Here’s Exactly How To Become A Legit Morning Person

by | Feb 23, 2016 | Health

By Moira Lawler; Photography by Unsplash

Or are you doomed to be a night owl forever?

For some of us, sticking to a 10.30pm bedtime is impossible. And jumping out of bed at the first sound of the alarm? LOL.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the Night Owl Club. “It used to be believed that it was just your lifestyle [that determined whether you were a lark or a night owl],” says professor David Earnest. “What was discovered 15 to 20 years ago was there is a biological basis for people who are early birds and people who are night owls.”

Our internal circadian clocks are to blame. In fact, researchers have found a genetic difference between those who wake up early and those who don’t, explains Earnest. “Presumably, the situation with night owls is the same,” he says.

The good news is, most of us grow out of it around the time we swap late-night college parties for the morning meetings that come with adulthood. “The majority of us fall someplace in the okay range, where we’re not either of the extreme prototypes,” says Rebecca Spencer, associate professor of neuroscience at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

But let’s say you don’t grow out of it, and you seriously struggle to make it to work on time – let alone to a 6am indoor cycling class. You’re not alone if you feel like you’re being pulled in two different directions. “Our internal body clocks are trying to tell us one thing, but then we have these societal factors that don’t allow us to do what our bodies are naturally telling us to do,” says Earnest.

If there’s no chance your boss will ease up on your start time, there’s only one thing left to do: try to become more like a morning person. “Can you really shift from being an owl to a lark?” says Spencer. “Not at all. But if you’re not an extreme owl and want to be a little more lark-like, I think that’s where you have some flexibility.”

Start by trying to shift your internal clock by an hour or so, suggests Spencer. Here’s how…

Lower Your Body Temperature at Night

“To fall asleep and get into deep sleep, you have to reach your daytime low body temperature,” says Spencer. To get there, move your workout to earlier in the day so it doesn’t interfere with bedtime, limit hot showers at night and drop the temp in your house by a few degrees, she says. The cosy duvet on your bed will be calling your name in no time.

Limit Your Night-Time Exposure to Light

Your internal clock is controlled by light. “Whether it’s TVs or screens, all of those devices that shine light at our eyes are ‘awake-promoting’ and not ‘sleep-promoting,’” says Spencer. Help your clock start to shift naturally by cutting your exposure an hour before bedtime. Not ready to kick your series-in-bed habit? Turning your iPad light to low could help you catch Zzz’s more quickly after the credits roll.

Read More: 5 Everyday Activities Sabotaging Your Sleep 

Resist Stimuli

You don’t need to shut yourself off from the outside world, but it’s a good habit to stay calm as it gets late. That means avoiding stressful work emails if they can wait until the morning, horror movies and intense novels that keep your mind spinning. “All of those things just cause mental stimulation that you need to have turned off well enough before bedtime,” says Spencer. Sorry, Girl on the Train. You’re strictly a commute-only read.

Reach for Melatonin as a Last Resort

In the beginning of your efforts to become a morning person, a dose of melatonin can help. “Taking it a little before you want to start falling asleep helps give you a little extra boost to feel sleepy,” says Spencer. Once you’re stable, lay off, though. Eventually, you want to rely on your body’s natural melatonin production rather than the pill form.

Read More: 7 Easy Hacks For Your Best Sleep Ever 

Wake Up to Morning Light

Getting to sleep is only half the battle. “Helping yourself wake up is just as important as helping yourself fall asleep,” says Spencer. Immediately open your curtains or head outside to catch some early rays. As a bonus, early to rise likely means early to bed that night. “If you’re able to alert yourself and wake up at an earlier hour, you’re going to be more prepared to go to bed at an earlier time,” says Spencer. And that means you’ll be even closer to tricking your internal clock into its new pattern.

Stick With It

Waking up early today doesn’t mean you’ll magically be a cheerful morning person tomorrow. It takes time – possibly up to a month – to switch your natural habits, says Spencer. Yes, you can groan now.

Looking for more info on sleep? Here are seven possible reasons why you’re having such strange dreams, plus here are seven sleep tricks you can try if you got zero sleep last night and need to survive the day without looking like a zombie. 

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