Is 4:00 am the new 6:00am?
I’ll let you decide … and I’ll share the results of a sleep makeover I did for a journalist later in this article.
This past week in an article in the Wall Street Journal, a journalist interviewed several billionaires and discovered that they all seem to find 4 am as their “most productive time of day.” If you want to learn why this will only work out for about 15% of the population, keep reading or if you prefer to read on the blog head on over.
The reasoning, according to the reporter, that this crazy early morning hour is so good for the interviewee’s productivity was threefold:
- At that hour, there are minimal distractions (kids, family, employees or bosses)
- There is almost no one emailing to texting you
- There is less to look at on social media
The group of people were not a huge surprise: Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Richard Branson (CEO of Virgin Atlantic), Michelle Gass (former President of Starbucks; you know she’s drinking her product at 4 am). But what was so interesting to me was that most of these people saw this time of the morning as “personal” time for their productivity.
They used the time to set up their day in a positive manner, exercise, read for personal growth, meditate or pray. In addition, the interviewees report that they all now go to bed much earlier, which may have some social implications for them.
These predawn tasks they are performing are all great things to do. It begs the questions: Why at that time? Why can they do it? Is it something I should try?
The answer shouldn’t surprise anyone who reads my newsletter or blog, it is because they know their chronotype. If they are natural Early Risers, this can be an easy transition, but 4:00am seems a bit extreme.
Of course, there are people who naturally wake early, maybe around 5-5:30am, I call these people Lions (as you know from my book The Power of When) or extreme early birds. But there are only about 15% of the population that can do something like this successfully (and not at 4:00am).
This is a genetic issue, your chronotype is an aspect of your genetics, not your alarm clock. Early morning routines are great, I can’t say I would recommend 4:00am, but if you are going to bed according to your chronotype (if you don’t know your chronotype, take my Chronotype Quiz) you will know if this is a schedule for you or not. And here is a hint: for 85% of people, this is NOT a good idea.
There were some “hacks” in the article which I wanted to address which can be helpful for anyone starting their morning:
- I am a big fan, however many of my patients tell me that if they meditate that early they end up falling back asleep. Also, I recommend meditating during your Power Down Hour or evening sleep ritual.
- An early work out. Great idea but you need to give yourself at least 15 min of warming up and stretching. Early morning workouts are prime time for injury when the body is still stiff from being inactive for 6-8 hours.
- Breathing exercises. I agree this is always a good idea.
- Sleep in your workout gear: I don’t get it? Why? It’s restrictive, uncomfortable, will likely affect your ability to sleep, and if you can’t take two minutes to put on your gear in the morning, it’s not the right time for you to exercise.
- Find a reason to get up: this seems to go without saying.
- Change the location of your alarm clock- this is a good idea for anyone, but if you need an alarm to wake up, that is a sure sign that you are getting up at the wrong time for your chronotype
- Imagine what you can do with that extra hour: I did, and I slept
- Don’t skip breakfast, this is a tough one. Some of my night owls can’t even consider eating at this hour. Also, if you are doing any intermittent fasting, this will never work.
- Set three goals for the day. OK, I like this one, but why at 4:00am?
- Clear your inbox. I thought the point was to not do work?
I know why these articles are so popular. They make a person think, “If these successful people all do this, and I want to be successful, then I should do this!” Unfortunately, this is simply not the case for most of us (myself included, I am more of a Wolf or night owl).
But if you are going to try to do this, which I only recommend for Lions, here are a few ideas:
- Get to bed on time, to allow yourself at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. So if you are up at 4m you should have lights out by 9:30pm (this gives you 30 minutes to fall asleep)
- Stay consistent. Don’t just pick a few mornings, if you do, it will really mess up your biological clock.
- Wear blue blocking glasses at night for 60 min before bed, this will help you fall asleep easier with less blue light exposure.
- Consider 5:00am not 4:00am. 4 am is extreme for any chronotype and unlikely to be a truly productive hour for most people.
Remember the journalist I told you about earlier who wanted a sleep makeover? See what happened when she discovered her Chronotype and took my advice.
Here are a couple of other articles published this week where I was interviewed, I think you may enjoy them.
Forbes: Sleep Hacks for High Performance Entrepreneurs by Ben Bloch
Spotlyte: Ditching Caffeine, Trying Injectable Wrinkle Reducers and ResoluSkins by Cheryl Kaye