Hey Ho!
Hope you all are safe and well! Welcome to a life hack post.


Introduction

For most of my adult life, I have struggled to wake up in the morning. I would want to get up early and start the day right. Would set the alarm early with lofty hopes of great things that I am going to accomplish next morning. But, inevitably there will be the snooze-war between my and my alarm.

My laziness will win.
I will sleep in.
The guilt would seep in.
And I would keep the mistake repeatin.
(ignore my haiku attempt).

Point is, after years I just kind of resigned myself to waking up late. And even rationalized that I am a late-raiser. But, about 3 months ago, I accidentally stumbled upon this gem of a podcast. It is from Alex Huberman, a Neuroscientist and Professor from Stanford University. I am devouring the entire series, highly recommend it.

And in this post, I wanted to summarize two easy methods he proposes to wake up in the mornings automatically. I ran that science experiment on myself for the last 3 months. And it works like a charm folks!

I have been waking up now without an alarm for the last 2 months between 6am and 6.30am. Its become a habit, so I can personally vouch for it. If you are facing the same problem as I did. Buckle up! We got some fun science to learn and implement.


Background

Before we jump into the two methods, let’s quickly look at how your body works (this a simplified down version, for full version checkout Dr. Alex Huberman‘s podcast). Your body has a mechanism to keep track of its internal 24 hours clock. And it accomplishes this using a bio-molecule-stuff that raises and falls in the 24 hours cycle.

The key to remember that it is periodic.

There are bio-molecule-stuff inside your body that helps your body keep track of its internal clock.

As you might have guessed, there are not one but many bio-molecules that help in keeping tracking of the internal clock. Millions and millions of them.

There are multiple bio-molecule-stuff inside your body that help you keep track of them.

The raise and fall of this curve is an internal timetable for the body. Using these, it knows when to trigger certain actions inside your body. For example, things like hunger, thirst, sleep, wake-up and so on.

For now, we are going to focus only on the bio-molecules for the wake-up part. Specifically, two bio molecules.


Waking up

There are multiple periodic triggers from bio-molecules that tell your body when you have to get-up. And within the wake-up we are going to focus only on two specific periodic triggers. Because they are easy to understand and also easy to control.

1. Photoreceptors inside eye

There is a magic that happens between your eye and, ONLY with!, the sunlight in the early morning (5 am – 7 am). There are very specific photoreceptors inside your retina built purely for this sunlight at this time. Basically the receptor, and consequently the molecule it triggers, keeps track of the wake-up cycle. It goes up, and tells your body it’s to wake up.

Prof. Alex Huberman recommends atleast 20 minutes of exposure. It does not work if you get the sunlight through a transparent window. You need direct exposure to that sunlight.

Bio molecules stuff trigger for the specific photoreceptors dedicated for early sunlight.

Now here is the awesome part!

Keep doing this for a while, your body learns the cycle. And then it goes into a learned prediction mode. It automatically secretes this bio-molecules ready to receive the sunlight. And that is what makes you wake up automatically. Isn’t that magic!?

For example, I noticed that in my case. I had to force myself to get the sunlight exposure this for about 10-12 days at about 6am. After about 3 weeks, I automatically had this “urge” to wake up at this time. The “urge” comes from the molecules secreting on their learned prediction cycle. And waiting for the sunlight. The habit reinforces itself.

Important stuff from Prof. Alex Huberman :

  • Get direct sunlight exposure. Not looking through a glass window.
  • Get at least 20 minutes of exposure.
  • Don’t worry if it’s not “sunny”. Even on the cloudiest or darkest of days, there is enough lumen brightness to trigger the photoreceptor in your eye(nature is awesome!).

2. Sweat it out in morning

The other thing Huberman recommends is to get your body moving atleast for 20 minutes right after you wake up. This could be any kind of any exercise you like. Running, walking, or any thing you like! I will skip the specifics. But its very similar to the above. A specific bio-molecules get triggered at this time when you move and signals your body to wake up.

Bio molecules stuff trigger for the exercise.

Do this enough number of times (2 week or so). Then your body again goes into a learned prediction mode for this specific “exercise” bio molecule. Again, you will automatically get the “urge” because body has learned to secrete it and is ready to “receive” the exercise.

Important stuff from Prof. Alex Huberman :

  • It does not matter what kind of exercise you are doing .
  • As long as you are moving your body and slightly sweating out your body, it should be fine.
  • A simple brisk walk works too.

Adi’s personal recommendation

Apart from the above two, there are several other hacks you can learn from here.

Although, I played around with the others, these two were the most practical, simplest and gave the best results. I can promise it works from my own personal experience. I actually try to combine them both in a single 20-minute routine. I go for a run right for about at least 20 minutes right after I wake up. Even before I brush my teeth or so. I get my sunlight exposure and I also squeeze in my exercise routine in the same run.

Sometimes “will-power” is not enough to modify your behaviors. When you understand your body, apply seeming easy hacks, it just works like magic. To be honest, I was quite surprised by the results. Because I had been struggling, and kinda feeling guilty for a long while, about this late raising habit of mine.

I had to struggle for the first two weeks to wake up early. But now its on auto-pilot! Whether I am moving countries, travelling, or whatever life throws at me. The body is doing its magic πŸ˜… and I get up every single day at around 6.30ish.

I also quite like this early morning me time. But that is for another blog post πŸ˜‰.


Conclusion

  • We learned how the body keeps track of its internal clock.
  • We specifically focussed on the wake up clock.
  • We looked at two hacks on how we can resynchronize this wake up clock, and how we can wake up automatically without an alarm.
  • The first 2 weeks are the hardest, and then the body works on learned-prediction autopilot.

Hope that helps someone who is in the same boat as I was πŸ™‚


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Two easy hacks to wake up in the morning

6 thoughts on “Two easy hacks to wake up in the morning

  • April 3, 2021 at 12:59
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    Very well written Aditya! Liked your narration. Great to know that you have fixed your wake up routine!

    Reply
    • April 4, 2021 at 06:15
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      Thanks Ram.

      Reply
  • April 3, 2021 at 16:44
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    Interesting illustrations to explain under the hood mechanism of waking up.

    Reply
    • April 4, 2021 at 06:15
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      Thanks Neehar.

      Reply
  • April 6, 2021 at 19:12
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    Interesting, I will try it. Do you adjust for the sun rising at different times of the year?

    Reply
    • April 18, 2021 at 08:56
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      Hi Peter,
      Thanks, let me know how it went.

      I personal have not tried it long enough yet to have personal data points for that πŸ™‚
      But I will point you to the original video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm1TxQj9IsQ

      Prof. Alex says as long as you get up at early morning’s, it should be fine.

      Reply

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