Is it possible to wake up at 5 a.m., work 14 hours and stay healthy?
I do not refer to myself as a “lark” and most of my life was used to sleep 8-10 hours and get up at 7-8 in the morning. I was forced to change my life rhythms by life itself, or rather a disease. I had to get up every day at 5 am. I tell you what happened to me after 3 months.
It all started 5 years ago with another attack of acute cholecystitis. In the outpatient clinic they gave me a painkiller: if you want, you can have an operation, they will cut out your gallbladder and everything will pass, and you have no other options.
I was stifling my body with analgesics, while I was frantically looking for an answer (there has to be an answer!). For some reason I did not want to part with my gallbladder. And why should I cut off a piece of myself every time the medics open their hands? At 6 years old I had my tonsils, then almost lost my appendix, I was already missing a third of my teeth, and now it… what would be left of me if this went on? So I dropped everything and, curled up in pain, started maniacally searching for an answer. I was ready to do anything.
And then one day, when I was visiting my friends, I found a book on bookshelf called “Endocrinology of Health”. I started reading, and I couldn’t tear myself away until I closed the last page! For some reason I believed everything that was written there.
There were a lot of health tips, but one of the most important was the advice to establish a natural regime of the day (like it do animals): To wake up at 5-6 in the morning and go to sleep no later than 10 pm.
I decided to begin with it. On the same day.
In those days I lived an ordinary, standard life: wake up at 9-10, or even lie around until 11 o’clock (my profession allowed it). I would make myself presentable with coffee, crawl out to work by lunch, stay up all night, come back at 10 or 11, and eat dinner. Going to bed at 1-2 o’clock in the morning was the norm, if not to say good luck, because no one cancelled the show until morning. It’s just like everyone else (my acquaintances, at least). The very thought of getting up at 5 a.m. terrified me.
I didn’t do any in-between stages, no smooth transition of gradually getting up a little bit earlier day after day, as the health coaches advised. I didn’t have those days. I needed results right away!
I’ll be honest – it wasn’t easy. But it was worth it!
On my very first rise at 5 a.m. I didn’t understand why I was up at all. And what to do at all, since everyone is asleep. I wandered around the apartment half-asleep and could only think about trying to keep myself from falling asleep.
It went like a dream. Or really in a dream, I didn’t quite understand. I constantly wanted to sleep, even more than to stop the pain in my side.
I couldn’t fall asleep at 10 p.m., like I was supposed to under the new regimen, of course. I lay there staring at the ceiling, and I listened to my husband’s snide comments, because we lived in the same room, and at that time he came home from work and sat down to watch TV.
In general, the biggest difficulty in transitioning to a new timeline was the ridicule and rejection of loved ones. It was painful. Not only did I feel crazy myself, but I was willingly supported on all sides. I still wonder how I didn’t give up trying that first week. But then some things started to happen that I didn’t expect…
The first effects of the early rise
They manifested themselves in the second week of daily rising at 5 am. I remember well the day when I got up again, overcoming the wild desire to sleep, on the alarm clock, and strode to the kitchen to drink water (this is another habit of HVA, which I mastered at the same time).
There was perfect silence all around. The city slept, the whole house slept, I sat at the table and felt peaceful. The dream, which had become an obsession for me, was slowly receding. I picked up a book and began to read as usual (what else was there to do so early in the morning?), and I realized that I wanted to go outside, for a walk… (it was the beginning of June, a fertile time of early sunrises). I put on my tracksuit and went out of the house… and the beauty of the world opened up to me in a way I had hardly ever seen before!
The absolute silence, fresh slightly humid air! Empty, sun-drenched streets, birds chirping, iridescent dewdrops on the grass, joggers! Yes, I suddenly realized that I was not the only fool, that there were many smiling, athletic people on the streets, nodding hello to me, taking me for their own. I suddenly became someone in this “madness” of his! It was so great!
End of the first month
On about day 25, I woke up for the first time at 5 a.m. on my own, without an alarm clock! Of course, it was still difficult to get up, but the whole list of techniques that I did with as much persistence as the practice of getting up early was paying off:
My pains decreased and my overall well-being improved. And I almost didn’t want to sleep anymore.
I was also able to find a way to fit my new habits into my social routine: I bought earplugs, an eye mask, and began to fall asleep at the right time.
And most importantly: I began to feel the magic of the earliest hours of the day. Some special state of mind and consciousness, clarity of all thought processes. I completely understood the meaning of the saying: “thoughts are fresher in the morning”.
At that time I worked as a part-time copywriter. When I started trying to write in the morning, I managed to write a whole article in an hour, which normally took me the whole evening and part of the night after work. It was as if the words were forming themselves, and besides, no one interrupted or distracted me, the phone and messengers were silent, and I managed to immerse myself in my work much more fully than in the evening, to the accompaniment of the TV or music from the courtyard.
By the end of the summer, I realized that my transformation was complete. I could fall asleep at 9 or 10 p.m., I could not fight sleep even if I wanted to. I completely gave up my previously beloved hangouts with friends past midnight and other cute nighttime habits.
Seeing the morning rays of the rising sun became the greatest joy of the day for me. I gave up jogging in the morning in favor of intellectual pursuits. Their increased efficiency shocked me every day. By 9 am I had time to do all my copywriting assignments + started learning new skills + went back to embroidery and knitting. Yes, that’s when, thanks to adding an extra 3-4 hours to my workday, I was able to finally take up long-forgotten hobbies.
I am at this point now. Sleep issues have ceased to exist for me. It doesn’t matter what time I have to get up, 3, 4 or 6 a.m. – it doesn’t matter. I feel equally good.
I have found that I really get a full night’s sleep in the first 3 to 4 hours, and the rest is up to me. That said, I have also learned to shift my bedtime depending on the task/situation. There are times when I need to go to bed at, say, 1 a.m. Please, I can do that, but I’ll still be up no later than 6 a.m. No alarm clock. It’s just that the body has learned to recover faster than the standard 7 hours if necessary. Of course, I would not sleep for 4 hours all the time even now, but as a one-time measure, it is perceived as normal.
What did I win?
Well, first of all, I saved my health, saved my gallbladder. It’s still with me. Secondly, a huge increase in my ability to work. Without it, I would never have been able to do all the projects I’m doing now.
The morning hours are the most effective. I can get everything planned done in just a couple of hours! Getting up every day at 5 a.m., I have noticed that my brain has never worked with such speed and clarity (even when compared to my college years).
Third. In fact, the body quickly remembers the right, natural biorhythms. Feeling a burst of energy in the morning, without any coffee, is the norm. But it’s worth considering that by lunchtime there will also be some natural decline in activity. A kind of pause. It may even make you sleepy, and that’s normal. It is not for nothing that in warm countries they practice siesta. Spare working time allows you to allocate an hour for an afternoon nap without any harm to business activity (if work allows, of course).
Now, at 49, I work 12 to 14 hours a day with no weekends, and it’s strange to remember how tired I felt after an 8-hour normal workday when I was 30.
My recommendations if you want to do the same:
- Be mentally prepared for censure, ridicule, and judgment, especially from your own family and friends. This is hard. But it’s your life;
- No one has ever died from lack of sleep! It’s true. Get ready that the first week you might not sleep at all. You’ll sleep when your body finally realizes that you won’t fall behind;
- Choose the same shock model or smooth transition? That’s up to you to decide. I’m closer to the shock transition. Imagine what is easier, to go into the icy water one inch at a time, shaking and trembling with cold, or throw yourself into the ice-hole with a bang? That’s just it;
- The theory of “larks” and “owls” is bullshit. All my life I thought I was an “owl” and lived my life accordingly. We are all descended from the same ancestors who had no electricity, and none of them wanted to sit in the dark in a cave;
- In late autumn, when there is a natural waning of the day and the body is preparing for the winter natural cycle, it is advisable to get up an hour later, increasing sleep time. I have noticed that even the roosters in the next village sing later in winter;
- Remember, when you do this, you will be proud of yourself. You will never be the same again.