How to Be a Morning Person: A Practical Advice
Society has long associated success with morning people. The phrase "the early bird gets the worm" has been overused, that night owls often think there might be something wrong with them.
The truth is not all of us are biologically wired to become a morning person. If you consider yourself a night owl, your natural tendency would be to become more active later in the day. Forcing yourself to wake up early would actually be counterproductive -- and that's okay.
Before we go any further, here's one significant thing you need to remember: Being a morning person isn't a prerequisite to success. It's not about what time you start or what time you finish. It's about how much you accomplish and how you're taking steps to look out for yourself actively.
However, we understand that work or lifestyle obligations might require an earlier wake-up time. That's why we're here to provide helpful tips to adjust yourself healthily. Along the way, we'll also help you understand the science behind early birds and night owls. This way, you can gradually shift your sleep schedule and develop healthy sleep habits while you're at it.
The Importance of Regular and Sufficient Sleep
Whether you are a morning or night person, failing to get enough sleep is detrimental to our health. Before learning more about becoming a morning person, it's essential to be reminded of the necessity to sleep regularly and sufficiently. This means getting seven to nine hours, if that is possible.
Here Are Six Reasons to Get More Sleep:
It Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
The effect of sleep on weight gain is associated with numerous factors, including hormones and your drive to exercise regularly. Sleep deprivation, for example, raises ghrelin levels and reduces leptin levels. Ghrelin is a hormone that makes us feel hungry while leptin makes us feel full. This may lead to feelings of hunger and overeating.
To make up for your lack of energy, sleep deprivation may cause you to want meals that are higher in sugar and fat due to their greater calorie content. Worse, being exhausted after a night of insufficient sleep may deter you from going to the gym, let alone engaging in other physical activities.
It Strengthens Your Heart
How long and how well you sleep might raise your risk of heart disease. Furthermore, insufficient sleep appears to increase blood pressure, especially among those with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep.
What's even more interesting is that adults who regularly sleep for more than nine hours a day are also at a greater risk of heart disease.
It Aids Your Mental and Emotional Health
Poor sleep quality and a hard time sleeping are strongly influenced by mental health issues such as depression. Plus, people who suffer from sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report higher rates of depression than those without.
Sleep loss also reduces your ability to regulate emotions and interact socially. When we're tired, we have a harder time controlling emotional outbursts and our behaviors in front of others. Tiredness can also impact our capacity to react to humor and demonstrate empathy. Moreover, chronically sleep-deprived people are more prone to withdrawing from social events and experiencing loneliness.
It Regulates Your Blood Sugar Levels
It's believed that sleep deprivation could result in decreased insulin sensitivity, increased inflammation, and hunger hormone changes. Plus, lack of sleep can lead to poor decision-making and greater food intake, increasing your risk for diabetes.
It Improves Focus and Productivity
A good night's sleep is instrumental to your brain function. This means cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance are all negatively impacted if you're not getting sufficient sleep or continue with your irregular sleep wake cycle.
It Boosts Your Immune System
Impaired sleep health can lead to adverse effects on your immune system. This means you are more prone to getting sick than those who are able to keep a regular sleep time. In one research, people who slept four or fewer hours each night were 4.5 times more likely to get a cold than those who slept seven or more.
Why Is There Such a Thing as a "Morning Person"?
To better understand why some people are better during the day while others at night, it's necessary to understand circadian rhythms, your internal body clock that regulates your energy throughout the day. This circadian rhythm operates on a 24-hour basis which usually follows the general pattern of the sun. This pattern creates the tendency to either become an early riser or an evening person, which is called one's chronotype.
Chronotypes lie on a spectrum, and we all usually fall somewhere in between. A morning person has an earlier chronotype, while night owls have a later chronotype. Our genetic makeup determines ours, and our natural preferences of either waking up late or early are primarily reflected physiologically. This goes all the way to our central nervous system, wherein our brain is a lot more excitable during a specific time of the day.
Sleep cycles vary from one person to the next. The key is to understand your chronotype a little better. That way, you can work with your energy levels even if you're more of a night owl and find the means to become a morning person and achieve your goals.
Three Factors That Dictate Your Chronotype or Internal Clock:
Light exposure directly affects when your circadian clock will stop or start
Melatonin, which is the sleep hormone that your body naturally produces. It's largely influenced by your exposure to light. Moreover, melatonin can also be taken as a supplement, which could help you adjust your sleep patterns.
Your very own circadian rhythm, which interacts with your sleep homeostasis, which helps balance our need to sleep.
Is It Possible to Change Your Chronotype?
Sure, your chronotype is mainly defined by your DNA. However, your environment, lifestyle choices, age, and activity level could still influence it. This is not to say that you can swiftly flip your sleep cycle completely. You can do this steadily. For example, night owls could wake up two or three hours earlier than their usual time.
Your chronotype can also change with age. A study found that women are more likely to be early birds from childhood until their 20s but are more likely than men to become night owls after 45.
Pregnancy induces a shift in women's chronotype too. They may start having an earlier wake time during the first and second trimesters. Other studies have shown that those who suffer from a stroke can affect their chronotype.
Taking Advantage of Your Chronotype
According to your circadian rhythm, you are naturally productive at different periods of the day. This is due to your internal clock, which sends signals to your cells, instructing them when to be active and inactive throughout the day. This can then cause your energy levels to fluctuate.
It's essential to take advantage of your chronotype and circadian rhythm to achieve genuine productivity and improved energy levels for your daily tasks.
We understand that prioritizing your chronotype may not be feasible, given your work and personal life demands. However, it's still possible for night owls to go to bed earlier and wake up in the usual morning hours.
How to Be a Morning Person
Adhering to a new schedule may take time and dedicated effort. Fortunately, there are proven steps to becoming a morning person, even if you've been a night owl most of your life.
Here's how to help you fall asleep easier and shift to having an early chronotype.
Develop a Nighttime Routine
If you want an earlier target bedtime, it's important to teach your body to get used to a more relaxed and calming nighttime routine. This kind of behavioral cue becomes more powerful when you dedicate yourself to specific activities that will ease your mind into sleep everyday.
Develop a Morning Routine
Just as you're dedicating yourself to calm before bed, it's helpful to look forward to an exciting morning routine. Waking up with purpose drives you to feel more encouraged and prevents you from hitting snooze all the time. When you end up hitting snooze, it sends your mind mixed messages to your body clock. This is because our bodies naturally prepare themselves to wake up two or three hours before we have to. Disrupting it by hitting the snooze button might leave you feeling groggier and less motivated to get up.
Set a few minutes for yourself. Take the time to prepare yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Sit down on the porch with your pet. Go for a run just before the rest of your day starts. This may help provide you with the fuel you need to kickstart your day.
Use Light to Your Advantage
As we mentioned earlier, exposure to light directly affects our circadian rhythm. So it's imperative to learn how to work with it so you can fall asleep earlier.
For one, you'll need to resist the urge to scroll on your device when you're in bed. The blue light emitted by our phones or tablets makes it hard for us to fall asleep. Moreover, scrolling further stimulates our brain. Another aspect of working with light for better sleep is to leave room for natural light to seep in. Bask in the bright light for at least 10 minutes to wake yourself up. If it's challenging to let the light in, turning on a light therapy lamp or any artificial light source works too.
Eat Dinner Earlier
Your dietary pattern directly affects your circadian rhythm. If you're used to eating late and sleeping late but need to make the shift, it's crucial to eat your dinner early.
When you decide to eat late, even if you intend to sleep early, your body will continue to digest your food. This can cause you to toss and turn. Plus, It can also disrupt your body's sleep-wake cycle, negatively affecting your metabolism.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Countless studies have shown that drinking coffee six hours before bedtime can make it a lot harder for you to fall asleep. This makes waking up early much more difficult. Reduce the amount of caffeine intake per day. While you're at it, avoid consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine.
Aim for Timed Exercise
If you want to wake up the following day and feel energized, exercising regularly definitely helps. Exercising increases your body's core temperature, which allows you to wake up more quickly. In addition, exercise improves your energy levels and enables you to sleep better at night.
Remember to exercise in the morning instead. Moving your body too much in the night amps up your energy, leaving you feeling too pumped up for bedtime.
Stay on Schedule
Try your best to stick to your newfound sleep schedule. Following a consistent bedtime makes it a lot easier for you to sleep seven to nine hours a day. This allows you to feel more refreshed and functional in the morning and makes going through your daily tasks more efficient. "Being committed to a daily routine can double your productivity rate," says Naheed Ali, MD, PHD, of HealthcarePropulsion.com.
Cut Back on the Alcohol
It's not only eating a heavy dinner late or eating even small amounts of food before bedtime that can mess up your desire to become a morning person. Drinking alcohol can also deter you from waking up early.
Ideally, you want to avoid alcohol three to four hours before sleep. If you can, limit yourself to up to two alcoholic drinks at most. This way, you don't wake up in the middle of the night and feel tired in the morning.
Supplement When Necessary
All of us are wired differently. Some may find it easier to switch to morning types than others. That's why having a little aid could help.
Supplementing melatonin or other sleep medicine could help promote healthy sleep. These supplements could also aid in prolonging your sleep, allowing you to welcome your alarm clock with little to no disdain. Just remember to consult with your doctor before taking anything to err on the safer side.
Seek Professional Help
If you're not getting the results you want, consider seeking assistance from a specialist at a sleep center near you. A sleep study may uncover an underlying sleep disorder and allow you to discover other ways to help you become a morning person.
Shift for the Right Reasons
Take the time to figure out why you want to be an early riser. If there isn't any life-changing reason why you should shift to become a morning person, then don't get carried away with what society thinks is more successful. Otherwise, keep in mind the tips above to make the shift effectively without sacrificing your health. "Keep in mind not enough sleep can be harmful for your health, but too much sleep can be as inadequate as the lack of it. The goal is to find the golden middle way," according to Dr. Ali.
Dr. Naheed Ali, MD, PhD
Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, is a physician by education and a writer by choice since 2005. He earned an MD degree in 2008 and later completed Harvard Medical School's lifestyle medicine training in 2012, before obtaining a PhD in holistic health elsewhere in 2013. He brings more than 15 years of experience working in a remote environment and has more than 15 years of health-related publications to his credit.
For years, he taught at colleges in the US where he lectured on various biomedical topics and delivered over 2000 hours of live presentations. He is also the author of numerous health titles from major New York publishers and his books have sold more than 20,000 hardcover copies worldwide. Now a digital nomad, he’s currently a health and wellness writer for hire. His online home is HealthcarePropulsion.com.