Does your morning routine involve hitting snooze on the alarm clock repeatedly? Are you always running late in the morning because you squeezed in a few extra minutes of sleep?
If so, you’re probably not a morning person. Most early risers can wake up without using an alarm clock and can even start their day without a cup of coffee.
It’s no secret that early risers have the advantage in the American workforce. You’ve heard stories about CEOs and billionaires who start their days at 4:30 a.m. In our culture, it’s often said the key to success is being a morning person.
If you’re a chronic over sleeper, changing your sleep schedule to wake up early in the morning might seem impossible. The good news is you can make some small changes to help you feel more like a morning person. It won’t happen overnight, but over time you can adjust your sleep cycle to help you be more alert in the mornings.
Here are a few tips to help you learn how to wake up easier:
1. Power Down Before You Power Off
Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t have on or off buttons. If you go to bed before you’ve wound down, you won’t be able to go to sleep immediately. Hopping into bed before you’re relaxed will lead to racing thoughts, tossing, and turning.
You need to allow yourself at least an hour to unwind before you head to bed. Use this hour to do something relaxing. Take a bath, enjoy some tea, or practice mindful breathing. Avoid starting stressful conversations during your hour-long window. Reducing stress as you head to bed can help you sleep because stress is correlated with insomnia.
Also turn off all lights, including your television, smartphone, and laptop. Blue lights from electronic devices can block the production of melatonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you sleep. Finally, experts believe 60-67 degrees is the ideal room temperature for sleep, so drop the temperature on your thermostat to begin cooling your body for sleep.
2. Go to Bed When You’re Sleepy
Most sleep experts recommend going to bed at the same time every night. But, this sleep tip won’t help you get better sleep if you’re not sleepy.
Start thinking about going to bed around the same time every night, but don’t go to bed until you feel very tired. This might mean you go to bed later than you intended, but you still need to wake up at the same time each day. Eventually, your body will become sleepier earlier in the evening.
If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, get out of bed. Read a book or do something relaxing until you are sleepy. When you can no longer concentrate on your book, start yawning, or find it difficult to close your eyes, then you can head back to bed. If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, repeat the cycle again.
3. Dial-Up Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is a set of daily habits to help you and your sleep stay healthy. Here are some sleep hygiene tips:
- Avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. Sensitive people may need to avoid it after noon.
- Exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising too close to bed increases blood flow to the brain. Extra blood flow can signal an alert to your brain telling it that it’s time to wake up. We recommend squeezing in a daily workout in the mornings if you can, as exercising in the AM can improve sleep at night.
- Expose your body to natural light for at least 20 minutes a day. Getting natural sunlight in the afternoon can help reverse the afternoon sleepiness some people feel. Invest in a lightbox to replicate the effects of the sun if you live somewhere with prolonged periods of darkness or rain.
- Keep your bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Keep your bedroom dark. Use blackout shades or an eye mask if the light from streetlights gets into your bedroom. Don’t use any screens with blue light in your bedroom.
- Keep your bedroom quiet. Use white noise, earplugs, or a combination of the two when you go to bed.
- Avoid eating 3 hours before bed. Food stimulates blood flow to your stomach. The increased blood flow can alert your body that it’s time to wake up. To induce drowsiness, introduce some of the best foods for sleep into your dinners, too.
4. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Your body clock is built in your cells, but developing a new schedule can help you adjust to a new “body time zone” and avoid social jetlag. Keep a regular wake-up time, seven days a week. Set your alarm clock to wake you at the same time each morning. Place your alarm clock across the room if you’re concerned you’ll hit snooze in the morning. Recruit a family member to help you get up at the same time each day.
5. Create a Morning Routine
The best way to create a morning routine is to start it the night before. If you usually suffer from sleepiness when you wake up in the morning, do yourself a favor and remove any decisions from your morning equation.
Before you go to bed at night, set out your clothes for the next day. Place your toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, and soap beside the sink. Place coffee grounds in your coffeemaker so you just have to push the on button in the morning. Decide what you’ll eat for breakfast and place it in an easy-to-reach spot. You can be awake, dressed and ready for your day by the time your grogginess wears off.
If it’s a sunny day, sit in the sun for a few minutes in the morning. If being outside is not an option for you, simply staring toward the sun for a few minutes can actually help wake you up by telling your body it’s daytime. Some people also use an artificial light box for this purpose.
Benefits of Being an Early Riser
Your body benefits from an early wake-up time when you can exercise and prepare nutritious foods. Your brain cognition improves when you have time to plan and process. Here are some of the other perks of waking up with time to spare.
You Can Start the Day Free of Distractions
If you wake as the sun comes up, you have a few hours before people are in their offices, sending emails, and making phone calls. In these hours, no one will bother you with these necessary but distracting communications.
Wake up earlier than normal and you’ll have a couple of hours to focus on what you’d like to accomplish in your day. You’ll also have time to move your body, take a shower, or drink a cup of coffee; whatever makes you feel alert and ready for the day.
You Get Control of Your Day
Many early risers love the sense of control they feel when waking up with the sun. You’re starting the day on your own terms, instead of hitting snooze and rushing out the door, running late again. Early morning hours let you start your day slowly and allow quiet time before you are bombarded by the rest of the world’s demands.
Waking up early gives you extra time to map out your day on a calendar, confirm meetings, and do any last-minute tasks to help you go into the day feeling prepared. You’ll arrive at your workplace or wherever else you spend your day awake, alert, and ready to take action.
You’ll Set Yourself Up for Productivity
Even if you wake up early, many fear it won’t do them any good because they will just be tired all day.
This might be true at first. If you’re not a morning person, you might not be productive in the morning as you’re getting acclimated to your new sleep schedule. The first few days you set your alarm earlier than usual, you’ll have to fight through some grogginess and sleepiness.
Once you do, your day is going to be more productive than if you’d slept later, even if you’re a little tired. You’ve given yourself a window of time you didn’t normally have as a late riser. What will you do with all this extra time? Maybe you’ll make yourself a nutritious breakfast. After a week or so, your body will adjust to your new wake-up time and you’ll begin to look forward to waking up early to be productive.
Why It Feels Challenging to Become a Morning Person
Unfortunately, whether or not you’re a morning person is outside of your control. If you hit snooze on the alarm clock over and over again each morning, genetics and social jetlag may be at play.
Genetics play a big role in determining whether you’re a night owl or an early riser. Morningness is the scientific term for, “the ability to rise and shine in the early morning.” Your morningness is influenced by your genes. The circadian rhythms that tell you when to sleep and wake are passed down from your parents.
In fact, there’s even a name for groups of different circadian rhythms: chronobiology or chronotype. Your chronotype refers to the time of day you prefer to be active and alert. How can your chronotype be genetic? It’s actually ingrained in each cell in your body. It was imprinted in your cells when you were a developing embryo. As you developed from a fetus to a child to an adult, your chronobiology stayed the same.
Everyone has commitments, whether they are family, school, or work, that mandate what time we need to be active throughout the day. If you’re not a morning person, it’s hard to wake up and battle with grogginess. But it’s also bad for your health to wake up early when you have commitments and sleep too much on weekends when you have extra time.
Changing your wake up time from day to day creates a body clock discrepancy sleep researchers call “social jetlag.” Social jetlag can feel a lot like actual jetlag and prevents you from getting quality sleep. This inconsistent sleep schedule is linked to high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
When to Seek Help for Your Sleep Schedule
Have you tried getting more sleep by creating a new schedule? Are you having success and sleeping better? If not, it may be time to reach out to a sleep specialist. Beyond having an afternoon or evening chronotype, there could be other reasons you aren’t able to get on a sleep schedule that works for you.
A sleep specialist can evaluate you for sleep disorders like sleep apnea. They may also be able to identify other underlying causes of your difficulty getting on a better sleep schedule. Sometimes stress and other mental health issues can be contributing to sleep difficulties, undersleeping, and oversleeping.
Wake Up Without Hitting Snooze
If you’re lucky enough to be born a morning person, your sleep patterns are enviable. For the rest of the population, it might take some work and consistency to wake up easier in the morning.
Waking up earlier comes down to setting your alarm at the same time each day and putting your feet on the ground without hitting snooze. You might be tired the first few days, but eventually your body clock will adjust and you’ll get enough sleep.
Shifting your wake time forward can help you get a jump start on your day and enhance your productivity. Keeping a good sleep schedule can also benefit your health by reducing your risk for some chronic diseases. Enlist your partner or a family member in your new plan to become a morning person — it’s always easier to start a new plan when you feel supported.