Want an Extra Hour in Your Day? Here’s a Painless Way to Get It.

To clear time to schedule a new morning habit, many people try waking up a bit earlier, but this can be tough for people who struggle to get out of bed.

One trick? Use the autumn end to Daylight Saving Time as a painless way to add an extra hour to the morning. (Obviously this only works if you live in a place that follows DST.) Getting up earlier is a great way to make time for something important to you.

We all love to “fall back” and to get that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. It’s a great boon to get a little extra sleep. In fact, car accidents and heart attacks are more common in the week after Daylight Saving Time starts, because losing that hour puts stress on people’s bodies.

But while you may love that extra hour of sleep, consider not sleeping in, but instead getting up after your customary amount of sleep. Your body is getting up as usual, but the clock will say that you’re up an hour early.  And there’s a lot you can do with that hour–especially if the people around you are still sound asleep.

A reader commented: “A couple years ago I decided not to reset my clock at the end of daylight savings. I had thought of myself as a night owl, but suddenly had writing/exercise time.”

You could use that time to do something like exercise or work on a project–or maybe you want to use it for pure pleasure. I have a friend who wakes up early to read for fun.

The morning is a great time to form a regular habit, because self- control is high, there are no distractions, and it’s highly predictable.

Now, this system wouldn’t work for true “owls” who stay up late and sleep late. But for many people, it’s possible to make a very satisfying use of that hour.

NOTE: If you try this strategy, you must also go to sleep earlier! It’s so, so, so important to get enough sleep, and if you lose an hour in the morning, you need to gain that time in sleep. (Here are some tips for getting yourself to go to bed on time.)

The question is: where would you rather have the hour? At the end of the day, or at the start of the day? Most people would use those slots in very different ways. Which hour would contribute the most to your happiness?

If you suddenly had an extra hour in your day, how would you use it? Have you ever used this method–or any other–to shift your waking time?

  • peninith1

    I would like to shift my hour of walking to an earlier time, and I think time change may give me the opportunity to do that. Thanks for a good idea. I had read your post, and when I went out to walk realized that when I checked my time it WAS an hour earlier than I thought. Proof that this is a possible maneuver.

  • BKF

    There is something almost mystical about dawn with all the possibilities for the nascent day. I guess it’s like being young and having the feeling that you can be anyone and do anything with your life (as opposed to being older and having the possibilities sharply narrowed.) I love being the only one awake in the household in the early morning – reading a book, doing yoga or just having an uninterrupted cup of tea or coffee. Alas, my peace is short-lived as my children are very early risers, especially if someone else is already awake. So I find myself staying up after they go to bed at night and luxuriating in some alone, adult (but usually exhausted) time- usually reading something unrelated to work.

    • Jami

      I feel the same about “morning peace”. I have ways been an early riser so as to get my workout in or do some catching up. It’s the only time when nobody else has a schedule…..especially as a busy mother.

  • Joyce Oxfeld

    Day break is not always my favorite time of day, and I do have trouble settling down at a decent hour to go to bed. My time is not structured enough right now. I am avoiding caffeine more. I notice the need to snack if I’ve kept myself up too late. Much of your article on the importance of regular sleep rings very true. Thank you for this article.

  • Great idea, thanks!

  • martine

    Thought of it myself. Picked up running again. Early, before anything else. First week accomplished, second to come 😉

  • MJ

    I clicked on the link for how to get myself to bed early and realized that I hadn’t thought about “bedtime” for myself for years. So, I’ve counted back from when I need to wake up and now I really now when I need to go to bed. I know, it’s incredibly simple but I wasn’t doing it.

    • gretchenrubin

      This step is HUGE! Just knowing what our bedtime is can really help.

  • Hilary Sutton

    I would rather have that extra hour in the morning! I really do feel like I’m “firing on all cylinders” in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Thanks for the post Gretchen!

  • M P Singh

    I have tried this on week days and I have been successful. But every day I got up 15 minutes early and after three months I was getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal. The early morning deep breathing exercises have become a habit. Gretchen’s idea can be implemented the way I did – breaking it into small segments of 15 minutes each.

  • Theresa

    I find it funny that your suggestion for finding an extra hour in the day involves getting up earlier but then you tell us to go to bed earlier. Are you perhaps telling your readers to become morning people when that might not be everyone’s nature? I do value rest but I am not a morning person. I get up fairly early for work soley so I have time to fully wake up. Getting up an hour earlier than I already do would do nothing for me other than make me more tired as I prefer to do my tasks during the day and not right away in the morning. Please consider your readers’ true natures when making future suggestions.

    • Lexie

      “Now, this system wouldn’t work for true “owls” who stay up late and sleep late. But for many people, it’s possible to make a very satisfying use of that hour.”

  • ChrisD

    I think morning time is more useful than evening time for getting ‘stuff’ done. I always wonder if our natural 25 hour rythem is the problem. We effectively have to go to bed an hour early EVERY DAY. Thus if we move to Mars where the day is 24 hours and 37/39 minutes long, would we be better off?

  • Kate

    Oh! I did this before I read your fab tip, Gretchen! Over here in England we change our clocks a little earlier than in the US. And guess who all of a sudden now has a spare hour to exercise every morning!? Simple yet effective!

    • gretchenrubin

      So great to hear that that approach works for you–