This’ll be a short post.

In fact, I seriously debated whether I should just share the answer and stop there — it’s really that simple.

And, yet I’ve never really heard anyone talk about it. I ‘ve not seen press coverage about it, and I haven’t seen sleep researchers address it. I haven’t seen Lifehacker, the Huffington Post or the slew of business magazines dedicated to entrepreneurial productivity cover it either.

Despite the hundreds of podcasts, magazine articles, book chapters (and entire books!) devoted to waking up early, everyone seems to have missed the best suggestion of them all. So, what seems to work best to get your butt out of bed, into gear and onward into your early morning routine?

It’s dead simple.

Tomorrow, the first thing you should do the second after your alarm goes off is launch your favorite podcast. Within five minutes or so, you’ll be almost wide awake.

It’s that easy.

I call it: The Wakeup Podcast

The only real requirement is that it be talk-oriented in nature, and that you like listening to it. If you’re not yet a podcast listener, this’ll be a great opportunity for you to get rockin’. Now, you may be saying a lot of people talk about listening to podcasts in the morning…. yep, you’re right, but I’m not suggesting you listening to a podcast AFTER you’ve woken up, I’m suggesting you listen to a podcast TO wake up. If you give this a run, you’ll see quickly the difference it makes in your wake-up times.

Here’s how it works

1. The night before, use your phone as your first alarm of the morning.

2. When it goes off, and you reach to turn it off, hit snooze first (This covers your rear-end for ten minutes in case you fall back to sleep)

3. After hitting snooze, launch the podcast.

4. Listen attentively, and be amazed at how quickly you wake up. Typically, you’ll start to find yourself waking up in under five minutes.

5. When snooze goes off, you’ll likely already be awake and can now turn it off completely. Boom! You’re awake!

6. I set yet another backup alarm using a true alarm clock about 15 minutes after my first alarm. I like to sleep. 😉

Why does this appear to work?

Well, that groggy feeling you and I deal with in the morning is typically described by scientists as sleep inertia. It’s a fascinating area of sleep study, with many researchers devoting time to it these days — one such gent is Raphael Vallat who covers this in one of his own sleep inertia studies.

Essentially, sleep inertia is the name given to the process your brain undergoes as it’s becoming more alert after sleep — it seems to take place in the first 20 minutes or so of wake time and since things like brewing coffee and meditating require you to wake up FIRST in order to work effectively as wake up routines, my little podcast experiment seems to give you a nice shortcut to those tips — capitalizing on nudging us out of sleep inertia.

Because actively listening to a podcast seems to direct the focus-minded (task-active) center of our brains (mine, at least – I’m not a sleep researcher), it seems to wake you out of a slumber quicker than most other tactics. (P.S. If you’re a sleep researcher reading this and have studied this particular tactic of mine, or would like to please reach out… I’d love to see what you discover.)

So, if you’ve tried the early morning coffee jolt, the cold shower, the mediation, the reading in bed… all the stuff people recommend ad-infinitum in your attempts to avoid the snooze and wake up early, try listening to podcasts the moment your alarm goes off, instead.

I swear by this method myself, and unless I’ve distressed my body with too little sleep, I’m usually awake and thinking within a few minutes of the podcast’s start — turning off my subsequent phone alarms before they even have a chance to go off.

Getting up at 5am, or even 4am has never been simpler.

And, trust me… if you had a chance to ask my friends they’ll tell you what a likely joke that is. They still like to joke that for awhile there back in college they had to wake me up for… dinner.

A few tips that’ll get you started with this whole waking up early with a podcast game:

  1. Choose a podcast you’re going to want to listen to — preferably something you’re already a fan of.
  2. Pick the podcast the night before and leave your podcast app open, so you’re just pressing “play” after your alarm goes off.
  3. Consider a podcast that features at least two people speaking… interviews and the back’n’forth seem to add to the necessity of focus.
  4. Highly produced podcasts with interludes and such can put you back to sleep with music and breaks in between the talking, so watch how you react to those.
  5. Shorter podcasts can be better than longer ones. I aim to choose a wakeup podcast that lasts between five minutes and an hour. Some of my favorites are: Marketing School, The Side Hustle Show, The Art of Manliness, Planet Money, Freakonomics and Masters of Scale (these last three are on the more produced end of the spectrum, but damn good).
  6. If you’re so inclined, once you’re awake you can stretch in bed (which is what I tend to do), or, you could just get up and onto your other morning routines. As a side note: I find that if I stay in bed to stretch on the weekends I’m less inclined to actually leave the cozy confines of my covers, so be aware of that tiny disadvantage. 😉

And…, that’s it!

Far too much exposition on what is effectively a simple tip, right? Right.

If you want to wake up early, it’s as simple as choosing your very own Wakeup Podcast and going from there.

Okay… that is all.

Have fun, and let me know how this works out for you, as well as if you have any tips to add of your own.