Starting work at 5 a.m. can be a significant change in your work routine with the potential for many positive benefits. You may choose to start work at 5 a.m. to finish your day earlier or to accommodate remote staff in earlier time zones. When adjusting to a new sleep schedule, it's beneficial to learn ways to make the transition as seamless as possible. In this article, we discuss what it is like starting work at 5 a.m., how to adapt to waking up earlier and tips for making your switch successful.
What is it like to start work at 5 a.m.?
Depending on your current schedule, working at 5 a.m. may be a slight change or entail a significant adjustment to your schedule. One of the most apparent differences when beginning work early in the morning is the increased likelihood that you will wake up when it is still dark outside. That darkness remains for several hours after you awake. While a healthy approach to this transition allows you to maintain recommended nightly sleeping hours, you may experience increased tiredness when first switching to working at 5 a.m. as your body adjusts to your new schedule.
Starting work at 5 a.m. may also be a more isolating experience if you work at an office or on remote calls where some or most of the remaining staff work more traditional hours. This can provide you with time to yourself to focus on your work, if that is how you are most productive. Starting earlier can also mean either taking additional breaks during the day or finishing early if you maintain an eight-hour workday.
How to adapt to an early start time for work
Here is how to get the most out of working at 5 a.m.:
1. Consider all of your options
Any time you are considering a non-traditional work situation, you may benefit from taking time to assess your options. Determine if you can perform at your best when waking up early for work and whether there may be alternative options to do your job if you don't feel that an early start time is best for you. Also consider what you need to succeed, both from yourself and your employer, if you switch to a 5 a.m. start time.
2. Discuss it with your loved ones
Your family is an excellent resource when considering a switch to your work routine. Your loved ones know you well and can use that knowledge to offer you advice or their opinion on the potential switch. You may also want to consider the impact of a switch for them, too. For example, if you are married with children, consider the pros and cons for your partner and children if you switch to a new work schedule.
3. Create a defined schedule
When switching to an early start time for work, it becomes even more important to be efficient with your time in the morning. Having a set schedule that makes the most of your time allows you to maximize your sleep without affecting your performance, which can be particularly beneficial when you have to wake up early in the morning. This includes being mindful of scheduling events, going to sleep at a certain time and choosing which tasks you complete at night and in the morning.
Related: How To Organize a Schedule
4. Get to bed early
When making the switch to an early start time, making a corresponding shift to when you go to sleep allows you to get a full night's sleep. Experts often recommend between six and eight hours of sleep each night for adults, so adjust your schedule to allow for a recuperative night of sleep before you start work in the morning.
5. Create a sleep-friendly environment
Just as working at 5 a.m. may mean waking up in darkness for several hours, it can also mean going to bed when the sun has not fully set in order to get a full night's sleep, especially in summer when days are long. Purchasing opaque curtains that effectively block out sunlight in your bedroom can help you create a dark space even if it's still bright outside.
Other elements that can help you sleep more soundly include an eye mask and a white noise machine, which can further keep out the light and any noise from others who are still awake. Preparing your bedroom for sleep makes it easier to adjust to going to bed earlier and can help you have more recuperative sleep once you do.
6. Transition gradually
When making a major life change like beginning work earlier, the more gradually you can switch from your current habits to your new ones, the easier it can be to adjust. If you are currently starting work at 9 a.m., for example, you can make the transition over the course of a week. By starting work one hour earlier each day, you transition from your old schedule to your new one in smaller steps. This makes each day less of a change and can be easier for your body to adjust.
7. Listen to your body
No two people are the same, and changing to a new schedule can affect you differently than it might affect someone else making the same switch. It's important to pay attention to how you feel when making a switch to a 5 a.m. work start. If you find you are still feeling tired after an adjustment period, consider going to sleep earlier or making some of the adjustments in the section below to improve how you feel. If you continue to feel negative side effects, you may benefit from switching back to a later start time.
Tips for starting work at 5 a.m.
If you're ready to make a switch and start working earlier, these tips can help you make the transition as simple and effective as possible:
Moderate your caffeine intake
Excessive caffeine consumption can make it difficult for you to sleep at night and reduce the effectiveness of your sleep when you get it. This can create a feedback loop where lower sleep quality leads to more caffeine intake, which further reduces your sleep quality.
Consider replacing some of your coffee breaks with a different stimulating activity like going for a walk, taking a brief break or playing a mental game like a crossword puzzle. These activities can refresh your focus with no caffeine supplementation.
Related: 25 Steps To Become a Morning Person
Prepare the night before
When your work day starts at 5 a.m., anything you can remove from your morning preparations is valuable and allows you to sleep in later to maintain a more traditional sleep schedule. If you normally prepare a lunch for work, doing so the night before takes a task off your list. Other common tasks to move to nighttime include showering, laying out your clothes for work and packing any bags or briefcases you use at work.
Eat a hearty breakfast
Breakfast can be an important part of your day and may be even more important when you are waking up early in the morning. A healthy but filling breakfast provides your body with the fuel it needs to keep you energized. This helps you avoid feeling sluggish and lets you perform at your best throughout the day.
Start your morning with exercise
Going for a morning walk or run is a great way to start your day on a positive note when beginning work at 5 a.m. Just as taking small walk breaks during the day can supplement or replace caffeine, a morning run can help you reduce the need for caffeine. An active start can also help to improve your mood and provide a healthy start to your day.
Consider taking a midday break
Taking a midday break in your work schedule can provide many benefits when you start work at 5 a.m., including making it easier to coordinate with clients if you have customers who prefer to meet or discuss projects in the afternoon when you would otherwise be finished for the day. A midday break can provide a period to refresh yourself, as well. You can take the break at a set time each day or leave it open and stop working when you feel your productivity or focus slipping, then return after the break ready to perform at your best.
Avoid the snooze button
When waking up early for a 5 a.m. start time, it's beneficial to optimize each element of your sleep, including waking up. Rather than setting your alarm with the plan to press a snooze button, set your alarm for precisely when you need to get up. While it may take time to adjust to not having the slow start to your day, the added minutes of deep sleep can help you get more restorative function from your sleep and reduce the impact of waking up earlier.
Let the sunshine in
While working at 5 a.m. often means waking up before the sun rises, it also means you can enjoy the day's arrival each morning. Open the blinds where you are working and try to set up in a room with a lot of natural light. If you can, give yourself a view of the sun as it rises in the east. Getting natural light in your room is a healthy way to wake your body up.