Why You Should Wake Up Early When Traveling (and How to Do It)

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I have a very odd relationship with sleep, as I’m sure many people do.

On one hand, I love to sleep. If sleeping was an Olympic event, I’d be up there representing my country.

On the other hand, sleeping feels like a monumental waste of time. Providing you’ve slept long enough to recharge your batteries, why sleep a second longer?

If sleeping is a ‘waste of time’ when you’re at home, it is even more so when you’re traveling, as there are so many better things you could be doing and adventures you could be experiencing.

Because of this, I recommend that all travelers get up early while they’re traveling, even if they don’t normally get up early at home.

Why? Here are some pretty good reasons…

Good Reasons to Wake Up Early

As you travel, you’ll often find that many bus/coach/boat journeys will depart extremely early in the morning.

In addition to this, if you’re going on a tour (taking a day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, for example) it’s likely that you’ll need to be up early (around 5am in this case) especially if there is traveling involved.

Being in the habit or rising early (regardless of whether you’re going to bed late at night or not) means that you’ll be able to make the most of your day and fit more activities in (as the typically opening hours for most places are 9am – 5pm).

“Rest is for the weary, sleep is for the dead.” – Doctor Who

But what if you don’t have plans for the day? Should you still get up early?

While it’s nice to have the occasional lay in, you should still make a point of getting up early even on days when you don’t have a whole lot planned.

Why is this? Habits are difficult things to make, but easy things to break, so changing things up too much can be mess with your body clock.

If you have nothing planned for the day, why not do some exercise? Going for a run (or a swim, if you have access to a swimming pool/beach) is a great way to start the day.

Alternatively, if you’re not up for anything so rigorous, go for an early morning stroll instead. Watching how the local people go about their day can be a fun, insightful activity.

Depending on where you are in the world, early on in the morning may be the perfect time to get in touch with those back home. Alternatively, it is also a great time to write your diary, upload your photos to Facebook/Flickr (as less people use the internet early in the morning, meaning you’ll have a much faster connection).

Sleeping on Bench

How to Feel Awake After a Small Amount of Sleep

Have you ever had a small amount of sleep, yet felt rested upon waking? Likewise, have you ever slept for hours on end, yet still felt exhausted when you eventually woke up? There’s a reason for this…

Studies have shown that a full sleep cycles takes 90 minutes.

According to Glen Rhodes, this 90 minutes consists of “65 minutes of normal, or non-REM (rapid eye movement), sleep; 20 minutes of REM sleep (in which we dream); and a final 5 minutes of non-REM sleep”.

The best time to wake up is at the end of a sleep cycle, as you’ll feel rested and recharged.

Conversely, waking up during the middle of a sleep cycle (especially during the REM part) is a bad idea, as you’ll wake up feeling tired and mentally un-rested.

As a result of this, someone who sleeps for 3 hours may feel more rested than someone who sleeps for 8 hours, since they’ll be waking up at the end of their second sleep cycle, instead of half-way through their sixth sleep cycle.

By organizing your sleeping time in to 90 minute segments, and ensuring you wake up at the end of a cycle (i.e. after 1.5 hours, 3 hours, 4.5 hours, 6 hours, 7.5 hours, 9 hours, etc.) you’ll be able to start every day feeling alive and awake, even if you had a late night and had to get up early.

Whenever I go to bed (assuming I’m going to bed at a different time each night), I give myself 15 minutes to get to sleep, then I set my alarm accordingly. For example, if I’m going to bed at 11:30 pm, and I want to sleep for 7.5 hours, I’ll set my alarm for 7:15 am (as that’s 7.5 hours + 15 minutes).

In addition to this, if you decide to take a siesta during the middle of the day, 90 minutes is again the ideal time to sleep for.

Should You Use an Alarm Clock or Not?

In general, unless you have to wake up extremely early (to catch a 4am flight, for example) it’s best to try and wake up without the aid of an alarm clock.

Waking up naturally is so much nicer than being jolted out of your sleep by a noisy, beeping device.

One way that you can do this is to use ‘nature’s alarm clock’ – sunlight. This can be done by sleeping with the curtains/blind open (or at least partially open).

Of course, this isn’t always possible when traveling, especially if you’re staying in a dorm room in a hostel. At times such as this, using an alarm clock is your only real option. Just try to make sure the alarm doesn’t go off too loud and wake everyone else up!

Related posts:

  1. How to Cure a Hangover While Traveling
  2. A Guide to Traveling with Children on the Road
  3. How to Overcome Jet Lag
  4. How to Find the Best Hostels While Traveling

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