here are two types of people in the world: the early bird and the night owl. Growing up is realizing you can no longer be both. And, unless you work the graveyard shift or don’t work at all, you’re better off being the former. School and work demand that you be up by a certain hour, and more often than not that is earlier than you would prefer, forcing you to peel your limp body from the sheets and consume an absurd amount of coffee – so much coffee that you’d inject it with an IV if you could.
The truth is that many of us go to bed late, knowing that our lives demand that we be up early. For some reason, it’s just so much easier to watch just one more episode and be on your phone for just “a few” minutes more. Well, a few minutes turns into a few hours and next thing you know your eardrums are greeted by the unwelcomed drone of a loud alarm going off before your biological clock strikes wake-up time. The result: more than 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived.
Whether your problem is a sporadic college schedule or an overactive mind, there is a solution, but it won’t work if you don’t. So, how do you fix the equation?
Well, your work is a fixed value, it’s not changing, But, you can. Start with changing you. Become a morning person. To find out how to do this, read on.
The Benefits of Becoming A Morning Person
People who wake up earlier tend to be happier, healthier, and more productive. According to research published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, early morning people reported being happier and less stressed. The same people also reported being more productive, a consistent finding across studies. Compared to people who start their day later, early risers are more productive and energized at work, boosting their performance. Meanwhile, research has shown that night people have a higher risk of developing health issues like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. So, as much as you may love the night, it doesn’t love you.
Waking up early may sound like a no-brainer, but even more important than the timing of sleep is the consistency. People who keep a stable routine and receive the same amount of sleep every night around the same hours, reap the most benefits. Keeping a stable sleep routine and waking up early goes above and beyond improving energy levels. It causes you to feel less lethargic, less susceptible to mood swings, fewer cravings for high-calorie foods, and have a boosted immune system.
So, it is not enough to just set your alarm for an earlier time. While you consider setting a goal around waking up early, plan on also setting an earlier bedtime to get a decent amount of sleep. Seven hours a night is a great place to start.
How to Become A Morning Person
Waking up early is often easier said than done. No matter how adamant you are the night before about how your day will look, it is just way too easy to hit snooze the morning of. With this in mind, this article will discuss tricks that make becoming a morning person possible for everyone.
One Step At A Time (There’s No Need To Rush)
How do you eat an elephant? Well, according to the wise Desmond Tutu, one bite at a time. Like all things in life that seem daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible, it is best to accomplish it gradually, little by little. By working towards your goal in small, manageable chunks, you help to avoid discouragement or burnout. This is especially important when it comes to calibrating your body’s biological clock, which is resistant to rapid changes.
Take your overall goal and break it down. For example, if your vision for becoming a morning person involves waking up early, going for a run, making a smoothie, and reading before work, then start with one of these and gradually build on it. Eventually, you can do all of these things before work and it won’t feel like a drastic change that is difficult to maintain.
It is so easy to convince yourself that a goal is impossible before you have even given it a shot, but by practicing patience and smaller goals, you may just surprise yourself. And, once you’ve tricked your body into rising early, there really will be no need to rush in the morning anymore – pun intended.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is one of the most obvious ways you can set yourself up for success so that you sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow and are ready to rise when your alarm goes off. Improving your sleep hygiene means creating a bedroom environment and daily routine that promotes sleep. This takes discipline and dedication, but it pays off.
A number of factors contribute to the quantity and quality of sleep your receive: age, sex, genetics, etc. However, when it comes to waking up feeling refreshed and awake, quality counts more than quantity. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you sleep if that sleep is not restful. For some, it is as easy as closing your eyes, but for others this can be a real struggle. Nonetheless, it is possible to become a morning person with a good bedtime routine.
Your brain needs to be primed to go to bed and because your brain likes patterns, you should stick to a routine every night. The routine could be as simple as putting on your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and turning the lights off. As long as you stick to it and your body starts to anticipate it as a precursor to sleep, you can find yourself having an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.
The key to the success of any bedtime routine is consistency and duration. So, you’re going to want to maintain the routine for a few weeks - until it becomes a habit - and adhere to it strictly. Otherwise, you won’t find yourself met with long term results.
Other ways of improving your sleep hygiene include:
- Limiting caffeine before bed
- Prohibiting afternoon naps
- Avoiding bright lights and screens before bed
- Only getting into bed when you’re ready to sleep
If you find that after 30 minutes of being in bed while practicing good sleep hygiene, you are not asleep, get out of bed and do something boring. The longer you lay there restless, the more you train your body to be awake while in bed. So, get up. Avoid doing something that involves bright lights or that may be stimulating. You don’t want to give your brain a reason to wake up. Instead, read a textbook, do the dishes, or do some yoga - whatever is peaceful and dull to you!
Scoring Goals Starts With Setting Them
With any goal you have, it’s important for you to visualize what the long-term outcome looks like and ask yourself why you have this goal. By conceptualizing the goal, you will have an easier time paving a path to success and measuring success. Ask yourself: What is an ideal time for you to wake up in the morning? Why is that an ideal time? What will you do with the extra time in the morning?
Then, and most importantly, ask: why do you need to make this change? Whatever the reason is, just thinking about why you want to become a morning person and reminding yourself of these motivating factors can keep you driven to meet that goal.
To make your “why” question even more tangible, write it down. If you feel even more ambitious, make a vision board. Whatever it is you want - career advancement, academic success, physical fitness, healthy living - that you feel you could gain by being a morning person, put it on paper! For your vision board, you may even want to include an individual whose determination to get up everyday and be productive inspires you to do the same even when temptation is at its greatest. With any goal, it’s natural for motivation to plummet at some point and for temptation and convenience to take over. Visualizing and reminding yourself of your goals may help you stay on track.
Preparation Is Key
Plan ahead. For new goals - especially those that go against the body's natural rhythm - taking steps to circumvent any obstacles or resistance is very important. For example, to stick with our theoretical example, it would be hard to wake up early to make a smoothie before work if you wake up to find that your blender is dirty. Likewise, it would pose a challenge to your goal of working out in the morning if you woke up and had to dig through your closet to find a clean outfit.
Instead, do your preparation the night before. Waking up to find your lunch already packed and your clothes already laid out makes starting the day - albeit still difficult sometimes - a little bit easier. In order to do the things you look forward to in the morning, do the things you won't look forward to, at night. Set yourself up for success; fill the Brita, do the dishes, meal prep, put gas in the car, so on and so forth.
Similarly, if you are the type to get up but find reasons to go back to sleep, make it your priority to get ready right after you wake up. Despite being a strong advocate for comfy casual style, taking the time to get ready and put on an outfit that makes you feel most confident and ready to tackle the day ahead will decrease your chances of going back to bed.
After all, you’re unlikely to curl up in bed with jeans on and a freshly done hairdo. But, maybe your day doesn’t involve that much preparation in appearance. If that’s the case, do whatever entices you to get up. That may involve a fresh pot of coffee and some upbeat music, a walk to a nearby cafe, or a shower. Whatever it may be, find your morning ritual.
Rise and Shine
Sunshine, that is. Just as light should be avoided at night to promote sleep, it should be embraced in the morning to jumpstart your day. However, it is more than a cheery way to start your day – it’s science. Sunlight tells the body to suppress production of melatonin, the chemical supplement insomniacs far and wide turn to in hopes of seeing results fast.
In other words, the sunlight helps signal to your body that it’s time to be awake, even better than a cup of joe can. If the sun isn’t up at the time that you need to be, fear not, that’s where 21st century technology comes in. There are wake-up alarm clocks that mimic the sunrise to help you in your efforts to get into a natural, healthy sleep pattern.
Along the same lines of reasoning for setting smaller milestones to work towards a larger goal, you may be persuaded to try an inverted snooze method to get yourself to wake up early. In short, the inverted snooze method tricks your mind into waking up. As silly as it may seem, it’s proven to be effective.
The inversion here is that you actually do hit the snooze button, but you wake up. You have 9 minutes to be awake and start your day. After 9 minutes, if you’re still tired, you get to go back to bed. However, 9 minutes, if used wisely, is more than enough time to convince your body that it needs to be awake. In under 9 minutes, you can have your teeth brushed, your blinds open, and your clothes on.
Master the Art of Saying No
Ah, yes. The work-life-balance struggle is a tale as old as time. How do you manage friends, family, career, and personal well-being? As the title alludes to, you start by saying no. The people-pleasers of the world are probably fidgeting in their seats right now, but get comfortable with the uncomfortability of saying no if you ever hope to prioritize your own health.
One more episode of Euphoria? No. Another drink? No. When it comes to saying no to your boss, this one’s a little more tricky. Of course, you want to please your boss and in some sense, you are binded in an agreement to serve your boss or company. However, you can only do your best work if you’re well rested and have some semblance of a life, and your boss should understand this.
But, if you muster up the courage to say no to your boss, how much relaxation will you truly receive when you’ve potentially put your career at stake with one, two-letter word. Instead, practice saying “yes, if –”. Yes, I can take on this extra project, if you give me more time with the one I am already assigned. Yes, I can work on this, if you let me push it until tomorrow.
This way you agree to take on extra work, show you have limits (like any human being), and allow your boss the chance to acknowledge that you may have more on your plate than they may have realized.
The name of the game here is patience. It will take some time for these new changes to become a habit. But, habits make change possible. They free our minds from the power of decision. One day, you will no longer be able to decide to hit snooze because you’ll wake up every morning on-the-dot – maybe without an alarm at all.
You won’t have to think about getting up, you just will. So, don’t just set your alarm tonight and hope for the best. Put in the work so your body can become adjusted, and know that this will take some time. But, no person - even the most extreme self-proclaimed night owl - is incapable of becoming a morning person.