Ever wondered how the other half snooze? In our new diary series, we’re finding out – and first up, it’s BBC Breakfast presenter, Dan Walker.
Does the thought of a 3.11am wake-up call make you wince? For BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker, it’s just part of the day job. Dan, 41, lives in Sheffield with his wife and three children, and waking up early comes as second nature to the presenter. Here, he talks us through a typical day – including that alarm…
3.11am My alarm goes off for BBC Breakfast. I actually have four alarms. ‘The Foghorn of Destiny’ goes off at 3.11am. ‘The Klaxon of Disaster’ is 3.14am and if I ignore that, at 3.18am ‘Get Up You Massive Horse’ will sound. 3.21am is ‘Argh’. I’ve never got to ‘Argh’ but sometimes I will stay in bed until 3.18am. I used to work nights in radio and breakfast news reading shifts, so I feel quite used to it and it means I get to spend a good amount of time with the kids.
3.20am I live with my wife and three kids (11, 9 and nearly 8) in Sheffield, so I try to be fairly quiet in the morning, I don’t wake up my wife anymore – I used to be like a drunken elephant, but I’m a ninja now. I go to the bathroom, get dressed and leave. If I’m not at BBC Breakfast, I’ll get up around 6.15am – I’ve never been a lie-in type. I don’t know if it’s a productivity thing but I always find there’s too much to do. My mum says, “Daniel, you always feel like you’re missing out on something” so maybe that’s it…
3.30am Sometimes I tweet ‘Who else is up?’ on the way to work and it’s usually people with young babies, somebody suffering from insomnia or people on the other side of the world. Bill Turnbull who did the job before me gave me some advice and said, ‘Make sure you manage your sleep’ but I foolishly ended up ignoring him. My co-host Louise [Minchin] has quite a detailed sleep regime and I probably should too, but I don’t worry about it too much – I haven’t died yet!
4.45am I’ll arrive at the studio in Salford and put the rest of my suit on, and sit in hair and makeup to sort out my bedhead. I’ll say hello to the team and go through the programme – they’ve been up since 9pm the night before preparing the show, so my job is very easy compared to theirs!
5.30am I have one cup of tea and peanut butter on toast before we go on air – I used to have porridge everyday and I’ve recently changed my routine. I’m a creature of habit in that sense! It often surprises people but I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. It’s not a ‘body is a temple’ thing but I hate the smell of it, can’t bear it. Louise finds it ridiculous as she has a giant espresso at 6am to wake her up. People can’t understand it but I’m not used to the kick you get from it. I couldn’t go on air without any food though, that’s non-negotiable.
5.55am The show starts at six – so we’re in the studio five minutes before, prepping and getting ready to go, until we go off-air at 9.15am. I really enjoy doing my job so the the fact it’s early doesn’t bother me – I figure if I was going on holiday I’d probably have to get up at 4am to get a flight! I only do breakfast TV three days a week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), so it’s manageable and the early starts mean I get to spend a lot of time with my family, which is great.
11.30am After BBC Breakfast, I’ll come home and have some lunch. My diet isn’t brilliant but I eat relatively healthily – my wife says I do eat an awful lot of eggs, I’m obsessed with them! I exercise so I can enjoy buns, cake and curry, basically.
2.30pm I’ll pick the kids up from school, and we’ll come home and do some homework. Once a week, they have a group tennis lesson so I’ll drive them to that, or if they have another activity after school we’ll head there.
3.15pm While the kids are in their lesson, I’ll do 20 minutes in the gym. I try and exercise five times a week – I’ll often smash it out in small chunks. There’s a place in Sheffield called TRIBE and they do HIIT with a twist – it’s rated as one of the five hardest workouts in the world! It’s shattering but gets it done. Or I’ll do 20 minutes at home. I think it helps me sleep – it probably tires me out. When I’m working away from home I’ve got the hotel workout down to a tee – I don’t even have to look at my phone anymore!
5.30pm I usually have an early dinner with the kids after school, or I might come home and do a few things around the house first. I’m often getting asked to sit down by my wife, but I think I’ve been blessed with lots of energy!
6pm Now and then, by Wednesday evening, I might think I’m a bit tired and perhaps I’ll be a little quieter, but I figure I can can always catch up on sleep later and it’s no big deal. Whenever sleep experts come on the show they always look at me like I’m crazy and should implement a better routine, but I don’t seem to be suffering too much.
7pm I don’t drink in the evenings. I’ll have the occasional glass of wine, but I had a thing as a kid where I couldn’t drink fizzy drinks so I’ve never really had fizzy drinks or alcohol. So alcohol doesn’t affect my sleep – it’s probably a good thing I don’t, actually – I’m not sure I could get up that early with a hangover.
8.45pm I’ll go upstairs and iron a shirt before going through stuff for the next day and sending any work emails that need to be sent. Sometimes I’ll read my notes, or watch something for work the next morning – so I suppose I have a routine, of sorts.
9pm I never had a particular pair of pants to play well when I played football – and in the same way, I’m not fussy about things like blackout blinds, lavender spray or bedding when it comes to sleep. Although I used to have a bad back fairly often – perhaps because I’m 6ft 6 – and since I’ve started using the eve original mattress, it’s made big a difference and I don’t wake up with a bad back anymore, which is brilliant.
10.30pm I’ll aim to turn my light off by 10.30pm if I’ve got BBC Breakfast the next day – I’m aware I go to bed far too late! But if I go to bed earlier, I’ll lie there awake. My 11-year-old finds it hilarious I go to bed at the same time as her!
11pm On a Wednesday night, I’ll go to bed an hour later, at 11.30pm or midnight. If I’m travelling back from hosting a work event, I’ll take an eve Sleep pillow with me so I can sleep in the back of the car – because of my hours, I end up sleeping where I can. I once tried to use my bag as a pillow and as I threw my head on it, I lodged a dart in my cheekbone! That’s the sort of mistake you only make once…