There is no universal “best time” to wake up. It’s a very individual matter.
However, there are a few factors that will help you figure out your optimal “wake up time.”
1. Time that Will Let You Rest
If you undersleep, because you try to wake up at the optimal time, it’s not the optimal time for you.
Undersleeping is all but optimal. It leaves you performing like a zombie, and you don’t even recognize the fact. It undermines your health. It’s a full-blown disaster.
Get to know your individual sleep needs, and make sure you sleep enough. That’s the first step to optimization.
2. Time that Suits Your Lifestyle
If you work on night shifts, no AM hours would be optimal for you. End of story.
Most people perform optimally waking up around dawn (assuming they sleep enough).
However, there are quite a lot of people whose brains, when wakened too early, are foggy and don’t function well.
3. Time that Will Provide Peace
Taking the two first factors into account, it’s good to wake up early enough to tackle some huge tasks in the morning.
I wake up at least an hour before going to work, because that allows me to do my morning routine. I prefer to wake up 2–3 hours before I have to run for a train, because then I can do my morning ritual and dedicate 1–2 hours to work on my business without a single interruption.
Mornings are the best time both for charging your mental batteries (morning ritual) and for work. Your willpower is at its peak. Your energy is high (especially after the morning ritual). Everybody else in your household is usually asleep, so you can do with your time whatever you wish.
And The Mix of Them All
In the ideal world, you’d have woken up at the same time every day and have your mornings for you. Unfortunately, we don’t live in the ideal world.
I chronically undersleep, even knowing the utmost importance of sleep. I just have too many balls in the air. Nonetheless, I let some balls “drop” from time to time and get more sleep. One or two days in a row I can sleep 6 hours or below to meet the deadline, but I’ll take a break on day #3. I know it doesn’t pay off to hustle at the cost of my rest.
I can stay awake very late to spend more time with my kids or wife from time to time. My wake-up time is automatically moved farther away. It may be optimal for my performance (I usually don’t dedicate any time for my business in such case), but it is optimal for my overall life.
I have stand-by duties every other week. If the phone rings and I work into the night, I will reschedule my alarm clock for later.
You need to be smart about picking your best wake-up time. A rigid schedule will serve you only if your life is extremely regular.
This article first appeared on Medium.