Watching the sunrise and the wilderness come to life are some of the joys you experience when hunting in the morning. To enjoy this special time of day, you’ll have to rise well before daylight to allow enough time to reach your hunting spot without disturbing any wildlife.
Waking up at 4 a.m. is easy on the first day of bowhunting season – the excitement to go hunting will spring you out of bed. Falling asleep the night before will be challenging.
However, as the season continues, waking up early becomes more difficult, and falling asleep becomes easier. A warm bed and the snooze button are much more enticing than a cold sit in a treestand. But you can’t harvest game from your bed.
So how do you consistently wake up early throughout the hunting season? We interviewed Dr. Eric Davis of the University of Virginia Sleep Center to find out.
You Can’t Cheat Sleep
We need sleep to function properly, which probably isn’t news to you. But on average, more people are suffering from sleep deprivation.
“We need seven to nine hours of sleep to properly function,” Davis said. “As a culture, we’re very sleep-deprived. If you have these early morning awakenings during a time when we are typically catching up on sleep, that takes a toll. As the hunting season goes on, the sleep deficit gets incrementally worse.”
Davis suggests that to wake up early on the weekend, get plenty of sleep during the week. This can be difficult with our busy schedules, but it should be a priority. If you can get to bed early and sleep for a full eight hours, you’ll avoid accumulating a sleep deficit that will cost you precious hunting time.
“Going to bed early enough that you get plenty of rest before a hunt is also important,” Davis said. To fall asleep several hours earlier than normal you’ll need to set into motion your bedtime routine.
“What you can do is recreate the environment you use to go to bed on other nights,” Davis said. “A cold, dark, quiet place with minimal distractions will help you fall asleep. Also, minimizing factors that reduce sleep quality is important.”
These factors include things like drinking alcohol, which reduces sleep quality. Alcohol might help you fall asleep, but your sleep quality is very poor. Sugar and caffeine can also hurt sleep quality.
Naps are for Hunters
Most of us never nap or even consider it as a hunting tactic (treestand naps don’t count). According to Davis, naps can help you bank sleep and make it easier to wake up early. Create a cool and dark sleeping space and limit the amount of time you nap. The ideal amount of nap time is 25 minutes; napping longer can actually make you feel groggy because it interrupts your REM cycle. Try napping the day before you hunt or the afternoon after an early hunt.
It’s OK to Sleep In
If you’re feeling groggy in the morning, you can avoid a potentially dangerous situation by just sleeping in. Getting behind the wheel or climbing a treestand half-asleep is not safe, and you likely won’t enjoy your hunt
“In some ways, our body is trying to protect us by telling us we need sleep because staying home and sleeping is safer than hunting sleepy,” Davis said.
There’s no shame in skipping a morning hunt in favor of an afternoon one. Staggering morning and evening hunts will also keep you from burning out.
The next time you hit that snooze button at 4 a.m., don’t feel bad. Get the sleep you need, and hunt in the afternoon instead.
If you’re hoping to harvest an animal this year, spend a little more time dreaming about hunting to help your success. Get your rest during the week, so you can wake up early and go bowhunting!
Comments made are intended to be general educational information, not specific medical advice. For specific medical advice, you should consult your physician who will do a medical evaluation and make specific recommendations for you.