Wish You Could Wake Up Earlier? Read This
These expert-approved, science-backed tips can help turn any night owl into an early bird—for good.
Published Apr 9, 2017 5:00 AM
Let’s be honest: Not many of us spring out of bed at 5 a.m., ready to seize the day. Yet all over the internet, thousands of articles claim to have the secret formula to turn you into one of those mythical “morning people.”
And the perks of waking up early sound pretty great: You’ll have more “me time;” you can squeeze in a workout without forgoing happy hour; you’ll sleep better; you’ll even eat healthier. Studies also show that morning people tend to be happier and more agreeable.
If you’re naturally a late riser or chronic snoozer, don’t beat yourself up—just blame your genes. According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., the Sleep Doctor, we have an inherited “chronotype” that determines our natural circadian rhythms. This means your body is predisposed to a certain sleep habit, whether it’s early to rise or late to bed. His research also finds that only a minority of people are true morning-person types, or “lions.” Some of us are night-oriented “wolves,” while most fall somewhere in the middle.
The good news? It is possible to teach yourself to wake up earlier. We combed through the latest research and tips from productivity experts to learn how anyone can become a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed morning person, once and for all.
1. Define your why.
Regardless of what the research says or experts suggest, you won’t get up earlier just because someone else says you should. “The best way to transition from being a night owl to an early bird is to find your reason for waking up early,” says Jeff Sanders, productivity expert and author of The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast. “This transition is tough, and the only way to make it stick is to have a powerful why for doing it.”
Do you want to make time to exercise, start your novel, spend time with your kids, or finally make some progress on that side project? No matter what it is, find the thing that truly inspires you enough to want to get out of bed—instead of going back to sleep, Sanders says.
2. Go to bed earlier.
It’s almost too obvious, but the real “secret” to becoming a morning person may simply be getting enough sleep. To ensure you get a full seven to nine hours, measure back from the time you want to wake up: If your goal is to get up at 6 a.m., you’ll want to turn off the lights by 10 p.m.
Sanders suggests setting an “evening boundary” to start preparing for bed. “Pick a time (like 8:00 pm) when you will turn off all electronics, stop working for the day, and focus exclusively on getting yourself in bed with the lights out,” he says. Following a relaxing nighttime routine can also help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
If you’re used to burning the midnight oil, you can gradually alter your bedtime by going to sleep 15 minutes earlier (and setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier) every couple of days over a few weeks, until you hit your target time, Sanders says. Still having trouble falling asleep? Try these foods for better sleep or pick up some of these habits of excellent sleepers.
3. Ignore the temptation to hit snooze.
“Whatever you do, don’t snooze,” Sanders warns. It sounds painful, but if you’ve decided to get up early, you need to just do it. Putting off the alarm sets the tone for the whole day, too: “If the first decision you make each morning is to procrastinate getting up, that mentality will follow you around the rest of the day and cause more things to go undone,” Sanders says. Another pro tip: Buy a real, old-fashioned alarm clock—and place it more than an arm’s length away from your bed.
4. Let some light in.
Opening up your shades and greeting the sun should be your first priority of the day. “Sunlight is one of the most powerful forces to keep you up and alert,” Sanders says. Plus, exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning not only helps you wake up, but it’ll also help you fall asleep faster since your body’s natural rhythms will kick in and cause drowsiness at the right time, he explains.
5. Work out first thing.
“Early morning workouts are one of the best strategies to transition to an early morning lifestyle,” Sanders says. We all have crazy-busy lives, so this ensures you’ll fit in your daily run or yoga session before something else pops up. It also frees you up for a more relaxing evening, which in turn helps you get in bed earlier.
To make it happen, Sanders has two strategies. First, set out your workout clothes and gym bag the night before, so there’s one less obstacle between you and your exercise session in the morning. Secondly, get a workout buddy: “Joining forces with a friend is great for accountability—that’s how I ran my first marathon and it’s one of the best ways to jumpstart any new exercise plan.”
6. Look forward to a healthy breakfast.
Whether your favorite morning meal is a green smoothie, peanut butter toast, or scrambled eggs, tempt yourself to rise and shine by having your fridge stocked with the supplies. It’ll make crawling jumping out of bed so much easier when you have something (healthy!) to excite your tastebuds. Find some a.m. inspiration with these Instagram-worthy breakfast bowls or any of these nutritious breakfasts that’ll keep you full until lunch.
7. Keep a consistent sleep schedule (yep, even on weekends).
When you sleep ‘til 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, you mess up your body’s circadian rhythms (or internal clock), which affects your body in the same way as jet lag. By the time Monday morning rolls around, waking up at 6 a.m. is going to feel more like waking up at 2 a.m.! (Been there, done that.) Staying consistent with your wake-up times—at least within an hour—on the weekends is crucial for making your new morning-person habits stick in the long run.