for a swim, or do nothing, instead of being swept away by the flurry of activity after the sun comes up. In stillness, you’re able to reflect without the noise as well, and journey within to centre yourself before you get on with your day.

That said, don’t go waking up early just for the sake of it. Getting enough rest at night is more important than strictly keeping to a 5am call time. Logic should tell you that if you went to bed at 2am the night before, waking up three hours later is not going to do you any favours. Rather, it’ll make matters worse and throw your natural circadian rhythm off. The key is to stick to a routine. Don’t rise at 6am one day in a bid to accelerate your productivity, only to wake up at 11am on the next. Such a life takes discipline to maintain, a trait that highly successful individuals all share. So it’s not that being an early riser per se makes you a high flyer. It’s what comes with the habit that grooms you into a more well-rounded, stable, and driven person.