Some people are natural early risers, while the rest of us sleepily hit the snooze button repeatedly before crawling out of bed. For those that consider themselves night owls, mornings can be downright painful – a pain that only seems to escalate once winter comes along. Who wants to leave the coziness of their bed when it’s dark and cold when the alarm goes off?
The struggle is real, but life often necessitates that we start the day at a reasonable time. Fortunately, there are ways to change your night owl ways and embrace the morning with a smile. Plus, it turns out that there are even a few extra benefits to being an early riser.
The Life of an Early Riser
People will often categorize themselves as either a morning person or a night owl, and while lifestyle has a lot to do with sleep habits, research tells us that genetics also play a role.
A recent small study looked at 70 people from multiple families and discovered a common gene mutation in those that preferred late nights over early mornings. A mutation in the gene CRY1 was shown to be associated with delayed sleep phase disorder - a condition where the body’s circadian rhythm runs behind, leading to a preference for a later bedtime.
For people with delayed sleep phase disorder, and those whose lifestyle has contributed to preferring nights over mornings, becoming an early riser is especially challenging. It’s difficult to fight against your body’s natural clock, and it isn’t always easy to escape lifestyle factors that keep you up into the wee hours of the morning.
That said, it is possible to shift your schedule, and maybe even enjoy waking up earlier in the process. It seems that those who embrace the morning are happier, healthier and more productive. Take for example, the effect that Vitamin D deficiency can have on your health.
Vitamin D performs multiple functions in the body. It supports the immune system, keeps blood pressure in check, is key for strong bones and plays an important role in mental health. Our bodies cannot produce vitamin D on their own, but we can synthesize it from natural sunlight. Many people have difficulty maintaining healthy vitamin D levels in the winter when daylight hours are at a minimum. This is an even bigger problem for those who wake late and miss out on those glorious morning rays.
Maintaining a healthy vitamin D level isn’t the only perk to getting up a little early. Those who make it a habit of waking up early to embrace the day also get the benefit of:
- A Healthier Diet: Morning risers are more likely to make a nutritious breakfast a priority, which often carries over into their other dietary choices. Those who get up late are more likely to grab something – anything – in a rush as they head out the door or skip meals altogether. This equates to a disaster for metabolism and weight maintenance.
- Beautiful Skin: No matter how devoted you are to your skin routine, not getting enough sleep can take a toll on your skin health. Those who wake up earlier tend to make quality sleep and a consistent bedtime routine a priority. Not skipping on sleep means a fresher looking complexion and fewer circles under your eyes.
- Concentration and Productivity: There are several theories about why getting up earlier increases concentration and productivity. Some say it’s exposure to sunlight while others say it’s the routine or improved mental health. There’s also the fact that getting up late often leaves you rushed, stressed and struggling to catch up for a good part of the day. People who get up earlier tend to give themselves the time to ease into the day, get things done and avoid unnecessary stress.
Considering all this, making the effort to wake up earlier and enjoy welcoming a new day doesn’t sound so bad. Thankfully, it isn’t as difficult as you might think to change your night owl ways. Here are eight tips for waking up earlier, embracing the day and enjoying the morning.
Rethink Your Sleep
Most of us grew up hearing that you need at least a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. It’s important to make sure you give your body time for recovery and rejuvenation, but sleep is so individualized that what works for one person might not be what works best for you.
For instance, science says that our sleep runs in 90 minute cycles. This is why being jarred awake from a deep sleep feels differently from awaking naturally. If you interrupt a sleep cycle it takes your body longer to adjust to being awake. If you’re striving for exactly 8 hours of shuteye, then you’re probably waking up mid cycle.
This means that for many people, the key to embracing mornings is waking up earlier, not later. For example, 7 ½ hours of sleep is exactly 5 sleep cycles. Speaking of interrupting sleep cycles…
Resist the Snooze
Yes, a few more blissful minutes of sleep sound heavenly, but chances are you’ll only end up feeling worse with each tap on the snooze button. If you’ve woken up mid sleep cycle or just happen to be really tired, the few minutes the snooze button will give you is just enough to put another sleep cycle in motion. Each time the alarm wakes you up causes another disruption to your natural rhythm.
Plus, even if you don’t fall back to sleep, hitting snooze is accomplishing nothing but delaying the inevitable. Set your alarm for when you really want to get up and avoid the snooze.
Don’t Look at the Clock
We’ve all found ourselves awake in the middle of the night, staring at the clock and counting the precious minutes of sleep we’ll get if we fall asleep at that very moment. This does nothing but stimulate your brain and encourage even more wakefulness – after all, you’re doing math at 3 am.
As hard as it may be, resist the urge to look at the clock if you wake up. Better yet, turn the clock away from you so that you can’t see it. This can be especially challenging during the winter when days are short, and mornings are darker, but avoiding the temptation to peek will actually help you get in a few more quality ZZZZs.
If you’re having trouble not hitting snooze and not checking the time, then it’s time to get hardcore and move your clock to the other side of the room. Yes, this applies even if your phone is your clock.
Often the hardest part about getting up in the morning is the “getting up.” When the alarm is right next to your bed it makes it way too easy to just reach over and then justify the extra time in bed. Once you’re out from under the covers and moving around, it’s easier to find the motivation to start your day.
Help Your Body Wake Up
If you’re fortunate enough for the sun to actually be out and shining brightly when you wake up, take advantage of nature’s beauty and fling the curtains open. Exposure to natural sunlight will signal to your brain that it’s time to rise and shine. If the sun isn’t quite shining when you wake up, reach over and turn on a light first thing.
You can also help your body wake up by giving it the hydration that it needs. After 7-9 hours with no water, your body is thirsty. Start the day with a nice tall glass of water and save the coffee, tea or juice for a little later in the morning.
Know When to Say No
What you consume in the few hours before bedtime can have an effect on your ability to fall asleep and consequently how you’ll feel about getting up earlier in the day. Even small amounts of caffeine can have a stimulant effect that lasts for hours. This means that the cup of full strength coffee you have with dessert or even the black tea you have as you settle in with your favorite book in the evening can be working against your efforts to become a morning person.
The same holds true for your evening nightcap. Alcohol is a known sedative, which is why many people don’t realize that it can be incredibly disruptive to quality sleep. If you enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail in the evening, limiting yourself to one drink at least several hours before bed and following it up with a large glass of water will help mitigate the effects of the alcohol.
Ease into Your New Routine
If you want to try becoming a morning person but your normal rise time is closer to noon, you’ll want to resist the urge to jump in feet first into a new morning routine. Making a drastic change in your sleep habits can leave you feeling extra fatigued during the day. This can lead to naps late in the day, an overconsumption of caffeine and binging on comfort food that sits heavy in your belly while you try to sleep. In other words, trying to change your sleep habits overnight is counterproductive to success.
The smart way to do it is by adjusting your routine in small increments. For example, start by getting up 30 minutes earlier and using that time to take a cool, invigorating shower or to nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast. Having a reason to get up earlier will make it easier.
Once you’ve adjusted to that, try rising another 30 minutes earlier and make a commitment to get in a quick workout or maybe spend some extra time doing something special with your hair or skincare routine. Keep the pattern going until you naturally start to feel more positive about getting an earlier start to your day.
There are plenty of great reasons to trade in late night hours for an early start to the day, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy transition. Like any major lifestyle adjustment, it takes time and a commitment – especially if you’re fighting against the rhythm your body has become accustomed to. Not that you need a reason, but this sounds like the perfect opportunity to reward yourself for a job well done.
What is your motivation for making this change? Is it to be healthier? Then reward yourself with new yoga clothes or that expensive tea that you’ve been wanting to try. Do you just want a little more time to yourself? Then treat yourself with a new book to read or maybe a pretty new mug to enjoy your morning coffee in. Just want to get up earlier so you can feel more productive? Splurge on a new planner or spruce up your office area with new accessories. Making changes is hard work, so make sure you reward yourself appropriately.
One of the biggest perks of waking up earlier is that you get to enjoy a little bit of quiet before the world around you is moving at full throttle. No matter what your motivation for waking up earlier, make sure you take the time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the waking world and be thankful that you’re a part of it.