Are you familiar with the health benefits of rising early in the morning? Numerous studies conducted on the subject have concluded that early risers tend to feel more in control of their lives and get more things done.1 For example, early rising college students are reported to be more optimistic, proactive, and get better grades than their night owl counterparts. In addition, early risers are less likely to be stressed, overweight, and depressed. There is also evidence that the sleep someone gets before midnight may be ‘worth’ more than sleep after midnight.
Many night owls, or folks who just like their sleep, wonder how it is possible for others to get up so early. Are sleep preferences influenced by genetic factors, formed through habit, or a little bit of both? Although genetic factors do have some influence, experts believe changing is mostly a matter of discipline and initial perseverance. In any case, if you’re a night owl looking to switch camps or a part-time early riser looking to improve your habits, rest assured; change is possible. Ready to give it a shot? We’ve come up with some great tips to help you on your way.
1 Reflect on your purpose again.
It is important to understand your motivation for getting up earlier. Why do you want to wake up earlier? You may be in it for the health benefits. Perhaps you want to be more productive or have more time to prepare before rushing off to work. There are a host of reasons, but no matter what they are, you should set some goals. It will not only remind you why you are doing this, but will give you some measure of success.
For example, you may plan on having time to exercise, eat breakfast, and read the paper each morning. If you frequently find yourself only getting through the front page or settling for a quick English muffin, you’ll know you’re not getting up quite early enough.
2. Get started
Ok, now it’s time to create a plan of action. The most important part of this is setting a wake up time. How much time do you need (or want) to accomplish the goals you have laid out. Once you have that time picked out, count back 8 hours. This is the bedtime you should shoot for. For example, if you want to get up at 6 AM you should be in bed around 10 PM.
Don’t stress out too much about the bedtime. During the first several days after beginning an earlier wake up time, you may have a hard time falling asleep earlier. Try not to stay up really late, but if you miss it by an hour or two its not the end of the world. Your bedtime will eventually sort itself out naturally. However, your wake up time should be set in stone—even on the weekends. Your body actually wants you to stick to a rhythm, sleeping in on weekends or holidays makes that more difficult.
Fight the urge to nap, especially during the first few weeks. Taking a nap will give you more energy during the day, but it will also keep you up later at night. It would be better to go to bed early.
3. The Alarm
Using an alarm may seem obvious, but we have a few tips anyway. First, the snooze button is not your friend; you should definitely avoid using it. Think of it as a ‘procrastinate’ button for your life. If you’ve made the decision to get up in the morning, don’t put it off.
It is helpful to keep your alarm away from your bed– at least far enough that you have to get up to reach it. There are even some ‘smart alarms’ that run around the room, fly, or require you to solve puzzles to turn them off. Hey, whatever it takes… If you can’t stand loud, generic alarm sounds, choose a decent song and alter it from time to time so you don’t get sick of it.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t recommend using your phone as an alarm. Some people simply find it too distracting when trying to get to sleep.
4. Energizing your tired body
Just because you successfully made it out of bed does not mean your body will be naturally flowing with energy. Here are some tips you can use to get your blood pumping and morning going.
Exercise – Besides waking you up, exercise will boost your metabolism, give you energy, and improve your health. It is probably something on your to do list anyway, so you may as well start off the day being productive. Ideally, you could exercise outside in the early morning sun and fresh air.
Water – Splashing some water on your face, taking a shower, and drinking a big glass of water are all great ways to clear your groggy head.
Light – Both natural and artificial light will help you wake up by telling your body to stop making melatonin (a hormone that helps with sleep). This is the same reason you don’t want to keep bright lights on in the evening—it keeps you up. So throw your windows open when you get up and add some sunlight, fresh air, and cheer to your day.
Music – After your dreaded alarm, you could use some nice sound entering your ears. Make sure to choose something upbeat. It will engage your mind and get you ready for the morning.
Make your bed – Some people recommend doing this right after you get up. The movement can help energize you and, once it is made, you won’t want to mess it up again. Psychologically, it can also add a touch of closure to the previous night.
Get Spiritual – For many people, the early morning hours are an important time to spend in prayer or reading a devotional. This will set the tone for the day and help you cope with whatever life throws at you. You will also have time to apply what you learned while it is still fresh in your mind.
Additionally, scientific studies have documented the health benefits that prayer and meditation can have on the body and the mind. By making faith part of your morning, you will also be able to reap these benefits.
Coffee – Add this to the list of something not to do. Although coffee may make you feel more alert, it will quickly become a necessity. Coffee won’t turn you into a verified cheerful morning bird. Instead, it will turn you into a grumpy caffeine addicted zombie looking for his/her fix. Plus, you’ll set yourself up to crash in a few hours meaning you’ll need to get another few cups throughout the day. Read our article “Why You Should Cut Back on Caffeine” for more information.
5. Eat a good breakfast
This one is so important that it deserves a subtopic of its own. Eating—not to mention preparing—a healthy breakfast will give you energy and boost your brainpower. Breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day; it will get your metabolism going and can help you lose weight. Actually, eating breakfast carries a host of benefits with it. Check out this video if you’re interested.
Breakfast is also an ideal opportunity to spend time with your family before you go your separate ways. Looking forward to a delicious breakfast in the morning can also be great motivation to get out of bed. If you need any healthy suggestions head over to the Breakfast section of our website. We recommend the scrambled tofu and the waffles.
You can also view breakfast as a measurement of early bird success. Did you have time for a leisurely breakfast, or did you have to cut it short to make it to work on time?
6. Keep up the good work
Perseverance is necessary. You can’t be a part-time morning person. Thankfully, it becomes a lot easier as time goes on. Remember to stick to the same routine every day of the week—doing otherwise can really mess with your sleep cycle.
If you are making the transition and feel the going is rough, don’t get discouraged. It can take a few weeks to reset your body’s clock, but it will come in time. If you are planning on jumping several hours, it may be wise to break the transition into a couple steps.
Remember that the role of light is extremely important. It doesn’t matter if it is natural or artificial (such as a lamp or even the light from computer or cellphone screens). You want to surround yourself with light in the morning and shun it before bedtime. Trust us, it makes a huge difference.
1. “How and Why to Become a Morning Person – US News.” US News & World Report. May 14, 2014. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2012/09/17/how-and-why-to-become-a-morning-person