“Early morning is the most serene and invigorating time of the day,” says Kapil Mehrotra, a senior information technology professional based in New Delhi.
A runner and self-confessed fitness freak, Mehrotra has been waking up between 4.30 a.m. and 5 a.m. every day for the last 13 years. He adheres to this routine whether he is in town or travelling.
Mehrotra, now 51, has inspired hundreds of other professionals – who are part of a group founded by him – to become early risers having a similar routine. Between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., their WhatsApp group gets flooded with pictures and messages the group members send of their early morning walks, exercises, runs, cycling, and other activities.
The fresh air and serenity of early mornings bring out happiness and drive out tensions of a hectic routine, he says. Morning people, he insists, come across as bright, cheerful, courteous, clear-minded and even spread these qualities around them.
Sometimes, nature itself is a motivation to rise early. The refreshing early morning breeze, chirping of birds and green outdoors often inspire people to wake up early.
Dr Arvind Mishra, a retired public servant, admires nature so much that he moved from his last posting in Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh to live in his ancestral home in his village in Uttar Pradesh. He says he has been getting up around 4.45 a.m. every day for the past five years. The routine begins with an hour-long morning walk.
Archana Mirajkar, a senior communications expert at a diplomatic mission in New Delhi, was not a morning person when she took up the job. However, reaching office early in the morning was now a requirement and she started rising at 5 a.m.
“I now see the benefits it has done to my health. By waking up early, I can take charge of my day,” says the former journalist.
Most early risers consider the time between 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. as the best time to begin the day. One gets a head start, besides clarity of things to do and a firm grip on the day because the pace and plans for the entire day are set up quite early in the day.
Ancient Indian traditions
While there is no scientifically ideal time to wake up in the morning, several descriptions of the Brahma muhurta – a pre-dawn time– are mentioned in ancient Indian literature. For example, Vishnu smriti, an ancient Indian text, describes Brahma muhurta as ‘48 minutes before sunrise’, which is the sacred time to rise in the morning.
The Brahma muhurta is considered the right time to get up and involve in doing various focussed physical or mental activities such as meditation and exercises.
We should align ourselves with the natural rhythm of the sun and the moon, which means waking up early and sleeping early for a healthy living, says Bengaluru-based yogacharya Devananda. Ideally, one should wake up at 5 a.m. and sleep by 9 – 9.30 p.m., he says.
“Early morning awakening has shown to influence higher brain functions; hence, it would be a good discipline and a lifestyle modification applicable to the larger population, including different age groups and gender,” it was found by a 2012 study on Influence of Early Rising on Performance in Tasks Requiring Attention and Memory published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology.
Time well managed
There are many advantages of rising early, restricted not only to physical health but encompassing intangible aspects such as efficiency and productivity, as well.
“Apart from keeping me healthy, my [early] schedule has really helped in my professional life,” Mehrotra says. “I have a very stressful job, which includes long hours, managing technology budgets, and ensuring business continuity,” he says. To handle all this, one needs to be calm and under control even while under a lot of pressure, Mehrotra says, adding, “I believe my morning schedule has helped me in tackling pressures and challenges.”
“Earlier, I used to be hesitant in voicing my opinions to my bosses but now I confidently put forth my point of view. Now my convincing power is known to everyone at work. My early morning schedule makes me proactive and energetic, while keeping stress at bay,” he says.
Focussed & therapeutic
Rishi Bhatnagar, a lawyer based in New Delhi who gets up around 4.30 a.m., finds early mornings very soothing. He uses this time to read, write, and catch up on work. “For me, work happens more efficiently and fast in early mornings compared to the later part of the day,” Bhatnagar says.
“I find working in early morning hours to be therapeutic,” Bhatnagar says. “You are more focussed and concentrated than before because there is no disturbance around you.” For him, it has always been `early to rise, early to bed’ since his boarding school days.
While Dr Mishra does not have any age-related chronic ailment, he says he works out to keep weight under control. “The saying `early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy and wise’ is really worth adopting,” he says.
Mirajkar’s early morning hours are spent doing yoga for the last two years and meditation for several years. “Yoga helped me to lose weight and increased my stamina. I can now sit cross-legged on the floor and get up without support. Meditation helped me to find an anchor in my life and deal with grief,” she says.
Regularly waking up just an hour earlier than usual reduces the risk of slipping into depression by 23 percent, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2021. People who advance their bed time and rising time by an hour may reduce their risk of major depressive disorder, according to the study titled Genetically Proxied Diurnal Preference, Sleep Timing, and Risk of Major Depressive Disorder.
A matter of will
Only self-motivation and efforts can help you to get up early and adopt a routine, says Mehrotra. “Don’t expect your parents or spouse or friends to wake up early with you. It is a solo journey,” he says.
He recommends following the 21-day habit forming regimen for getting up early and then making it a part of daily routine. Just learn to enjoy the mornings, he says.
*Start slowly to wake up early by making planned changes in your sleeping and waking up time.
*Do not make abrupt changes in waking and sleeping patterns. If you sleep at 11.30 pm and wake up at 8.30 am then you modify it by 30 minutes to begin with, increase it gradually to the desired time.