Are 5am Morning Routines Feasible for High Schoolers?


Adriana Bobenrieth

Caffeine proved necessary for a successful morning routine.

For most high school students, waking up in the morning is dreadful. Considering abysmal teenager sleep statistics, it’s no wonder that most teens prefer to sleep in for as long as they can. According to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, most teens need about 9 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, most teens fall short of that critical number, landing around 7 – 7 ½ hours per night.

A sleep deprived teen myself, I was intrigued when I began to see articles and YouTube videos popping up on my social media feeds advertising a “Productive 5am Morning Routine,” the idea behind the routine being that waking up early allows for more productivity, intentionality, and a better start to the day.

Several notable proponents of the early morning wake up include former First Lady Michelle Obama and ‘Shark Tank’ tycoon Kevin O’Leary, both of whom start their day before 6am. With so many successful people swearing by an early morning wake up, I wondered, was the 5am morning routine suitable for a teen?

To answer my question, I resolved to wake up at 5am for a school week. Here’s what I found.

Day 1: I woke up in the morning, took a shower, got dressed and made breakfast. After breakfast I did homework for the day, and then decided to read for a while. Because I don’t normally consume any, I didn’t have any caffeine, which turned out to be a mistake. By the time I got to second period, I felt like I was in a haze. Several of my friends remarked on how tired I seemed.

Day 2: I spent the first thirty minutes of day 2 turning my house upside down looking for my mom’s Nespresso machine so I could make myself a latte. I eventually had to wake her up at 5:30 to ask where it was and found it shortly after, but she wasn’t thrilled about that. After my latte and a 15 minute morning yoga section, I went to a college information session (9:30 EST), got ready for school and headed out the door. The matcha seemed to make a big difference, as I experienced minimal tiredness throughout the day. 

Day 3: By this point, I had established a routine. I woke up, showered, and had my matcha, but for some reason I was hit with a 9am slump again. 

Day 4: I stuck to the same routine, except this time I worked on homework while enjoying my matcha. I felt really awake and engaged throughout the day and one of my friends even told me I “seemed particularly chipper.”

Day 5: By the last day of the routine, I had figured out how to make the early wake up work for me. I felt good throughout the day, and I had a shadow visitor, so it was nice to have extra time in the morning to get ready. 

By the end of my week, I had come to enjoy the routine of waking up at 5am, probably because I had figured out exactly what I needed to do to minimize my tiredness and maximize productivity.

First, I found that I needed to do some kind of work in the morning to keep myself alert—simply journaling or reading for pleasure was too relaxing and would put me back to sleep. Second, not only did the caffeine of the matcha help me throughout the day, the ritual of making the latte for myself every morning helped set a tone of self care and calm that I was able to carry with me the rest of the day. Finally, and most importantly, the success of the morning routine depended entirely on my ability to go to bed early the night before.

Going to bed early, it appears, is one of the main constraints stopping more teens from trying these routines. 

“I would not consider [a 5am morning routine],” senior James Miller said. “I go to bed really late and I think it would only be detrimental since I wouldn’t get any sleep.”

Although the routine worked for my week, I realized that with all the commitments of my after school activities, I couldn’t consistently go to bed early, and thus could not commit to waking up early for a longer period of time.

Mirroring my observations, senior Grace Denny’s schoolwork and extracurriculars made it impossible for her to go to bed early enough to try the routine. 

“[Every morning] I go to the kitchen, and make some coffee,” Denny said. “I have to have my caffeine, because odds are I went to bed at 12 or 1 because I was doing my homework the night before. I would consider [doing a 5am morning routine] because it just seems so productive, but in my current state I don’t really have time for it.” 

Overall, my experience with a 5am morning routine was very positive, but I recognize that for most high school students, maintaining both the routine and a healthy amount of sleep would prove impossible.