For most of the night owls out there, mornings are a serious struggle often characterized by hitting snooze on repeat, feeling like you’re in a daze, and having no desire to take on the day. Rising with the sun does have serious perks, but many wonder if they even have it in them to be an early bird.
Why mornings may feel impossible
Deep inside, all of us have something called a circadian rhythm, which is an internal biological clock that determines whether we feel sleepy or awake and regulates a host of other biological functions like hunger, insulin and glucose levels, and cell regeneration.
Generally, circadian rhythms lead people to be most drawn to sleep between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., and 1:00 p.m. and 3 p.m. Though this can vary between a morning person, who is more alert in the day’s early hours, and an evening person, who will find mornings difficult but feel super alert during the later hours of the day. While the average person’s circadian rhythm is just longer than 24 hours, the circadian rhythm of a night owl will be a bit longer, and for an early bird, a bit shorter.
Rising with the sun or earlier provides serious paybacks like less stressful days, more free time, and increased productivity. Many night owls long to adopt the early bird lifestyle, but it’s definitely not easy. Here are a few tips for making early rising go a bit more smoothly than you’re used to. You may not ever come to love mornings, but with the right steps, they might just become a bit easier.
Tips for going to bed earlier
Becoming a morning person is nearly impossible without going to bed earlier. But for many of the late night people out there, falling asleep at an earlier hour is far easier said than done. If you’re in that boat, some of these steps might help you make earlier bedtimes a reality.
Adjust your sleep time gradually
Rather than jumping into bed three hours earlier than normal on day one, adjust your bedtime in small increments—about 15-minutes at a time should do the trick. So if you normally go to sleep at midnight, spend a few nights trying to fall asleep at 11:45 p.m., then switch to 11:30 p.m., and so on. Inching your sleep time forward just a few minutes at a time will be far easier on your body than a drastic change, and is far more likely to stick as a habit.
Adjust your bed time in small increments—about 15-minutes at a time should do the trick.
Create a schedule and stick to it
Establishing an evening routine is an important step in making a habit of an earlier bedtime. Routines will vary from person to person, but here are a few things to consider:
- Power down all televisions, phones, and other technology one or two hours before the time you want to fall asleep. Try sticking to this rule each day. We promise it will get easier as time goes on.
- Relax with a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile is a good, calming variety, as are other types like lavender, kava and peppermint.
- Take a bath. Add essential oils for extra relaxation.
- Wash your face and teeth at the same time each night.
- Dim the lights.
- Crawl into bed at the same time each night to read, listen to a podcast, journal, or take part in some other activity that’s calming to you.
- Aim to fall asleep at the same time every day. If you’re really struggling here, melatonin supplements may help, but it’s important to determine the correct dosage and consult with your doctor first.
Remember that all of these aspects of your nighttime routine will be easier if you maintain your bedroom as a clean and uncluttered space designed specifically for relaxation and sleep.
Lose the tech before bedtime
The science is out there—technology keeps us up at night. This happens because many phones, televisions and other devices emit a blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythm and therefore disrupts our sleep. Essentially, the blue light causes our brains to secrete less melatonin, which leaves us feeling awake when we’d normally be tired.
It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll have a far easier time drifting off to sleep if you stop using technology a few hours before your intended bedtime. This means turning off all bright screens, from phones to televisions and iPads in order to eliminate blue light. Some great ideas for accomplishing this are to set a “no screens in the bedroom” rule or install software that blocks email and specific websites after a set hour.
Many tech devices devices emit a blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythm and therefore disrupts our sleep.
Minimize evening commitments
You don’t need to be a Grinch and say “no” to evening plans altogether, but try not to agree to every evening plan that comes your way. This is especially important to keep in mind when you’re feeling overextended or notice that social commitments are keeping you up too late. Try limiting yourself to one or two evening commitments per week and see if you notice any differences in your ability to get to bed early. This tip can be particularly helpful around the holidays when you tend to run from one social commitment to the next.
Resist napping throughout the day
Short naps tend to be harmless for most, but long naps during the day definitely make it harder to fall asleep at night. Unless you’re extremely overtired, try to nix the naps in favor of a longer and deeper nighttime rest.
Be careful what you eat and drink
Caffeine can stay in your system for six hours or more, so an afternoon coffee might keep you up far later than is desirable. Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. or so if you’re after an early, uninterrupted rest.
Alcohol is also known to interfere with sleep and might leave you doing far more tossing and turning than sleeping. The effects of beer, wine, and other forms of alcohol are known to reduce REM sleep, which can leave you feeling drowsy and make it difficult to concentrate the next day.
Be careful with your food choices too. For some people, eating too close to bedtime can lead to digestive-related sleep disruptions, while certain food ingredients like sugar or caffeine can also be detrimental to a good night’s rest.
Caffeine can stay in your system for six hours or more.
Listen to your body
If you’ve decided 10 p.m. is your new bedtime but feel exhausted at 9 p.m., listen to what your body is telling you and head to bed early. There’s no point in powering through when you need rest.
Tips for waking up earlier
We know, waking up early is an extreme challenge for night owls. But we promise it’s possible, especially after you’ve mastered your new evening routine. Here are a few tips to focus on in the mornings in order to make 6 a.m. the new 10 a.m.
Stick to a routine
Just as routine is important for falling asleep earlier in the evening, it’s helpful in rising earlier as well. Here are a few ideas:
- Wake up at the same time each day. This may feel like struggle city, but consistent wake and sleep times are very important in getting enough rest.
- Have something you can look forward to upon emerging from your slumber, whether it’s a warm cup of coffee or tea, meditation, or 10 minutes with a captivating read.
- Consider establishing a morning workout routine. For many, an early workout provides a sense of accomplishment and may even leave you with more energy throughout the day. Try laying out your clothes the evening before if you’re struggling to make morning fitness happen.
Wake up to natural light
Because our circadian rhythms are highly responsive to light and darkness, natural light is crucial in helping us rise with ease. If your living space doesn’t provide any natural light, it may be helpful to buy a lamp that mimics natural light.
Natural light is crucial in helping us rise with ease.
Place your alarm somewhere out of reach
Keep your alarm across the room so you’re forced out of bed first thing in order to turn it off. Try avoiding the snooze button too. And because no one likes waking to a blaring alarm, try choosing an alarm tone that’s pleasing to you. Maybe something with a calming tone or a song you like. You may find mornings far less irritating with this simple switch.
If you’re up for a challenge, you can also try the Ruggie alarm clock. You actually have to stand up on this mat for a set period of time before the alarm goes off. So hitting snooze while you’re bundled up under covers isn’t an option.
Give yourself time to wake up
Waking up and rushing straight out the door to work or another commitment is surely not the way to become a morning person. Slowly ease into the day by allowing yourself some peaceful time to sit down with a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, read, watch the news, or do anything else that allows you to slowly and mindfully begin the day rather than diving in head first.
Eat a healthy breakfast
Prep ingredients the night before so you’re able to wake up and indulge in a healthy breakfast alongside a warm mug of coffee or tea. The reward will be well worth the effort. And knowing you’ll soon be sitting down to something delicious might just provide the motivation you need to jump right out of bed when your alarm sounds.
Still need some motivation for becoming a morning person?
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Early in the day, you’re likely to be more focused and have higher willpower. This makes mornings a great time to work out, catch up on emails or get some creative projects done.
- In this “constantly on” world we live in, mornings are a time of far fewer distractions compared to the rest of the day. Rise earlier for the chance to focus on important projects without the hassle of constant distractions.
- Nothing feels better than being ahead of the game. Rise early, check some tasks off your list, and you’ll most likely feel far more accomplished and motivated compared to the days when you get a late start.