I tried waking up at 4 a.m. for a week

Alexandra Chertok, Executive Opinions Editor

I have always been someone who wouldn’t go to bed until finishing all of my homework. I worried I wouldn’t have enough time in the morning and liked the satisfaction of going to sleep with everything completed, whether it was 10 p.m. or midnight. But after reading about how many CEOs and other successful people wake up early to be more productive, I wanted to see if that productivity could apply for high schoolers like me.

I expected to be extremely tired throughout the whole week, but having a set bedtime at 8 p.m. ensured I would be getting eight hours of sleep, which is more than I usually get. Though I had trouble falling asleep on the first night and was tired for a day, I was able to fall asleep quickly and adjust to my new routine relatively easily.

By the time I got to school at 7 a.m. for P.E. class, I felt more awake than if I had woken up 30 minutes before. I didn’t feel significantly more tired at the end of the school day or during my after-school run, but I found it harder to focus when I tried to start some of my homework in the evening.

Doing homework in early morning silence made me realize the ways I manage to get distracted when doing homework at night, even while attempting to eliminate distractions. When staying up as late as needed to finish my homework, I get sidetracked by texts about homework and spend time on unimportant details like coloring a project perfectly. I let my mind wander thinking about how late I’ll have to stay up finishing math homework without actually working on the homework. Waking up at 4 a.m. and knowing that I had to have everything done before 6:45 a.m. forced me to work more efficiently without realizing it.

However, I think some claims about magical productivity achieved from waking up early are exaggerated. Although I found that this schedule made me complete my homework more efficiently while getting more sleep than usual, I also did not finish everything in an hour and have extra time to sit and read a book. When my alarm went off at 4 a.m. on Saturday, I wondered why I had voluntarily woken up so early and spent time staring off into space doing nothing instead of getting a head start on my homework or doing yoga while watching the sunrise.

For the rest of this school year, I’m going to try to go to bed around 9 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. during the week when possible. But if I want to finish studying for a test before sleeping or it’s a late arrival day, I won’t hesitate to set my alarm for a later time. Ultimately, being productive comes from what you do, not when you wake up.

Senior Alexandra Chertok woke up at 4 a.m. for a week to test her level of productivity in the morning. She concluded she is more productive when doing homework in the morning than at night, but she thought online claims exaggerated the productivity boost of waking up early. Photo by Alexandra Chertok