Life is tough for night owls. Most businesses open at 8 a.m., and most American schools start at the same time, or even earlier. Studies have shown that morning people are happier, healthier and have greater career success than night owls, most likely because the corporate world is in sync with their natural rhythms. Those who fight going to bed and waking up early may not perform as well in the morning, causing them to not do as well in school or in their careers.
Although some studies have shown that being a morning person or a night owl is genetic, there are some steps you can take to become an early riser.
1. Go to bed earlier – and at the same time every night.
While you may be hardwired to go to bed late and wake up late, your body will adjust to an earlier start time if you are consistent. If you need to be up at 6 a.m., try going to bed at 10 p.m. (or 11 p.m., if you can get by on seven hours of sleep), and stick to it. Eventually, your body will be ready for sleep at 10 p.m. and you will pop out of bed on time and ready for the day.
If you currently go to bed very late, you may need to work up to an earlier bedtime. Clinical Psychologist Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D, recommends changing your bedtime in 15-minute increments. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual for three or four nights. On the fifth night, make your bedtime even 15 minutes earlier. Continue this process until you reach your new bedtime goal.
For best results, resist the urge to stray too far from your routine on the weekends. Silberman suggests giving yourself an extra hour (two hours max). This will ensure that you stay on track.
2. Get better sleep.
It’s useless to be in bed by 10 p.m. if you can’t fall asleep – or if your sleep is disrupted. In order to be ready to go in the morning, you need to feel rested and restored.
In the evening, keep the lights low in your house and the volume down on your TV or other devices. If you must use your computer or tablet at night, try F.lux, an app that warms up the colors on the screen at sunset, limiting your exposure to sleep disrupting blue light.
3. Put your alarm clock across the room.
If you can turn your alarm off without even opening your eyes, you are making it way too easy to fall back asleep. Put your alarm across the room, so you have to get up to turn it off. Once you are upright, you’ll be less likely to slink back in bed.
4. Implement a “no snooze” rule.
That extra 9 minutes of sleep might feel great at the time, but it actually does more harm than good. When we sleep, our brains go through sleep cycles that each last an average of 90 minutes and consist of five stages. When you hit snooze, you’re starting another sleep cycle that you won’t finish, says Robert S. Rosenberg, Medical Director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley, Arizona. As a result, you’ll end up feeling even more tired and groggy than before.
Make it a rule to never hit the snooze button. If you use your phone as an alarm, disable the snooze button feature altogether. Set your alarm for the time that you need to get up, and when it goes off, get up. Period.
Get some exercise in the morning, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk or a short series of stretches. Exercise improves circulation in the body, and helps get more blood and oxygen to your brain. This will help you feel more alert and think more clearly. Exercise also increases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, chemicals that energize the body and also make us feel good.
6. Give yourself a reward.
In order to get yourself out of bed when the alarm goes off, give yourself a reward that you can look forward to every morning. This could be as simple as taking a long, hot shower, or relaxing with a coffee and reading your favorite website for ten minutes. Maybe you treat yourself with your favorite breakfast, which you wouldn’t have time to prepare if you didn’t get up early.
Whatever motivates you to get out of bed, think of it when the alarm goes off, and enjoy it the moment you get up. If there are other things you can do to make your morning routine more enjoyable, such as ironing your clothes the night before or programming your coffee pot to starting brewing on a timer; make these small changes. The more pleasant you can make your morning routine, the easier it will be to get out of bed.
7. Start the day on a positive note.
When we wake up to an irritating alarm and we tell ourselves that we’re too tired or that we don’t want to go to work, it’s difficult to get through the day, let alone the morning.
Devote the first ten minutes of your day to positivity, and you’ll experience an energy boost as well as a mood boost. Listen to upbeat music or an inspirational podcast, or read a motivational article or a chapter of a self-improvement book that you enjoy. Write down what you are looking forward to that day, such as a work project or a date that evening, or make a list of what you are grateful for. If you like to mediate, begin your morning with a 20-minute meditation. Start your day with one positive action, and you’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to take on your day.
8. Remember why you want to be a morning person.
There is a reason why you want to be a morning person. Before you hit the snooze button, remember why that is and give yourself a pep talk. What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be the kind of person who hits the snooze button in life? Or, do you want to be the kind of person who makes things happen? Maybe you are working towards a promotion, or you’re starting your own business. How badly do you want it? It starts now – the moment you get up.
Whatever method you use to become an early riser, remind yourself that you are in great company. If Apple CEO Tim Cook and Michelle Obama can get up and work out before 6 a.m., so can you. After a couple of weeks, you may be so amazed at what you have accomplished that you won’t want to go back to your night owl ways.