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How Waking Up Early Has Improved My Mental Health

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Anyone who knows me well is probably a little surprised by the title of this article, because for the longest time I was a fully self-proclaimed night owl with a reputation for being notoriously difficult to drag out of bed before 9am at the earliest. However, I’ve recently found myself shedding that status and turning my night-time and morning-routines around. As much as it pains me to admit it, everyone who has ever told me waking up earlier will make me more productive and leave me feeling happier overall was right, and this article is a way to explain that.

Like I said, growing up and while in high school especially, I truly felt that I just functioned better at night, but my time at university has slowly started to prove otherwise. While in high school, I found myself getting so overwhelmed with work and extracurriculars that slowly the late hours of the night became the few hours I felt I really had to myself. Everyone at home would be asleep, the house would be quiet, and it felt like I had hours ahead of me to get some work done, catch up on my shows and just relax on my own. But university isn’t like high school. Studying English especially has meant that a lot of my work is based on independent study, with my schedule only really having one or two classes a day. No longer was my timetable overcrowded with nine hours of school, extracurricular activities and hours of homework. Realistically, I no longer needed the night time hours for ‘alone’ time, because I ended up spending majority of my days alone anyway.  But I still didn’t get up early.

If anything, I found myself going to bed earlier and getting up even later. Suddenly living on my own with a generally empty schedule most days, I began to feel like there was really no reason for me to get out of bed before at least 10am, and that was generally on a good day. While fun at the beginning as a way for me to tailor my days to my own sleep schedule, I slowly started to feel its repercussions. I began to get frustrated with myself: getting up late, spending hours on my phone in bed, taking even longer to get ready for the day despite being awake, I noticed the days literally slipping away from me. I was still able to keep up with uni work, but it was getting to the point where I could only really do one thing a day because shops would close, it was getting darker earlier, and I simply wasn’t giving myself enough hours in the day. This caused quite a damaging cycle for my mental health. The days where I woke up later, I felt so annoyed with myself that I just didn’t want to do anything that day because I felt like there wasn’t any time anyway so what was even the point of leaving my room. I felt lonely and isolated and my sleep schedule was just making it worse.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I used to believe that there was no point in getting up early because then I would have too much time in the day that I wouldn’t know how to fill. Coming out of COVID and moving to university for the first time, I didn’t have much of a social life at this point, so most days staying in bed and sleeping half the day away seemed more appealing than wandering around aimlessly without much to do or anyone to see. Once again just adding to the negative mental health cycle I felt trapped in.

A few weeks back from the winter holidays, getting ready to start the last few months of my degree, I was determined to change that. At first, my focus was mostly on the social aspect: I wasn’t going to let myself spend as much time alone in my room anymore, pushing myself to get out more. I don’t really know when or how, but on top of that I slowly started waking up earlier. It started with me getting up thirty minutes earlier, then an hour, then two, and I’ve now gone from getting up at 10am on average, to 7am. And it’s made a big impact. That may not seem especially early to some, but it’s definitely been an adjustment for me and has taken some time to get there.

All that coveted alone time I used to look forward to late at night has now switched to early morning. In that sense, getting up early has become something I do for myself – not just because I have a 9am lecture, or because there’s some last-minute work to get done. I now do it to have a few hours to myself to decompress and mentally prepare myself for the busy day ahead. I’m still not exactly a ‘morning person’ but ironically waking up earlier has helped with that too. For me, the biggest thing after getting up is that I like to just be on my own in silence, and waking up earlier has meant that I have more time to do that. It’s given me time in the morning to just be alone with my thoughts and get mentally and physically ready at my own pace, without taking up too much of my day in the process.  It’s meant I now have time to do simple things like read for pleasure before getting up to read books for my actual course. It’s also meant that I generally have time every day now to have breakfast which, once again, may seem insignificant but my past sleep schedule meant that more often than not I would have to forgo that morning meal to get wherever I needed to be on time. Something as simple as making enough time to eat properly in the morning is another thing that’s made a huge difference mentally and physically.

Waking up earlier has also significantly helped me to destress because I now have more time in the day to get things done. Shocking, I know. But genuinely, I’m now able to organise my time better and get more work done while still having a large chunk of time in the evenings to do whatever I like. Before, I truly felt like there wasn’t enough time in the day to get more than one errand or one uni reading done, but that’s just because of how late in the day I was getting up and actually starting my day. I now feel more motivated and actually look forward to leaving the house a little earlier to get my day started. Having more time in the day has also meant that I’ve had to interrogate different parts of my lifestyle to try and remember what exactly I like to do for myself for fun outside of university but also with friends. I’m still learning on that one but slow and steady progress is still progress.

Getting up early doesn’t have to mean waking up at 5am to then do a full body workout and intense study session. It can just be a couple of hours earlier with some quiet alone time to start your day off right. Something you do by yourself, for yourself, that can turn out making all the difference.

Kinda Atassi

Nottingham '23

Hi! I am a third year English student at UoN with a passion for all things travel, theatre, music and coffee related. Looking forward to writing articles for Her Campus this year and being part of an empowering space for women <3