People who are naturally early risers are generally seen favorably by society. An example of this is the proverb “the early bird catches the worm.” Many of us, in an effort to fit in with cultural norms, look far and wide for advice on how to adjust our sleeping patterns to become morning people.
Actually, some people just aren’t wired to be at their best first thing in the morning. Certain types of people, known as “night owls,” perform best in the evening. If your body is naturally programmed for a late sleep schedule, waking up early may have the opposite effect on you.
A 5 a.m. alarm is not only going to make you feel more groggy than normal, but it also means you’ll be getting less sleep than you need. It is much more effective to learn how your energy rises and falls over the course of the day, known as your circadian rhythm, if productivity is your goal.
However, we are cognizant of the fact that there may be business and lifestyle commitments that necessitate earlier wake-ups. Below, you’ll find some advice that should help you start enjoying mornings again.
What Makes You a Morning Person?
If you’re a night owl, you probably have no control over your sleep patterns and will always have trouble waking up early.
People who prefer to wake up before the sun are typically energized and ready to go before the sun has even fully risen. On the other side, night owls enjoy their time in bed and often need several nudges from the alarm clock before they are ready to face the day. What accounts for these variations, though?
Chronotypes are useful for determining such things. In common parlance, “morning folks” refer to those with an early chronotype. Your natural predisposition to go to sleep and wake up at different times of the day is known as your “chronotype.” The standard workday in modern society is 24 hours long. On the other hand, if you are an early chronotype, your internal clock is shorter than 24 hours and you naturally want to go to bed and get up earlier.
The converse is true for people who are naturally drawn to staying up late; your biological time may actually be slightly extended beyond the standard 24-hour day. This means that, physiologically speaking, early birds have an easier time waking up and winding down than their night-owl counterparts do.
We typically categorize people as early birds and night owls for ease of discussion. However, scientifically speaking, chronotypes are measured on a continuous scale, with as many as 351 genetic differences linked to being a morning person alone.
Your chronotype is determined by your genes, your age, and your exposure to light. A survey from the Center for Environmental Therapeutics can help you determine your chronotype, and we’ve got more info on chronotypes right here.
There are both early birds and night owls, however most people can be classified as “intermediate birds.” People with advanced sleep phase disorder typically have an early bedtime (between 6 and 9 p.m.) and an early wake-up time (2 a.m. to 5 a.m.).
Extreme night owls, meantime, may have a sleep problem called delayed sleep phase disorder. An internal clock delay of two hours or more is deemed abnormal. However, those who are particularly resistant to changing their sleeping habits may benefit from consulting a sleep professional in addition to trying the strategies we present here.
However, chronotypes aren’t the only factor. Your body’s natural sleep and wake times are based on three things:
- Your sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the interplay between your circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) and sleep homeostasis (the process by which sleep pressure, or the need to sleep, builds up while you’re awake). Check out the Two Laws of Sleep in our Sleep Guide to learn more about this two-system relationship. Your circadian rhythm, in layman’s terms, is the internal body clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle.
- The most important stimulus for your circadian clock is the amount of light you receive each day. It has the potential to shift when you feel drowsy.
- The production of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light (which is why light matters so much). Because of this, the time at which we all begin to feel sleepy in the evenings is also quite variable.
Benefits of becoming a morning person
To preface, there is nothing improper about giving in to your inner night owl; in fact, there are benefits to doing so, as shown by scientific research. But a new job, life event, or companion, or maybe just a wish to make better use of your mornings, may cause you to alter your usual pattern.
If you’re the type of person who functions best between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., being a morning person can provide you a distinct advantage over a night owl in terms of focus, reaction time, friendliness, and conscientiousness.
Those who got 20 minutes of sunlight between 8 a.m. and noon had a much lower body mass index than those who had light exposure later in the day, according to a study done in 2014. According to Phyllis C. Zee, M.D. of Northwestern University, “if a person does not get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock,” which is known to alter metabolism and lead to weight gain. So, if you want to improve your health in more ways than one, a morning stroll is a great place to start.
Why Are Some People Morning People and Not Others?
Our circadian rhythm, an internal body clock, controls our sleep-wake cycles and thus our energy levels. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that typically coincides with solar activity. Most people are alert during the day and drowsy at night, although the precise times when these emotions occur might differ from person to person. The scientific name for whether you’re a morning person or a night owl is your chronotype, which describes the degree to which you exhibit this fluctuation.
The chronotype of morning folks, sometimes known as “early birds,” is early. They thrive on early mornings because that’s when they get the most done and have the most energy. On the other hand, those who prefer to stay up late are considered to be of the late chronotype. They are night owls who enjoy sleeping in and who find their highest levels of inspiration and energy after dark. The chronotypes span a continuum, with the vast majority of people falling somewhere in the middle.
Your physiological state and brainwave activity can be traced back to your own preferences2. Those who are “morning persons” have more excitable brain pathways in the morning, allowing them to perform at their best physically first thing in the day. The opposite is true with night owls.
There is no superior chronotype; the two are merely distinct. Night owls, however, have significant disadvantages. Important tasks in both the classroom and the workplace tend to be scheduled first thing in the morning, when most people, including night owls, are still sleeping. Being a night owl has been linked to an increased risk of developing depression.
Having a late chronotype has been compared to having permanent jet lag, according to some studies5. An increased risk of health issues, mental difficulties, and poor performance at work and school are just some of the genuine consequences for night owls that can result from the conflict between their natural sleep-wake cycles and the demands of society.
Can You Change Your Chronotype?
Although your chronotype is mostly determined by your genes, it can be impacted by factors such as your age, environment, and exercise level. One study found that people who naturally go to bed late could advance their sleep schedule by as much as two hours by making some simple adjustments to their routine. Those with late chronotypes were given the following instructions to follow over the course of three weeks:
- Put in an extra two or three hours of work in the morning and in the evening.
- Keep this sleep regimen even on weekends and holidays.
- Take in as much natural light as possible first thing in the morning and try to cut back on artificial light later on.
- Get in the habit of eating breakfast soon after waking up, having a regular lunchtime, and avoiding late-night snacks.
- Don’t drink coffee after 3 p.m., don’t go to sleep before 4 p.m., and move your workout to the morning.
These behavioral modifications alone allowed the night owls in the study to advance their sleep clocks without compromising their total nightly sleep duration. In addition, they reported experiencing less depression and stress. Tests of the night owls’ response speeds and grip strength conducted in the morning revealed improvements over previous morning performances.
Age, gender, and physical changes can all affect your chronotype. One study indicated that while women8 are more likely to be early birds than men in their early years, they are more likely to become night owls than men after age 45. During the first two trimesters of pregnancy, a woman’s chronotype will move to an earlier time zone. Your chronotype may also change if you suffer a stroke10.
Tips for Becoming a Morning Person
There are a wide variety of reasons why people rearrange their bedtimes. Following these guidelines may help you become more of a morning person, whether you need to do so to accommodate a new work or school schedule, assist members of your family, or satisfy your own personal preferences.
Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
Establishing good sleep habits, sometimes known as “sleep hygiene,” is a prerequisite to rearranging your sleeping schedule. Among the practices that make up “sleep hygiene,” which are thought to improve one’s quality of rest, are:
- Consistent physical activity
- In particular, avoiding these stimulants in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Putting off sleep in the afternoon and evening
- Identifying calming routines to perform just before sleep
Part of practicing good sleep hygiene is making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Use of blackout curtains, purchase of high-quality bedding, and removal of clutter from the bedroom could all assist.
Develop a Nighttime Routine
Your brain will know it is time to sleep if you have a regular pattern for getting ready for bed. When you consistently follow the same routine each night before bed, you provide yourself with a significant behavioral cue.
Sleep better by including relaxing activities into your nightly routine. Relaxation techniques include taking a bath, reading a book, writing in a notebook, listening to soothing music, stretching, and meditating.
Turn off all devices, including your phone, TV, and e-reader, at least an hour before bed. These gadgets stimulate the brain and fool the eyes into believing it is daytime, allowing you to stay awake for longer. It may be harder to get up in the morning if there is too much light in the evening.
Stay on a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Whether you are a night owl or a morning person, sticking to the same bedtime each night will help you get the seven to nine hours of sleep that experts say you need each night so that you may wake up feeling refreshed. Sleeping in on the weekends might throw off your circadian pattern, so it’s important to establish routine bedtime and waketime and stick to them.
Gradually Shift Your Bedtime Earlier
Once you’ve settled into a normal sleep routine, you can gradually advance your bedtime by 15 minute intervals. Concurrently, set your alarms for 15 minutes earlier. Do this change in stages, with at least a few days between each modification.
Develop a Morning Routine
Motivating yourself to get out of bed in the morning could be as simple as including activities that bring you joy and energy in your routine. That could mean taking a few minutes to enjoy some fresh air and your favorite morning coffee with your cherished pet.
Even if it’s tempting, you shouldn’t always ignore your alarm. Hitting snooze may give confusing signals to the internal body clock, as the body begins preparing to wake up15 roughly two to three hours before your typical wake-up time. People who get the recommended amount of sleep each night may not even need an alarm clock.
If you find yourself in need of an alarm, studies show that more pleasant alarm noises help you overcome sleep inertia and wake up feeling refreshed. Alternatively, you might let light act as a natural alarm clock by leaving the curtains open or by utilizing a dawn simulator, which softly awakens you.
Research shows that regular exercise routines lead to better sleep quality18. Exercise, whether performed in the morning or the evening, has a significant impact on the circadian rhythms of night owls19, and may assist them in shifting their sleep schedules forward by about 30 minutes.
Use Light Strategically
Light’s arousing properties have a significant impact on the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Some studies suggest that it has a more profound effect on people who are naturally night owls. Night owls’ internal body clocks advance by 20 minutes when they are exposed only to natural light. One of the most effective strategies to change your chronotype earlier and become more of a morning person is to expose yourself to strong light in the morning. Sit next to a window or invest in a light therapy lamp to get the same effect if you can’t get outside.
Shift Mealtimes Earlier
The time of your meals can have an effect on your circadian rhythm, which is in turn linked to your hunger.
A lot of people who are naturally active at night also tend to eat more later in the day. Feeding yourself at a time that is more in line with that of a morning person can aid in the process of retraining your body to function on a new schedule. If, on the other hand, you stick to your regular dinnertimes, you may discover that your digestive system is still active when you’d rather be sleeping. This complicates the process of settling into your new routine. It may also cause your body’s sleep-wake cycle to become unsynchronized with your eating cycle, which might have metabolic consequences.
Be Careful With Coffee
Caffeine consumption up to 6 hours before bedtime24 has been shown to cause sleep disruption and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Aim to have your last cup of coffee at least six hours before bedtime, if not sooner. Limit your daily caffeine intake to no more than 400 mg.
More and more companies are offering a variety of schedule options, which is great news for those who prefer to sleep in and are unable to adjust to a morning routine. You should consult a medical professional if you continue to experience extreme drowsiness. There could be underlying causes for your sleep problems, such as a sleep disorder or health concern. If you’re having trouble sleeping, seeing a doctor can help you pinpoint the cause and start taking steps to fix it.