Want to Wake Up Earlier? Remember DIPS

Daily, illuminate, push, smooth

I definitely wasn’t born an early riser. A few years ago it would have been a struggle to move me out of bed before eight and I often slept well into noon on weekends. After looking at the potential benefits that waking up earlier could create, I decided to train myself to wake up earlier.

After rising early for close to two years with some periods for experimenting different sleep habits I’ve found several benefits of rising early:

  • Builds momentum into your day right from the start.
  • Gives you precious quiet time to get things done before work, school or the other people you live with come out of their caves.
  • Often compresses sleeping time. When I wake up earlier, I usually don’t have to start going to bed earlier by an equal amount.

The basics of training yourself to become an early riser are pretty simple: set your alarm clock earlier and go to bed earlier. But often in the morning haze accompanied by interrupted sleep it can be difficult to see why we are sacrificing snooze time. I’ve found a couple of interesting hacks to reduce the pain caused by the alarm clock that can be summarized with the acronym DIPS.

D – Daily

The first step if you want to wake up earlier is to make it a daily habit. I don’t believe you should pick a fixed waking time and never vary from it, life has too many interruptions for that to work. But what I do advocate is spending some initial time forming a base time. A base time is your natural wake up time if there were no interruptions.

You can create your base time by making rising early a habit. Commit to waking up at a specific time for the next thirty days. After thirty to sixty days of consistent waking time, you can have more flexibility and still return to your base time with less effort. A few months ago my base time was around seven and with less distractions I’m now in the process of bumping it back down to six, a base time I’ve had for most of the past two years.

I – Illuminate

If you are having trouble waking up in the dark, turn on some lights. Extra illumination tricks the brain into thinking it is later in the day than it actually is. The second step right after you turn off your alarm clock should be to hit the lights.

I’ve found waking up at nine is just as hard as waking up at six, with the only difference being it may still feel like nighttime at six. Immediately turning on the lights can speed up the recovery from the hazy fog of sleep.

P – Push

Do you find yourself constantly hitting the snooze button? I believe waking up early should be done the same way you remove a band-aid — quickly! Prolonging your sometimes painful recovery from sleep over several ten minute periods is masochistic. Unfortunately in our sleepy haze it feels easier to push the snooze again instead of waking up.

The best way to eliminate snooze abuse is to push necessary activities earlier into the morning, so you have to wake up. If you set your alarm clock for six but there isn’t anything that absolutely must be done before eight, you can expect the groggy version of yourself to press the snooze button until seven thirty. Here are a few things you can push earlier into your day to make waking up faster:

  1. Basic tasks – Answering e-mail, household chores or simple projects can be pushed back to within an hour or two of your wake up time to reduce stress.
  2. Exercise – Try committing to going for a run at 6:30 if you are waking up at 6:00.
  3. Reading – Commit to reading five or ten pages of a book within a half hour of waking up. The advantage to this is that you can get something productive done when you would otherwise be in broken, snooze button adjusted sleep.

S – Smooth

Waking up at five is a pretty daring move if your last few weeks have involved staying up until two and sleeping until noon. There isn’t an impossible physical limitation to altering your sleep habits dramatically, but attempting to adjust quickly can be too difficult to sustain in the short run. Instead, make gradual adjustments to your sleeping habits so they are more likely to stick.

Early rising has a number of benefits, but it is just one pattern for sleep. If most of your opportunities lie in the evening or late at night, don’t force yourself into a less effective sleeping pattern. If you are practically nocturnal currently, try experimenting with waking up earlier. You might find that the added momentum it gives to your day is worth the week or two it takes to set up.

  • Sean Reilly

    I learned a great trick from my wife for waking up whenever you want and feeling great. For a while I thought she had some kind of specific brain wiring that made it work for her, but it turns out that I can do it too. If it works for a nocturnal beast like me I’m sure it must work for a lot of people.

    Basically you just:
    1) Make a mental note of the time when you get into bed. Ensure that your body AND mind understand what time you begin to sleep.
    2) Think about the time you want to get up. Repeat that time it to yourself so that your body and mind understand.
    3) Go to sleep

    I don’t know how it works, but it does. Basically your mind or body seems to know when you will wake up and can prepare you for the process (releasing some hormones or something) to bring you out of sleep smoothly. Of course you should set an alarm clock as a backup, but my wife has found that unnecessary unless there are extenuating circumstances (alcohol, need to wake up way too early, etc).

    Another option is to just have kids. If you take that route you will never need an alarm again.

  • Max

    Great article, I’m going to try and wake up earlier. I usually get up around 6:30, but now i’ll try and get up around 5:30. I don’t know if this is going to be possible, but we’ll see.

  • Benno

    I also find that part of getting up early is feeling rather sleepy at 2, especially when you are first starting. The important thing I have found is to make sure you do something productive during this time and then you will get into a better sleeping habit of going to bed early

  • Sham

    Hi Scott,
    I am generally not a morning person. However, having read several benifits of it decided to try it out. Initially, it was difficult. I was falling asleep -well almost at work. After a while it was ok.. and I was happy that I got into a good habbit and a few extra hours – to my day!


  • Scott Young

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  • max night

    I am also not a morning person, and I cant even fall asleep at least forty minutes to an hour after getting into bed. i need to wake up for school at six, and I usually go to bed at either nine or ten. It looks as though Im developing darks shadows under my eyes, and can apparently yawn at will. Either I have insomnia, or I just cant stop being a night owl. And by the way, going to bed early does not help in the least.

  • max night

    for me that is.

  • Tim

    I really like how productive I’ve gotten over the last couple of weeks since I’ve started getting up early but I’m alarmed at how tired I’m getting from 8pm onwards when a year ago I could stay up until 11:30 or so and feeling fine when I get up at 7. What time do you usually go to bed Scott?

  • geoffrey

    How early is too early? what amount of time is really enough for sleep. some say 8 for normal, others can go by with 6 hours and so on. Any comments colleague?


  • Mike

    Wow. I really need this, I sometimes go to bed at around 6 in the morning and sleep for about 16 hours straight. I know it sounds terrible and it is and I need to just start a normal sleep pattern so I can make it to school on time at 8:30. I usually can just shower and brush my teeth then run across town to just make it to school. Im going to try this!

  • Rebecca

    I’ll try these. 🙂

    But for now, I have a friend who’s already up and almost at school when I need to wake up and he’s my wake up call. It works for now, but I need to do it on my own!
    yeahh thats my new year’s resolution. hah. lol

  • Zack NUtter

    I like the idea of developing a base and trying to stick to it. Once you get into a routine your body just seems to except it. Thanks for the info.

  • Ethan

    Great Article. I found a great way to wake up was to make it a challenge. Here are my results, let me know what you think: