Why waking up at 5am won’t make you successful

I’m sure you’ve seen the claims. Waking up at 5am, 6am, or even 4am is the best way to be successful! You’ll never reach your goals unless you wake up at the ass crack of dawn! You’re a failure if you don’t, oh and your lazy if you sleep past sunrise. Well let me start by saying…FALSE! Getting up early means nothing for your success. And let me say that I am one of those people who get up way too early. I’m up by 4:30 everyday. (Check out my ridiculous Successful Morning Routine if you’re also a crazy person). And quite honestly, the time I wake up means very little for my successes and failures. Since you’re busy trying to be all successful and stuff, let’s just get to the point and dive right in.

Waking up at 5am won’t make you successful.

Evolution of different productivity times

If you don’t know, I studied biological anthropology in uni with a pretty heavy emphasis on human evolution + primatology. I am fascinated in why humans work the way they do and why we evolved to do the things we do. So I’m coming atchya with some cold hard evolutionary sleep facts.


Wtf are chronotypes, you ask? Well they are a good way to explain the difference (and importance of) night owls AND early birds.

You see, everyone sleeping at the same time 100,000 years ago meant almost certain death. Early humans were vulnerable to all sorts of threats. Other tribes of humans, lions, storms, venomous snakes and spiders/other creepy crawlers, the list goes on. The world before civilization, artificial lighting, and housing was not a kind one.

So people slept in shifts. Some, who would now be referred to as night owls, would be awake and vigilant during super late night hours. Early birds we up at the crack of dawn. This ensured that someone was always on the lookout for threats and could keep the tribe safe.

Because this is part of our DNA we are all most responsive to different times of day. Both night owls and early birds were critical to our species survival, so both genes stretched through the millennia.

Now-a-days of course, there are other factors that contribute to the night owls. Artificial lighting, 24/7 entertainment, and our dear friend Netflix causes changes in our natural circadian rhythm. Even still our chronotypes do still play a role in our sleep patterns.

Science nerd like me? Check out this article for modern day research on chronotypes in a tribal group in Tanzania.

The time is less important than the excuses

If you’re using the whole “I’m not successful because I’m not following the waking up at 5am tip” well you’re just making an excuse.

Maybe you are self sabotaging by focusing too heavily on these so called “keys to success”. Or that you don’t have time to reach your goals. Or no money to get started. Maybe you think you’ll fail or that you’re not creative enough. Your self-doubt, subconscious self-sabotage, and lack of try will ruin more dreams than waking up at 5am.

Waking up at 5am means nothing. You are not like everyone else. Your keys to success will not look like mine or anyone else’s. My doubts will look different than yours. But in the end, the truth is your excuses are the things that will prevent your success. And the only key to that success is determination and time. Consistency will always prevail more than any other quality for success out there.

It’s just not always reasonable

In our current world, someone is always working and businesses are always open. If you’re a bartender who works every day from 9pm until 3am why the eff would you expect yourself to get up at 5am? Does that mean you can’t be successful working nights? Uhhh….no.

Someone might work as a bus driver starting at 3am but have a passion for baking pastries. He won’t be working on his dreams at 5am but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a fantastic pastry chef. Timing doesn’t matter as much as what you put into your dreams.

Practicality is an important part of success. Your goals don’t have to be practical but how you achieve them should be. While you’re striving for success, you still have to survive. Stop worrying about doing it the “right way” and do it the way that is reasonable for you to continue to survive and begin to thrive.

Successful night owls of history

  • Winston Churchill – Winston Churchill may have woken up most days around 8:30 but he never got out of bed before 11am. So there’s that.
  • Trevor Noah – My favorite comedian wake up at 6…..pm. Talk about a late riser and no one can say that he isn’t a success.
  • Karl Langerfeld – The late Chanel genius always ensured that he got 7 hours of sleep so if he went to bed at 3am, he made sure he was asleep until 10am. Makes sense. I get cranky without all of my zzz’s too.

To be honest, it’s a lot harder to find information about super successful women who are night owls. But ladies, don’t let that dissuade you. How much of history is written by men, after all? Plus, I think a lot of women wake up early so that we don’t have to listen to men for a couple of quiet hours.

However! I was able to find a good list of super awesome ladies (who are mainly entrepreneurs). Read it on Self! Read their quotes, hear their stories, and feel inspired.

What you should do instead of getting up at 5am

If getting up super early isn’t going to work for you as we’ve said, that’s okay. The time you get up isn’t as important as how you choose to spend your time. So! Let’s discuss what you can do to consistently create a schedule for success.

Get up at the same time every day.

Even on the weekends. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5am or noon. Get up at the same time. This sets your internal clock to wake up at your chosen time naturally, helps you sleep more soundly, and feel more rested throughout your day. If you choose to start waking up at 5am every day, that means every single day. This reduces grogginess and sleep deprivation thus increasing your productivity and bad-assery.

If you’re struggling with sleep-debt from having to stay up late, napping is your friend. Seriously, napping does wonders. Instead of reaching for the snooze button when you’re overtired, get up and schedule in a nap.

waking up at 5am
Have a good wake up + bed time routine.

Having a consistent routine that you do before going to sleep and when you wake up helps your brain release the appropriate chemicals that either help you sleep deeper or wake up faster. Your brain likes patterns and these patterns tell your brain when it’s time to turn on and turn off. Sleep is one of your most valuable tools for success. Maximize that tool to your advantage.

Don’t work straight through.

Make sure you’re taking plenty of breaks every half hour to 45 minutes. You’re more likely to burnout and lose concentration after this amount of time. Our brains have a hard time genuinely focusing on a single task long than this. So stand up, stretch those legs, maybe get some water. Take a 5-10 minute break and return to your work refreshed and excited.

This work-break method is often called the Pomodoro Technique and there’s many apps out there to help you out with it. Personally, I use Pomentum. It’s simple, customizable, and best of all, free.

Listen to your needs

Be mindful of what your body needs.

A student once asked his teacher, “Master, what is enlightenment?”

The master replied, “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.” 

Zen Proverb

If time (or your boss) allows, take a nap if you’re exhausted. Eat good food – not just nutritious, but also food you love (ie chips + salsa, cookies, and the sweet things in life. We’re striving for balance not perfection). Hydrate. Get some sunlight.

You are basically a beautiful houseplant with complicated emotions and seemingly constant need to doubt your own blooming process. Listen to and take care of what your body, your mind, and your soul needs. Do this and you’re already on a stronger path of success than by simply waking up early.

Figure out when you’re most productive

I am most productive between the hours of 4am and noon. After that it’s a crap shoot whether or not I get anything done. Some people have their sparks of inspiration after midnight.

Both work. There is a time of day where most people are more productive than other times. Always try to work smarter not harder. So don’t waste your time and energy working when you’re least productive. Find your best time and get twice as much done in half the time.

Hours spent on success are less important that productive hours spent on your success.

waking up at 5am
Be determined.

To be successful you’re going to have to fail. A lot. And as someone who is overcoming her fear of failure, I understand how frustrating and scary this can be. All the success tips in the world (especially the one of waking up at 5am) mean nothing if you aren’t determined to reach your goal. You need to have a good “why” for what you want. What do you want to achieve? What is your desired outcome? Make it such a good “why” that no matter how many times you fail, you’re determined to try again.

Final Thoughts…

Waking up at 5am is a great thing – if it works for you, your body, and your schedule. But it doesn’t guarantee your success. Understanding your body’s needs and figuring out how to fit your goals into your schedule productively, now that’s a recipe for success.

So my fellow early birds, enjoy your mornings. My night owls, rejoice in your nighttime lifestyle. And to all my permanently exhausted pigeons, for the love of all that is good, please go take a nap.

And just because your a morning person or a night owl doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a mindful wake up routine. REMEMBER! Routines are great for your brain. So, if you want to start getting some real results on your success, ditch the expectations of waking up at 5am and get yo’self this handy dandy mindful morning routine guide – perfect no matter when your morning starts.

Also, if you loved this article, which of course you did, please feel free to share. Share it with all your friends and all your night owl friends. We don’t achieve success by getting up at a certain time and we don’t achieve it alone. So be a friend and share! πŸ™‚

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Laura (@RedirectLife)
Laura (@RedirectLife)

I am so happy to see this. I tend to run on kind of a wonky schedule. Usually I’m more of a night owl but I do switch it up – most of the time I tend to do a 7am-2am kind of thing (so wonky, right) for a few days and then I will do a sleep in till 9am or 10am kind of thing for a handful of days. I’m learning that my body will set the schedule it feels it needs and I should work within that. This was a great article!