For the past two months, I have been waking up what I normally would have considered brutally early. It started with waking up consistently at 8 a.m. That was for two weeks. Then, I worked down to 7:30. The first two weeks of May, I woke up at 7am. Now I can delightfully say I’ve been waking up 6am. Why? I’m prepping to take the dreaded MCAT exam, the golden ticket for admissions into medical school. I’m a pretty curious person, so I decided that maybe waking up early hasn’t been the worst thing. I decided to look into it.
I happily discovered that I was right (Who doesn’t like to be right, right?)! After clicking on just a few articles and research studies, I had more than enough information to conclude that waking up earlier may actually put you at an advantage, and be really healthy for you, mentally, physically, or both. Allow me to elaborate.
Waking up early correlates with better grades. I noticed that waking up earlier made me more determined to learn as much as I could in the day. Mind you, I was juggling extracurricular, studying for the MCAT, and 5 classes. It wasn’t easy. But somehow, my grades were basically the same, if not better than my previous semesters. When I looked into this, I found a study conducted by Texas University, which found that students who consistently woke up early each day actually scored better test scores and overall grade points, in comparison to those who slept in more often than not. Obviously, there’s a lot more to this than waking up early, but let me explain.
Waking up early often leads you to eat healthier. It encourages you to eat breakfast and have well-spaced meals throughout the day, with having snacks intermittently. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea because your body needs those nutrients in the morning for energy and focus; it’s been “fasting” for 6-8 hours and you need to break that fast with some calories. When you decide to skip your morning meal, your body goes into starvation mode so the next time you actually eat something, you are more likely to overeat and crave unhealthy foods. Eating breakfast is also a foundation for building healthy eating habits and makes you less likely to eat junk food throughout the day.
Waking up early actually enhances your productivity. If you wake up early, you get more done. In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biologist from Harvard found that early risers are more proactive. When presented with statements such as “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself,” an early riser is more likely to agree. Waking up early helps productivity in the follow ways: there are less distractions in the early hours of the day so you achieve more, after a good night’s sleep your brain is charged and ready to work hard-you are at your efficient best and will get things done quicker and better, early risers are also better at making decisions and planning and setting goals. Beware: it was no easy feat at the beginning, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I found myself having more energy throughout the day, and able to get my work done, while still working out and taking the occasional break or two.
The first hour of your day and how you spend it often sets the tone for the rest of your day. By waking up earlier, you start to reduce the stress in your life by eliminating the need to rush in the mornings. This adds an insane amount of positivity to your life and will positively change your attitude. Studies have shown that “morning people” are often more positive, more optimistic, and more likely to experiences satisfaction in their lives. While night owls are known for their creativity, they can also pay the price by becoming more likely to succumb to depression and other psychological problems.
Working out is really important to me. By waking up early, I was able to balance whatever I needed to do throughout the day, and get my steps in. I was able to reduce the chances of missed workouts, and sometimes I would work out right after waking up, which I’ve never really done before. And it felt really, really good. If you’re trying to commit to a regular exercise routine, make morning time just that. Also, if you’re really struggling to wake up and snap out of the sleepiness in the morning, exercise is a good way to fix it. By exercising, you are energizing your body and getting it ready to take on the day.
Exercise and waking up early are a great way to combat lethargy. Lastly, early risers have very well established sleep routines. This means going to bed earlier, and most likely at a consistent time every day. This makes it easier to establish a habit of waking up earlier, and at the same time every morning. To wake up earlier, you must of course go to bed earlier. According to many sleep experts, it’s important to establish a proper sleep routine to improve the quality of your sleep as this helps to set you body’s internal clock. It establishes a routine, and makes it easier for you to sleep and wake naturally. Sleeping in on the weekends may, in theory, help you catch up on your sleep, but you’re actually doing your body more harm than good in the long run.
So, all of these factors combined bring me back to my first point: if you have a better diet, are more optimistic and proactive, exercise, and have a consistent sleep schedule, you’re likely to do a lot better in school. After the MCAT, I may just keep it and see how I feel!