While they may seem as elusive and mythical as unicorns, there really are people who enjoy getting up super early in the morning. I know, it's kind of difficult to imagine that someone wouldn't want to milk the morning hours for every precious moment of sleep available. But hey, if there are health benefits to waking up before sunrise, or at the very least, earlier than what most of us mere mortals think of as "early," it might be worth considering, even for those of us who would prefer to stay in bed until noon with the blackout curtains drawn closed.
For one thing, as brutal as it may sound to wake up before the sun on a regular basis, science says early risers really are more proactive and productive: In a survey of nearly 400 college students, the Harvard Business Review reports, biologist Christoph Randler found that people who said they have more energy in the morning "agreed with statements that indicate proactivity, such as 'I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself' and 'I feel in charge of making things happen.'"
But how early are we talking? Must it really still be dark outside when you drag yourself out of bed in the morning? According to Bill Fish, a sleep scientist for Tuck Sleep, not exactly. In fact, he says the best thing of all is to literally wake up with the sun — not before it, not after it. "Up until 150 years ago when electricity was invented, mankind woke with the rise of the sun to hunt, tend to the field, etc.," he tells Elite Daily over email. "When the sun went down, it was time to rest." Our minds and bodies are technically still programmed to work this way, says Fish, so waking up with the sunrise really is the most natural way to begin your day.
But it's not just a weird evolutionary thing. According to Fish, waking up with the sun also allows your body to wake up gradually, in a natural process, instead of being startled out of much-needed REM sleep — aka the deep sleep your brain needs to learn, store memories, and regulate your emotions — with a piercing, sudden alarm. Of course, not everyone can literally wake up with the sun every single day, so if your schedule doesn't allow for that, Fish says there are plenty of alarm clocks that simulate the rise of the sun and can work just as effectively in gently easing you awake. The Philips sunrise simulation alarm clock, for instance, has 10 different brightness settings so you can find one that works for you, and for less than $50, I'd say it's a pretty good deal.
However, an arguably bigger and more important reason to wake up with the sun (or at least a bit earlier than you're used to) on a regular basis is because it simply gives you more time in your day — time that can be spent on yourself, on things that genuinely make you feel happy. According to Cristina Smith, author of the Yoga for the Brain series, starting your day like this can set a positive tone for whatever else is on your agenda, and can even make it easier for you to respond more calmly and rationally to anything stressful that might happen later. "Waking up before sunrise helps you make sure to do the most important things for your self-care first," Smith tells Elite Daily over email. "While the world is quiet and your loved ones are still asleep," she says, "take the time to do your spiritual practices, be it prayer, yoga, communing with your pet, or watching the sunrise."
The truth is, you don't really have to do anything especially profound or complicated to make those precious morning hours meaningful and beneficial for you. Mindfulness coach Clarissa Hughes says she uses that quiet time to simply take in her surroundings. "Personally I love listening to birds sing in the day and watch colors unfold in the sky," she tells Elite Daily. "It anchors me in the [knowledge] that everything starts fresh every day."
So whether you just like to sit and stare out the window, watching the rest of the world wake up, or you like to get your body moving with some light stretching, yoga, or even a mind-clearing run, this change in your morning routine is all about carving out time for yourself that isn't rushed, and doesn't consist of more stuff you "have to do." It's about the stuff you want to do.