Waking up at 6 am every day is the key to success…right?

Or getting sick, gaining weight, feel like crap, and overall noticing a massive decrease in your overall performance. But google it. YOU MUST WAKE UP EARLY TO BE SUCCESSFUL. That’s what everyone says. I’m calling BS. Now, I don’t mean that you can sleep all day. You have to grind, but when you put in your work should depend on how your body works and the schedule you keep.

During the middle of last month, I was taking time out of my day to plan for this month’s personal goals. I knew that I needed to get back to those. I had gotten in the habit of waking up around 8-8:30 every day and figured that was one of the several things that were leading me to feel so rushed, make mistakes, and feel in an overall funk.

So, naturally, one of July’s goals would be to wake up at 6 am every day.

If you know anything about me, you also know that I like 8-8.5 hours of sleep every night and I’ve talked about the benefits of sleep in previous posts. So this was one of the worst goals I’ve ever made for myself. After about ten days of waking up at 6 am, everything started falling apart. My body, immune system, ability to think, write, talk, etc. all started taking a nosedive. And my naturally bullheaded response is that I just needed to toughen up and get after it. I told myself over and over that “It will change, I will adapt, it will get easier.”

Well, it didn’t. It got worse, rapidly. I got sick, I started feeling my depression seep back, I started lashing out at my loved ones, I started gaining weight (like 15 freaking lbs.) and overall just going down the drain.

Then just the other day, I was watching a Gary Vaynerchuk Instagram video discussing the fact that not everyone follows the same schedule. Some people are up early, and some people are up late. It doesn’t matter when you grind. It only matters that you DO grind. In my (main) profession of Restaurant Marketing, most everyone that I’m interacting with doesn’t get to work until after nine. So the more I started to think about it, the more I started to realize that maybe 6 isn’t the best time for me.

The reason why: I do BJJ 3-4 times per week, and those classes are from 6:30-8:30. By the time I get home, eat, take a shower, prepare for the next day and try to relax a little, it’s 11:30. Waking up at 6 am after crushing my body in BJJ and only getting 6.5 hours the night before just doesn’t work. I NEED my 8 hours. And on the other days, I will naturally wake up around the 7-7:30 stretch. I have to listen to my body and do what feels right.

Side note: Now, another approach I COULD take is to change the time that I do BJJ. There is a 6 am class; however, I have taken it, and there are two reasons why I won’t change to that one. 1– Let’s be honest, I hate getting up that early, and I don’t have near the cognitive acuity or physical strength at 5:30. 2– The classes are MUCH smaller, shorter, and I don’t feel I get nearly as much out of them. There is another option that I’ll try, and that’s taking the mid-day class. I will report back.

So, what happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

1 | You get sick

Losing sleep can impair your ability to fight off illness. There’s a reciprocal relationship between the amount of sleep you get and the strength of your immune system. Miss one night, you’ll be cranky the next day. Miss multiple nights, and you can find yourself stuck in bed fighting a cold.

2 | You Make Mistakes & You Can’t Remember Stuff

Studies like this one have shown that having just one night of missed sleep can impair your ability to make decisions and retain information for up to 24 hours. Studies also show your decision-making abilities become more impulsive in a negative sense, which can lead you to have decreased sleep. Maybe you have an extra drink or watch that extra Netflix episode.

3 | Your Libido Diminishes

A study by the University of Chicago found that there is a direct relationship between the amount of sleep and the testosterone levels. The American Sleep Foundation recommends that you need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And once you lose sleep, it’s gone. You can’t sleep 3 hours one night and then 11 hours the next night and try to play a balancing act.

In addition to lower libido, low testosterone levels can increase weight gain, decrease energy levels, create mood swings, reduce muscle mass, and cause many other issues. One of those happens to be…. yep, difficulty sleeping. DANG!

4 | You Gain Weight

If all the stuff above wasn’t bad enough, not getting enough sleep can make you eat more poorly, make you eat more and produce more cortisol, which makes your body store more fat. In this study, University of Arizona Health Sciences sleep researchers found that missing sleep increased all of the above along with having an increased risk for diabetes.

So What If I Want To Change My Sleep Schedule?

In this study, waking up just 16 minutes earlier can cause a negative impact in your cognitive ability. But what if you need to wake up earlier because you started a new job. Or you want to start working out in the morning?

Well, the first week will suck, plain and simple. But how can you help this? Getting in bed earlier will hopefully get you to sleep earlier. But taking naps helps tremendously. Also, move your sleep schedule gradually, just 15 minutes earlier each day until you get to your desired time. Moving this small amount may not seem like a ton, but it can make the transition much easier. At the same time, make sure you are going to be earlier. You have to be very disciplined in this.

There’s also the approach akin to ripping the bandaid off, and that is to get up at the desired time and go to sleep the net evening because you will be exhausted. Repeat this for a few days, and you’ll start adjusting.

So, yea, sleep is REALLY REALLY important. After about three weeks of trying to push myself, I finally just gave up. I am going to bed around 11-11:30 and waking up at 7:30-8:00 and I’m happier, healthier, more productive, I feel better in general, and I’m much more easy to be around. I know that this won’t work for everyone, but find what works for you.

Grind when you grind. We all have different sleep cycles. Some of us are night owls, some of us are morning birds. Be who you are and make the most of it. Don’t let someone else tell you when you can and can’t sleep. Most of us have to be at work between 8-9 so you should be able to make it work for you.

Another thing- I made the wrong goal. And I think it’s important to realize that and admit to myself that I was wrong. That’s 100% fine. Take that goal, redirect it to hit the intended outcome, and see what happens. I’m now waking up at the right time, still getting all the stuff that I want to get done at the right time, and I feel much better.