First Step to Better Sleep: Wake Up at the Same Time Every Day

Regular Sleep Patterns Reinforce the Circadian Rhythm

Waking up at the same time every day can help improve your sleep. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night. If you struggle to get enough sleep—either due to insomnia or trying to fit too much into each day—a consistent sleep schedule can help.

Chances are that your trouble sleeping didn't fully develop overnight, so allow yourself the time you need to improve your sleep. The path to better sleep starts by learning how to wake up at the same time every day.

This article explains how waking up at the same time every day can improve your sleep. It also provides tips for adjusting your waking time and things you can do in the morning to feel more refreshed.

Importance of a Consistent Wake Time

The first challenge may seem inconsequential, but it typically yields results quickly: Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off. Ideally, you would be able to sleep as much as you need to and wouldn't wake with an alarm clock, but to begin with, you can use one.

You should select a wake-up time that you can observe every day, including weekdays and weekends. For most people, this would mean selecting a time that would allow you to get to work or school during the week and then getting up at the same time on Saturday and Sunday.

Once you have selected your wake time, consider whether it is feasible. This isn't about making yourself an early bird if you start out as a night owl.

Society may pressure you into believing that waking earlier is somehow better and reflective of a hard-working nature. However, plenty of successful people stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep in until 10 a.m.

Consider your own body and your own needs. Pick a wake-up time that you can maintain and don't let it be too early or inconsistent with your typical, natural pattern in the recent past.

Anchoring With Morning Sunlight

Why does it matter to wake up at the same time every day? Think of your wake time as the anchor to your day. Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm and this relies on consistency.

There are many things that you do at about the same time every day, not the least of which is sleep. Anchoring your wake time in place is a cue (or zeitgeber) to your body about when you should be awake and when you should be asleep.

A key part of waking at the same time each day may also be getting exposure to 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight upon awakening. This light exposure reinforces the body's circadian rhythm. It enhances wakefulness in the morning and then allows you to sleep better at night. If necessary, consider the use of a lightbox in the winter months.

Better Sleep
Verywell / Cindy Chung 

Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night.

If you sleep in two hours on a Sunday morning, it is just like trying to go to bed two hours early that night. This may cause Sunday night insomnia. A fixed wake time is especially important for people who have difficulty falling or staying asleep, characteristic of insomnia.

Benefits of a Fixed Wake Time

By getting up at the same time every day, you may yield some unexpected benefits. With improved sleep, insomnia and sleep deprivation may be decreased. Consider the following bonuses for observing a fixed wake time:

  • Easier to wake up
  • Less morning sleep inertia
  • Easier to fall asleep (less insomnia)
  • Decreased sleep deprivation
  • Fewer naps
  • Reduced caffeine dependence
  • Improved alertness
  • Sharper focus and short-term memory
  • Brighter mood
  • Less irritability
  • Decrease pain
  • Better immune system function
  • Better safety and job performance
  • Safe and attentive driving

Avoid Hitting Snooze

It is important that when your alarm goes off at your selected wake time, you get up. You cannot hit the snooze button and stay in bed for an hour or even nine minutes. You want consistency, and this requires ruling yourself with an iron fist. You might put your alarm clock across the room if you are apt to hit the snooze while half asleep.

It may be necessary to set multiple alarms or even initially enroll someone else to help get you up. In order to track your success, you can record your bedtime and wake time on a sleep log. This information will be useful as you implement further changes to improve your sleep.

When to Consult a Sleep Specialist

If you struggle to wake in the morning, there may be a bigger problem underlying your difficulty. Poor sleep commonly occurs in the context of another sleep disorder.

Most often, insomnia and sleep apnea may be causing persistent troubles. If despite your best efforts you can't seem to make any progress, seek evaluation by a board-certified sleep specialist.

A Word From Verywell

If adhering to a fixed wake time daily proves to be a difficult task for you, allow yourself one to two weeks of consistency in your wake times before you make further changes to sleep better.

For further advice to optimize your sleep and resolve insomnia, consider participating in a cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) program available online or through a psychologist.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much sleep do I need?

  2. Sateia MJ, Buysse DJ, Krystal AD, Neubauer DN, Heald JL. Clinical practice guideline for the pharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia in adults: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(2):307–49. doi:10.5664/jcsm.6470

  3. Mead MN. Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environ Health Perspect. 2008;116(4):A160-7. doi:10.1289/ehp.116-a160

Additional Reading

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.