The Internet is filled with articles about early risers achieving great successes. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, wakes up at 3:45 am; Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s former CEO, wakes up at 3:30 am; and Indra Nooyi, Pepsi’s former CEO, wakes up at 4:00 am. Sure, early risers have a few more hours in the day, but realistically, waking up at the same time as Tim Cook will not make you a CEO in the next few weeks.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to know why Tim Cook wakes up so early. I’m sharing it here because I figured some of you would probably be interested in why he does it as well. He uses the first hour reading user comments about Apple products; then he goes to the gym for an hour before heading to work.

Waking up early only works if you are naturally a morning person. Up to 47% of our internal clock is inherited, so being an early bird or a night owl is largely based on genetics.

Early Birds vs. Night Owls

Scientific evidence suggests that there are certain advantages and disadvantages to both types of people.

Early bird: advantages

Night owl: advantages

Early bird: disadvantage

Night owl: disadvantage

It’s Not About How Early You Wake Up

We are constantly trying to figure out the “secrets” to success, but we tend to forget a few things. First and foremost, not all high achievers are early risers, and not all early risers are successful. Some famous late risers include Winston Churchill, Jonah Peretti (Buzzfeed’s CEO), and Pharrell Williams. Winston stayed in bed until 11:00 am, Peretti “sleeps in” until 8:30 am, and Williams gets out of bed at 9:00 am most days.

Secondly, correlation does not indicate causation, so just waking up early doesn’t necessarily provide all the benefits.

Your genetics largely dictate whether you are an early or late riser, so it is best not to overhaul your sleep times. If you run on your naturally preferred time, you’ll feel much better and be more productive. Pushing yourself too far from your natural preference can result in physiological consequences such as weight gain.

Instead, use sleep to your advantage.

Sleep for Success

  1. Get at least eight hours of sleep. Focus on being well-rested, in order to wake up with a clear mind and maximize your productivity without feeling tired all day.
  2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.  Harvard researchers  found that students with irregular sleeping hours end up with worse grades compared to those who go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  3. Don’t press snooze. I am notorious for doing this, and I wake up every day regretting hitting the snooze button. The extra few minutes of sleep I get prepares my body to enter another sleep cycle, but the alarm quickly interrupts that. This can make us feel tired for the rest of the day. Note to self: stop pressing the snooze button!

Sleep is only part of the formula for success. When it comes to how productive you are, the biggest key relates to how you spend your time, energy, and attention after you wake up.

Are you trying to stop pressing the snooze button too? Let me know, I’m trying to find a way to keep myself accountable!