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  • Abby

I Woke Up At 5 a.m. For (almost) 30 Days

At last, the #5amwakeupchallenge is over. I’ve got to be honest, I’m glad. If you missed the previous posts about the challenge, here’s where I laid out the rules and my Why, and here is an update I did about a week into the challenge.

How did I do?

Did I make it? Nope, I did not.

That's probably a surprise. We're so used to seeing all these people killing challenges on the internet and doing way better than we could ever hope to. But here I am, admitting that I didn't make it, and not only is that okay, but it's a good thing.

As a refresher, here are the rules again:


  1. My alarm has to go off at or before 5 a.m. every day for the month of April.

  2. I have to have my feet on the floor no later than 5:02 a.m. No aimless scrolling in bed for hours.

  3. Currently, I do not plan to make any exceptions. If I get sick and need more sleep, or something important comes up that keeps me awake past 10 p.m., I can sleep in later than 5 in order to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is more important than waking up at 5, but the aim is to go to bed early, rather than wake up later. I don’t anticipate this happening often, if at all.

  4. Occasional naps are allowed after 2 p.m., but if they become habitual, I’ll ban naps.

  5. There are no requirements about what I have to do once I get out of bed. I can do anything I want once I’m up, I just have to be awake, and I can’t be in bed.

Annnnnd the results:

  1. My alarm went off at or before 5 a.m. every day for the first twenty-seven days of April. Then, I called it quits and didn't set an alarm at all for the last three days of the month.

  2. Technically, no, but in spirit, yes, aside from the last three days. What I mean by this is that there were a few days in the middle of the month where my fiance was out of town, so instead of getting up and hanging out on the couch, I hung out in bed. I had the lights on and my laptop open by 5:02 though, so I wasn’t aimlessly scrolling on my phone.

  3. It isn’t easy to go to bed at 9 every night, and by the end of the challenge, I was feeling pretty tired from not quite getting enough sleep most days. It was starting to impact my productivity. I couldn’t focus well and often sat around doing nothing instead of working, so instead of forcing myself through the last three days only to feel tired and unproductive the whole time, I cut the challenge short. I woke up around 6:30 the last three days.

  4. I took two naps this month, though one of them was at 9:30 a.m.

  5. To be honest, I forgot that I had made “I can’t be in bed,” part of the rule. My intent when I wrote this rule was to force myself to stop doing nothing in bed when I wake up. So technically, I didn’t quite follow this rule those few days that Bennett was away.

All in all, I did alright. I stuck to the rules enough that the challenge served its purpose, even if I didn’t follow them to the letter every day, broke a couple of them, and ended the challenge a few days early. Ultimately, I think letting myself listen to my body and sleep in the last three days, as hard as it was to admit defeat, taught me one of the most important lessons of this experience. We'll get to that part in a bit.

Having survived the challenge, I want to first revisit a few of the things that I had listed as part of my Why.

One of my reasons for trying this was that I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about, and I mentioned in my first update post that I get why people get up at 5, and I was even getting up earlier sometimes. I still get it, but I’ve recently rearranged my schedule in such a way that getting up at 5 isn’t quite as necessary.

Previously, I had been writing a blog post each morning before heading to the gym at 7, and in order to finish it, I had to start early. I’m now batching my time instead, so rather than a blog post a day, I spend one or two days each week writing all of the posts at once. My schedule isn’t quite as strict as it was before so it doesn’t matter if the post is finished before I go to the gym because I’ll be writing blog posts when I get home from the gym as well.

I had also listed wanting to break my scrolling habit as one of my Whys. I was quite successful in that regard. I’ve realized that it’s much easier to get out of bed if I just suck it up and get up, instead of dragging the process out for forty-five minutes. I definitely intend to bring this practice into the rest of my life, even though the challenge is over.

My Thoughts On The Challenge

I have to admit it: I’m tired. I like mornings, and I’ll likely continue to get up 5 fairly often, but doing it every single day for a month is pretty exhausting. Sometimes I stayed up a bit late and ended up only getting 6 hours of sleep, and sometimes I just need to spend Sunday morning sleeping until my body won’t let me anymore (which admittedly is around 7). I’ll probably go without an alarm for a few more days to let my body catch up on sleep.

One of the biggest downsides to this challenge has been that it made it difficult to spend time with my boyfriend. He’s quite the night owl and prefers to hang out in the evenings after he gets home from work, which often isn’t until 8 or 9. That’s right around the time I need to go to bed to get a full eight hours if I’m getting up at 5. We made an effort to hang out earlier in the day as often as we could, but it will be nice to have the option to hang out until 10 or so and still be able to get enough sleep.

The biggest positive thing that came out of this challenge is that it’s now fairly easy for me to get up and get moving in the morning. Getting out of bed the moment you wake up isn’t quite so terrible once you’ve gotten used to it. It still takes a split second of self-discipline to make it happen, but it’s turned out to be much easier to get up right away than it is to get up after scrolling five miles down my Instagram feed.

I find mornings more pleasant when I get up the moment I wake up. I used to feel that I needed that time on my phone to wake up, but I don’t. Filling my mind with other people’s thoughts, ideas, and content first thing in the morning was limiting my ability to use that time for self-reflection. Mornings are more enjoyable when I spend some time focused on myself before I dive into the internet.

The Big Lesson

Because I wanted so badly to do a “perfect” job of this challenge, I pushed myself too hard. I kept waking up at 5 every day, even when I really just needed to sleep in for a day. Because I pushed so hard, I ended up really tired and unproductive for most of the last week. Part of why I gave myself this challenge was to see if it would make me more productive, but instead, I let the challenge cut into my productivity and enjoyment of life because I didn’t want to fail.

After finally deciding to let myself sleep in when I needed it, I felt much more energized and focused, and was able to get much more work done, even if I didn't get up quite as early. Getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself is more important than completing some self-imposed challenge.

It doesn’t matter if your attempt isn’t perfect, or if you can’t live up to the high expectations that you’ve set for yourself. What matters is that you try—that you pay attention and live and grow and learn and do your best. Burnout doesn’t serve you. It’s so easy to let the perfect become the enemy of the good, and it took me a while to realize that I was letting that happen in this challenge.

My attempt at this challenge was good enough. I wouldn’t have learned anything more by pushing myself even harder in the last few days. Just trying and doing my best was enough, and I can learn just as much, if not more, from a less-than-perfect attempt than from a perfect attempt that leaves me totally burned out.

People aren’t perfect. Don’t expect perfection. Do your best. Take breaks when you need them. Listen to your body. Good enough is good enough.

Would I do it again?

I’m glad I’ve done this challenge once, but no, I don’t think I’ll be doing this again. At least, I won’t be doing it again by myself. If there’s interest, I’d be willing to host a challenge that others can participate in and support each other. Having a supportive community makes a difficult change much easier.

Although, maybe if I do this again, it will just be on weekdays. I think the fact that I never got a break was what did me in.

As I mentioned in my Why, I love to challenge myself in order to learn new things about myself and grow as a person. Since this one has come to an end, I’m on the lookout for something else new and exciting that I could try out. If there’s anything that you’ve been meaning to start or want to see me experiment with, let me know. Leave a comment below with ideas for potential new challenges.

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