Circadian Rhythm, Morning Motivation, and Productivity

You must have had the occasional experience of waking up too early and leaving for school or work before your family was fully awake. No doubt such days are usually the most productive and memorable ones you can recall. Remember how energetic you have been throughout such days with so little sleep, when even a 9-hour sleep just doesn’t seem to cut it on most days?

Early to rise, easy to motivate!

The secret behind this strange phenomenon is a biological clock in our bodies, which keeps us warm and alert during just the ‘right’ times of the day. When our sleeping habits are properly in sync with this biological clock, dubbed the circadian rhythm, we experience a burst of energy throughout the day extending into the late evenings. However, we are also easily prone to fall out of sync with this natural cycle of day and night; developing an unnatural sleep cycle and a poor appreciation of life. It’s probably the reason why our elders have always warned us, “Early to bed, early to rise.”

Image of Human Biological Clock -- The circadian rhythm
Human Biological Clock — The circadian rhythm


The infographic above illustrates how we go through significant changes in our physiology throughout the day, having been influenced by our biological clock.

One obvious consequence of this natural cycle is that we’re wired to be highly productive only during the morning hours. As seen in jet lag, interfering with the circadian rhythm can seriously disrupt the body and make us restless, fatigued, and demotivated. Furthermore, prolongedly unnatural sleeping habits can become the root cause for a host of degenerative diseases in the long run. Is it any surprise that “morning people” who are in tune with their circadian rhythm are more motivated, accomplish more on an average day, and are healthier; all with just a few hours of sleep? As self-help enthusiasts, we must understand the connection between the circadian rhythm and productivity; and use it fully to our advantage!

If you wake up early, you simply have more of the morning hours when getting things done comes naturally. Add to it the psychological rewards of a productive morning and you can see how easily it adds up for a morning person to keep himself/herself motivated through the day. The boost in motivation that a morning schedule produces, is key to accomplishing more through the evening and keeping your checklists ticked off.

Can only some do it?

The biggest myth about morning productivity is a mistaken belief that people are predisposed as to to being morning people or not. There is no science proving this, and humans seem to quickly re-adapt to be a morning person simply by altering their activity patterns to match their circadian rhythm. This is a natural function of the body. (But if you are a caffeine addict, only giving it up will show you how quickly this happens.) In my own experience, there have been times I lived as a night owl, and those when I was a morning lark; and even times when I hung somewhere between the two. So put your doubts aside and start going to bed early!

The secrets of a morning person

See my “Productivity Cheat Sheet” to learn how I accomplish everything I want to on a typical day simply by listening to my body!


  1. Oindrila

    Hi, I am interested in knowing more about this topic. Could you tell me where you have learnt about this from?

    • Krishna Teja Mokshagundam


      Thanks for commenting. I did not include references as this post draws on mostly from common knowledge, a few informal google searches, and personal experience (described further in “My Productivity Cheat Sheet“). I did notice a great deal of difference in my motivation after I started waking up earlier. Also, I should’ve expanded further on why it is really bad to stay up late in to the nights. It messes badly with health as any shift worker tells you. I routinely hear from a lot of people who work late night shifts about how they have been able to adapt to a morning sleep cycle, but could never manage to have the same quality of life that they previously enjoyed. However, all of this shouldn’t be just anecdotal evidence, as there is certainly some scientific backing to it.

      I encourage you and other readers to start with this article on WebMD. It reveals how shift work has been linked to Cardiovascular disease; Diabetes and metabolic syndrome; Obesity; Depression and Mood Disorders; Gastrointestinal, Fertility and Pregnancy Problems; and even cancers! They cite highly credible sources, which I am including here for your easy reference.

      If you ask me however, evolution seems to have designed humans to be morning creatures and subduing this design principle may only prove injurious to us in the long term. If you work late into the night and can’t give it up however, it is best to at least incorporate other health changes into your life so you can reduce the damage done. Regular exercise and a wholesome diet help; as they prevent and reverse most of the degenerative diseases introduced by the industrial (and software?) revolution.

      I will definitely post more information when I find it. I appreciate it if you do the same.

      References for WebMD article:

      Frank A.J.L. Scheer PhD, associate neuroscientist, Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
      Bøggild, H. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 1999: vol 25: pp 85-99.
      Fritschi, L. BMJ, August 8, 2009; vol 339: pp 307-308.
      Knuttson, A. The Lancet, July 12 1986; vol 328: pp 89-92.
      Mahoney, M. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2010.
      Morikawa, Y. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 2005; vol 31: pp 179-183.
      National Sleep Foundation web site: “Shift Work and Sleep.”
      Pietroiusti, A. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2010; vol 67: pp 54-57.
      Rüger, M. Review of Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 2009; vol 10: pp 245-260.
      Scheer, F.A. PNAS, March 17, 2009; vol 106: pp 4453-4458.
      Sookoian, S. Sleep, 2007; vol 30: pp 1049-1053.


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