How to get up early as a mom

A Tired [Co-Sleeping] Mom’s 4 A.M. Morning Routine

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’ve probably had someone telling you to implement an early morning routine before your kids are awake.

Everybody and their grandmother is publishing books and blog articles and podcasts on morning routines, but hello, don’t they know how tired we mamas are!?

We barely seem to get enough sleep as it is, but they want to tell you the best thing to do is wake up even sooner? Even though you were up every 2 hours with your toddler last night? Even though you never actually get to nap when the baby naps?

The idea of starting an early morning routine as a mom of littles might seem ridiculous. Impossible, even.

I felt that way, too, but I finally knuckled down and gave it a try anyway. I started setting my alarm for FOUR in the morning. And mom friend, something amazing happened.

By getting up earlier, I got MORE sleep. Yup. I knew I just had to share my experience with you because I bet you’d like to get MORE sleep, too.

How waking up before my family made me less tired

What You should take away from my morning routine

This post isn’t going to be an instructional how-to on starting your own morning routine. Instead, I’m sharing with you the details of my experience, what I did to start getting up earlier, and how this new routine impacted me and my sleep.

I’m not here to preach and tell you that “this worked for me, so YOU should get up at 4 a.m., too!” It’s up to you to evaluate your season of life right now and decide if that would be healthy for you.

The purpose of this post is not to tell you that you should man up and get less sleep because it will make you more productive, or more focused, or lose weight, or become a better person, etc.

Moms don’t need anyone telling them to sacrifice sleep.

If I had ended up less well rested, or getting lower quality sleep, or experienced negative results, I would not be sharing this with you.

I’m walking you through my morning routine because I’m less tired than ever, and if this helps you get better sleep, then I feel like I need to tell you about it!

Why I Started Getting Up at 4 a.m.

Before we get into the how, I’m going to take a second to explain why I started getting up at 4 a.m. That might seem obscenely early to you, but that’s the time that works best for me.

Again, just because it works for me doesn’t mean that you have to get up at 4 to have a successful morning routine, too.

You need to find your own internal drive for starting something new, rather than doing it just because someone else said you should. You shouldn’t build a new habit or a new routine out of obligation or pressure.

You need to determine your OWN why so that you are better able to tweak the process to work for YOU and achieve the benefits YOU are looking for.

So here are the reasons I felt like I needed to get up at four freaking a.m.

I needed time to myself

For most of my baby’s first year, I was effectively a solo parent. My husband was gone from before the time my baby woke up to well after she went to bed at night, and he was often busy on weekends, as well.

Add to that the fact that I have a high-need baby, and by the time things finally settled down into a normal family routine (over a year into parenthood), I was all touched out.

Now, in that season of my life, an early morning routine would have been more damaging than helpful. I needed to be able to spend as much time horizontal in bed as possible.

But, now that my husband is on a traditional schedule and our baby is a toddler, the time was right to start claiming a chunk of time that was JUST for me.

I was exhausted from being on-duty around the clock, entertaining a baby/toddler, keeping house, cooking meals, doing errands, etc. all day every day, and then co-sleeping and nursing all night every night. I needed a block that was MINE. And I was willing to get up earlier to achieve it.

Even if I did absolutely nothing for those two and a half hours alone in the morning, it would accomplish its purpose, which is to give me time by myself where NO ONE NEEDS ANYTHING FROM ME.

It is pivotal to me still being a happy, pleasant person by the end of the day.

I needed to start the day on MY terms

Before starting a morning routine, I was getting sick of my alarm clock being a baby/toddler whopping me in the face and prying my eyes open.

I was sick of rolling out of bed (after lowering the baby gate) and immediately getting hit with 527 different things I needed to be doing to take care of everyone else.

I started getting up earlier so that the reason I got up was because I WANTED TO, not because someone else needed me to.

I needed an uninterrupted block of time to focus

If you haven’t noticed, you’re here reading my blog. And in order for you to read my blog, I have to actually write posts for my blog. But with a high-need, high energy toddler who might or might not nap on any given day, consistency was becoming increasingly difficult.

For me, blogging isn’t just a hobby or creative outlet; it’s a long term investment I’m building to help support my family. So I can’t just work on it ‘for fun’ a few times a week when I have some spare time.

I needed a block of uninterrupted time to be able to focus, and it just so happens, the early morning hours yield the highest productivity and creativity for a lot of people.

I needed to get up before my toddler and work so that once she wakes up, even if I can’t touch my blog again for the rest of the day, I got the most important tasks done.

You might not need a block of time for work or blogging, but you could apply that uninterrupted focus to anything!

I needed mornings back (because I’m a morning person)

Honestly, one of the big reasons I needed to get up earlier is because I’m a morning person. Now, I’m not such a natural morning person that my biological clock with push me to bed early and wake me up at sunrise every single day.

My undisciplined self will stay up way too late, sleep in way too long, and wake up with a groggy headache. But when I allow that schedule, I end up cranky, unproductive, unmotivated, and even feeling anxious/depressed.

I know from pre-baby days that I feel best when I get up early. THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S EASY. I struggle with hitting snooze and staying in bed as long as possible just like anyone else. My brain does everything it can to keep me from getting up, but I know I’ll feel better if I don’t give in.

And that brings me to the HOW.

How I Finally Found the Motivation to Start an Early Morning Routine

Wanting to get up earlier and knowing why you should are all well and good. I’ve wanted to start an early morning routine since not long after my baby was born. But that didn’t mean I was ready to flip a 180 and start getting up 4-5 hours earlier every day.

I actually tried on many different occasions. I would decide, “Okay, now’s the time! I’ve GOT to start getting up earlier if I want to [insert x, y, or z].”

I would set my alarm. I would go to bed earlier. The alarm would go off… Aaaand I wouldn’t get up.

Then I’d decide it wasn’t the ‘right season of life.’ Once I got through whatever was going on at that time, then I would get myself together and try again.

Once the baby stopped nursing all night, then I would be able to get up (that hasn’t happened yet).

Once we had a bigger apartment, then I would be able to get up.

Once the baby moved to her own bed (which by the way, still hasn’t happened), then I would be able to get up.

Once my husband had a better schedule, then I would be able to get up.

But it the circumstances were never perfect. The universe never aligned for the sole purpose of allowing me to start a morning routine unhindered. Rude.

For much of that time, it truly wasn’t the right season. And you have to evaluate that for yourself. If you’re trying to force a new habit or routine that you just aren’t ready for, you will only end up frustrated.

But I also made a lot of excuses. I was afraid I would end up even more tired, and I convinced myself I didn’t really need to get up early. I wasn’t committed to my whys.

I remained conscious of the reasons WHY I needed to get up earlier

Once I decided to start getting up earlier, one of the main things that helped me get out of bed in the wee hours of the morning was consciously thinking about the reasons I wanted to start this new routine to begin with.

(You could try giving your alarm a name/title that triggers this type of thought, but for me, that doesn’t make a difference. When my alarm goes off, I’m just trying to shut it up as quickly as possible to avoid waking my husband and baby, not reading an inspirational message on the glaringly bright screen.)

When the alarm goes off, I have to remind myself that if I DON’T get up, I will miss out on something that I won’t get again the entire rest of the day. It’s not like I can just shift that special block of time forward to later in the day– Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

I’m not even guaranteed a break while my toddler naps, since nap time doesn’t happen as often as it does.

I also kept in mind the potential benefits I was hoping to achieve. I knew I had to give the new routine a fair chance in order to see what was possible.

I didn’t hit snooze for the first week

By keeping my whys present in my mind, I absolutely did not allow myself to hit snooze or stray from my routine for the first week.

This was probably the most instrumental thing that helped me stick to my routine long term.

The first two days, my brain was too groggy to argue anyway. 4 a.m. was just so early that I was able to roll out of bed without any conscious thought. But day three came around and hohoho, my brain figured out what was up.

Day three was really difficult for me because my toddler had also woken up a little bit and wanted to nurse. So I had to lay there, fighting to stay awake until I could pry her sleepy little jaws off and sneak away.

My brain came up with some very compelling arguments for why I should just sleep in that day, or why I should just reset my alarm for a liiiiitle bit later, and adjust my morning routine to fit.

But I didn’t give in because I KNEW it would do lasting damage to the new habit I was trying to form. So I stayed awake, and I got up as soon as I could get away.

And after that, it was never so difficult to get up again. My biological clock adjusted and now I’m able to get up at 4 almost easily. (Almost).

At this point, I can choose break my routine on occasion and get back into without issue.

I focused on short-term actions

Another tactic that helped me was NOT to think too much.

I like to run during the warm parts of the year, and one of the ways I’m able to achieve my goal distances is by using a turnaround point instead of running a loop. I tell my brain I only have to get to the turnaround and then I’m done. So as I get closer, I keep thinking, “Almost there, almost done!” And then when I get to the turnaround, I start a new run (even though I actually never stopped).

Basically, rather than thinking about how I have to run six miles (UGH!), I’m only focused on running three. Psychologically, that works for me!

I apply that strategy to lots of things in life, focusing ONLY on the immediate, short term action required to achieve a long term goal. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. But, if I start focusing on the big picture or the end goal, I get overwhelmed and want to quit.

I did the same thing with my early morning routine. Instead of telling myself I was making a long-term, permanent change, I focused on the short-term.

  • I’m just giving this a try
  • If I don’t like it, I don’t have to stick with it
  • I just have to get through one week, then I’ll reevaluate
  • If 4 am doesn’t work for me, I can try 5 am

You get the idea. For ME, I get the best results by setting my attentions on what I can accomplish RIGHT NOW, like focusing on a single set at the gym instead of how many reps I’ll have to complete for the entire workout.

I formed my morning routine out of something I LOVE

Initially, when I was first starting my routine, I got up at four so that I could go to the gym at 5. After a couple of weeks, I shifted my gym time to later in the day since my gym offers free child-care, but initially, working out helped to get me out of bed.

That might not be effective for you if you don’t like working out, but for me, I LOVE working out, I LOVE going to the gym, so that was an effective incentive for me to wake up and get going.

Eventually, I transitioned my workouts to later in the morning so that I could capitalize on these quiet morning hours to get focused work done for my blog. Now, I love my morning routine for its own sake, and the benefits I get from it. I love waking up and grinding fresh coffee, smelling it percolate while I start up my computer, feeling the surge of creative energy as my mind wakes up and kicks into gear…

However, without the initial excitement of getting up to go to the gym, I don’t know if I would have stuck to my morning routine the same way.

I paid attention to the benefits

Instead of just going through the motions of getting up early and going to bed on time, I tried to be conscious of the impact the new routine made on my daily life. I noticed how much more energy I had, how much more pleasant I felt, how much productive blog work I could get done, how much more relaxed I could be during the day without the pressure to blog, etc.

On the days that it was harder to get up, knowing the guaranteed benefits gave me the push I needed to overcome any internal resistance.

I went to bed on time every night

If you want to start a successful morning routine, you can’t just set an alarm and then go to bed whenever the heck you get around to it.

In fact, you can’t just go to bed “early” and hope for the best, either. (At least, I can’t).

Starting out, I was going to bed several hours before the time I normally did… Which meant it could take a while to fall asleep, no matter how tiring my day had been.

I had to be very intentional about winding down prior to when I wanted to fall asleep so that I didn’t end up laying awake for hours.

In the evenings, we finish dinner by around 6:30 p.m. My personal preference would be to then clean the kitchen and have everything neat when I get up in the morning, but that would require me to go to bed later. So, I put that aside and accepted that there would be a few compromises I’d have to make for this morning routine.

My husband does our daughter’s evening routine (brushing teeth, reading books, jammies, winding down, and helping her fall asleep), and that starts between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Once he gets her to sleep, he goes to the gym or has his own “me time.”

During that time, I turn off screens and get into bed (around 7). I read either until I fall asleep or 8 p.m., whichever comes first. Some nights, if my mind is still busy at 8 and I’m not feeling sleepy yet, I will read a little longer, and have not noticed any adverse effects.

The important thing is, though, to wind down properly so that sleep comes easily and the rest is actually restful.

Printable reading list to help moms wind down during their evening routines to get better rest
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My 4 a.m. Morning Routine

So what do I actually do at 4 a.m. that so life-altering and earth-shattering? Surely it must be revolutionary if I’d get up so early for it.

Well, I hope that I don’t disappoint you, but it’s really nothing special on it’s own. There’s no magic formula, and there’s not even enough of a timeline for me to say, “Well at 4 I do this, and at 4:15 I do this…so that by 6:30 I’ve created a step-by-step plan that will change the world!”

Far from it, actually.

I get up, I start the coffee maker, and I sit down at my computer to work. WHAT I do is a lot less important to me than HOW I do it.

I move slowly. I take my time and enjoy the process of grinding beans and setting up the coffee maker. I let my mind wake up and ease into my work.

I soak up the quiet. I might take a few minutes to check the news and see what’s going on in the world (which can be a negative habit for some people, but it doesn’t bother me).

I use the Pomodoro Technique to get as much done as I can before my husband gets up, which is usually when our daughter gets up, too.

Once they’re up, I make fresh coffee for him and make us all breakfast. After he leaves for work, I enjoy a slow morning with my daughter, reading together and then independently, and getting ready for the day. Around 9 a.m., she and I go to the gym and she gets to play with other kids while I work out.

Sometimes we’ll go on another outing afterwards, and then we come home.

It’s that straightforward.

How My Early Morning Routine Has Revolutionized My Day

I may not always get up at 4 a.m. every single day for the rest of my life. Seasons change. There’s no shame in adapting as time goes on.

But for right now, maintaining such an early morning routine is turning out awesome.

Here are a few of the most dramatic ways getting up at 4 a.m. has impacted my daily life.

I get MORE and BETTER sleep (!!!)

This is the one I didn’t expect. I figured getting up early would mean trading in a few zzz’s and just having to deal with it. And let me just tell you, I was so so so utterly exhausted before. I felt so sleep deprived some days that I could barely even function, and I was nervous to drive.

So getting up early didn’t seem like it was going to do me any favors in that department, but I figured if I’m already that tired, it can’t get much worse.

But shifting my sleep schedule back actually gave me MORE and BETTER sleep, and here’s why:

Babies tend to sleep their longest stretch between 7 p.m. and midnight. My baby is no exception. She is still not sleeping through the night (and I am okay with that), but it means that she wakes up close to midnight to come join us in our bed, and she stirs a few times more after that to nurse.

Now before, I was going to bed around 10 or 11, which meant I wasn’t typically falling asleep until 11 or midnight. I would JUST start to doze off when my toddler would wake for the first time. So now I’m awake again.

Then she would wake me to nurse every couple of hours for the rest of the night, which means I was never sleeping more than an hour and a half to two hours at a time. No wonder I was a zombie!

By falling asleep by 8 p.m., my sleep schedule now lines up with my daughter’s, and I get to take advantage of her longer sleep stretch. It might not seem like much to sleep for 3 or 4 uninterrupted hours rather than 2, but it has made all the difference in the world.

I’m in a better mood all day

Because I start the day on my terms, rather getting dragged out of bed because everyone needs me, I start the day in a much better mood. By the time I need to start cooking breakfast, I’m wide awake and happy to be moving around.

As long as I’m intentional, that mood easily carries into the rest of the day. I feel good because I’ve gotten some things done for myself without interruptions, so I don’t have as much of a to-do list burden hanging over me.

I have more patience

By waking up early and having some time to myself before taking care of everyone else, I end up having more patience for my husband and daughter, as well as generally being able to deal with whatever hiccups interfere with my day.

I think it comes in part from the peace of mind that I’ve already gotten a big chunk of my work out of the way, and so I don’t need to rush my toddler around to get back to my computer, and I don’t get as frustrated by the little things because I have the flexibility to take my time.

I can embrace slow-living, intentional motherhood, and present parenting

By not feeling like I constantly need to be doing other things (because I did most or all of them in the early a.m. and know I can do more the next day), I’m truly able to slow down and embrace slow-living and intentionality.

As the day gets going, I’m more motivated to knock out the housekeeping and similar tasks because I’m already awake and active, and that leaves me with even more flexibility to spend my time how I want to.

I can sit in the floor and watch my daughter play with stuffed animals, or nurse on-demand without feeling like she’s keeping me from important work; I can read books in the middle of the day just because, and I genuinely feel like I am experiencing life in the moment.

I’m able to commit consistent time to growing my blog

Growing a business is a substantial commitment and no small task. It requires a lot of consistency, and as my toddler’s naps got less and less predictable, I found myself falling behind on the work I needed to be doing for my blog to be successful.

That left me frustrated and feeling like I was spinning my wheels, trying to get things done during the day while my toddler was awake, but constantly being interrupted or distracted.

Getting up early to do work is not a chore for me. I enjoy it, and it is so satisfying to see the results of my consistency. It also does give me a reason to be creative during the time of day that I have the most creativity.

I read more

An unexpected benefit of my early morning routine is that I read more. For one thing, I have more time during the day to feel like I can take the time to read. But in addition, establishing a healthy evening routine to help me get to sleep has led to reading routinely before bedtime.

You might not realize it, but even if you just read 30 minutes a day, you can finish a 300 page book every 10 days. That adds up!

I get time for ME

Ultimately, an early morning routine means I get time for ME. Which is so so critical as a mom.

When we spend all of our time taking care of everyone else around the clock, we burn out. The same thing would happen with any job that required you to eat, sleep, and breathe your work and kept you eternally on-call.

Even if I didn’t do my blog work, just getting up and staring at a wall would be better for me than sleeping that extra block of time (at this season of life). Because it would be time that I’m awake and not “working” my motherhood career.

That time has been so restorative for my mood, my attitude, my energy, and my focus.

Final Thoughts on Getting Up Early

Once again, I want to emphasize that I am not trying to glorify early morning routines and say that everyone on the planet should get up at 4 like I do. We go through different seasons of motherhood, and getting up early–or even getting up before your family at all–is not always practical or advisable.

Maybe committing to an early wake-up would actually give you a huge burst of energy and productivity like it did me. Or maybe you find that that doesn’t help you right now. You have to listen to your own body and pay attention to your needs and not just hop on the latest bandwagon because best-selling books are telling you to.

I’d love to hear what YOUR mornings look like! Are you wanting to start getting up earlier, are you happy with what your mornings look like right now? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post, here are some others you might find helpful:

How and why I get up before my family at 4 am

2 thoughts on “A Tired [Co-Sleeping] Mom’s 4 A.M. Morning Routine”

  1. Hello Katie,
    Can I just say WOW! I really enjoyed this post, it hits home for me ❤️ I think maybe I’ll try getting up at 4am, as you have me convinced!!
    -a fellow blogging mama
    Hillary ❤️

    1. Hillary, thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment! I love getting up at 4, but it is not always easy for me. When I am extra tired, I will give myself the grace to sleep more, and that helps me not to burn out with such an early routine. I’d love to hear how it goes for you!!

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